Thursday, 10 July 2014

The Improbable Mission Force (part two)

'Allo again Bunker dwellers! 'Tis I with more tales of Dwarfy derring-do and covert sneakiness. In part one we met the first, and most normal, half of Dwalin's Dirty Dozen. In part two we'll meet the slightly madder half in the form of the Odd Squad:

Something of a theme running through the Odd Squad is that a lot of them are criminals. Now some of you will be saying "but Jeff, when a Dwarf disgraces themselves they can't stand it and become a trollslayer". To which I reply, ah-hah! But those are the good Dwarfs, the proper Dwarfs who follow societies laws. The Dwarfs of the army book backstory are the ideal of Dwarfkind. There will always be wonky people. Monocultures are boring, if ever single Dwarf behaves in the way described in the book then they would be awfully bland. Instead I grant license for Dwarfs to be as nasty, backstabbing, thieving and generally naer-do-welling as any other race. They're just rarer. I went through the backstory of the 'Dozen last time so we'll just plunge on into the Odd Squad. Just like last time, it is gaming and fluff info here, painting and modelling info (and lots more pictures) over on Pirate Viking Painting (otherwise this post would have been about nine miles long).

Dofur Wayfinder and The Malkin
Dofur Wayfinder is a ratcatcher. In most societies a low status sort of affair, but in the closed subterranean world of the Dwarfs rodent control is a big deal. Ratcatchers aren't high status but are accorded a measure of respect. Dofur was good at his job and had risen to deputy head ratcatcher of all Barak Varr before the exodus. Sadly, Dofur also always had a couple of screws loose at the best of times. Gradually, over the years, Dofur became obsessed with the idea that the skaven - who all Dwarfs hate - grew from normal rats and this was how they infiltrated Dwarf holds. He took to secret experiments to prove his theory, his chambers filled with jars and vials containing the rodent wreckage of his failures. His obsession grew and others began to notice that the ever-twitchy Dofur was becoming properly unhinged. Something of an intervention among ratcatchers was planned, but when they entered his chambers to share their concerns his colleagues instead stood open mouthed in horror at the stinking, dissected remains of his "research". Rather than disgrace their friend, and realising that his mind really had gone, they tactfully suggested that should the Stormbournes find Karak Hoch they would need a really good ratcatcher to clear the hold and parcelled him off with the exodus.

The Stormbournes didn't really want this lunatic along but Stromni noticed that his talent for tracking rats back to their nests extended to all forms of tracking. Dofur found himself absorbed into the rangers - who didn't mind the smell of his ratcloak so much in the open air - and serves as their tracker. Along the way he has picked up a foul smelling cat of indeterminate gender and feral temper. Dofur believes the cat to be some spiritual ally in the war on the rats and refers to it as The Malkin. None of the other rangers can get near it without being clawed half to death so they just add it to the list of things that you need to tolerate about Dofur...

Dofur Wayfinder is a Dwarf Ranger. He lacks a crossbow but has an extra S2 attack at I3 for the Malkin savaging his enemies. He can follow trails and tracks, we usually use Initiative for this kind of thing but with a Dwarf's "I" he would be a rubbish tracker. Any suggestions gratefully recieved :) Considering inflicting him with frenzy vs skaven too...

Klaut Copperthumb
Klaut, and his daughter Lynta, are rather reluctant members of the Dozen. They are thieves and housebreakers, damn good ones too but with the misfortune to get caught just that one time... They had fled building trouble and suspicion in Barak Varr before it crashed down on them. Joining the Stormbourne Exodus, they had seen this as a secure way to relocate in the Empire and restart their careers there. Unfortunately, they were seen fleeing the scene of a quick smash-and-grab on a riverside tavern that the barges had moored near on the journey north. The proprietors complained to Hafnir of two Dwarfs robbing them, Hafnir in turn promised to find them. Following the suspicions still clinging to them from Barak Varr the Dwarf investigators quickly, and correctly, pinned the crime on the Copperthumbs. Dwalin Gravenrune (runesmith of the clan at that time) convinced Hafnir that indentured servitude would be an effective punishment - lacking as they did any form of prison and death seeming a little extreme. Dwalin was already thinking of the need for effective intelligence gathering and recognised that people who could break into homes (mostly) undetected could be useful. The pair have been given to Stromni as rangers and have proved useful in the often urban ranging the 'Dozen get up to.

Of the two, Klaut is the trapsmith and brains of the outfit. He excels at disabling alarms and traps without destroying them, leaving little evidence of the pair's passage. With his throwing axes and sharp dagger he covers Lynta while she deals with the more tricky locks...

Klaut is a Dwarf Ranger armed with hand weapon and throwing axes. He can test on his WS (manual dexterity) to disable traps that they find, failure sets them off instead.

Lynta Copperthumb
Raised by her Fagin-esque father, Klaut, to the vocation of thieving from birth, Lynta's sails were always kind of set. Her mother died during her birth so it was only her father's influence that guided her. To be fair, Lynta Copperthumb is a gifted and gleeful thief, she has had many opportunities to turn from the path but is just hooked on the thrill of being "on the job". She excells at the light, delicate tasks, those of the cutpurse and the lockpick. Since being dragooned into the rangers she has taken to using their signature crossbows to back up her father's axes. The pair's natural weapons though are stealth and caution. Lynta, more than her father, is taking to the life of the spy/ranger well and has no intention of leaving when their indentured service is over. She just hasn't told him that...

Lynta Copperthumb is a Dwarf Ranger with hand weapon rather than great weapon. She can use her WS to pick pockets and cut purses if necessary (failure means discovery) and can also pick locks in the same way. Failure just means a wasted turn.

Kowen Shadowfriend
In every military force, unless stringent measures are taken, there creeps in an element who are joining up because it is the only place they are allowed to kill people. Kowen Shadowfriend is one such as this. He joined the rangers in Barak Varr long before the exodus and followed Stromni north seeking more action. He's a dark and dangerous sort, tight lipped and withdrawn around the camp fire. It is only when deployed in his natural role as forward scout that Kowen comes alive. The other Rangers know this, see his bright eyes and feral grin when they go in to battle and try to corral his interests and natural talent where it will do some good. Kowen is usually used to silence sentries and clear the way for the main body of the rangers. While some might disable and gag sentries, Kowen somehow never finds the opportunity to do so. Everyone he is sent against ends up dead, usually with multiple precise and elegant knife wounds. Kowen is one of those people who you just don't talk about out of the field...

Kowen Shadowfriend is a Dwarf Ranger armed with two hand weapons instead of the normal greataxe and crossbow. His speed and reflexes grant him I3, few humans get more than a single slash at him before the end...

Morta the Fell
Wheras Kowen Shadowfriend found an outlet for the evil within him. Morta had no such luck. Until recently Morta was the landlady of a very rough tavern in the poor quarter of Barak Varr. Fights were common there and Morta was never afraid to wade in with a blackthorn club or a barstool to break it up. Then, one fatal night, she wrestled a dagger from a patron, one thing led to another and it wound up in the neck of it's former owner. The constabulary dismissed it correctly as self-defence but a dark, broken part of Morta's brain had awoken at the moment the knife bit flesh. From that point on, fights in the tavern seemed to get more and more violent, patrons were regularly knifing one another or killing in other ingenious ways, often both participants would die of their wounds before the constabulary could break it up. Somehow, Morta was always at the centre of it all, having "tried her best to stop them". The truth, of course, was that in Morta, the sick, black soul of a serial killer had awoken and worse, she had seen a way to get away with it. She might have kept it up for years had an off duty constable not been drinking in her tavern one night when a fight broke out. The constable didn't see any weapons on the patrons but somehow they both ended up dead. Questions started to be asked. Morta, seeing the writing on the wall, fled the city, joining up with the Stormbourne exodus that was in it's final stages. History may have repeated itself in Karak Hoch but for a chance meeting of like-minds. Morta met Kowen. Kowen recommended her to Stromni as another good blade to support him. The two are forming a dark and disturbing relationship that bears watching closely.

Morta the Fell is a Dwarf Ranger armed with two hand weapons instead of the normal greataxe and crossbow. Her talent for getting the critical hit in before her opponant grants her I3, few foes see Morta's blades before their blood is one them...

Roin ibn Korik ibn Altrek al-Wavefarer
The final member of the 'Dozen is certainly the oddest of the Odd Squad. Roin ibn Korik ibn Altrek al-Wavefarer (or Roin Wavefarer, son of Korik, son of Altrek to use the more normal Dwarven form) is an old, old friend of Braelin Barelip's. Roin was a sailor out of Barak Varr for years following a trade route from the dwarf lands to Araby. He liked Araby and eventually resettled there as a trade envoy of Barak Varr... and went a bit native. Worse, he always had a bit of a roguish air (he was friends with Braelin after all) and saw an opportunity to make a bit of easy coin. He raised a small crew and took to highly targetted piracy of ships leaving araby for the old world. This worked for a short while but ships come back to port eventually and word began to spread of a dwarf in Arabian dress and manner leading a pirate crew and, well, there weren't all that many suspects. Roin fled in his ship back to Barak Varr but just couldn't fit in there any more. His friend Braelin suggested that he abandon a stuffy old hold and come north with him and the Stormbournes. Sadly, even amongst the refugees of the Stormbournes he couldn't fit in and wound up where all the oddest Dwarfs end up: the rangers. Stromni saw the impressive skill Roin had with a blade but also his fast talking and disarming appearance and saw an opportunity. Roin often works as the "face" for the Rangers, drawing attention with some apparent business deal while the rangers do their work. In battle, his flashing blade is as useful as any other's but his devil-may-care attitude to armour makes the others shudder a bit.

Roin is a Dwarf Ranger with a hand weapon (scimitar) rather than the normal great weapon and crossbow. He wears no armour at all. Fortunately, his skill and the unfamiliar fighting style grant him +1 WS so he is tricky to hit, he also has a parry save despite not having a shield, so skilled a swordsman is he.

And with that, Dwalin's Dirty Dozen are all done! There are a couple of honorary members that we haven't mentioned yet, these two:

Braelin Barelip and Cedric the hapless halfling are often to be found amongst the rangers but aren't permanent members.

I've loved creating these guys, their stories are now ten times more interesting than they would have been as "just rangers" and I look forward to their antics even more. Hope you've enjoyed it. Remember, more pictures and nattering about painting and so on over at PVP.


Saturday, 5 July 2014

The Improbable Mission Force (Part One)

Greetings bunker dwellers! Lordy, three months have passed since I last posted here. I’ve been focusing rather on the last bits of commission stuff I was working on (before wrapping up that whole thing) rather than my own hobby. Fortunately, even in the busiest times I can find space for a dwarf, or twelve…

This motley crew are an upgrade to my Dwarf Rangers, a sort of Impossible Mission Force. Remember last time when I was talking about fun things that develop during narrative campaigns? Well Stromni’s Wanderers – the name for the Rangers in my army – have grown far beyond their battlefield role. We’ve mentioned before how we’re mostly all roleplayers as well as wargamers and thus have fun doing small, story-driven missions where we can achieve goals that don’t belong on the field of battle. When I was trying to figure out which unit would be best for covert and highly secret intelligence gathering and concealed naughtiness against my allies (ahem) enemies, one group kept coming up. The rangers, they already do the intelligence gathering, they’re seen as a bit weird by the rest of the Dwarfs – they actually like being in sunlight – so tend to keep themselves to themselves and they are fantastically versatile troops able to switch from missile to devastating close combat punch in a moment. Perfect, thought I! So, as is my want, I gently rewrote my Dwarf backstory again and made rangers something between MI5 and a gang of heavies putting the squeeze on people. I then realised how much fun it would be if there was a hard core within the rangers; a squad of individuals who would take on the toughest missions; do the unspeakable without complaint; for whom no task is too low and “for the good of the mission” is their creed; there could be twelve of them; doing the dirty work… a Dwarfish Dirty Dozen perchance…

the more normal half dozen
Now this is something of a collaborative effort. In order to prevent this post being nine miles long I am splitting it between here and Pirate Viking Painting. I’ll waffle on about models and paint choices over at PVP and here? Here we will meet the little devils, find out what they do, what makes them tick and the few little rules tweaks (there are more in the odd squad than the normals) that we’ve made to give them a bit of an edge in their chosen fields. Also, given that there are twelve of the little blighters I’ll split the post in half along a rather natural break line, see, there are 6 fairly normal rangers… and then there are the odd squad. We’ll meet them next time, today? It is the turn of the rangers of the DDD. And where better to start than with their fearless, taciturn leader Stromni Skystride:

Stromni Skystride
Like most of the Dwarfs of Karak Hoch, Stromni hails from Barak Varr, that great Dwarf seaport. The Barak Varr Dwarfs are considered odd by other holds for their seafaring ways so rangers are not so uncommon there. Life in sunlight is a part of the nautical life after all. Stromni though, even as a Beardling, was a natural ranger. He was always uncomfortable underground (indeed, it is a great secret of his that he is claustrophobic) and took every opportunity to slip away to the artillery ranges coving the approaches to Barak Varr and enjoy the bright landscape beyond. He joined the Rangers as soon as was proper and distinguished himself ever since. When the Karak Hoch reclamation mission was being assembled, Stromni jumped at the chance to journey the empire. Impressed by his taciturn manner and sharp eye for intelligence gathering, Dwalin Gravenrune (runelord of the Karak) requested that he form the small band of highly motivated rangers to undertake... special tasks for him. 

Stromni is a normal Dwarf Ranger Champion with all the normal rules, he needs nothing else. He is a cautious soul though and so in place of the usual great axe and light leather armour of his fellows he totes a handaxe and shield and the dull gleam of heavy Dwarven scalemaille gleams beneath his bearskin cloak.

Hourfall Giantbane
Stromni's strong right arm is Hourfall Giantbane. Named for the mighty deed of felling a hill giant single handed, Hourfall is the Champion of the Stromni's Wanderers regiment. Stromni may be their leader but his dour, quiet manner is not suited to the "fire the blood" requirements of the battlefield. That falls to Hourfall. The two men have been friends since their earliest days in the rangers and are thick as thieves when off duty. Hourfall is the only one who knows Stromni's secret and covers for him should he need to withdraw because of it. He has his own oddness - as do most rangers - a fondness for Cathayan and Indish teas over good Dwarfish Ale (the model has a charming tea kettle on it's pack) but as long as he's fighting with the sort of fortitude that he does the others don't mind.

Hourfall is a Dwarf Ranger Champion with no other alterations.

Forkin the Fat
Forkin is the teams support weapon. Short even for a Dwarf and somehow remaining fat even on the levels of rations and exercise that the 'Dozen get he isn't suited to the quick insertion or the stealthy run. He is, though, a genius at mechanics and only failed to become an engineer through a series of unfortunate and embarrassing accidents that got him tarred as a liability. Finding kinship with other "failures" in Dwarf life in the Rangers, Forkin never really excelled. Crossbows weren't his thing and he tended to be at the back of a charge. That all changed when he found the corpse of an Empire marksman in the field, clutched in his lifeless hands the smashed remains of his repeater hand gun. Forkin spent weeks tinkering, cleaning, repairing and improving the weapon until it was once more functional. While it is a poor choice for some of the missions the 'Dozen get chosen for - a near silent crossbow is much preferred - Forkin has found a role on overwatch. He joins the snipers and watches the flow of the mission. He's become adept at reading that moment when stealth and surprise are about to be lost. Forkin's bellow of "Go Loud!" has warned many a ranger that they are about to be discovered and if not, the devastating psychological impact of a hail of lead and the thunderous noise certainly changes the game.

Forkin is a Dwarf Ranger with a Dwarf-crafted repeater handgun.

Fibor Hawkseye
While most of the Rangers on the battlefield are dual weapon specialists with greataxe and crossbow, some make a special study of one or the other. Within the 'Dozen, there are a trio of crossbow specialists who act as snipers and fire support covering retreats (as well as keeping Forkin calm and quiet). Their leader is Fibor Hawkseye. Fibor is calm, paternalistic to the other snipers and tries to keep a lid on the competitiveness of Vierlin and Azrik, "Mission first, glory second" is his motto. He also tends to be the point defence-man when the enemy get too close. With an axe blade fitted as a bayonet and a dagger to back it up he is more than a match for most common foes.

Fibor Hawkseye is a Dwarf ranger, his armaments grant him a crossbow and two hand weapons.

Vierlin Sureshot
Vierlin Sureshot really shouldn't be in the Empire. As far as her family back in Barak Varr know, she has simply disappeared. Vierlin is the only heir of a wealthy and powerful maritime trading family - her real family name is Vierlin Ironkeel - who were instrumental in the destruction of the Stormbourne legacy and fortune. Disgusted at her father's dishonourable tactics and glee at Hafnir's fall, she decided to punish him by robbing him of a useful political tool of her hand in marriage. Hearing of the Stormbourne exodus - again from her mocking father - she slipped away and joined the barges. She turned out to be an excellent shot and found herself increasingly falling in with the rangers, a more different group to her normal social circle you would never find. She has since been inducted into the dozen and has a not-so-friendly rivalry with Azrik for kills in the field.

Vierlin is a Dwarf Ranger with hand weapon rather than great weapon.

Azrik Deadeye
Azrik Deadeye is the medic of the 'Dozen, he trained with the priestesses of Valaya and is devoted to the Goddess. Indeed he would have been a priest of Valaya had he not been born a man. This chip on his shoulder he carries with a grumpy and combative air. The dozen tolerate him though as there are many of them that would not be there but for his quick needle and knowledge. There are others still who have been saved by his keen eye and sure shooting. Azrik takes himself very seriously and is proud of his talents. Vierlin, who enjoys "poking the bear" a little, started a rivalry for their shooting and while she sees it as a bit of fun, Azrik is deadly serious about being "the best".

Azrik Deadeye is a Dwarf Ranger with a hand weapon instead of greataxe. If Azrik is not removed as a casualty during a mission then any injury rolls for casualties can be rerolled if wished.

And there you have it, the first part of Dwalin's Dirty Dozen (as I've been calling them in lieu of a better name). Part two is later in the week and you can read more about the painting and modelling side of things over at Pirate Viking Painting. Next time, we meet the real weirdos: The Odd Squad.