Saturday, 9 March 2013

Campaign Week: part three


Arr, gather round, ye Beardlings! Here be the third part of the Beard Bunker’s campaign coverage, and now that we’ve shown you the armies and explained the background, style, and characters of the campaign, we’ll be starting the story.

The first campaign game that we played was a roleplaying session, and served to set up the political landscape and several of the characters’ relationships for the rest of the story. If you’re thinking of starting your own narrative campaign, I can’t recommend this step highly enough. You don’t necessarily need to do it in RPG mode; it could just as well be a conversation. The main thing is that a setting and characters aren’t a narrative, they’re ingredients for a narrative. Stories are made by people changing each other and the world around them, be it with big sticks or fabulous cooking.

Finally, a reminder: the campaign’s set after the established fluff of the Warhammer World. It’s our own private storyworld. Where the GW studio has to take hobbyists and their collections into consideration when they write this sort of stuff, we have no such limitations. We can do anything we want to Hochland – it could become the private domain of the de Crécy brothers, or fall beneath the shiny gold boots of a certain sorcerer of Chaos.

Part the First: the Stormbournes arrive in Hochland
(as explained by a halfling with a chip on his shoulder and a half-pint in his hand)

Cedric Sneakfoot had been in Count Ludenhof's "employ"
ever since he'd been caught poaching in the Count's estate.

There I were, lying abed at some ungodly hour, when one of the Count’s little fireworks goes off. Gods I hate them things. But he were quite clear: if one of them goes off, I’m to get to the palace smart quick. So I legs it over there, thinking it’s going be another job following some noble twerp, or watching a “person of interest,” or maybe one of his secret jobs, but instead I finds some fat beardy bloke covered in more armour than a bloody steam tank. The Count’s put a brave face on, but it’s clear the beardy bloke is making him nervous.

Before I even finds out why I’m there, the beardy bloke’s talking stern at the Count. “This is your agent? A child?” says he. Now I’ve gotten used to humans and their sizeist assumptions, and I’ve grown my goatee for just this reason. Mind you, his beard is bigger than I am, so maybe by his standards it don’t count. But he’s a nob, so I bows and scrapes like always, and finally, the Count tells me what we’re about, that is, to take the beardy bloke – a dwarf noble, he says – to the Tussen College of the New Sciences. Apparently the dwarfs lent us some sort of stone, and it just got pilfered. It were only later on, when I knew more, that I realised what sort of trouble we’d be in if we didn’t find it.

Apparently the dwarfs want to build a load of watchtowers along the river, no idea why, and one of them needs this special stone in it to tell them when there’s enemies afoot, and if we didn’t find this stone, the dwarfs would be wanting to build a tower on part of Tussenhof, which I reckon wouldn’t be all that popular with the folks what live there. That’s why the Count’s nervous, I thinks: he don’t want war with our only ally, but he can’t just sit by if the dwarfs start knocking down our houses.

Anyway, off we trot, and the dwarf tells me his name: Dwalin Gravenrune. He’s a serious sort, but a straight talker.

The day took a funny turn after that. Quick version? We worked out that the stone was nicked by a necromancer, and we had to go all the way to a creepy-looking tower north of Estdorf to get it back. Sortof walked through a goblin tribal war on the way, and then there was all sorts of walking dead’uns inside the tower, which meant that a) we knew we was on the right track, and b) I damn near shat my trousers. By the time we got to the necromancer, there was dead’uns coming at us from all round, and the soldiers we’d brought with us looked to be in trouble, and even Dwalin were looking like he were on the ropes.

No-one pays much attention to the little folk, though. I snuck round the side and put an arrow right through the necromancer’s heart. That seemed to sort the walking dead’uns out, and the dwarf stone was just laying on a table next to some other paraphernalia, so there you has it, cheers all round, war averted, pats on the back. But here’s the funny thing: when the necromancer died, two glass jars on the shelf just... shattered.

I went up and had a peak whilst the others looked to their wounds. In one jar, there was a scrap of faded black cloth, and in the other, an old Fleur-de-Lys pendant, both soaked in old, curdled blood. That seemed a bit off, so I took the cloth and the pendant back with us to Hergig to show the Professors at the college. I didn’t hear nothing after that.

When I went back to ask about it the other week, Professor Kartoffelkopf suddenly got this look on his face, and told me not to worry about it. Well as you know, there ain’t nothing scarier than someone telling you not to worry, so the next time I saw Dwalin walking up towards the Count’s palace, I asked him if he might need a local tracker. If something big’s going on, I reasoned that being the Count’s favourite agent would put me in harm’s way. Luckily Dwalin seemed keen on the idea; seems I made an impression. You should’ve seen the look on His Lordship’s face when Dwalin asked him...

You know, for the first time in years, I reckon things might be looking up.


Part the Second: things are in no way looking up

The academics at Tussen College knew enough to date the Fleur-de-Lys as a design that hadn’t been popular for over five centuries. They checked what few records remained from so long ago, and found references to two Brettonian knights known as the de Crécy brothers. The records said only that they had been involved in murder and grave robbery, and that they disappeared before the law could catch up with them. It seemed bizarre that a Brettonian knight would have anything to do with such crimes. Starting to suspect they were out of their depth, the researchers sent word to the experts on the dead: the college of the Amethyst Order in Altdorf.

A week later, Amelia von Lessing arrived in Hergig, and went straight to Count Ludenhof with grave tidings. The de Crécy brothers were no mere murderers. Most of the chronicles of the time had avoided the details so as not to cause widespread panic, but in actuality, the de Crécys were vampires who had emptied three towns of their people and besieged Bergsburg with an army of walking corpses. The siege was eventually lifted by the Knights of the White Wolf, but Phillippe and Etienne de Crécy were never seen again.

The meaning of the shattering jars was clear to Amelia. Her research in Altdorf told of a member of her order, Edmund Schiller, who was sent to Bergsburg to help the White Wolves kill the vampires. Schiller was never heard from again, but Amelia could well imagine his fate: chasing the defeated vampires through the forest, but unable to face them in combat, he had somehow locked them in torpor using arcane foci – a scrap of cloth from Phillippe’s cloak, a pendant torn from Etienne’s neck by a passing branch – but somewhere along the line, Schiller had strayed from the Amethyst path and turned to necromancy; perhaps it was what he had to do to trap the vampires, knowing that he could never go back to his order. Perhaps he had done it with the best of intentions, but it was a corruptive path. Now, at least, he was dead, but the Grand Master of the Amethyst Order was quite clear: until the de Crécys were slain, the affair would remain a secret shame; a black mark on the college’s honour.

Amelia wasn’t nearly as concerned for the college’s honour as she was for the villagers of Hochland.


Part the Third: things are in fact totally stuffed

Hochland in 2251. Original map sourced from Winds of Chaos.

It started off as outlandish rumour. No-one really believed that Praag had been sacked, much less by the biggest army of Norsemen in recorded history. Then Archaon’s horde destroyed Ostland and swept through Hochland. Amelia’s search for the de Crécys was abandoned as, for five gruelling months, she fought as a battle wizard among Hochland’s soldiery. They didn’t even slow Archaon down.

Hochland in 2253: good times.

In the wake of Archaon’s defeat at the gates of Middenheim, Amelia resumed her search. For months, there was nothing. She began to wonder if releasing the foci meant anything at all. But then she heard an ugly rumour: some refugees had been escorted back to their ruined homes in Stöckse, but had not been heard from since. With there being so few state troops left, she sent word up the River Talabec and petitioned the Stormbournes for aid.

Hafnir Stormbourne was uninterested; these were human concerns with no bearing on the retaking of Karak Hoch. Dwalin thought differently. Archaon had destroyed the Stormbourne’s watchtowers only months after they’d been built, and with the Empire’s strength at an all-time low, there would be nothing to stop two vampires making life very difficult indeed.

In the end, Hafnir relented, and Dwalin sailed south down the Wolf’s Run with his new underling in tow.
“Will this’un be dangerous, milord?” Cedric asked as they stood side-by-side on deck.
“No. We’re only going to go and have a look.”
“Like that time we went and had a look for that stone, and ended up fighting off two goblin tribes and an ’orde of walking dead’uns?”
“Hmph. You watch that tongue of yours, Cedric Dwarf-friend, or I shall watch it for you.”
“Yes, milord.”

Cedric with his new master. Clearly the start
of a beautiful bromance.

* * *

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the end of the beginning: thanks to Cedric's heroics, the Dwarfs are firm allies of the Empire, and the hunt is on for the newly-freed vampires. It goes without saying that the violence is going to ramp up quite considerably in the next campaign post.

As much as it seems ridiculous to have an acknowledgement at the end of a blog post, special mention ought to go to Tom, who not only created Cedric Sneakfoot, but then wrote a hilarious journal of his doings after our game. Jeff also gets props for suggesting the use of Cedric’s voice in this post. I have shamelessly stolen some of Tom’s lines to write Cedric’s monologue, and as such, I really can’t claim all the credit for the charm onslaught that is The Halfling Experience.

It’s a shame, too, that in the interests of being concise, I’ve had to omit a lot of Cedric’s more ridiculous accomplishments, the finest of which being the point where he defeated an entire army of goblins using a single Strength 3 shot. Killing Blow + Sniper + a wounding roll of a 6 = 1 dead goblin general. The nearest goblins then had to take a panic test for a unit being destroyed within 6” and... well... you can guess the rest.

Aaanyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed the story so far. How are y’all finding the format? Would you prefer a more anecdotal style? More focus on the actual scenarios and games we played? More in-depth stories? If you have feedback, leave it below, and your thoughts shall be taken on board.

~Charlie 

7 comments:

  1. Waoh! That's a nice story in a great background!
    I'm clearly with this kind of format. Your blog has made me fall more deeply in the ambition of ruling a narrative campaign!

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    1. Thanks! It's really shiny to hear that the Beard Bunker could inspire someone to try something new :)

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  2. Really enjoying this blog (found out about it via Pirate Viking Painting, which I found via BoLS).

    This post in particular v. good: nicely written and engaging. No need to religiously recount the entire to's and fro's of a particular scenario/game, but it might be nice to see a few pictures of certain key moments (as the models and scenery at your disposal are so good).

    Keep up the good work!

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    1. You're too kind, sir. We do have a few photos of some of the week's games - I'll include them in Part Four - although we were often so excited about stabbing the snot out of each other's armies that we didn't always have the presence of mind to record the moment!

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    2. Ha! A very understandable problem that. Looking forward to pt. 4.

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  3. Hahaha, awesome! Well, what can I say other than "Thank ee M'lord for them kind words".

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    1. Think nothing of it, Mr Sneakfoot.

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