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Saturday, July 13, 2013

Hellfrost mini-campaign

Hellfrost Mini-Campaign - To Karad Kahn

More reports from my monthly game at Red Castle Games.  After a few one-shots, I decided to start a mini-campaign for the HellFrost setting from Triple Ace Games.

Inspiration / Rune Magic

What inspired me originally was when I was looking through the Player's Guide when I first got the Hellfrost books.  I was reading, to learn and plan some possible character concepts, when I ran across Rune Magic.  I had already planned to make an Elementalist and when re-reading the magic section, I took another look at Rune Magic.  I decided that to make a Magic User who relied purely on Rune Magic would spin into advancement tedium as each Rune requires its own skill to advance.

Additionally, each Rune only provides 3 specific spells, and some of them (Boost/Lower Trait) are very limited to the Rune type.  So I tucked that into the back of my mind and focused instead on my Elementalist for our pending game.  Afterwards, I would look at Rune Magic, Frost Dwarves and explore some more ideas.

Eventually, I went back to read up the Rune Magic again. I thought it would be pretty neat to make a party of all Frost Dwarves, each with their own Rune to cast magic. (If you pair the Rune with your Profession, you get a boon to your skill set with some points put into the magic of the Rune.)  I made 8 Dwarves, each with a unique Rune that was coupled with his skill set.  For example, I gave the leader the Communication Rune, the archer the Arrow Rune, the Thief the Stealth Rune, Fighters got the Cut Rune and the Battle Runes, etc.  I did 2 non-Rune Magic users: a Skald (Hellfrost's Bard) and a Cleric.  Even though there was a Healing Rune, I wanted a full Cleric.

Now that I had a party, I needed them to do something. I started reading the Gazetteer about Dwarves and their cities and found an interesting snippet: The capital city of Karad Kahn has not been heard from since before the "Ice Rise" (515 years or so) - the event that ended the Blizzard War.  Also during the Blizzard War, another city, Karad Dahn, was found collapsed, with all the population under it.  To this day, there are a few hundred Dwarves posted there to keep out any would-be looters.  I figured that the party may be doing some of their own looting, calling it artifact retrieval or something, and one of my party found an interesting item: a book, the journal of the ruler of Karad Dahn from 500 years ago. Reading this journal, the Dwarf thinks that whatever happened here 500 years ago might have happened to Karad Kahn.  He gathers a few of his stout friends and travels to Karad Zor to do some research and maybe get some support for reclaiming Karad Kahn.

The Campaign

Starting off with 10XP Frost Dwarves, I got them on the road, into a traveling adventure, one that took them a little out of their way, but earned them some XP.  It was 'The Vermin Lord' adventure for which I had a beautifully hand drawn map (made by my own partner Meran niCuill). I had short-cut a bunch of adventure hooks and basically threw them into the adventure with rat swarms and a local food shortage.  They were hooked in the middle of the written adventure by a dead messenger whose message they felt responsible for delivery. This led them to a town overrun with rats and then into an abandoned temple there.  Inside, were two major bad guys, the Rat King and Gautrek, the Pestilence Lord. Walking into an ambush, they fought valiantly to overcome the odds. Gautrek ended up escaping.

With that experience under their belts, [XP!] the Frost Dwarves made Seasoned rank. A few random encounters later, they found themselves at Karad Zor, the Dwarven city located halfway from Karad Dahn to Karad Kahn.  Here they took advantage of the library, researched items from the journal, and read up on several Hellfrost beasts, hoping to gain an advantage in any fight they might have against these forces that the journal hinted at.  Other notes in the journal led them to believe that Karad Kahn and Karad Dahn were attacked in a similar manner - from underground.

As things were made clearer, the ground started shaking and a hole opened up with a massive Bore Worm breaching through the library of Karad Zor.  The heroes sprang into action, attempting to stop the initial force.  This was a pretty major battle which, again, the Dwarves managed to overcome.  After the battle, a few scouts were sent into the tunnels, only to return with news of an advancing underground army of Worms.  They had little time to prepare for a siege, but with some good ideas for planning, the battle began.

I used the Savage Worlds Mass Combat rules for this. The population of the Dwarven City was greatly outnumbered, but they had the home turf advantage.  I actually ran the rules incorrectly, but the outcome ended up with both armies being decimated, with the Dwarves managing to survive the slaughter, leaving mostly women and children in Karad Zor.  In the aftermath, because most Dwarves lived in Karad Zor, we calculated that this attack killed about 50% of the Dwarves on the continent, a very heavy price. A supplemental army was recalled from abroad, so the players chose to press the attack to try to retake Karad Kahn. I gave them a choice to go with another mass battle or to go a different route - attempt to get into Karad Kahn using the army as a distraction to face the Paladin of Thurm and the mighty Hellfrost Dragon that had taken over Karad Kahn.  They opted to go into the single combat with the Paladin and the Dragon.  With a few extras in there, the battle was actually pretty short, with the Dwarves taking minor damage, one incapacitated and a few wounds all around.


I originally planned the Dwarves to continue to Karad Kahn in an overland route, but since this was a monthly game, I had already spent 6 months getting to Karad Zor, and felt it was time to move on. I moved the battle to Karad Zor instead.  There would have been a lot of interesting in-game persuasion to get Karad Zor to put up an army to make a siege of Karad Kahn, and the overland travel would have been mostly short cut since a traveling army wouldn't really run into any random encounters.  I really wanted to end the campaign, but not just stop it cold with no ending.  After all is said and done, I am happy with the results.

Some observations on running a monthly game at a game store:

  • I get a lot of player variety. I get folks who only show up for one session to learn the system, some are curious about the big map I have laying on the table, and some repeats showing up almost every month.  A campaign doesn't fit this model as I am continually re-capping the previous sessions to players who have zero background in the plot.

  • Due to time constraints on players and having new players, I have to extend my adventures.  Adventures that I think will wrap up in one night, typically take two.  This is usually because of new players and generally the pace of the game is a slower than when playing with a set of knowledgeable  players.

  • On the plus side, I think I have introduced quite a few people to the Savage Worlds system and I know that several people have bought the rulebook and maybe a Companion or two.