- Written by Christian Cuello
"A Cryptmass Tale"
A Flintloque Scenario by Christian Cuello
After years living in peace, creating gifts to help the children of Valon, Drosselmeyer the Toymaker's workshop has been found. Several races of Urop as well as the nefarious Undead have come to steal this years presents before Grandfather Frost can deliver them...
All the goode chyldren of Valon know of the fabulous workes of the Toymaker. His wooden dolls, soldiers, animals and other wondrous creations are cherished, and coveted, by Orc and Elfling alike. It is well knowne that Cryptmasss is a tyme that brings families and friends together... to hold back the encroaching undead that rise from the crypts and graves across Valon.
But while all the able-bodied men and women venture into darke playces, the chyldren are often left in their homes. It is not unusual that, upon the return of their parents, elder brothers and sisters, the chyldren are found faste asleep, indifferent to the horrors of the outside, and clutching a wooden toy... a detail easily missed in the disarraye of the days to come.
By the tyme those chyldren have come of age, the cherished items of their youth are soon forgotten and their magical, tiny guardians are left behind. Yet any good chylde of Valon will tell you that in the darkest hours of Cryptmass night, when they are all alone, when every darke corner disguised an undead terror, they woulde fynde by their side a small wooden figure, coming to lyfe to ease them through the night. Because it is also true that, against the undead, hope is a powerful weaponne.
Although these chyldren’s tayles are dismissed by the men and women of Valon, wiser people know that out of the mouth of babes oft tyme come gems. And so, across the campfyres of the great armies, a rumour has spread that the mysterious Toymaker is possessed of extraordinary giftes: a wondrous carpenter, but also able to bestowe magyckal qualities upon that which he maketh. A gifte, which could, in fact, prove quite useful to whom should possess it.
The wind howled around the Toymaker’s cottage, battering twigs and unsettling the clumps of snow on his window sills. His work done for the day, he settled into his favourite armchair with a mug of hot coco. He added a marshmallow which bobbed up and down while he poured in something a little stronger to bring on sleep. He had worked hard this week, and deserved his rest; although his long rest was yet to come. A trail of wood shavings lead out from his living quarters to his workshop. All that was left for his labour was to breathe life into his wonderful works: a short cantrip here, some faerie powder there, and his magical gift – passed on through generations – of animating his wooden creations turning them from lifeless but delicately carved statuettes to small, fearless warriors whisked away by Grandfather Frost to the good children of Valon to see them through Cryptmass night. Two Nutcracker sentries stood guard at his front door step, ageless sentinels carved taller than any ogre and made of the strongest oak, to ward off any unwelcome visitors.
It wasn’t to say that the Toymaker didn’t like visitors, there had just been a few too many lately. And not the local villagers and their children, that he was more accustomed to, but foreigners from far away lands in unusual garments, and even more unusual accents. No doubt something to do with the grand war that had been coming ever closer to his part of Valon; far in the North, a cold place as he liked best, and quiet...
He forced his eyes open with a start, and took in a deep breath, as the generous portion of Guinalean liquor he’d poured into his mug started to take effect. He had noticed something odd about his latest visitors... but what was it?
He had seen other dwarves before, certainly... no, it wasn’t the first lot of guards that had come by, but they did seem rather grumpy that he hadn’t let them in. No, far too busy for that.
The second lot of visitors seemed rather nice enough, although excitable. And the Toymaker was sure he’d heard an unmistakable trickle against his door as he bid them farewell. No, he’d grown accustomed to the dogmen, and rather liked them. They were quite helpful, too, warning him to take care of Ferach scouts seen in the area. Although he didn’t know what a Ferach was, or what one would look like. Maybe they meant elves, of which he had seen... but not for a long, long time now.
The wind howled on, stronger now. It must be quite late, he mused. The fire had started to die down, so he leaned over and stoked it back to life.
And it was there that his booze-addled mind clicked into gear. His last visitor had come alone, and later in the evening than he was accustomed to. He almost didn’t open, and certainly wasn’t about to invite anyone in. His wooden sentinels seemed not to consider this strange visitor a threat, so he cautiously climbed a small step ladder and opened a latch half-way up the door. The face that looked back at him was pale, as if from cold, but it was clear from his attire that he had made no effort to warm himself. He had quite a calming, pleasant voice... but the eyes, yes, that was unusual. Deep set in this pale face like small burning coals...
“Vould you be so kind as to let me in?” he asked with a thick accent.
“No... no visitors today... or, or ever!” stammered the Toymaker.
“But you have something I vant... a gift.”
“No, no gifts until Cryptmass!”
The visitor chuckled to himself. “Wery vell, I vill return on Cryptmass... for your gift.”
...the Toymaker vividly recalled the dialogue now, and the sinister chuckle of his visitor. The wooden sentinels had not even budged, even though the Toymaker was clearly disturbed. Your gift? What could that possibly mean?
A sudden howl of the wind caused the fire to flicker, as a deep chill set into the Toymaker’s bones. He quickly threw another log into the fireplace, poked it quickly and returned to his armchair, wrapping himself up tighter. His coco had gone cold, and it no longer brought him any comfort. He set it aside.
It was only mere days until Cryptmass now, and he would need his rest. But what if the visitor returned? And with others? He wished and wished that he could just be left alone...
The Toymaker eventually fell into a fitful sleep as the wind continued to howl. And, in a few moments, the snow began to fall. It collected on the eaves, the window sills, on the shakos of the Nutcrackers, and in a small pile at the Toymaker’s cottage door. He continued to snore through the night – a precursor to the deep slumber that would see him regain his strength through the warmer months of the year – and as his exquisitely carved clock struck midnight, the small pile of snow at his door swirled and transformed into the unmistakable form of Grandfather Frost. At this, the Nutcrackers shuddered into action, but not to attack; instead to give Grandfather Frost a crisp, wooden salute.
“At ease, my good men. I trust you’ve been keeping the Toymaker safe?” he asked, in a voice that sounded like a stone skittering down the insides of a deep, dark well. The guards creaked in response, to anyone else the sound of wood splitting, but intelligible to Grandfather Frost and the Toymaker.
“Ah, I knew we would not be able to keep this secret forever. Very well, we’ve not a moment to lose.” And he stepped forward, and drifted through the closed door of the Toymaker’s cottage to the large comfortable seat in front of the fireplace.
“Drosselmeyer... Drosselemeyer... wake up, my old friend,” called Grandfather Frost, in the friendliest tone his ossified voice-box could muster.
“Mo... Morozko... is it really you?” said the Toymaker, emerging from his slumber, calling Grandfather Frost by his true name. “But, you’re early my friend; I’ve not yet finished my work.”
“There is no time, Drosselmeyer. You must finish your work tonight and we must leave. You’ve had visitors lately, have you not?”
“Why, yes. Nothing I could not handle, and yet... there was one visitor, my friend. A strange one, I was quite afraid. I am ever so glad to see you here.”
“Yes, old friend, I fear there is some rather unsavoury attention on your craft. We have worked very hard to hide you here, but it was only ever a matter of time. Your work must go on, Drosselmeyer. Come, I shall help you.” Grandfather Frost offered a pale hand out and helped the Toymaker to his feet, and they both hobbled off to the workshop.
A click of heels against stones echoed through the halls of the underground crypt. The Count dropped to one knee in the darkness before his master. “Everyzing iz in order, my lord. Ze ritual iz almost complete. There is no zign of Morozko, and ze troops vill be ready by ze morning.”
The liche looked up from the great tome which, no doubt, contained spells and rituals allowing him to command the restless undead and the powers of darkness. His eyes blazed, and he barely nodded his head, but the Count needed no other response. Cryptmass would be theirs.
It was a pale sun that rose over the Toymaker’s cottage, almost reluctantly signalling the start of a new day. A bad omen if ever there was one.
In a secluded corner of the nearby forest, Lieutenant F spat out his coffee as a scout returned with his report. “Merde! Now? But it isn’t Cryptmass yet! Allons, allons!” He rousted up his small band to action by blowing sharply into his whistle. They had scouted the area and spied the Toymaker’s cottage, as well as some dwarves and dogmen, clearly up to no good. They had braved the cold, the wind, and goodness knows what else, so he was not going to miss his chance now. The Toymaker was getting ready to leave with the horde of presents, but earlier than expected. Something was wrong, and he wanted to find out what. A bugle sounded in the distance. Merde! They weren’t the only ones after the Cryptmass hoard, it seemed...
The Toymaker hefted the last of the presents into the arms of the Nutcrackers. “That will do it. Let’s go.” But Grandfather Frost halted him.
“Something is not right, my old friend.” But it was too late for caution. A shrieking swarm of bats dropped from the darkened sky, as if from nowhere, and swooped at the small party. Momentarily distracting Grandfather Frost, a gust of foul wind swooped and scattered the presents from the Nutcrackers’ grasp, taking them high into the air and scattering them in all directions.
“The presents!” cried the Toymaker.
He whirled around and from the edges of the treeline he could discern figures emerging from all directions. A bugle sounded from one end, and a howl from another. He turned to his old friend in alarm. “What do we do now?”
“Leave that to me,” groaned Grandfather Frost.
The race to save Cryptmass had begun!
The aim of this scenario is to lead your section to gather as many presents as possible within a set number of turns. All races of Valon have an interest in getting their hands (or paws!) on some presents this Cryptmass, so any and all figures are useful. To play this scenario you can use stats for the example sections in any of the rulebooks, use a section from other scenarios or even generate your own brand new section using the normal rules. The presence of the Undead isn’t obligatory as the damage has already been done. Play and enjoy the game using whichever miniatures you have.
It’s time to gather your men and your wits... and grab those presents!
Naturally, one player will take control of Grandfather Frost and his companions, but if nothing avails simply have them hunkered down in the Toymaker’s cottage: that’s where the real goodies are.
For full rules on how to use Grandfather Frost please refer to the Orcs in the Webbe article by Craig Andrews here.
To ensure the men and women of Valon survive the long Cryptmass nights, family members and friends often give each other supplies, which has evolved into something of a tradition involving fancy paper and ribbons. As Grandfather Frost traverses the forests of the North, taking some of the Toymaker’s creations for his own mysterious purposes, he ensures that he can do everything in his power to provide the people of Valon with a chance, however slim, to thwart the machinations of the Star Wraith.
Cryptmass gifts are to be scattered across the playing area in a random fashion from the centre of the playing field, or gathered around a conspicuous landmark, such as the Toymaker’s cottage or a very large pine tree.
Units stumbling across one of the gaudy packages can attempt to open it at the expense of an action. The result is determined by rolling on the table below:
1: Coal for Cryptmass - Perhaps the result of a practical joke with the potential to go horribly wrong, the gift is relatively pointless. After receiving such a horrible gift, the character is Shaken for one turn.
2: Cryptmass Sweater – The infamous Cryptmass sweater gives the wearer some warmth on cold nights, but is also horribly itchy. The character cannot move for 1d3 turns before getting fed up and throwing the sweater away.
3: Cryptmass Pudding – The gift that keeps on giving! A special treat, this gift has the same effects as per the Alternative Armies supplement "Distractions & Asides 1: The Demon Drinke".
4: Pouch of Marbles – A popular gift for children... and can also be fired from a musket. This gives the weapon carried by the character the Spread Shot ability for the next 1d6 shots (see core rules).
5: Cryptmass Cracker – A cracker that can be activated once charged in melee, surprising the attacker and giving the defender a chance to slip away without penalty from leaving combat.
6: Nutcracker Action Fygure – What a find! Your very own wind-up action figure made by the Toymaker! Take one turn to activate, and give it a simple command. The toy can only move in a straight line at 1d10+2cm per turn and explode on impact as per a regular grenade. Toy soldiers can be aimed and shot as per any other target, but being so tiny, incur a -1 modifier and are detonated on impact. These are best represented by 15mm figures.
Drosselmeyer, the Toymaker
The Toymaker is one in a long line of master Gnome craftsmen who have taken a solemn oath to defend the world of Valon from the encroaching hordes of the Witchlands in the best way they know how. Every year they prepare a small army of wooden toys, enchanted to follow simple commands, to bring hope to the children of Valon.
His statistics follow those for Gnomes found in the Bier and Bones rulebook. If the Toymaker is in his workshop, he can send out Nutcracker Action Fygures as per the rules above but retains full control over them and can choose where to move them and even move them round corners. He can only control one at a time this way.
As the Toymaker fashions small guardians for the children of Valon, so is he guarded by his own creations. These two Nutcrackers usually stand by the Toymaker’s front door, but will also accompany him if he leaves. The Nutcrackers have the Defensive characteristic as per the solo play rules.
The statistics for the Nutcrackers are the same for Regular Ogres, being quite large and tough, and of an Average quality. They carry standard muskets. The Nutcrackers can only be activated if within 10cm of the Toymaker’s workshop or the Toymaker himself. The Nutcrackers do not suffer Shaken effects, but are highly susceptible to attacks from fire.
This article is an Orcs in the Webbe Original and was first published on Friday the 13th December 2013 as part of its 2013 Advent Calendar.