Well then, despite appearances to the contrary on this blog, our gaming group was very busy throughout 2015, mainly in playing a large GM'd campaign using the Inquisimunda rules. For those not aware, these rules are basically the familiar Necromunda set, but with additional gangs representative of the broad sweep of the 40k universe, meaning campaigns can be set anywhere the players like.
The campaign would be called the Quest for the Golden Phrogg (+10 interwebs points for getting the reference!) and be played every Wednesday night in the Warhammer World gaming hall. We set up a Facebook group (very useful for this sort of thing) and put the word out for participants. We were lucky to get a solid core of around five or six regular players and another five or six occasional players, and some really cool ideas for gangs.
GMing duties fell to myself, and I came up with a simple narrative and campaign structure. The action would be set in the Maelstrom, where the warp storm front has receded to reveal a string of systems known to void-farers of old as strewn with all manner of ancient treasures. Basically, the campaign would be a treasure hunt for Old Slann gold. I used an online Traveller RPG sector generator to create a hex map of the region, and came up with a simple system. Campaign rounds would each be played on a single world, with the gang who earned the most xp that round getting to choose which world to visit next having discovered some clue as to the final location of the treasure world. Each planet would use a different Treacherous Conditions table too, so each would feel like a different and memorable location.
To start out with we had a wide range of gang types, including Jon's Inquisitor warband (who would prove central to the story), Mike's Adeptus Mechanicus Explorators, Gadge's Noblists, Simon's Spyrers, Curtis's Tzeentch renegades, Evo's Squat miners, Owen's feral Guard kill-team, my own Rogue Traders and several others. As word got out of what we were doing we had a couple of new players join, including Nathan's Eldar, Mike with his Orks and Jimmy with his Void Pirates, and we had guest appearances from several others along the way.
Instead of cataloging every game over the six months or so, I've chosen a few representative pictures of some of the battles, which culminated in the discovery of the Slann Treasure planet and a very exciting final game. There was loads of fun and engaging story telling along the way with the factions all developing their own histories and rivalries and we made an effort to post entertaining in-character battle reports on the FB page each week. In particular, Mike, Jon and Simon were really great for this and I thank them for making a fun campaign even more so. So, anyway, the pictures...
Jon's Inquisitorial Warband sets out to find the first clues.
Gadge's Noblist hunting party stalk the corridors of an abandoned void station in search of clues.
A Kroot tracker hired gun working for the Rogue Trader Arcadius is attacked by one of the dangerous alien life forms that plague the entire region.
Evo's squats heard something about gold...
We wrapped the first campaign turn up with a multiplayer game set on a jungle death world and I made this beastie especially for the game (using the stats for a large dinosaur from the Rogue Trader bestiary). Seen here is the death of Jon's Ratling sniper... a fate that befell at least three Ratlings throughout the campaign!
Another Ratling bites the dust! This was another multiplayer game, in which we were joined by the talented sculptor Drew Williams who was on a visit from the US. The game was set in the cargo hold and an ancient relic vessel plagued by malfunctioning robots.
The Arcadius Rogue Trader landing party investigating some ancient ruins.
Curtis's Tzeentch Warband in search of forbidden knowledge.
Inquisitor Dirske leads his band.
An especially deadly Explorator sniper.
Simon's Spyrers were the scourge of early games but they took heavy losses in the second campaign turn and were forced to retire.
Jon's incredible Warband seemed to have a new conversion every game!
Mikes Orks joined us in the second campaign turn - being a veteran Necromunda player Mike soon caught up and his Warband became the skurge of the Maelstrom!
The Arcadius hired an alien bodyguard to keep the Rogue Trader alive, seen here investigating especially foreboding ruins.
Owen's feral guard clash with the Arcadius Rogue Traders in an abandoned space hulk.
And at last, the location of the Slann Treasure Planet was revealed and a number of warbands converged on an ancient temple, little realising that the Golden Phrogg was no priceless relic but something else entirely...
The scene is set for the final treasure hunt - we used th rule for Spikers and Floaters from the Rogue Trader alien flora chapter for extra old school madness!
Jimmy's void pirates.
(Not pictured, my own Rogue Traders also took part in the final battle).
At last, the Golden Phrogg is revealed!
Both Jon and Mike wrote excellent closing reports of the final game, so over to them...
Warboss Ufthak Blackhawk couldn't zoggin' believe it.
He hadn't questioned the notion that had taken him away from the war-torn fields of Pellennor III and halfway across the galaxy. He'd gotten bored of watching thousands of greenskinned grunts doing his killing for him and just generally getting in the way every time he wanted a scrap. He'd wanted a new challenge, to go to fresh new worlds where enemies didn't soil themselves at the sound of his name and would actually give him a fight. So he'd rounded up a small group of ladz and had set off. And to be fair, he'd found what he'd been after: the first fight they'd got into, he'd zapped a hole clean through some humie nob and killed him stone dead. Princess, his beloved pet squig, had savaged some follower of the Skull God and bitten him in half a couple of weeks later. It had been a good laugh.
The entire warband had given a good account of themselves, really. Badgrub had turned into the best shot Ufthak had ever seen. His trusted lieutenant Mogrot Redtoof had earned the new name Brutesmasha after beating up two ogryns at once... twice. They'd repeatedly given the Skull God's boyz a kicking, had traded victories with the followers of the Clock God, and had embarked on several bloody wars against that yellow-bellied, pasty-faced humie Inquisitor and his rag-tag group of muties and other weird fings. He thought they might have killed a ratling: it didn't seem hard.
He'd never had an agenda other than finding fights and having them, and yet they kept coming up against the same groups, all apparently looking for the same thing. He'd fallen into the chase almost out of habit: if the others wanted something then it must be good, and that meant that he should have it as the biggest, toughest and orkiest ork around. Barty the warphead had always seemed to know where to head to next, and now he stopped to think about it Ufthak supposed that he should have questioned that more at the time. Barty had always been flighty and erratic, but he'd seemed more focused since they'd struck out on their own.
And then they'd ended up here, on this weird planet with its skies that blazed with baleful lightning, slogging through strange, volatile undergrowth. Barty had been growing increasingly obsessed that 'it's just up ahead', whatever *it* was, and then they'd seen it. A five-sided arcane-looking plinth ringed with shimmering, semi-translucent walls of force and inside... well, Ufthak had never seen anything quite like it. It had green skin, but was no ork that he'd ever heard of. Still, Barty was determined that they should get to it as quickly as possible, kill it and take its stuff, and Ufthak had no problem with that plan. Unfortunately, everyone else did.
As soon as they'd entered the clearing there were zoggin' humies everywhere, along with a few mutants and robot-fings. Luckily they were often fighting each other as much as they were with the orks, so everyone just ran for the weird plinth in the middle and had it out as they went. Ufthak took a hit from some fancy-dressed humie sniper, but he'd got back up again in time to see Mogrot batter some drugged-up fighting slave into unconsciousness. In fact, his boyz had made good progress, despite the weird reptile heads spitting fire at them on one occasion, but Ufthak could see that they weren't going to make it with much time to spare.
So he'd pointed at the shiny golden mask on the weird, fat, warty creature's face and had told Princess to 'fetch!'
His faithful squig had run off ahead of the others, bounded up the steps through the failing forcefield and had attacked the mask's wearer head-on. Ufthak had watched with a grin as the strange creature had desperately tried to fend Princess off... and then a dirty humie had shot his pet! Ufthak didn't think he'd ever been so angry, but he couldn't stop to grieve: there was loot to be grabbed, and everyone else was closing in. A lascannon shot had seemingly evaporated the weird creature but left its mask behind, so there were no more obstacles. Ufthak had rushed for the platform, but couldn't get a grip on its surface to haul himself up. Beside him he'd seen Barty, also frantically trying and failing to climb, trying so hard that he'd forgotten to even keep himself burning. And then Mogrot vaulted over all of them and straight onto the platform.
Ufthak had been watching closely, so he was sure of what he saw next. Some humie lackey had managed to get up there as well: Mogrot had swatted him a few times with his power klaw, then picked up the mask from where it had fallen.
'Mogrot!' Barty had shouted, his voice desperate. 'Throw it here! THROW IT HERE!'
But Mogrot hadn't listened to the frantic warphead. Instead he'd studied the mask for a moment, apparently transfixed, then had put it on his face. And then he'd seemed to momentarily grow to an enormous size, whilst simultaneously disappearing. Ufthak wasn't sure if that was possible, but that was what he'd seen the moment before the skies began to discharge lightning bolts so powerful that there was no standing against them. Everyone there, ork, humie or mutie, had turned to flee from the site.
So now Warboss Ufthak Blackhawk was somewhere in the middle of this strange, volatile forest with only Badgrub and Madsnik with him. His lieutenant was nowhere to be seen as a result of some seriously spooky goings-on, and his warphead...
Ufthak growled and set his jaw. He was going to have to have some serious words with Barty when he next saw him. Something about that ork wasn't right. Even more so than usual for weirdboyz.
Far above, in a dark-hulled, dagger-shaped vessel, a chamber flared into light. There was a momentary drop in temperature and a blast of colours beyond the usual spectrum, and then a figure materialised. It dropped to its knees as the teleportation sickness hit it, and let out a low whistling sound through overlarge teeth and wide lips that were poorly suited to the purpose.
'Well,' the creature known as Barty the warphead said in Gothic, 'that was an experience.'
It looked up and pushed itself back to its feet with the copper staff that all weirdboyz carried, then tilted its head to one side curiously. It was being studied by two huge figures, dressed in thick armour plate but with their faces exposed. In general shape they looked like humans, but even the merest passing glance would reveal them to be the ancient warrior-breed of the Adeptus Astartes.
Or those who had once been Adeptus Astartes.
Barty looked from one identical face to the other and grinned at them, nodding at each in apparent recognition. 'Bazrat. Artemius.'
Two bolt pistols were raised to cover the smiling warphead.
'Prove yourself,' said the one tentatively identified as Artemius. Barty rolled its eyes and chuckled.
'Is that really necessary? In case you hadn't noticed, I'm not speaking the orkish language. Which let me tell you, is not the easiest thing to manage with this larynx.'
'So lose the shape,' Bazrat commanded.
Barty sighed. 'Fine.'
It frowned, an expression of extreme concentration, then let out a grunt of apparent pain. Slowly but surely, its features began to melt and change. The jaw narrowed and receded, the eyebrow ridge drew back into the face, and the head changed from being slung forward beneath the shoulders to sitting on top of them, with more of an obvious neck. The arms grew shorter, the legs grew longer, and the fingers and toes all lost their black talons. The eyes lost their red hue and changed to grey and, most noticeably of all, the ork's green skin changed and lightened to a pale tan well within the normal realms of human colouration.
Within half a minute, another Astartes was standing where Barty the warphead had been, still dressed in the ork's extravagant and now decidedly ill-fitting black-and-yellow outfit, complete with copper bells.
'Are we happy now?' asked Ovrahm, Chaos Sorcerer, leaning on the copper staff and regarding his fellow Astartes with considerable contempt. He worked his jaw a bit. 'Do you have any idea what it's like to be stuck in a shape that's not your own for months on end? Polymorphine is a hell of a drug.'
'You failed in your mission,' Artemius said flatly. 'You did not recover the mask.'
'I also ensured that idiot Dirske didn't get his hands on it,' Ovrahm snapped. 'That would have been a disaster of the highest order. Instead Mogrot Redtoof has been elevated to near-godhood, which while disappointing in many respects, is far from the worst outcome for us. He'll probably go and pick a fight with Mork, or something. Possibly Khorne, if he's feeling particularly stupid.'
'Your behaviour has been erratic,' Bazrat stated. 'Your language and mannerisms are... different.'
'Of course I've been behaving erratically, you pile of squig droppings!' Ovrahm snapped. 'You try eating the brain of a Tzeentch-damned warphead to get his memories and personality down, then spend the new few months trying to maintain a coherent performance to fool a particularly big and canny ork who's got a lieutenant that could probably tear you limb from limb if they see through the deception! It'll leave a mark!' He shuddered, remembering the times that Mogrot had seemed on the verge of growing that bit too suspicious. Redtoof had been about the most impressive specimen of an ork fighter that Ovrahm could remember ever encountering, or even hearing about. Without his power armour he had no illusions about how that fight would have ended, sorcery or no.
Artemius looked sideways at Bazrat. It was a momentary glance but Ovrahm caught it, and knew the significance. His brothers were debating whether to let him live.
The molten glow of his powers flared into life mere moments before Bazrat's bolt pistol discharged. There was no chance of the shell missing at that close range, but the sheer heat melted it so badly that its impact against Ovrahm's skin was no worse than if the other Astartes had thrown a handful of mud at him.
The impact of Ovrahm's white-hot fist against Bazrat's face was not as gentle.
Bazrat fell to the deck with a crash, only a smoking ruin where the front of his head had used to be. He might still be alive – technically, at least – but Ovrahm would deal with that later. Artemius had snatched his helm up from his belt and clamped it into place in half a second, but in doing so he'd let the sorcerer close the distance between them. Ovrahm swung his copper staff – still cool against his hand thanks to his control of his powers, as otherwise his feet would also be melting through the deck beneath him – and knocked Artemius' weapon from his grasp, then lunged for the other Astartes and caught him in a bearhug.
Artemius, struggled, but couldn't get away. With his power armour to enhance his already superhuman strength he should have been able to overpower Ovrahm, but the blistering heat from the sorcerer's body was already melting and fusing the servos and circuitry. In a few moments Artemius' armour would be nothing more than a ceramite suit, more of a hindrance to his muscles than a help. And in the meantime, Ovrahm's glowing body was slowly eating its way through.
Ovrahm felt a pressure on his back, then a faint hissing noise as superheated metal fell to the deck. Artemius had managed to pull his belt knife and had attempted to stab the sorcerer with it, with a singular lack of success. Artemius grunted, the first sound of discomfort to emerge from the black-visored helmet in front of Ovrahm's eyes. Then again. Then longer, the noise rising into a moan of pain. Gauntleted hands flailed at Ovrahm's face, pulled back in agony as the ceramite there began to melt too, then came back... then pulled away again, as the other Astartes began to thrash wildly and without purpose.
Ovrahm gritted his teeth and held on until the roars had died away and all that was left was a smoking husk partially encased in ceramite that had melted and flowed like wax. Then he released his grip and let his former battle-brother fall to the deck, and reined in his powers to return his body to its natural state. He looked from one body to the other, and noted with satisfaction that Bazrat hadn't moved. He picked up Artemius' fallen pistol and put two bolt shells through the remnants of Bazrat's head, just to be sure, then turned to head for the bridge.
Somewhere in his brain he could feel the presence of the warphead known as Barty, whose brain he'd eaten back on Pellennor III at the start of this scheme. This hadn't been expected. He hadn't considered the possibility that the psyche of such a powerful ork psyker might have lingering effects beyond the knowledge and memories that he'd gained through his meal. He couldn't deny, it had had certain effects on his thought processes. He'd found himself saying and doing things that he'd never intended to, things that he wasn't sure he even knew the meaning of other than the fact that they sort of made sense at the time.
Right now though, he had other things to concentrate on. The Golden Mask wasn't the only powerful relic in the galaxy, and next time he'd know better than to get involved in a scheme that featured him pretending to be an ork for months. Luckily, there were plenty more factions ready for a skilled Alpha Legionnaire to manipulate.
'Stay tuned,' he chuckled to himself, not quite knowing why. 'Stay tuned...'
Dirske gave a hollow laugh. Orks! Orks had snatched the mask of the Golden Phrogg, while he lay, backside in the dirt. While Wyrm was pounded into the ground. While Bro'og clumsily failed to climb the altar. While Yerl failed to dominate the mind of the greenskin sprinting up the stairs. While Klegane was felled on the altar itself.
At least the Mechanicus force also failed to capture the prize - the temporary alliance had served its purpose to delay them. If Dirske couldn't possess the Golden mask, then no-one in the Imperium could! The orks would no doubt fail to understand it, would fail to maximise it's capabilities; the mask was better lost than in the wrong hands.
Dirske turned to his grimoires. A passage caught his eye. A sliver of an Eldar god captured in a glacier on a planet on the edge of the Eye of Terror. That is where he would go next.
Thanks to everyone who joined in the campaign, and if anyone wants to join in the next one (which Mike is planning to start in the next few weeks) please feel free to join us at the Order of the Golden Phrogg Facebook group!