The Goblin in the Smoke, Act III
"The Hand of Fate"
A Flintloque Adventure by Craig Andrews
Years in the making, the 'Third Season Finale' of Dreadloque is here.
A rip roaring adventure featuring a mad dash to stop Baron Bron's plans nefarious plans for the Windy Isles once and for all.
For the full history of Dreadloque, click here to jump to the notes section at the bottom of this article.
Damn those others thought Gloriette as she walked, alone, across the cliffs of Baron Bron’s Island. That fool Flassz-Orc had found papers linking Bron’s plans to Urop meaning he could return to Albion. Bilbo Marley had found the special powders he was looking for along with a ‘magicke’ candlestick that could prevent The Smoke from taking hold of the people of the Windy Isles. Even Jack Bloody Crebain had found the map he was looking for that he claimed led to the centre of Valon. All of them had found what they were looking for in The Baron’s Mansion. All except Gloriette. There had been no sign of her father or that bastard Bron. Her longing and despair eased slightly as she gazed down at the cove below, all four ships of the most notorious Pirate captains of the Windy Isles moored closer to each other than they had ever been without weapons being fired. It was something historic, something which she knew would change the Isles forever once word of it spread. She had thought there had been too much change these last few years. Ever since Hatey. But perhaps some change was good, everything which had happened with the Baron and his rise to power had brought the people of the isles closer together. But the cost had been so damned high. If only she had found her father in the mansion, even his remains would have meant she’d have had closure, but there was nothing.
Something flared down in the cove, was that a signal… yes, someone was signalling her with a storm lantern. Unconsciously here mind read the message, Gloriette long ago having learnt the sequences of short and long flashes…
Hope and excitement in equal measure flared deep within her. Surely it couldn’t be…
For a moment, time stopped for Gloriette, her heart hammering in her breast, she started running towards the boats.
After seeing how disconsolate Gloriette was in the Mansion having not found her father; Bilbo, Arry and Jack had not been idle, their competition of the past far behind them, one of their own needed help. They had rounded up the remaining henchmen in the Baron’s mansion and questioned them using a variety of means at their disposal. It was Bilbo’s use of the candlestick and the powders that had provided the most information (although Jack had given it a bloody good go on a few henchmen with the letter opener to start with). Realising his grip on the Isles was failing the Baron had come up with a plan to ensure it would remain firmly in his grasp. He had loaded his ship, The Hand of Fate, with bundles of prepared Smoke-creating pipeweed. Each bundle was held within a special crate containing smouldering coals. These coals would slowly burn, generating more and more of the Smoke in the hold of the Hand of Fate, throughout its planned short voyage to none other than the densely populated capital of the Windy Isles, Toblerona. He was going to ram the wooden harbour, scattering fire and clouds of The Smoke across it destroying the minds of the thousands of people who lived there. And Louis Glorfindelle... Gloriette’s missing father... the Baron had taken him with him, his mind subsumed by The Smoke, to play the role of captain and navigator of Bron’s ship as it headed at high speed to its deadly destination.
Our erstwhile heroes have to get onto the Baron’s Ship, The Hand of Fate, and stop it from crashing into Toblerona. This is it, the big one, the season finale. Will our heroes succeed…
The Hand of Fate
For my playthough of this scenario I used the excellent Fantastic Map: Pirate Ship created by Johnathan Roberts and available from RPGNow. It comes with a printable sea background, exterior and interior maps and a host of props. It comes with easy to print PDFs and .PNG files which you can use in Virtual Tabletop software.
Any ship will do, though ideally it should have at least one interior section representing the hold, as well as rigging and crows nests. Things can get a little tricky if it’s too open, there should be plenty of things blocking sight lines.
The Baron’s Minions
Baron Bron has been controlling people using The Smoke for months. He has taken the strongest of his forced conscripts with him to crew the Hand of Fate. There should be a plethora of them on deck, and below. You can scale the difficulty of the adventure by adding or subtracting minions. For your first attempt at the adventure I suggest using 16 minions (meaning each hero has to dispose of 4 each to clear the ship – you’ll need some lucky rolls using all the special rules below to get that done).
The minions should be placed on the playing area randomly. I dropped small dice onto the playing area from above to determine where to initially place the minions. I moved some slightly, making them look more like they were crewing the ship. Out of the 16 I placed one looking at every door and every stair way. Doing this makes the game harder but much more cinematic when sneaking around the ship (see The Element of Surprise below).
I then rolled randomly for each die to choose its race and placed a respective miniature where each die was. I like to arm miniatures in my games as per weapon type but you could also roll randomly for this as well. I did not stat the minions any further, you draw a token (as per the standard solitaire rules) for their Experience the first time it is required (when they attempt to fire, engage in melee, or are forced to take a Morale Check).
If a minion is activated it moves as normal if controlled by a player or by the normal solitaire rules using aggressive enemy force results.
All characters controlled by The Smoke receive +1 Steady and +1 Discipline however they are also penalised with -1 Melee and -10% Accuracy.
A miniature representing Louis Glorfindelle should be placed by the tiller/wheel of your ship. He is controlled in exactly the same way as the other minions but he has the following stats.
Experienced Elf Marine
Armed with a Sword and a brace of Ferach Elf Duelling Pistols
Note he is affected by The Smoke (see above)
Catching Up with the Ship
For the purposes of this scenario I have assumed that the heroes have used the fastest ship at their disposal (a matter of great discussion and pride for the pirates, it’s fair to say that after a heated discussion the choice was probably made by drawing lots) however you can if you wish use Wessex Games’ excellent Age of Sail rules, Strange Tydes, to play out the chase to The Hand of Fate.
For this adventure our heroes have joined forces and one (or more) players takes control of all of them in the battle against the Baron.
Experienced Ferach Elf Guerrilla
Brawler, Boarding Technique, Nerves of Steel, Astonishing Reactions
Two Ferach Duelling Elf Pistols
(Note that Gloriette has lost her Arrogant Peacock flaw as she realises Stealth is the best way to save her father)
Raw Orc Guerrilla
Massive Jamminess, Extreme Coward (has the effects of the flaw Thieving Scum)
Captain Jack Crebain
Experienced Orc Guerrilla
Second Wind, Nerves of Steel, Sauce
Bilbo Nesta Marley
Veteran Halfling Guerrilla
Improved Command (3), Brawler, Natural Leader
Short Sword (counts as dagger)
Getting On Board
As The Hand of Fate is crewed entirely by mindless zombies our heroes find themselves in range of the ship and undiscovered. There are several ways they can approach boarding the ship, some maintaining the element of stealth, some, not so much.
Some are clearly more… responsible… ways of trying to board an enemy ship so to keep the adventuring spirit I suggest rolling randomly for each hero to see how they wish to try and board Bron’s ship. You can of course select which you want to use if the unpredictable nature of what heroes get up to in the season finale of a given series is too much for your nerves.
All of the following use the Improbable Action Roll, a cracking rule used in early versions of Flintloque and Dresda, where you roll against the experience level of the character in a bid to attempt heroic actions not covered by the normal rules – The Improbable Action Roll was created to cover those actions. Jumps from the bedroom window onto a horse below, the swinging from chandeliers whilst avoiding hordes of the enemy and leaping bottomless chasms to cheat certain death, etc
For a character to perform an ‘improbable action’ they have a base percentage chance, shown on the table below. Normally if they fail they automatically suffer one wound, however, in this adventure each of the ways aboard The Hand of Fate has its own penalty for failure.
Raw Characters (Arry): 10%
Average Characters: 20%
Experienced Characters (Jack & Gloriette): 30%
Veteran Characters (Bilbo): 40%
Picture the scene, the camera starts on a long shot of our heroes’ ship, sailing speedily, stealthily across, the waves. In the distance you can see the Hand of Fate. We pan closer to our heroes, silhouetted by an unknown and seemingly unnoticed dark blue light source looking at their target getting nearer…
Roll 1D6 and Consult the Table Below:
1: Swinging Aboard by Means of a Handy Rope
If successful the character may choose any place on the main deck of the Hand of Fate and place their miniature there. Note that this option is not stealthy and the element of surprise is, for the moment, lost (see below).
If they fail, the character falls short and lands in the brine winding themselves, luckily they manage to grab onto an unkempt loose mooring rope and may spend next turn (all of it, no other actions allowed) climbing on board. Choose a random section of handrail on the main deck and place them there at the start of the following turn. This does not spoil the element of surprise.
2: Already Be Aboard Hidden in a Crate – If Gloriette gets this then re-roll as she was still on the island when The Hand of Fate left, even Season Finales have script editors.
The stalwart of any good adventure serial. Unbeknownst to us, the viewer, the hero managed to sneak aboard in one of the crates before The Hand of Fate left the Baron’s island. If successful the character may place their miniature in base to base contact with any of crates in the hold.
If unsuccessful the character was discovered at some point during the trip to Toblerona. Roll a D10 – 1-3: They were tossed (into the sea) by the crew but luckily managed to grab onto a loose mooring rope (damned handy things) see result 1 above. 4-6: They have been roundly beaten by the crew (losing a wound) and tossed into a cage in the hold. They are trapped until they escape (through an Improbable Action roll with no penalty for failure) or are released by a friendly model in base to base contact with the cage. 7-9: They have been taken over by the Smoke! They are in the control of the Baron’s player (or the solitaire rules) as per the Controlled by The Smoke rules below. 10: Curses! Having suspicions about the crates weight (not to mention the strange noises coming from within) the crate they stowed away in was not actually loaded. They are still on the Baron’s Island. Luckily they are able to persuade The White Ghost (See The Baron’s Mansion) to transport them to the Hand of Fate at the start of Turn 2. However, this means the Ghost is then aboard and in the control of the Baron’s player (or the solo rules).
3: Climb Aboard from a Smaller Ship moored to the Larger Vessel
If successful the character may select any section of the stern railing (the back bit) and place their miniature there.
If unsuccessful the character simply can’t manage the climb up the wind-blown, wave drenched ship and is left struggling up. Each turn make another Improbable Action roll, if they pass they eventually manage to clamber up. This does not spoil the element of surprise.
4: Using a Zipline
If successful the character may be placed on any of the rigging/sails/crows nests etc of the playing area.
If unsuccessful the character gets tangled in the rigging, the element of surprise is lost, and they remain trapped until they can cut themselves free (a melee roll vs the rigging – melee 0 - scoring a success of 4 or more). Until then they can be targeted by the Baron’s forces and suffer a -2 penalty as if outnumbered.
If successful the character may appear at any time they choose, this turn, or any following turn. They can place their miniature anywhere on the main deck. If they land in base to base contact with an enemy character they may make a free Melee attack action. The character being attacked is taken completely unawares and suffers a -4 modifier to the melee (all their normal modifiers apply).
If unsuccessful the hero cannot control the damned infernal machine and crashes futilely back aboard their own ship. They suffer one wound and must roll for a different way onto the Hand of Fate next turn. This does not spoil the element of surprise.
6: Riding a Creature Alongside and Boarding through a Porthole
If successful the character has managed to persuade a friendly denizen of the seas (such as dolphins, giant turtles or somewhat bemused large Todoroni) to carry them across to the Hand of Fate. They may enter play at any porthole in the hold. If portholes are not marked then randomly determine their location 4 or 5 along each side.
If unsuccessful, the denizen of the seas has decided that it would be much be much better to eat the daft bugger that’s trying to use them like a bloody horse. The character must engage in melee against the sea creature (Melee 4) themselves suffering a -4 penalty for being in the water. If they lose roll for hits as normal and then see the note about errant mooring ropes in result 1 above.
Activating Minions & The Element of Surprise
As our adventure begins the Baron’s minions are unaware of the heroes. Their Smoke addled minds focused on crewing the ship. Each minion (including Louis Glorfindelle) can only see things that pass directly in front of them (use markers if using round skirmish bases) within 10cm. At the start of every turn, before rolling for initiative, roll 1D8 for each minion and orientate it to point in that relative direction. If you want to make it harder you can use D12, or D4 to make it easier. This, in effect, creates a pathway your erstwhile heroes can sneak through.
Melee with the Element of Surprise
If a hero engages a minion in melee with the element of surprise treat the minion as having a melee score of half their base racial melee stat rounding down. The minion, if it loses, immediately takes Wounds equal to the Hits shown by the Steady Check. This means they can be immediately taken out by the heroes. If they are not taken out they activate immediately. To make the game more interesting you can use the rule that only blunt weapons/fists can do non-lethal damage. Leave it to your conscience if you use lethal force on the unwilling crew members. Any minions within 10cm of another being attacked will activate on the following turn. You can use a cunning series of simultaneous melee attacks to bring down more than one minion each turn without activating others.
Losing the Element of Surprise
There are a variety of ways in which our heroes can alert the minions to their presence but not all of them lose the element of surprise. Some of these are covered in the special rules below. However, some general rules apply. If there are more minions active on deck than the number of heroes on deck the Element of Surprise is lost. Once the element of surprise is lost all the minions on the same deck/area as any hero characters activate and move as per their normal rules (either controlled by a player or the solo rules).
Regaining the Element of Surprise
If Baron Bron has not been activated, if all the heroes can end their move out of sight of any minions and each succeed in an improbable action roll to hide they regain surprise. If a single hero fails then the attempt fails.
Freeing from The Smoke
Whilst searching Bron’s mansion, Bilbo discovered the strange powders and the mystic candlestick that Baron Bron had been using to turn good old trusty mind relaxing pipeweed into bad zombiefying pipeweed and has been able to come up with an antidote of sorts. As special action he may release one afflicted character he is in base-to-base contact with each turn. This action does not lose our heroes the element of surprise. He may also use it during melee combat (should the element of surprise have already been lost). If Bilbo wins a combat he may release the character instead of making them take a Steady Check. They still receive a Shaken Token. Control of the freed minion then passes to the hero player.
For each area on the ship entered past the first, roll 1D10 and add the number of areas ‘searched’ already. If the result is 10 or higher the Baron himself is discovered. From this point every minion is activated, the element of surprise has gone and cannot be regained.
Veteran Goblin Regular
Massive Jamminess, Too Keen
Baron Bron also has Faith as per the rules found in Grapeshotte, p.90. If you don’t have Grapeshotte give him two rolls on the Wylde Magicke table.
He is defended by two minions he has selected specifically for the task. They are both Trolka so the heroes should possibly not try and take on Bron until they have garnered some support from freed minions. Their abilities are not known and are drawn from the cup as per the solitaire rules.
The Docks of Toblerona
The Hand of Fate is speeding towards Toblerona, every Initiative Phase roll 1D10 and add the current turn. On a result of 12 the ship has reached Toblerona and crashes into the docks scattering the smouldering Smoke bundles across the town. If this happens the heroes have failed and The Windy Isles are lost. However for every minion that is freed or removed from play modify this die roll by -1.
Our heroes succeed if they can defeat Baron Bron before the Hand of Fate reaches Toblerona.
Expanding the Scenario
There are literally hundreds of ways this scenario can be expanded or embellished. As mentioned above you could run a Strange Tydes game alongside showing the ships progress towards the town. If you are playing with a GM then there are other ways in which the ship can be stopped - the crates of smoke can be thrown overboard, the ship itself can be sabotaged etc What if the Kraken is still in the Baron's thrall and is after the ship, can the heroes bet back to thier vessell before the Hand of Fate is torn beneath the waves...
Thousands of miles away, deep beneath the earth, a sibilant hissing voice sounded from a shaded alcove, “The Baron’sss part in our plan hasss finally been fulfilled. The Piratesss of the Windy Islesss are no longer at each othersss throatsss. Now, my bretheren, we can make our move.”
The owner of the voice stepped forwards, his face now fully illuminated, his red scales glistened and he grinned, his sharp yellowing teeth gleamed in the light of the torches throughout the cavern.
Original Artwork by Edward Jackson
Coloured by Craig Andrews
Dreadloque will continue in 2014 right here on Orcs in the Webbe.
The Dracci are headed for the Windy Isles...
There are many different ways you can approach this scenario. These are up to you and your play style. You have the option of freeing as many of the minions as possible, you can go straight for the Baron, Gloriette should make a beeline for her father.
Get your miniatures out, pop on the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack and give it a go! I hope you enjoy playing it as much as I did writing and testing it. I bloody love Dreadloque :) Special thanks once again to Danny O’Hara for creating this mad little part of the Flintloque mythos.
This adventure was written exclusively for Orcs in the Webbe and was first published on the 18th December 2013 as part of it's 2013 Advent Calendar.
For those of you with a historical interest the Goblin Cam 'Lucci' Bron is very loosely based (apart from the name) on the historical figure of Luckner Cambronne, or more specifically the character he in turn inspired in the 1988 horror film, "The Serpent and the Rainbow".
Dreadloque and it's sequels are Danny O'Hara's piratical take on Flintloque - Alternative Armies skirmish wargame set in an alternate Napoleonic war featuring fantasy races - but are set in their own part of that world called The Windy Isles. A place of pirates and treasure far removed from the smoke hazed battlefields of the Mordredian Wars in Urop.
Danny's first pirate tale, simply called "Dreadloque", was originally published back in the mid nineties on his website, Filbanto Stew, and it introduced the Windy Isles as a group of Halfling rebels kidnapped an Elven Governor's daughter only to be pursued by the Royule Orc Navie and Elven marines.
It was a firm favourite among Flintloque players and in 2008, exclusively for Orcs in the Webbe, Danny returned to the Windy Isles with the follow up tale, Dreadloque II "Dead Dwarf's Chest" which came in three acts with a prelude. This prelude, “Strange Winds and Unusual Currents”, set the scene for this new mini campaign. Each of it's acts featured a well known type of skirmish scenario thematically linked to the Dreadloque setting. The first act, "The Wild Island", featured a rousing bar brawl, the second, "Return to Traitor's Island", featured a frantic search across a feral wilderness and the third and final act, "Search for Shambog's Gold", was an old school style dungeon crawl featuring monsters both magical and undead. The campaign, like its predecessor was a huge hit with Flintloque players.
In 2009 Danny wanted to step away from pirates and let me play in his sandbox and I began work on the third Dreadloque campaign, it's third season if you will. I played around with a lot of ideas and eventually "The Goblin in the Smoke" was born. I decided to stick to the three acts plus prelude format Danny had used in Dreadloque II. The prelude, "Rise of the Baron", moved events on a year from Dreadloque II, and things in the Windy Isles have changed but not for the better. It was shortly followed by Act I: "The Beautiful Daughter" which saw our erstwhile heroes battling the Baron's men on the docks of Toblerona. After this there was somewhat of a gap, I was unable to finish up the campaign in 2009 and in both 2010 and 2011 I didn't write anything 100% original for the calendar myself, focusing on editing the superb submissions we had along with updating some of the older Alternative Armies' scenario books. Finally, in 2012 I sat down and penned the next instalment, "Something Strange in Them There Tydes", a nautical interlude in which our heroes' ships raced across the Windy Isles and came face to face with a giant Kraken. Shortly after this I published Act II: "The Baron's Mansion" which was an unusual adventure as it used many elements from the boardgame Cluedo and saw our heroes searching Bron's mansion for that which they most desired. Well, it's now 2013 and I have great plans for Dreadloque and OITW so I sat down and thought how I could end the season. Loads of my original ideas from back in 2009 were good but most weren't end of season epic material, all except one. That idea has now been beaten into shape and the third and final act, "The Hand of Fate", was published on Orcs in the Webbe as part of its 2013 Advent Calendar.