Last time on the Herald, our players landed an incursion force on the storm-wreathed world of Cilice Prime, stole a Taurox pulling the universe’s last known supply of Cilice Gin, leveled an estate with its guns and psychically commanded an army of cannibal abhumans to fight itself. They were left with a few more marks on the map, a full tank of gas and a compulsion to loot.
Rain lashes down, running across the uneven valley floor into a deep, dark river. Patches of fungus seem to be growing quite contentedly by the side of the road, and every now and then you catch a glimpse of more figures in the rain that scurry away to hide as you thunder past in your Taurox.
The ugly palace-fortress of the Glaw Estate begins to emerge from thick curtains of rain. A massive construction that was probably once quite beautiful, now layered thick with armour and crumbling weaponry.
The Grin Estate was now swarming with loyal armsmen and technomats brought down from the orbiting Unbroken Resolve on heavy halo barges. They were on hand to ruthlessly loot the estate of its worldly belongings and reinforce the Explorer’s immediate retinue.
The Missionary, Lyoness, hand picked a few more of her covenant to join her. She decided that her Covenant were named after ancient Terran saints, famed for their war-hymns. We are joined by Zeppelin, Ziggy, Iggy and Acey-Deecey.
We fill out the Taurox’s capacity with Master Zilla at the controls and Von Gunn on guns and thunder off into the rain.
The Glaw Estate
No messing about this time. With the Astropath firing off his psychic mind scan (much to the surprise and discomfort of everyone trapped in the little metal box with him) and ascertaining the resistance was next to none, the Captain gives the order to ram the front gates.
There is clearly nowhere near the level of intelligence as in the Grin Estate, and whatever wretches are still present in the estate scatter and flee at the big angry gunbuggy. The team slowly and cautiously make their way to the lower levels.
They discover tread marks and scraps of pilgrim robes around the Glaw Estate leading down to the vaults. There is also a lot of broken religious iconography around the place, unusual for a criminal organisation.
It’s dark, and the vaulted ceilings carry their voices out into the darkness. They occasionally spot more of the abhumans, but they always stay just out of sight and weapons range. The Explorers decide it’s best not to waste the ammunition.
They arrive at the vault, a similar size and makeup to the one from the Grin Estate. It is air tight and sealed from inside. Oggy-Bong fires up the lascutter. The players had had a sinking feeling since they arrived, and the “YOU HAVE ALERTED THE HORDE” noise was palatable. Oggy-Bong shouts over the gunfire it will take just over a minute for him to get the door open.
Liquid hunger pours from the darkness, dressed in rags and purple flesh.
This section it was time to play hard and fast with the rules. If they were able to beat a target’s TB of 3, they killed it. I put a little marker down on the board to represent a body, and the model gets brought on from another table edge in subsequent turns. Weight of numbers and the press of bodies in a confined space would be the main threat.
We had a few extra Armsmen in tow this game – this is just beyond the upper limit of how many player-controlled models I would prefer to have on the board to keep things flowing smoothly. The Astropath player’s actual real-life brother was in the area that day though, and rather than delay the game or leave him out while his brother rolled dice, I offered him a place in the session.
The wretches came in waves, crashing against the bulwark of the Orthesian Dynasty. Everyone played their part in sinking bullets and plasma into wasted flesh, dropping the wretches left and right. The bodies begin to pile up.
After a turn or two, it becomes apparent this might not be sustainable for six turns – they would either run out of luck or ammunition. Freeman decides the best course of action would be to plug his potentia coil into the operational lascutter and turn it up to 11.
Against tricky odds, he superjuices the lascutter, knocking a few turns off the clock as poor Oggy-Bong clings on for dear life.
The team spread out, trying to cover as many entrances as possible. Von Gunn and armsman Felicity cover the top left corridor. Felicity finds out she is entirely superfluous and there largely for moral support. The Captain and Thud guard the bottom left entrance. Astropath Gil and Voidmaster Zilla take up centre stage, using their ranged weapons to most effect. Lyoness and her Covenant of mad chainsaw-wielding warrior women lock down the uh.. everywhere.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the board:
Dedicated melee character Captain Orthesian discovers the hilarious repercussions of combining a low movement speed with a force field that teleports you randomly away from trouble whenever you are hit. The Captain spends most of this game charging into combat, getting fingered by some hungry schmuck with a pointy stick and his displacer field panics and throws him 2d10 inches in a random direction to repeat the process. I even had to add a new tile to the board just to encompass the distance moved.
Hearty chortles and slapped thighs all round, except the Captain.
It was coming up to the final turn, and things were turning sour. Ammunition was running low, the Captain was not in the melee enough to make his power sword’s presence felt, and the Covenant were looking battered and bruised.
Iggy falls to the wretches. They tear off her hand and begin to drag her into the darkness. Lyoness is having none of this nonsense and hurtles off to save her. Iggy’s life is saved, but she might NEED A HAND from now on.
The last few inches of vault door are carved apart by Oggy Bong. As the thick blast door slams inwards, internal lumens activate, blasting the darkness with holy light. A mighty Imperial Aquila, polished to within an inch of its life, is emblazoned on the opposite wall of the vault. Its blessed light shines through the darkness, the wretches recoiling in fear and awe at the sign of the God-Emperor. They had done it.
You head into the vault, down the stairs and underneath the shining Imperial Aquila. The air is stale and tastes of death.
In the vault proper you see a congregation of Imperial worshippers in a circle lying dead on the floor, each executed with a las round to the back of the head. There are no signs of a struggle.
A senior priest is propped up against a baroque mobile shrine on tank treads, a las wound through the side of his head and a laspistol in his hand. A hand-written note is placed neatly in front of him that simply reads “Without the dark there can be no light. Emperor forgive me.”
There was no doubt that this was the Imperial Mission that Brother Espin requested they find. They said a small prayer and got to the important task of looting the vault for everything it was worth.
Gold and jewels as far as the eye could see, painted chalices, stained glass windows and ornamented priestly robes – everything in the vault looked like it would have been donated to (or taken from) churches across Imperial space. The Missionary said a small prayer to the lost and opened her loot sack wide.
Standing proud of the jewels was a display case holding an arcane-looking weapon – a bolter with built-in stake thrower. A Condemnor-pattern boltgun (page 81 of Faith and Coin) with a crowssbow mechanism designed to fire holy bolts inscribed with runes of banishment and exorcism. Valuable in its own right, but in the hands of a daemon huntress…
The mobile shrine-canter had build-in loud-hailers and incense burners and a simple movement-slave module so it can trundle along behind its owner. It has a shrine on the front clearly meant to hold a large weapon, but was currently empty. A dusty book sits nearby, most of its pages missing or faded, but it talks of a lost relic – an archeotech power hammer called Piety’s Charge that once belonged to a lieutenant of Saint-Admiral Troubadous. According to the book, it was last seen on the world of Sobek in the Heathen Trail…
Mount up, move out
The Captain calls in support, comfortable that his armsmen can strip it of all its worth now the Explorers have had their pick of the prize. He makes sure to instruct them to take the big shiny Aquila as well, it would look excellent above the desk in his quarters. They make tracks for third palace, the Fallaset Estate.
Some lore checks are rolled on the way over. The Fallaset dynasty still exists, unlike the owners of the other estates, but the short-tempered Rogue Trader in charge is content to fritter away his finances on expensive hunting expeditions and exacting revenge on those who slighted him.
They made their wealth on the beast trade – capturing, killing and processing exotic beasts and vermin from across the Nomads for research, materials or blood sport. I’m sure that information won’t be important.
The Fallaset estate is abandoned, the only sign life is the greenery growing around where the roofs have caved in. The front door is ajar.
Inside, they find remnants of wretches, most brutally torn apart. They come across large footprints, and eventually, a gaping hole through the floor of the estate leading all the way down to the vault level. The team gird their loins and carefully make their vaultward.
They see the vault in the distance – it has been brutally torn open from the inside. The Captain thinks he knows what did this, so he begins issuing orders to-
ROLL FOR INITIATIVE!
The rumbling beneath their feet crescendos in an explosion of sodden dirt and marble. Two massively built creatures burst from the floor, encased in insect-like armour with hugely oversized arms tipped with iron-hard claws. Ambulls!
(If you want to see how these guys were built, check out this week’s Meanwhile, On The Bench)
Von Gunn: “Permission to freak out and shoot my nearest team-mate?”
Von Gunn: “Sorry sir, I failed my Fear check. Eat shit, Freeman” *blam blam blam*
I love the Fear tables, and the look of panic that washed across everyone’s face when Von Gunn (gun by name, gun by nature) failed his shock test so badly against the incoming creatures of the deep that he would be randomly assigning a target. The party’s greatest asset in a combat swiftly became their biggest threat. Another reminder to people that Willpower should not be your dump stat.
Luckily for Freeman, this was one of the statistically few times Von Gunn actually missed a target, much to my disappointment.
The team open fire, splitting their efforts against both Ambulls. One had popped up quite some distance from the group as I had openly rolled a random direction for the beasties to arrive. The Ambull are insanely powerful and distressingly fast for their size, and could comfortably splatter a player character in one round if the dice are in their favour. To counter this viciousness, I wanted it to seem as fair as possible as to who would get picked on. If someone died, it would be on the dice, and not me.
Lyoness and her Covenant (minus Iggy, who was back on the Resolve getting her hand seen to) opened up with their flamers, dousing the poor creature in so much hotsauce that practically takes it out of combat for the rest of the session. Lyoness jams her weapon from over-enthusiastic flaming, but the damage is done.
Her and her Covenant spend the remainder of the combat enthusiastically carving it up with chainswords, rarely dealing enough damage to hurt it properly, but enough to keep it busy.
Back on the other side, all the armsmen panic and open up, bouncing their lightweight shot and autopistol rounds off its hard carapace. With Von Gunn a gibbering wreck for a few turns, they would need some thrilling heroics to deal with this Ambull before it finally got its shit together and landed a hit on someone.
Freeman: “I roll Acrobatics to do a sick flip and land on its back like in Starship Troopers”
GM: “Well shit, that’s probably going to be super hard as you don’t have Acrobatics or-”
Freeman: “001. Critical pass”
So our spider-legged techpriest sails through the air with the greatest of ease, doing a sick flip and planting himself firmly on the beast’s back. He plunges his power axe into the thing’s neck and it screeches in pain, thick ichor dribbling out onto the floor.
The armsmen panic, and one of them accidentally shoots the Captain in the back while he’s trying to stab the Ambull.
Luckily the displacer field activates and teleports the captain a LONG way away. Good news for not getting shot, bad news if you’re a melee character trying to stab a giant alien beastie to death.
Von Gunn finally comes to his senses and blasts the first Ambull through the eyeholes. It screeches and collapses. Freeman massively flubs his Agility check to get out the way and is crushed by the corpse. The dice giveth, the dice taketh away…
Zilla and Gil have been contributing, but not in a noticeable way. Zilla’s fancy autogun doesn’t cut the mustard against brutes with a high Toughness Bonus, and Gil’s only chance is to use his plasma pistol on Maximal, only getting to fire every other round. Great IF he hits. Which he never did this combat.
Von Gunn turns to see a flaming wreck of a creature being carved up by angry ladies with chainswords. Lyoness has backed off and is shouting moral encouragement after realising just quite how much damage one of those fists do. (It’s 1d10+10 with Swift Attack) Von Gunn takes aim and uses double shot to crack its skull wide open.
With the sound of steam escaping from betwixt toasted carapace like a lobster in the soup, the final Ambull comes crashing to the ground. Everyone breathes a sigh of relief while doing a quick check on everyone’s health. The Captain sets his sight on the vault doors, wide open and inviting, and congratulates everyone on a good fight.
The Astropath uses the dying moments to use Sensory Deprivation on his brother who shot the captain in the back with Felicity. All’s fair in love and war, eh?
Previous: Session 12 – Blood and Gin