When I stopped posting images of my minis on the blog a while ago it was largely because I was busy with writing other stuff and at the same time began to question the whole point with the blog. Having had some time to think it all over, I thought that one thing which actually would make things a bit more interesting for me would be to write more about the actual games we play and not solely focus on the minis. There is an abundance of great, great blogs showing minis and serving as inspiration; you gotta love sites like Magpie and Old Lead, Leadplague and Belched from the Depths, to mention but a few.
However, at least when it comes to the so-called Oldhammer scene, the emphasis seems first and foremost to rest on the minis and not the games as such. This, I think, is a shame. Thus I will in the future attempt to write about the scenarios we play in my little gaming group and give as much information about those games as possible in order for others to potentially be inspired. Not because what we do is terrible cool or innovative, but because it often is these small glimpses into game situations and scenarios which sparks fresh ideas; this is at least what I often experience. The downside is, of course, that you will have to live with my shoddy English, but this is how it has to be.
The call of the wild
As I have written in my last post, we have launched a new fantasy campaign using Warhammer 3rd ed. rules scaled down to skirmish level. This means no units, no wheeling and all that other stuff. We have furthermore implemented an experience system more or less similar to what you would find in 1ed. Necromunda and the post-game casualty and injury tables from Rogue Trader. All of this is to give the campaign a sense of progress on character level as well as a sense of continuity to the story we tell through our games.
What is more interesting is what it is all about. The campaign we are playing is basically the old D&D module The Isle of Dread, written by David “Zeb” Cook and Tom Moldvay. We are thus here talking some proper old school stuff. As most of you probably will know, the scenario was the first real outdoors adventure for D&D when published back in 1981, and it was later re-released in 1983 as part of the classic blue box D&D Expert set. The copy of the scenario we are using is actually from my old version of the box bought back in 1991, I would guess. I actually never played the scenario in my D&D days and this little venture is accordingly my first use of the scenario, but it is cool finally to use something I have had in my collection for such a long time.
If not familiar with the module, you might wonder how this would work as a miniature based game. Of course we cannot use the scenario straight from the text, but the thing is that the whole module is very open and in essence a long list of random encounter, a few fixed encounters and a climax taking place at the centre of the Isle of Dread mentioned in the module title. The island itself is, by the way, a riff on the island of King Kong including giant creatures, dinosaurs, fierce tribesmen etc.
What you see here is the super-secret DM map provided in the scenario for the players to explore. The player version looks like the second map below and is mostly blank, as the players are to explore and fill in the white as they travel land inward. When, in our campaign, following a path the party can travel up to three hexes pr. session, when forcing their way through wilderness they only travel two hexes pr. session.
What we basically are doing in our campaign is to record the travels of our group of protagonists as they travel inwards on the Isle of Dread and experience encounters as they move along. We operate with two types of encounters. Each of our sessions has one main encounter or battle, functioning as a little scenario. As part of the post-game we then decide where our protagonists travel next and if they come across a random encounter. For this we roll a D6: On a 1-2 the party are confronted with what probably is a hostile encounter. When this encounter happens we also decide by roll: 1-2 pre-scenario, 3-4 during scenario or 5-6 after scenario. The random encounter therefore serves as a little prelude or aftermath to the scenario proper, or it can be integrated into the scenario as such. The slightly altered random encounter lists we use looks like this:
To add further details to the campaign, we decided to keep track of food rations, equipment, gold etc. and give our party with two packmules, all of which might serve as the inspiration for potential future scenarios and encounters.
So what is it all about then? The background is as follows.
The Black Pearl of Dread
Malcon deWitt, a former citizen of Marienburg, has spent a few years adventuring in the Empire after deserting from his unit of mercenaries. Never fit to follow orders his ambitions and taste for the good life drew him to follow his own course. Through many encounters he drifted southwards into Tilea and finally he entered the great city of Remas, which became his new home and base of operations. From here Malcon explored the ancient ruins of the region and sold the art objects and treasures he salvaged. Along the way he met Ricco di Leonora, who became his close friend and collaborator, and they in turn were joined by Jolly Drake – a renegade halfling thief whose nimble fingers soon became crucial to their operations in the tilean ruins.
The trio has one thing in common: They all share a huge appetite for wine, gambling and exuberant spending. The opportunities for such is great in sunny Remas and the trio are thus broke more often than not. This fact has gradually begun to take its toll on their spirits and the three friends started to have serious conversations about the future. They somehow needed to find a quest with a worthwhile payoff, enabling them to withdraw from active life and enjoy the fruits of their efforts. This opportunity came half a year ago.
Here the priests of Manaan come into the story. Malcon had previously done business with the order, whose cult is prominent in Marienburg and gives Malcon sweet memories of childhood. The temples of Manaan is sought by many merchants and travelers. In Remas a sailor ravaged by jungle rot and the liberal imbibing of lotus juice has delivered a strange tale to the priests of Manaan in exchange for a bed in the hospice of the order. The sailor told how an ancient ruined city exists on a plateau in the centre of the Isle of Dread, found south of Sartosa. In this ruined city a huge black pearl, called the ‘Pearl of the Gods’, is resting. This pearl is supposedly vested with eldritch magical powers and just waiting to be grasped by anyone bold enough to transverse the fever plagued jungles which surrounds the plateau.
This tale was alluring, but the basis for the story was also resting on the words of a fever ridden, half drug-crazy sailor. The priests of Manaan therefore decided to offer Malcon and his friends a proposition; they were to travel to the Isle of Dread and claim the fabled black pearl.
The deal is that the priests of Manaan finance the journey for Malcon and his party as well a number of henchmen to accompany the group. If they find the pearl, and it turns out to be what it is said to be, the priests will pay the party a huge sum of gold. Furthermore, the group may claim whatever treasure they find on the island; the priests are solely interested in the pearl. This proposal Malcon discussed intensely with Ricco and Drake over a couple of days and finally they agreed to take the job despite all the problems with a long sea journey and the dangers on the island itself.
Malcon, Ricco and Drake, accompanied by Malcon’s loyal hound Kenza, ten men-at-arms and a representative of the order of Manaan named Peter the Melancholic thus left Remas by ship and headed south. Talking to the sailors onboard of their vessel they soon learned that there is at least one inhabited settlement on the Isle of Dread, called Tanaroa, on the southern tip of the island. This little settlement is inhabited by a mixture of the indigenous people of the island, pirates, smugglers and adventurers passing through. Tanaroa is located on a slim peninsula which is cut-off from the rest of the island by a giant wall of ashlars build by the gods. This, at least, is what the natives claim and they only rarely travel into the jungles to the north, saying that the heart of the island is taboo because this is where the gods sleep.
During the voyage to the island two of the men-at-arms died. One fell overboard, the other was stabbed to death by a drunken sailor. However, despite these small setbacks Malcon and his group has now arrived in the hot, humid village of Tanaroa where they plan to stay awhile to gather food, equipment, mules and perhaps further information about the island.
The first chapter in our campaign will follow soon.