Sunday, August 26, 2012

'Worst Case Scenario #4' - The Ritual - A Tale of Eldritch Horror set during the Great War


This past weekend while visiting friends and family in Winnipeg I put on a 'Strange Aeons' game for the guys from The Fawcett Avenue Conscripts. The scenario is actually the concluding 'chapter' of a series of interlinked games that I've put on for the group here in Regina. 

The core of this scenario is built upon one provided in the 'Strange Aeons' rulebook which I've jiggered with to accomodate multiple players and to fit within my WWI storyline. Though many of the terms/rules mentioned below are specific to 'Strange Aeons' I'm sure that with a little bodging and tweaking they could be easily re-purposed to fit a variety of skirmish rulesets. I've scaled the game to accommodate 2-6 players, one side taking the plucky heroes while the other controls the powers of darkness.

The scene is set in Belgium during 1915, just as the Great War is settling into its remorseless grind. The story is centered around a scholarly Belgian priest who has been driven mad with grief and rage having witnessed the brutal sack of his country.  As a consequence he has made off with an ancient tome from the smoking ruins of the medieval library in Louvain.  The poor insane man reasons that since his god has turned his back on both him and his country he will access this Dark Tome to summon 'another power' to protect his people.

Over the intervening months the priest (who has now transformed into a Deep One Demagogue) has gathered a host of lost souls who are eager to bring vengeance and retribution upon the invaders of their country. After witnessing the nascent power of the Dark Tome they have formed a cult in order to assist the priest to fully tap its capabilities.

A mournful spirit, jealous of the living...
After several preceding adventures in which they have gathered dark allies, armaments and supplies, the cultists are now ready to enact the final ritual in order to summon and bind an 'Entity' to their service. As a tasty 'ingredient' they have kidnapped a young woman to serve as a blood sacrifice to fuel the ritual. 

Unbeknownst to the cultists, instead of making off with a innocuous peasant girl they have unknowingly kidnapped the daughter of a high ranking French diplomat. The father, using his powerful political connections, has pleaded with the local Entente forces for assistance in rescuing her.

Accordingly, three teams of soldiers (The Heroes) have been sent to rescue the girl and dispatch as many of the perpetrators as possible, especially the ring-leader. Each team represents one of the Entente powers present in Belgium (there are teams from France, Britain and Belgium). The teams will be described in more detail below.


The Dark Ceremony
The ceremony will last for D6+8 Turns (9-14 Turns, only known to the umpire if you decide to go that route). While the ceremony is being conducted, cultists may decide to sacrifice themselves to add power to the ritual (see below).  The Captive has to be kept alive in order to be sacrificed when the ritual reaches its climax.

The High Priest can be positioned anywhere in line of sight of the Statue.


The Tentacly Statue of Icky Nastiness...
If the ceremony is interrupted before its proper conclusion (i.e. the Deep One Demagogue is killed or the Captive rescued), and has enough power built-up, it will still draw forward an ‘Entity’. Nonetheless the Entity will be enraged at being drawn from its slumber and so the control of it will be randomized between the two sides until it has been destroyed or all figures on the table have been removed.

The summoned entity will emerge in place of the Statue.


"Pardon me, sorry to bother you, but can you direct me to the Dark Ritual? I'm running a little late..."

Cultists Sacrificing Themselves
As an action a Cultist may choose to add his life essence to the ritual by committing suicide in base-to-base with the Statue. Cultists must pass a Resolve test before they can commit suicide.  Once a model kills itself remove it from the board and roll 1D3 to generate points towards summoning an 'Entity'. (If refereed, these rolls should only be known to him/her in order to keep the tension to what may finally enter.)

Garden-variety cultist out to cause some mischief.
The bodies of those Cultists which perish have a chance of reanimating as undead at the beginning of the following turn (4+ on a D6). The undead cultists will ‘emerge’ at the place of their demise or at the base of the statue.


A passel of undead out for a good time.
Sacrificing the Captive
The Captive can only be sacrificed once the ceremony has reached its conclusion (again, D6 + 8 Turns).  The Cultists will have 3 turns after the conclusion of the Ritual to sacrifice the captive - if they cannot do this the 'Entity' will be summoned with only the points provided by any cultist self-sacrifice. The captive cannot be killed by a ranged attack.  Once the Captive is sacrificed roll 3D6 and add the total to the power of the Ritual (including any power from cultist sacrifice).

Saving the Captive
The Captive will be released if a hero can spend two (2) Actions in base-to-base with her.  These can be accrued over several turns. Once released she is part of the rescuer's team and can move normally with them. She is unarmed and has no equipment but can fight once released if provided the means. She shoots at a 4+, has 1 Attack, has a Resolve of a 5+ and has 1 Hit Point.

'The Moon is Right'
As one would expect with such a scenario there is a Full Moon. Nonetheless, there are low clouds racing through the sky often obscuring it. While the Ceremony is being performed AND the Moon is visible all the forces of Darkness will benefit from a 6+ save from ALL potential wounds.  At the beginning of each turn roll a D6, on a 4+ the Moon is visible.   

What Will be Summoned?
Based on the amount of life-force sacrificed to the Obelisk one of the following Entities will be released:

8 power points: Night Gaunt
power points: Demonic Hound
15 power points: Formless Spawn
18 power points Winged Nightmare
25 power points: Dark Puppeteer
27 power points: Night Stalker
30 power points: Herald of Cthulhu


The Cultists

Following is the composition of the cultists:


Coven 1

High Priest (disguised Deep One Demagogue - reveal at 12")

HMG Team (two figures)

Cultist Mob I (5 figures, armed as seen fit)

Cultist Mob II (5 figures, armed as seen fit)


The undisguised 'Deep One' cult leaders

Coven 2

Cultist Leader (disguised Deep One - reveal at 12")

Cultist Mob (5 figures)

Axe-Wielding Maniac

Restless Spirit (emerges after 1st cultist sacrifice)



Few things can wreck your day like a Axe-Wielding Maniac.

Coven 3

Leader (disguised Deep One - reveal at 12")

Suicide Cultist
Cultist Mob (5 figures, armed as you see fit)
Axe-Wielding Maniac
Swarm of Rats (emerges after 2nd cultist sacrifice)

'Hike! Go long! Go long!'
The Heroes
The Heroes will be split over three national teams, composed of the following:

Every Team Leader (Belgian, French and British) will have:
Morphine (allows 1 additional turn of activation before the Leader succumbs to his wounds)
Tight Boots (allows an automatic pass of one Resolve test - helpful against scary stuff) 
Lucky Talisman (exhaust to gain an automatic success in a roll)
Rifle
Pistol
Sword
Grenade (1)
Dodge Skill
Parry Skill

Each of the 3 Team Leaders above will be joined by three companions:

British (three figures, including one with a Lewis Gun)
Shooting Skill (2+ for leader and 3+ for his soldiers)
Fast Rifle Reload (no reload activation required for the Rifles)
Rifle
Bayonet 
1 Grenade each



The Lewis Gun has a crew of one (1), Range of 20", a fire rate of 2 dice, a Damage rating of 1D+3 and can Strafe. If used by one man it has to pause after each turn of firing to swap-out the drum (this takes 1 Action). If another figure travels with the gunner (in base-to-base) the Lewis Gun can fire every turn (the other figure is busy replenishing the drums and trying to keep the barrel cool.) 


French (three figures, including a St. Entienne HMG)
Improved Resolve (2+ for leader and 3+ for his soldiers)
Fast Movement (7" base move, but cannot be used to charge into combat)
Rifle
Bayonet
1 Grenade each

Belgian Team (three figures, including a Priest and a Minerva Armoured Car)
Stiffened Constitution (7 Constitution instead of 6)
Heroic (3 Actions instead of 2 on successful resolve roll - usable only once during the game)
Rifle
Bayonet
1 Grenade each

The Minerva Armoured Car
The Minerva will give a 4+ cover save to the passengers and a 2+ for the driver. It has a move of 6" but due to shell-holes has to roll to determine if it bogs down each time it moves (1 on a D6). Once bogged it cannot move again for the remainder of the scenario. It can pivot in place up to 90 degrees as one of its Actions. The Minerva's Hotchkiss machine gun cannot be removed.

The Priest can banish a single undead/ghosts per Action within 8" on a roll of 3+. 


The Priest can also bless one weapon in the game if in base-to-base. (It can be either a firearm or melee weapon; once blessed it will be +2 to both Hit and Damage.) This takes 2 Activations to perform.


The Table and Terrain
The scenario works best played along the length of a 6x4 table. There should be enough terrain to break up long sight-lines but not too cluttered. The Forces of Darkness will first set up all the terrain and then deploy up 12" in on the short table edge. The Statue should be in the center of the cultists' deployment area. The Heroes set up on the opposing side, up to 12" inches in.


Mechanics for Multiple Player Activations
'Strange Aeons' is geared as a two-player game so I decided to utilize the excellent card mechanism from Too Fat Lardies to accomodate multiple teams (in this case, up to six teams).

The Cards
(one of each)
- French Activation
- British Activation
- Belgian Activation
- Cultist Coven 1 (w/ Deep One Demagogue)
- Cultists Coven 2 (w/ Restless Spirit)
- Cultists Coven 3 (w/ Rat Swarm)
- 'The Stars are Right' 

If 'The Stars or Right' card is drawn the turn is concluded. Those teams who have not yet activated may take one (1) action. This action cannot involve shooting or close combat.

The activation cards which were mocked-up for the game.
How it Played Out
In our game, the Heroes (run by Bill and Byron) initially came on very strong, making good progress towards the location of the Ritual. Greg, who was running the coven with the suicide cultist pushed out to meet the Heroes. The trick to this was that every time the suicide cultist wanted to move he had to roll to see if he accidentally detonated. Well, as these things typically go, Greg rolled the number-that-shall-not-be-named and the cultist blew up in a ragged mess of bed sheets and foul intentions. (The good news is that he came back as the de-torsoed zombie that you can see in the undead group shot above. The zombies were not especially effective but made for some great dark humour.)

'The explosion marks the last reported spot of the suicide cultist...
The Heroes also had some bad luck in that their Minerva armoured car bogged down and the Belgian crew had to bail out an leg it with the others. Several melees ensued when Dallas charged his mob of cultists into the path of the British and Belgians. It got quite nasty once the axe-wielding maniacs made their appearance, slowing the progress of the Heroes (for some permanently). Back at the ritual around the statue, Greg had several of his cultists make the ultimate sacrifice, adding power to the Dark Ritual with their own blood. (We surmised that being a cultist is a pretty raw deal and reasoned that they must have a great benefits package because the job itself sucks.)

A shot of our recent game: The cultists seen screening the statue and the captive (both in the shell crater).
It came right down to the wire on turn 13 (a suitable number) when the Ritual ended. This resulted in a mad dash to get to the Captive to either dispatch or save her. Unfortunately for the Heroes the cultists got the drop and slew the poor girl (Boo! Hiss!). In suitable special effects inspired by Ridley Scott (well, in our mind's eye anyway) a vile portal tore open from another dimension and a monstrous tentacled horror began pushing its way into our world. By this point it was running a rather late so we thought it a suitable place to darken the screen and run the credits. 

...something wicked this way comes...
It was really a great time hanging out with the guys and having a few laughs. The game ran right down to the wire, which is always a bonus with these kind of scenarios. Who knows, maybe the Heroes will have better luck the next time I roll it out. 

Thanks a bunch, lads!

37 comments:

  1. Wow! I felt my spine chilling with the tale. I adore Lovecraft tales, so I'll have to take a look to these rules. Your miniatures are lovely painted

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    1. It´s a great rule set (at least IMHO). It´s fast to play and you can play campaigns.

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    2. Yes, they are a very solid set of rules that are very easy to tweak to personal tastes. The online support is also excellent, with many great ideas, additional miniatures being posted on a fairly regular basis.

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  2. Lovely stuff! Great way of combining two your WWI project with something more occult.

    Makes me want to get back to the pulp really...

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    1. Cheers Phil! It was your Painting Challenge entries this past winter that sparked me into checking out these rules/figures - so thank you!

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  3. Amazing Curt, great miniatures and a great imagination.

    John

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    1. Thanks John! Now I have to dream up an occult Napoleonic scenario...

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  4. This is one of the best Strange Aeons-related post I have read!! I would like to see some close ups of that Dark Puppeteer (Is it yours)

    Regards.

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    1. Sure, I'll try to get some more pics of the Dark Puppeteer up for you (probably as a separate, short post). Its a really great model and quite fun to assemble and paint.

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    2. Thank!! It´s a great model indeed, I painted one for my own collection (http://losingsanity-einarolafson.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Dark%20Puppeteer).

      Cheers.

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    3. Yes, I saw your's before I got mine (and the reason I picked it up) - you did such a fabulous job! I kept the groundwork as greyscale in mine and did not put pupils in the eyes as I found it looked more, I dunno... unsettling. Otherwise it painted-up pretty quickly, with many layers of inks and shading.

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    4. Your DP looks impressive!! I like those blank eyes, and it´s very disturbing indeed. Regards.

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  5. Thanks for running an amazing game Curt. This is honestly the first game I have played where I looked upon axe-wielding maniacs as important assets....

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    1. Yes, I thought those lads matched-up well to your personality! ;)

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  6. Thanks again for the game, Curt! It was great fun indeed.

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    1. Thanks Dallas! It was super to get together for this 'game sorbet' after your excellent Dieppe Raid scenario.

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  7. This is what i love about this hobby , using your imagination, and talents. A great read Curt.

    Oh and "the number that shall not be named" - made me laugh - it was seen a few too many times tis weekedn my side of the pond too.

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    1. Thanks Dave! I really enjoyed your AAR of your recent gunfight game! Would love to play in one of those sometime as it looks like a heap of fun...

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  8. Very nice stuff and a great AAR. The game appears to have been really fun.

    Fun, interesting... I can not be distracted!!!

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    1. Thanks Juan! Yes, its a nice system - very easy to pick-up and doesn't require too many figures to play. Worthy as a distraction!

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  9. This reminds me of something I saw online some time ago... It was on the website for a dealer of antique blades, mostly old military swords and such. I have no idea if it was a movie prop, or something that was made recently, but the description read 'Satanic Ritual Dagger made from French (Gras?) Bayonet'. That piqued my curiosity. Not enough to buy it though...

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    1. Wow, that is incredibly creepy (in a very cool yet unsettling way)! You wonder how the antique dealer got the provenance of the blade. Did some French guy in a red-cowled robe show up and say, 'Phaa, this thing does not work. But, you know, I thought it might be worth a few quid, no?'

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    2. Yeah, that was what made me wonder if it might be a movie prop of some sort. As I recall it had some sort of demonic figure, possibly in brass, as the hilt. That may have been why they identified it as such. Sadly, while I was able to find the website again, in the intervening 8 or so years they sold it...

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  10. Wow! I love the detail and flavor of the scenario! The models was great!

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    1. Thanks a bunch, styx! I really admire your 'Strange Aeons' blog, you have a very nice collection of creepy minis!

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  11. Curt
    A few things that I really liked about this post:
    1) the rather nonchalant way you reveal that the priest has now become a Deep One Demagogue - ho hum;

    2)the paint job on the maniac is brilliant; you can almost smell the eau du demented uncle he must be wearing; and

    3) the way you captured just how badly Joe Namath has aged since his salad days.

    cheers
    Doug

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    1. Doug,

      1) Yeah, I imagine he looked in the mirror one day and thought, 'Hmm, a dorsal fin, gills and lidless eyes? Gee, I don't remember having those...'

      2) Thanks! He's from the 'Mansions of Madness' boardgame. I think he's a great sculpt as well. I'm pondering of painting one up having a lumberjack plaid shirt.

      3) Ha! Yes, very good!! But at least he's still rakishly thin...

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  12. Very, very cool Curt! I really like the grey scale with a horror setting as it's extremely atmospheric! Those cultists look just brill!!

    Must... resist... ideas.. for... a new project.....

    Christopher

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    1. Thanks Christopher, very much appreciated. Yeah, I find the Cthulhu/Horror thing lends itself well to a blend of greyscale and colour.

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  13. Love this weird tales game,loved it for my WW2 projects I did in the past and read up quite a bit about the Nazi's especially Himmlers dealing in the occult!

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    1. Thanks Fran! Yes, Himmler was a complete wingnut. His only contribution to humanity (and even this is slight) is that he fueled many comic books and movies based on his fascination with the occult.

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  14. What a wonderfully sinister plot, and ethos.
    Strange Aeons is a game I am destined to try, it just hasn't quite happened yet!

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  15. Thanks Scott. I think you'd quite like it and it would very muchlend itself to your mad skills at terrain-making.

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  16. Suicide cultists accidentally detonating, mournful spirits, Dark Ceremonies, vile portals - Curt, this really does have it all. After the heroic troops have faced off this little bunch of horrors, going back to the trenches is going to seem almost relaxing! Your figures and painting look tremendous. The Greyscale for the terrain and troops fits the scenario perfectly. Fantastic stuff!

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    1. Thanks very much for your kind words, Sidney! Yeah, the Somme will be a walk in the park after this mission... Well, perhaps not.

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  17. I came here from LAF, amazing report! And I just love your terrain and miniatures...they have a really dark feel and fit right into the theme. Great read!

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    1. Thanks Mathyoo! The greyscale seems to work contrasted with the baddies/monsters in full colour. It was a good time. I'm travelling out to Vancouver at the end of the month and plan to put the game on for a bunch of fiends out there - its a very good beer and pretzels game.

      BTW, I really like the sculpting that you do. Very creative.

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