In a galaxy far, far away …
The man in grey stood at the edge of the clearing, looking across the wreckage of hundreds of lives. With a sigh, he moved forward and peered across the debris, noting broken furniture, dead, bloated livestock, scatters of clothing and humped shapes that were probably bodies.
Movement, and the sound of someone trudging across the field, rooting desultorily through the remains. There, he noted, a figure, a little short, he thought, and reached out with his other senses. “Ah,” he muttered, “the force is strong in this one.”
Without warning he found his arms pinned to his side, and a mounting pressure on his windpipe. Slow, wheezing breath sounds came from behind, then a moist, throaty voice, rich with menace, sounded in his ear.
“If your fecking cat ever pisses on my blankets again, I will cut off it’s legs and shove it so far up your arse you’ll be able to meow and talk at the same time!”
Ah. Not dead after all.
Petra Nunce, Reiklander - ex-gambler, thief
Wesley Smitt, Reiklander - scout
Grim Grimmson, Dwarf - trollslayer
Jeremy Dewbender - apprentice grey wizard
Cat - a cat (and familiar)
Of course they didn’t die, I just loved the expressions on everyone’s face last session when I simply closed everything down when the wave struck. Everyone was so desperate to keep their character alive, they agreed to the most outrageous demands - I’d been thinking that the crew were getting just a bit too well equipped (and rich), and there’s nothing like a magic-imbued tsunami to strip you of your belongings. So, after much pleading, I made them roll for how many wounds each character suffered (carefully adjusted so no-one would die). Everyone had to make very hard tests for a few choice belongings to see if they had managed to keep hold of them - the rest of the things I simply lost, broke or ignored. So we have the dwarf clad only in a shirt, boots and a rubber ring; the scout (amazingly!) retaining his longbow but no arrows, and without footwear; Petra fully clothed with a single gold coin she hid in her boot; and the wizard wearing only a ripped cloak. The cat, too is somewhere about, in a foul and vengeful mood after her wetting. Waltrout, alas, is nowhere to be seen - the disadvantages of loading all your staples onto an idiot is fast becoming clear. Oh, and they all have terrible colds.
As dusk approaches, the various party members come around, and find themselves on the edge of a huge lake, with wreckage from the town of Stromdorf scattered around. Coughing and spluttering, they slowly aggregate, Wes collecting wood for a fire, which the wizard manages to light. They then stand around warming themselves, and engage in a little gentle bantering about Grim’s Mk 2 flocksummtroculators, but their heart isn’t really in it (they are realizing that they are all wounded, have no food or weapons and have lost all the cash they had collected in the last few months). They decide to move off to make a quick search through the rubble for anything useful.
And so it goes. A pair of trousers (Grim). Two odd boots (Wes). Some blankets. A dagger (Petra). A big piece of wood (Grim). A branding iron (Wes). A (reasonably) freshly deceased sheep. More firewood. Along the way they also find a few other lost souls and help them back to their fire; an old married couple, a ten year old boy, the drunk from the Thunderwater Inn, a farmer with a broken leg. They also see a few less savoury sights; Professor Kopchfen’s half chewed body and a couple of townsfolk they maybe recognize.
Back at the fire again, they cut up the dead sheep and start to cook it using sticks, everyone squatting near the flames. Everyone is wet and miserable, coughing and sneezing, and the injured farmer is in a lot of pain (I give everyone stress and fatigue points). Wes tries to get everyone singing a campfire song, full of innuendo and smut, but no-one joins in, and after a couple of verses he stops. “It could be worse,” he quips, “it could be raining!” Everyone looks at the darkening sky apprehensively, but nothing happens.
Suddenly, from the darkness, comes a howling sound. “Nice one, Wes,” mutters the dwarf. A hurried conference, and the crew grab sticks, stones and anything else that might be used as a weapon; the other castaways bunch near the fire, shaking with fear, the young boy clinging to the old couple.
The first of the wolves appear after a few minutes; dark shadows flitting around at the edge of the firelight. Jeremy flicks a handful of darkness at one of the shapes, and it darts away, whimpering. Instantly the other wolves fade away into the night, but occasional yelps and growls make it clear they’re still watching.
(I make an eight step tracker to represent how much darkness is left, and give the players six tokens to represent how much firewood they’ve got. Uh-oh. There’s also an event marker at step four).
The characters take a few minutes to realize the problem, (they really are not that bright!), then wait around hoping the animals will attack whilst they’ve got light. Unfortunately the wolves don’t co-operate, and the Trouser bandits are left standing around the fire, getting colder and more tired by the minute. A plan is needed, and eventually Petra has a suggestion.
“Someone needs to step out there and draw the beasts onto them, then the rest of us can rush in and kill them whilst they’re battling that heroic individual.” She looks at Grim. “They would have to be very brave, though.”
Jeremy catches on quickly. “It would help if they could see in the dark.”
“And were very short!” adds Wes. (What?). “Very, very short.”
Grim looks at his friends for a moment then grabs two large wooden branches. “No use sending a man to do a stunties job,” he mutters, and strides out into the dark area at the edge of the circle of firelight.
“Very, very, very short!” Wes shouts out after him.
Almost immediately shapes can be seen in the dimness, and Jeremy again fires bolts of shadow off, driving one of the beasts off yelping and whining. Then everything goes wrong. Three shapes dart out of the night and attack the slayer from different directions. He fends the first one off with his clubs, but the next two hit him from behind, tearing open his legs and back, and he falls in a bloody mass, desperately trying to protect his face.
“Feck!” screams Petra, and dashes out, throwing herself on the back of one of the creatures tearing at Grim. She drags a furred muzzle back and saws her dagger across it’s throat, killing it bloodily. Wes follows, and thwacks the other creature soundly across its hindquarters. It, too runs yelping into the night.
Panting, the two drag the unconscious dwarf back into the firelight, wolves snarling and howling in the darkness. Jeremy quickly applies bandages to the slayers wounds, and props him up next to the fire. After a few minutes he comes round. “Great plan,” he mutters. “But it’s someone else’s turn next time.”
(Crapolla, in the dark, with no armour and no shooting weapons to help, wolves are really deadly. Their extra move means they can sit out of sight in the dark until a bunch of them have initiative, then dash in on one individual and really tear him up. Grim was really lucky he fended off the first wolf, else it would have been curtains. This was meant to be a not-too-testing encounter; instead, unless the crew get lucky it may well be all over).
The night drags on, with the team getting tireder and tireder (I’m giving them fatigue points for every two hours spent awake). Eventually they decide to take watches, and Wes and Grim settle down to rest whilst Petra and Jeremy circle the fire.
After a while, the sound of the wolves seems to recede, and the watchers relax a little, when suddenly two shapes burst out of the night. Petra and Jeremy are on opposite sides of the fire, and the wolves target the injured farmer who is midway between them. They kill him as he sleeps, tearing his throat out, and flee when Petra charges in.
The camp is in turmoil, with the small boy having hysterics and the drunk bellowing and weeping. Grim and Wes limp over to the bloody corpse. A long period of silence, then Wes steps up to the batters mark. “Ok,” he says, “new plan.” He calls over Petra, and between them they drag the body out away from the fire and dump it. Dark shapes circle, but don’t attack. Next they grab the remains of the sheep and throw it on top of the body. They retire back to the fire and wait. Eventually a wolf approaches the remains.
“Shall I kill it?” whispers Jeremy.
“Don’t be a fecking half-wit,” replies Wes. “Do nothing.”
The wolf noses the farmers body, then starts to drag it off into the night. More wolves appear, and together they pull the meat away. A few minutes later there is the sound of tearing meat and crunching bone that seems to go on for hours, then nothing at all.
Eventually dawn comes, and the crew find the wolves long gone. Just about everyone is maxed out with fatigue, but the heroes gather wood before doing anything else, ready for a huge fire if they have to spend another night here. They find another sheep’s carcass, slightly more bloated than the last, and set about cooking it.
“Funny,” muses Wes, “why would the wolves attack us when there’s all this food lying around?”
(Oops, a damn good question; one I hadn’t even thought about. I try to look enigmatic and knowing).
“It’s that bloody necromancer again!” mutters Grim. “We need to kill him sharpish”
“Again,” adds Petra.
(Nice, once again the rock steady crew explain my mistakes. Maybe I should add something).
About midday Jeremy, who is on watch, kicks the others awake. “Riders,” he says pointing. Sure enough a troop of Roadwardens appear, and approach the campfire. They’ve been sent from Ubersreik to investigate rumours of a disaster at Stromdorf, which the players readily confirm.
“What happened?” asks the sergeant-at-arms.
“I have no idea,” says Petra, shaking her head. “I was just passing through; I’ve never been here before in my life.”
“Some kind of a localized surge in Azyr energies triggered a counterswell of more aquatic vitality,” states Jeremy.
“I think the rain got bored and started to fall from below,” suggests Wes.
“It was all that bloody cats fault!” adds Grim.
Dismissing the Trouser Bandits as complete lunatics, the Sergeant sends the survivors off towards Ubersreik with an escort, sending a rider ahead to commandeer a wagon for them and the other survivors.
And that’s about it. To cut a long story short, they travel on to Ubersreik, where they’re put up for a week or so and treated by the local doctor whilst the magistrate investigates the ‘happenings’ at Stromdorf. Eventually they exhaust the towns largesse, (and patience!) and are kicked out of the Inn they’ve been staying at. Clad in cast-offs from the local Shallyan hospital, they are set on the streets of Ubersreik to look for new adventure.