Tuesday 5 April 2016

Frostgrave: Death in the Snow


My posts have been very slow and infrequent recently; it's been really hard to muster any enthusiasm for this lark.  Still, I'm hoping that this spell will pass soon and service will be restored to something approaching what I hoped for when I first set up this blog.

As a token of my renewed efforts, here's a description of the latest game in our Frostgrave series.  I'm finding that these games always break up into many small, disconnected incidents; I don't know whether this is always the way that Frostgrave plays out or whether it's the way we're doing it with 4 players.  Anyway, this report will be more like a series of vignettes rather than a coherent description of all the action.

Death in the Snow

The game started normally enough, with warbands advancing from all 4 table edges.  This time, the ruins contained 6 impassive statues, none of which showed the slightest wear or aging.  Very strange...

Clockwise, from the top:
  • The Great and Magnificent Peltar.  This is a goblin warband led by a self-proclaimed Enchanter. Peltar has a considerable lack of success when attempting to cast spells, though his seemingly endless mob of archers and warriors are rightly feared.
  • Malcolm Firestorm, the Elementalist.  Malcolm has a tendency to stride forwards, flinging dangerous fireballs at anything he can see which looks even remotely hostile.  Also, he has a slightly worrying fascination with demons.  These 2 behaviours make him considerably disliked!
  • Mysterio the Soothsayer.  Mysterio likes to think of himself as in touch with the inner secrets of the universe, though in reality he is no more knowledgeable than any other wizard.  He's hiding an injury in this game, having been badly hurt in his last outing.
  • Baryn the Timeless:  This chronomancer has appeared indecisive and timid in previous games.  Strangely, this has often led to him being the last man standing after all other warbands have fought each other to a standstill.  His occasional habit of using his own magic to assist other groups means that he is regarded as nobody's enemy.

And .... ACTION!

First blood: one of Mysterio's men accidentally activated the statue that was right beside Peltar's goblins.  The goblins shot at the construct and damaged it considerably, but it was finished off by an arrow from one of Baryn's archers (and consequently Baryn claimed the victory points for the "kill").  This pattern was repeated several times throughout the game; the goblins would hurt a statue, only to see it felled by someone else at the last moment.

Mysterio retired early from the game after catching one of Firestorm's more potent bolts of energy.  He was reduced to 1 hit point and decided that helping his thug to carry a treasure to safety was the most useful contribution he could make.

The first wandering monsters of the game: a pack of giant rats started to stalk Firestorm's apprentice, Ellie.  He was having none of that and swiftly incinerated the desperate rodents.  At least this gave the other players a respite from him for 1 turn.

Meanwhile, Firestorm's summoned demon was used as a porter to carry away some treasure, much to the relief of everyone else.

Mysterio's depleted followers were scattered and picking up treasure when Firestorm's crew started to move towards them en masse.  This was distinctly worrying, but Baryn decided to interfere by casting a Wall of Fog between the 2 parties.  At least it would prevent missiles and spells until one side or the other moved through the unnatural weather!

Meanwhile, Baryn's barbarian destroyed another animated statue.  Huh, they're not so tough...

Then, it happened.  Malcolm Firestorm moved forwards after exterminating the rat pack.  Carelessly (or maybe deliberately and somewhat arrogantly), he ignored Peltar's goblin horde to the north.  They weren't going to waste the opportunity, though: their archers filled him full of arrows and down the wizard went!

By this time (we were playing a 9 turn limit for the game), most of the easier treasures had been carried away.  However, Mysterio's band were still trying to retrieve a couple of slightly more remote chests and satchels.  His unengaged soldiers formed a screen to ward off Firestorm's larger band.  The latter attacked piecemeal, through the fog and an almighty melee ensued!

Both sides fed in whatever reinforcements they could scrape together and it seemed briefly as if Mysterio's men would hold off their assailants.  However, there were just too many of Firestorm's attackers and finally one of Mysterio's treasure carriers was mugged.  It didn't help that Baryn's archer kept firing indiscriminately into the melee, on the grounds that anything he hit was good!

In the dying turn of the game (heh, no pun intended), the last few survivors jostled for possession of the loose treasure.  Here's how it went, in order:
  • Firestorm went first.  His archer picked the leather bag from the body of its former owner.
  • Baryn's barbarian was second.  He came racing in on Fleet Feet (remember that Baryn is a chronomancer; this spell is becoming something of a signature for him) and pulverised the archer.  The treasure rolled loose, as the barbarian didn't have enough actions left to collect it.
  • Finally, Mysterio went (and never have I been so pleased to lose an initiative roll!)  In the very last action of the game, my remaining soldier stepped forward and claimed the treasure from under the noses of all the other parties.
With that, the forecast snowstorm started in earnest and within mere moments none of the protagonists could see anything beyond a few feet away.  It was all they could do to stumble and feel their way back to their respective camps, towers, hotels or other bases.


So, who won?  I'm not really sure and it probably doesn't really matter.  All sides had various casualties amongst their followers and I won't try to enumerate these (can't remember anyway).  However, one thing is for certain: there was one big time loser!

  • Peltar: 3 (?) treasures, no major injuries, still can't cast spells for toffee.  Some experience points for destroying statues and taking out an enemy wizard.
  • Firestorm: 1 treasure.  In addition, when we rolled for recovery (the wizard had been taken out, remember?), he was dead.  Permanently.  R.I.P.  There were tears, I can tell you.
    Since the wizard was 11th level, it will be possible for his apprentice to take over and start out as a fully-fledged 1st level wizard in her own right.  Whether it's worth doing this hasn't yet been decided.
  • Mysterio: 4 treasures, though pretty much all of this was due to his heroic soldiers rather than the rather feeble efforts at magic from the wizard and his apprentice.
  • Baryn: 3 treasures plus several "kills" on the animated statues.  Also he's becoming quite the dab hand at the Fleet Feet spell.  By the end of the game, most of his warband were moving at an unnaturally accelerated pace!
Final thought: to start with, everyone was very wary of the statues.  However, after the first one had been activated and promptly destroyed, there was a distinct sense that this was an easy way of claiming experience points!  Thereafter, none of the statues lasted very long after becoming animated; I don't recall that any of them did any damage either!


  1. I think I'd cry if my level 11 wizard ended up dead dead. We'll be playing Frostgrave at the club this Friday. It suddenly seems to have taken off there.

    1. Well, perhaps the secret is to be much more wary with such an important character? Just saying :-) ...

  2. Great report and i hope you get you insperation back C6!

  3. I really do like your battle reports, classy stuff Sir.

  4. You may let the goblin enchanter know he has a fan! Arras and constructs all the way baby!

    It is a great shame that as a club we probably WILL NOT PLAY THIS AGAIN! Two players who died (one in 2 games running!) are steering clear of the game. It is a shame but as a club if it is NOT being enjoyed what's the point? Therefore I shall read our Bat reports with great enthusiasm.

    Hope the blogging mojo returns with enthusiasm multiplied 3 fold.

    1. Thanks, Clint - I'll pass it on. Though Steve (Peltar's alter ego) does sometimes read this blog and might respond anyway.

      It does seem a shame if you won't be playing again, but if people aren't enjoying it then that's the right thing to do.

      Mojo comes, mojo goes. At least, that's how it seems to work...

    2. Why thank you Clint. They're a vicious band led by a dreadfully inept spellcaster. Imagine (if you will) Tommy Cooper with an entourage of football hooligans.

      Peltar doesn't enjoy being inept, and has ordered this book to improve his skills.


  5. Another fine report, now it gets me excited for our next campaign game. We are also finally introducing a 4th player, which should add some more interaction between bands.

    1. 4 players gives more opportunity for interaction than 3 (there's too much temptation for 2 to gang up on 1 in a 3-player game). But you need to keep the game flowing, else it can drag with more people involved!

    2. I agree, with 4 players, a few turns in early games seemed to go on for ever.

      I think the poor old statues in the present game also suffered form having 4 players.
      Statue activation was a signal for a bonus point bonanza for the first player to take them down.

      In a 2 player game, one might opt to leave a statue to "do its thing" if that looked like attacking the opponent's warband.

  6. I feek for your lack of enthusiasm, my own goes up and down like a bride's nightie, but the aar was very amusing and I can imagine Mysterio's baneful crying and wailing at the death of his nemesis Malcolm. (IMO The player should take up the challenge of re-start with either his apprentice promoted or seek out a new Wizard to apprentice for -- it can be fun being "up against it")

    1. Thanks, Joe; I'm hoping that a family holiday in the coming week will help my mood.

      I think you're mistaken about Mysterio's reaction, though! Whilst the ending of another life is always a bad thing (especially when it's a wizard; we don't want the crude soldiers to think that it's OK to slaughter us higher thinkers), Malcolm wasn't really "one of us". After all, he wasn't exactly the kind of bloke from whom you could borrow a spellbook, or have a natter about the best tools for scrying...

  7. Very enjoyable. I know a lot more about Frostgrave now than before. It looks like the type of fun game DnD should have been!

    1. Thanks, David. It's been said that Frostgrave plays out just the combat parts of DnD. I don't think that's detracting anything from either game, mind!

  8. A philosophical intervention - aside form this particular battle.

    I'm noticing a significant minority of "I won't play this game again because my guys died" - posts about Frostgrave in the wider blogosphere. It rather surprised me so I gave it some deeper thought.

    The whole issue of "Player killing" seems almost quasi-religious among different gamer communities.

    Tabletop wargamers would think it an odd game if elements of their army were invulnerable - and I suspect they would soon exploit it if this were the case.

    30 years ago when I did more RPGing, player death was regarded as almost taboo in most groups - the GM was nagged and bullied to always provide a bit more time, a saving roll, give the cleric another go at saving him... This seemed the default setting, through some groups and systems embraced a more deadly style of play.

    Electronic gaming seems to have its own traditions on player killing.
    Multi-user dungeons typically frowned on the player killer, and often flagged such players like a medieval outlaw.
    Most First person shooters have checkpoints in single player mode, so nobody ever really dies. This is reversed on Online FPS team games where player life is short and brutal (though reincarnation is also swift).

    So it seems that different genres of gaming have their own custom regarding player death.

    My thesis is that Frostgrave draws players form the Wargaming and RPG traditions. The wargamers see it as a magical skirmish, while the PRGers see a multi-player dungeon crawl.

    I humbly suggest that some of the righteous indignation may be coming from pure RPGers who expect the usual levels of invulnerability in their characters.

    Is there a fix: volumes have been written on fixing Frostgrave, which usually agree on some common house rules.
    Regarding player death - I've 2 ideas.

    The first is a common house rule - remove the XP rewards for killing. This reduces advancement for Michael Bay type wizards, and also reduces the incentive to kill for killing's sake.

    The other would be to establish a "school of magic" - one wizard and one apprentice (Let's call them Dumbledore and Harry) undertake the quest, while others (McGonagall, Slughorn, Ron, Hermione, Neville) are ready to step in should the hero and sidekick fall.
    Some may consider this a soft option, but it's there for the folks who don't want their wizards to die.

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  10. Very cool. Made it to my new weekly write-up of batreps/AARs.


  11. I get what you're saying. I myself am having trouble meeting a writing submission deadline while getting some painting done up and taking photos of the results. It isn't easy to blog and do hobbying stuff not to mention spend family time without something having to give. Takes discipline especially when you have done so much gaming as per your photos above. :)