The Fight Begins
Perette was ready for their advance. She had been absent mindedly stroking the red jewel of her enchanted ring since the moment they had appeared, and now she channelled the etheric breeze through it to conjure magical fire. As she did so the ring itself grew too hot to bear and she was forced to tear it from her finger, dropping her favourite fan in the process. The ring clattered off out of sight, lost somewhere on the crowded battlements. Despite her unexpected pain, the magic coalesced into flaming globes which rushed all the way to the brute-like rats moving a little ahead of the rest of the enemy army. One of the creatures staggered back, alight from the legs up, then crumpled to the ground in a shower of sparks. Satisfied with this, despite her lost ring, she decided she would finish them off completely with more infernal magic, but she could not control the etheric eddies caused by the misbehaving ring and her efforts came to nought.
(Game Note: Miscast using magical item, then straightforward fail on the next spell.)
The men around her, both the crew of the trebuchet and the brigands rushing onto the tower’s battlements, did not notice her fumbling failure, for they had other matters on their mind.
There was an almighty crack as the trebuchet’s arm was released to hurl a huge load of rocks. This sudden sound the brigands could not fail to notice – several flinched in surprise, one dropping the arrows from his quiver. The stones arced gracefully through the air to land squarely upon the robed ratmen to Perette’s fore, causing a large, messy lacuna to appear in their midst as night upon a score were crushed. (Game Note: 17 dead!) Three more at the front also fell, stuck with longbow arrows, so that altogether half their number had been slain. Yet, despite being the sort of carnage which would doubtless discourage even the most foolhardy of men, the survivors simply stepped over the battered corpses and calmly continued their advance.
(Game note: It occurs to me now that their ladder would surely have been destroyed by such a blow. Still, I suppose they could have been dragging it behind?)
Perette was surprised. In every story about them the ratmen invariably proved to be cowards, yet here was evidence to the contrary. Perhaps, she thought, they fear whatever dark god they have dedicated themselves to more than the rocks, more so than even death?
Seer Lord Urlak scowled. That was but one engine, and the enemy had more, including the many-barreled monstrosity awaiting atop the gate tower towards which most of the army was advancing.
He knew he could not yet do anything to harm the engines, but he could make the enemy’s arrows fly less true, so he conjured a warp-gale to engulf the city.
As he did so he felt no resistance from the enemy. Strange-odd? he thought. Perhaps their wizard fears what I will do next? The fireballs had revealed her presence upon the largest tower, beside the stone throwing engine. A red-haired woman, who was either holding back or was currently struggling to manipulate the winds of magic.
Deciding play things cautiously, he summoned a state of magically induced frenzy upon his bodyguard, to make them careless of any harm they themselves might receive. If such rocks were to strike them, he did not want his own guards fleeing in panic. When the warriors around him became more animated and louder in their snarling, he knew his spell had taken hold. Yet still nothing from the red-haired woman. She must have sensed his presence by now? Well, if she was so stupid, he would try something else that would have a much more immediate effect on the enemy. Spotting the clan Skravell engineer not too far away, he decided to skitterleap him onto the walls, there to sow confusion amongst the enemy. This time though, he felt the resistance – not from the engineer, who remained ignorant throughout – but from the tower. From the woman. Yes, yes, you see me now, he thought, as his magic was foiled.
As his army drew closer to the walls …
… the jezzails (out on the far-left flank) gave fire upon the stone throwing engine, despite its distance and almost complete concealment behind the stone battlements.
Chips of stone burst explosively from the crenulations before the engine, and, just visible through the osseous cloud the dust they formed, so too did large shivers of timber from the upper parts of the machine. (Game Note: Two wounds!) The jezzail gunners sniggered gleefully.
What with the sudden, clattering fragmentation of the stone nearby, Perette barely noticed a gang of city dwellers had occupied the wall vacated by the brigands. Angered by the potential loss of her ring, and unable to start scrabbling around to find it now, especially now that shards of stone littered the area, she looked back out at the enemy. The etheric winds began began to wind themselves harmonically into her anger (an old, familiar feeling) and she manipulated them to manifest as spheres of magical fire to fly out towards the largest enemy regiment. Nine of the ratmen succumbed to the flames – if not dead, then too burned to continue. This was not all, however, for the unseen winds were strong, and so with the heat of the last spell still in her mind, she conjured a veritable storm of fire to wash over the same enemy regiment. Eight more ratmen fell, their fur smoking as their innards were cooked!
(Game Note: Fireball followed by Piercing Bolts, which was successful despite forgetting to add the D3 bonus for a previously successful fire spell!)
Urlak saw Gurthrak’s regiment was faltering, what with the awful stench of burned flesh and the terrible sound of the wounded. He allowed himself to give vent to a screech filled with malice, loud enough that the red regiment’s leader heard him. Order was regained, and their march was continued. But only a moment after they resumed their advance, a pile of tumbling rocks crashed into the very heart of them killing seventeen more!
The enemy’s stone thrower had struck again. It was quick, accurate and it was threatening to ruin Lord Urlak’s plans! His screech transformed into something more furious and from somewhere the red regiment found the will to step over more bodies and march on.
No, no! thought Urlak. This is not going to be easy at all. Indeed, in the last few moments his entire enterprise seemed doubtful.
Yet, even as three more red regiment Skaven fell to arrows, still they stumbled onwards. Seeing how much his servants seemed willing to endure for him, he resolved not to succumb to despair. Whatever it took, he would possess this city by nightfall, even if every one of his pathetic underlings had to die in the attempt. Here, today, he had chosen to show his hand. Defeat was not an option. He would die himself before informing the Council he had failed in his first open fight.
(Game note: Both the brigands and the longbowmen were responsible for the three extra deaths. Believe it or not the organ gun was lined up ready to shoot as well, but it misfired! You can imagine how the Skaven player was feeling – a certain degree of doubt about his campaign strategy was beginning to set in! This NPC force had been very lucky in their first two turns. Considering we were, due to the pandemic lock down, ‘playing-by-email’, with me making all the actual rolls, I myself was becoming worried that the players would think I was fudging the results.)
With his despair now transformed into pure fury, Lord Urlak ordered his army to charge. The already battered rat ogres were closest to the walls …
… and their proximity combined with their speed meant that for now they only ones to reach the city wall, slamming up their ladder to ascend the wall against the Brabanzon longbowmen.
As the brutes began their climb, Urlak decided he would not have Gurthrak wasted beneath a pile of rocks, nor did he want to see what the multi-barreled gun peeking over the battlements could do when it fired, and so he summoned every scrap of magical power he could to conjure Skitterleap. The red-haired woman could not stop him this time, and in the next moment Warlord Gurthrak vanished from atop his bonebreaker to reappear upon the gate tower, right beside the war-engine!
By now the jezzailers had also noticed the red-haired woman near the trebuchet, for they could see she was the one spewing magical fire from the battlements. Deciding they could always return to shooting the war machine later, then now fired as one at her. Coincidentally, the ratling team had settled upon exactly the same target, so that now the crenulated stones before Perette began to burst, sending out a huge shower of fragments. She had to throw herself down, shielding her eyes as shards of stone bounced all over and around her.
Not one bullet, however, found its mark, something shooters did not know for some time, what with the obscuring cloud of dust and smoke now engulfing the tower top. The other skaven ratling team, hearing that the first had now opened up, chose an easier target – the peasants on the wall in front of them. It was the last choice they ever made, however, as their weapon broke apart in the firing, mortally wounding them instead of the foe.
The rat ogres, the only skaven to have reached the walls …
… now ascended the ladders as best they could. Of course, the longbowmen had the advantage, killing the packmasters driving the brutes in a hail of arrows before they even set foot on a ladder, and wounding an ogre before it reached the top of the wall. Four longbowmen were cut down or thrown off the wall, while one of the ogres was finished off by the archers’ swords. As that ogre fell, the surviving one struggled to hold on and slid back down the ladder. Winded, it staggered back, and although its previous fury had been beaten out of it, it’s only intent was to climb the ladder again, come what may!
(Game Note: we have campaign rules regarding ladder assaults. Stomp can’t be used, nor can two hand or two handed weapons. Attackers are at -1 Init and -1 to hit, whilst the defenders are at +1 to hit. Up to 12 defenders can fight, compared to up to only 9 attackers (or 3 monstrous infantry). Combat results based on wounds caused alone. It really should not be easy to take a castle wall with ladders, and it is not!)
End of Turn 2!
Play by email is time consuming! This battle took several days, with me running it late into the night on three separate occasions, I think. (My memories are hazy of the experience!) There were benefits, such as me being able to take better pictures than usual as we went along (there are some good pictures coming up in the report, I promise). I also had to send out a ton of orientation pictures, like the following examples …
Perette’s fire magic ranges
Perette’s knowledge of enemy movement
Perette’s orientation re: the enemy’s movements next turn
Skaven rangings for missile …
… and magic
And that is just some of what went out!
I hope to convince the rest of the players that in future play-by-e-mail games it would be just as fun, if not moreso, and just as fair, if the players really try to direct the battle from the perspective of what their PC can see or know. General orders would be given at the start (deployment, objectives, cooperation etc) then alterations (as and when) based on what the PC actually knows. A character’s eye view of things. Because both commanders were magic users in this game that really slowed us down at times, as I communicated back and forth re: spells, dice available, dice used, so that the players had full control over the casting and dispelling details.