Friday, 18 August 2017

Hold the objectives at all costs! A Horizon Wars AAR

It's no secret that I like Horizon Wars, it's a great game that can do a lot of different sorts of mecha and combined arms action play faster without making it too simplistic.

If you are interested in reading a bit about my attempts at tinkering with the rules to fit the flavor of certain mecha shows, read on. If you'd rather just get to the action, you can skip this first part!

I have recently started thinking about trying to play more games inspired by some personal favorites, VOTOMS, Gundam and Five Star Stories in particular. Horizon wars is sure to work for games in the spirit of these franchises I'm sure, but there are some things I can't help but wanting to tinker with to get the right feel. That is, the right feel according to me. ;)

So the problem is two-fold; the amount of damage units can sustain and close combat. Starting with that I think is the easier of the two, damage and how it's to be allocated, I set up this game between the SADU and the NTC.

The mechas of the respective parties are very much influenced by Votoms design, so I felt they were a good fit visually as well.

What I decided to try was to limit the amount of points units are allowed to place in the A(armor/agility) stat, thereby making them more likely to blow up in a spectacular fashion, just like the AT's of Votoms. In this game all the units are P2 mechs with an Armor value of 2.
 Since I mostly play solo I use a damage allocation table rather than choosing what stat to reduce when a unit is hit. It used to look like this;
A roll of:
1-5 is a hit to the targets Movement.
6-10 is a hit to Firepower.
11-12 is a hit to the Armor/Agility.

I also modified this table a bit, so that there is an equal chance of "hitting" either of the 3 active stats. So for each hit I roll a d12;
A 1-4 means a hit to the targets Movement stat.
5-8 is a hit to Firepower.
9-12 is a hit to the Armor/Agility.

With these modifications in place I am hoping that the action on the table will be faster and more deadly as well as allowing critical hits have an even bigger impact.

This is where the actual AAR starts!

With the battles between the NTC and SADU turning into a stalemate, the high command on either side is content with whatever progress or even insignificant victory they can manage. That's why these two squads of mechs find themselves on opposite sides of a pair of automated mining facilities deep in the desert. The dome complex in the centre is both residences for the technicans and a research facility of lesser importance. Both sides have been ordered to take and hold, these facilities to deny them to the enemy. At any cost.

The NTC squad. 5 regular NTC Warrior class mechs and a bazooka-carrying Warrior model. The leader is the mech with the brown base.

The SADU unit. 5 of the Turtle-class frontline mechs, lead by a commander in a single Beetle-class unit. 

Most of the first turn is spent manuvering into place, a few daring pilots redline their machines to make it to the dome complex as fast as they can. Cover is scarce on the approach to the domes, something one of the NTC pilots take advantage of. His attack lands a heavy blow on the target, shredding most of it's armor, but it remains standing..

Having failed to destroy the enemy, the NTC mech is now in the open as a comrade of his target locks on from behind some cover. Blasted by rockets, he loses some armor too!

Start of the second turn. Each side left at least one unit to hold the mine closest to them, while they try to out-manouver the others. Two units from each side is playing a deadly game of cat and mouse outside the dome complex, trying to get the upper hand as trans-plas shatters and metal warps from stray shots.

Getting out into the open was a bad idea. The SADU pilot lines up another barrage, finishing the job this time. The NTC pilot will hopefully learn from his error, if he makes it out that is.

The partner to the recently downed Warrior mech pops around the corner, blowing a few pieces off the legs of the attacker and forcing the SADU mech to retreat back to the relative safety of his companions.

Speeding in from the south side, the bazooka Warrior fires round after round towards the nearest Turtle mech. He manages to do some damage to all of the targets systems, but not long after he takes a hit from a second mech, damaging his weapon.

The stricken SADU mech decides to deal with the most immediate threat while the bazooka mech is busy switching barrels, he spins around the corner and releases a swarm of missiles at the mech there. Taken by surprise, the pilot doesn't have time even to return fire before his mech is coming apart at the seams from the ferocious attack. That's the second NTC mech down!

Taking control of the situation, the leader of the Warrior squad shows why he is in charge: In a single smooth spin, he fires his auto-cannon right through the cockpit of one of the Turtles, taking the mech out of action immediately. As he finished the manouver the next burst finds both arm and leg servos of the other SADU mech!

Knowing that keeping the centre is the way to victory, another machine is ordered away from the mine and charges at the NTC leader with rockets speeding towards the enemy machine. The explosions pummel the mech, rends the armor, but fails to take it out completely.

Coming to his commanders aid with a helping of hot lead, the last of the Warrior mechs manage to sever feed wires and damage actuators, but the targets armor remains mostly intact.

Along the southern edge one SADU pilot has gotten dangerously close to the NTC line and was in a shootout with the lone pilot left to guard it.

Once again the NTC commander shows his adversaries why he is the boss. He quickly blows apart the damaged machine to his left, before taking more carefull aim and scraping the one in front of him as well!

Meanwhile the infiltrating Turtle gains the upper hand and destroys the lone guard, before moving up and firing on the exposed back of the bazooka Warrior.

Spinning around to face the new threat, the bazooka warrior zooms into point blank range and delivers the finishing blow, sending pieces of the SADU mech scattering to the four winds.

Having been caught in the deadly accurate fire of the SADU commander and his Beetle mech, the last Warrior mech swings in beind the dome complex to seek cover from his dogged pursuer. The SADU commander catches up however and deliver the final blow!

The Commanders face each other through the greasy smoke of the wrecked warmachines lying around them. They know they each have their orders, but they also know they can't hold this place with the troops left under their respective command. Gathering up the survivors on either side, they both decide to withdraw for now, taking the dead and wounded with them.

They will settle this another time.

Having finished the first test, I'm glad to see it work so well! The numbers might have been skewed a bit by the fact that I rolled quite a few criticals, but the end result came closer to the high mortality amongst AT pilots in VOTOMS and that was what I was hoping for. The NTC boss is definitely being declared an ace after his stellar preformance during this fight, taking down several mechs with little to no help!

I'm still considering several solutions to modify close combat and also trying to finish up my heavy gear minis while I wait for some new models for my latest idea. More on all this soon!

Til next time!

Friday, 4 August 2017

Trying out Unity Field Agent

Between testing out different approaches to narrative mecha gaming, I thought I would try out the latest offering from NWG, Unity Field Agent.

I got the game while it was in beta but didn't find the time to try it before now, so that needed to be remedied!

For those of you who don't already know, Unity Field Agent is a skirmish game centered around small groups of about 5-15 models per side fighting out on the fringes on human space.

Unlike some of the other NWG rules UFA has a standard statline and a point system for models to allow for standard army lists and encounters, but also have a squad mode for necromunda-style play where you follow a group as they advance between games and a more free-form story mode for narrative games.

The stats are movement, brawl, firing, toughness and morale. The stats are fairly self explanatory, movement is the number of inches a character can move. The other stats have a numerical value between 1+ and 6+ and is used for brawling, firing, resisting damage and morale tests, respectively. 

The system uses standard D6s, but have a card-based activation mechanic using a normal deck of cards to determine activations. Each force is assigned a suit in smaller games, or a color in bigger ones, with number cards giving a character 2 actions, face cards giving you 3 actions and aces allowing for 1 action, even if you have already activated earlier in the turn.  Finally jokers can be used to advance the game clock and trigger random events if used.
You can also choose to use a card to give a bonus action instead of a regular activation if the character has the appropriate traits.
Another thing that is a bit different with UFA is that you can't repeat actions in the same activation unless you have a double-action trait. So if you have 3 activations you can't move, then shoot and move again in a single activation, unless you have the double-move trait.

For this game I decided to keep it simple to start with setting up two forces of about 75 points, the smallest suggested size.

In a standard "encounter" game, you set up a number of objectives depending on the agreed upon points. For this game I had two objectives; The red fuel depot and the Generator along the center line. If you are the only one with a character within 2" of an objective at the end of a turn, you receive 1 VP. 

The Zephyr peacekeepers; One veteran acting as leader armed with a assault rifle, a soldier with a rattle gun (LMG) and 4 soldiers with rifles. Most characters can make a 5" or 6" move. 

The attacking Cultists; One veteran acting as leader armed with a assault rifle, a Bruiser with a maul and a pistol, a heavy cultist with a rattle gun, a scrapper with a auto pistol and 4 cultists with rifles.

The first turn I learned a important lesson; I need to make the set-up distance smaller, as all the characters spent the turn running towards the objectives and each other. 

When a character in UFA decides to take a shot at another, you roll a number of D6's depending on the weapon. Most weapons roll a single die against the characters firing stat as well as a severity dice, in this case 4+. If the target is in the open you need to match or beat it. But if the target is in cover or there is poor visibility or other scenario considerations, you need to roll over the firing stat instead.

The shot hits and then the targeted soldier rolls a toughness roll trying to match or beat his toughness score. Some weapons have a impact score, this gives you a penalty to your tough roll equal to the value. This also means that some weapons can hit hard enough to make your toughness rolls impossible( e.g. a toughness 5+ character being hit by an impact 2 weapon). In this game the only weapon with an impact score is the maul of the cultist bruiser.
If he succeeds, then the shot is deflected but you check the severity dice to see if the target gets shocked. If the toughness roll fails, like in this case, you apply the severity die in full. This soldier was lucky enough to only be wounded, you can take 3 wounds before being taken out of action.

Another shot hits a soldier taking cover amongst the buildings. He is less lucky than his comrade. When you fail a toughness roll, you look at the severity die rolled together with the attack die. On a 1 the character is shocked, pinning him in place and keeping him from taking bonus actions that aren't an attempt to recover.
On a 2 or 3 you are wounded, you take a -1 penalty on all your rolls for every wound and you can take 3 wounds before being taken out of action. But if the severity die shows up 4-6 then the character is instantly taken out. This is what happened here.

Return fire damages the cultist bruiser as he runs across the sands.

Pushed on by the cultist leader, the scrapper reaches the fuel depot before any of the soldiers.
Shots ring out, and the scrapper is taken out by a Zephyr shooter.

Before he has any time to appreciate his fine shot, return fire takes him out as well. The soldier behind him is forced to take a morale test as he was within 4" of the destroyed character. He rolls 2D6 aginst his morale score, comparing them separately. One fail and one pass, forcing him to fall back in search of cover, and takes a shock marker as well.

The onslaught continues, with another soldier falling to cultist fire. This time the cowering soldier passes both dice on his morale test, and stays in place. A character can have a total of 3 shock markers before fleeing the field.

Retribution is swift, as the Zyphyr heavy rakes rattle gun fire at the already damaged cultist bruiser. Since he had previously taken 1 damage, he had to roll 6+ instead of the normal 5+ on his toughness roll, and failed. a 4 on the severity die means he is destroyed outright by the incoming burst.

At the end of the second turn Zephyr holds the generator, scoring 1 VP. They have also destroyed a bruiser and a scrapper, giving them another 4 VP. Destroyed of feeling models award you VP equal to their cost/4 so a bruiser with a cost of 12 is worth 3 VP if destroyed or driven off. The Cultists have isn't in control of any objective, but have destroyed 3 soldiers for a total of 6 VP.
Things are looking a bit hairly for the Zephyrs!

Sprinting into brawling range, the cultist swings at the heavy gunner. Brawling, like with shooting is based on the type of weapon  (if any) you use. The cultist is not armed with one, so he rolls a single attack that needs to beat his brawl score. He misses. Deciding to pay back in kind, the gunner swings his gun as an improvised weapon, allowing him a single attack as well. Rolling a 6 to hit and a 5 for severity, he hits and destroys the cultist who fails the toughness roll.

With his remaining action he goes on overwatch, wary of any attempts to rush the objective. Meanwhile the cultists are swarming over the more or less un-protected fuel depot, shooting at the Zephyr leader as they go. The leader uses his activation to rally the shocked trooper. Rather than taking the standard actions when his card comes up, he can rally a friendly model within 8, removing 1 shock marker without a roll required. The leader is not considered activated and may still act later, but this action allows for watching enemies (those on overwatch) to attack him when rallying.

When a cultist rushes up to the objective and into the LoS of the watching heavy, he is allowed to fire at any point during the action. You can react to almost any action exept steps ( a small 1" move you are allowed with most actions in the game) and recover actions. A rattle gun at close range in the open is quite a deadly thing, and the cultist is riddled with bullets before he has a chance to return fire.

The leader of the Zepyhr soldiers now get to activate and wastes no time lining up a shot at a cultist on the edge of the objective. Failing his toughness roll, the cultist is struck down.

When the cultist falls, it forces his two companions to make a morale check since they are close enough to him when he is destroyed. In a streak of rare good luck for the Zephyr troopers, both cultists fail their tests, forcing them to fall back and run away. This also means that they have no more characters in the battle, and the game is over.

Looking at the final score the Zephyr has 2 VP from the objectives and 18 VP for the destroyed and fleeing cultists for a total of 20 VP.

The cultists have 1 VP for objectives, having held the fuel depot for a round and 6 VP for the destroyed soldiers for a total of 7 VP.

A pretty telling victory for the Zyphyr, even if it looked dark for a time there!

Now normaly the game uses a system of "Ticks" to track when a game ends as well as certain random events. Each time a turn ends you shuffle the deck and advance the game clock 1 tick, as well as when a joker is drawn if you so choose and in case of certain events as dictated by scenario or random events if you use them. A good lenght is suggested to be 8 ticks, which would be between 4 and 8 rounds depending on the draw and choices made by the players. This is of course dictates only the maximum lenght of a game, as you check for victory conditions by the end of each turn.

I enjoyed the game, but was initially surprised at how deadly it was, having played a fair bit of Starport Scum recently. With the standard toughness being 5+, even without the heavier weapons that gives a impact penalty and the 4-6 destroyed results means that you'll often take out characters you hit pretty fast. I am all for it, a higher deadliness makes your choices that much more important, knowing the characters can't soak up bullets like a sponge.

Like with almost all NWG games there is a set of optional rules included to modify the experience to fit what you and/or your group is looking for, including dialing down the leathaliy a bit and  things like jumping climbing and other adventurous stuff you might not need in every game, but that might be fun to have for some scenarios.

Hope you have liked this AAR, even if it is a bit on the technical side rather than the narrative one I tend to go for.

Til next time!

Friday, 14 July 2017

Secrets buried in the sand; A Dungeon scum adventure

He had travelled far from his homeland in search of knowledge and in search of real power.

Eutior had heard of the calamity that befell Tanis, but on his way there he had heard other rumors too, whispered in dark places and carried to him in his dreams.

Having gathered information on this old temple in the desert, and sent his scrying eye to look upon it himself, Eutior decided that he must go there first. Something was definitely there in the abandoned temple and he aimed to find out just what that was.

None of the locals would take him there, and he spent many nights fruitlessly trying to convince caravans and passing traders to show him, even on a map. but to no avail.

Just as he was about ready to brave the desert in search of it himself, he happened upon a captain of a mercenary band. This man knew some of the local lore, having fought for and against, the tribes of men and elves that inhabited the deserts. Men like the captain was easily swayed by coin, and soon the sorcerer had enlisted his aid to find the temple.

The next morning they set off.
 After travelling for several days, the band finally found the temple.

The men of the band quickly set up a small camp in the shelter of some rocks, while the captain took Eutior to one side, away from the men.

"I have taken you here, as agreed." The captain said, carefull not to raise his voice. "I'm afraid the men won't follow you down into the temple. not for all the money in the god-king's coffers."

"That is fine, I needed you to get me here, nothing more. I trust you will stay until I am finished with my work?"

"The men are anxious, they say this place is cursed. I do not believe such nonsence, of course, but I fear mutiny if we stay too long."
The captain licked his lips, looking anything but worried.
The sorcerer knew just what was going on. He was squeezing him for more money, probably keeping it to himself as well. No matter, if that was what it took, he would pay the man.
"I see no reason to refuse you a bonus to stay, that is what you are asking, it it not?" Eutior looked quizzically at the mercenary.
He handed over another bag, heavy with silver. "I will be back before midday tomorrow. If I am not, you may leave." He decended the steps, without looking back or waiting for an answer.

As he made his way down the steps, he thought he saw something moving in the gloom. As his eyes adjusted, he realized that the was a cloaked figure moving down the corridor infront of him. Blast! Another seeker coming for his prize? Perhaps, but then again, maybe not.

Stin heard the footfalls behind him, there was someone else here! He'd rather not share the gold and precious items in the tomb with someone.. He heard a faint click, something mechanical? In here? Then it dawned on him, a trap!

The blades sped towards him from the celing, but he was not going to stop in time. The other trespasser had startled him, and now it might cost him his life!

From his vantage point, Eutior could clearly see the blades shooting down. The thief had sensed them, just a bit too late. He might prove usefull if there are more traps.. Decision made, the sorcerer willed his power to life, weaving strands of magic to form a chain, binding Stin to the floor, stopping him scant millimeters from the blades path.

He suddenly jerked to a halt, the blades passed in front on him instead of through him. He saw the go translucent and break like the were made of glass. Two important pieces of information crystalized in Stin's mind: He was alive and the other trespasser had just saved him using some form of sorcery.
"Are you unhurt?" He heard the voice of the sorcerer call out. "Yes, I suppose I am. I am Stin, and you are?" Eutior gave his name as he walked up to the young man.

"I propose an alliance Stin; I am here for tomes and magic artefacts, but I gather you seek more worldly rewards?" Without waiting for an answer he continued: "We share the gold and gems we are bound to find, but any artefacts we find are mine, unless I have no use for them, then they are yours. Agreed?"

With little to offer the partnership save his keen senses, and feeling a little more than indebted to the mysterious man, Stin agrees to the terms. Besides, you should always be wary of sorcerers, they can turn you into a toad if you displease them, or so they say!

As soon as they are about to cross the threshold into the next room, the door at the end slams open, and several nightmarish creatures emerge!

Stin has never seen skeletal warriors before, and stares in horror and amazement as the animated bones creak and clatter towards them.
"What in the nine hells are that!" He shouts at no-one in particular, but Eutior takes it as a honest query and so he begins: "Those are skeletal warriors, dead guardians brought back into unlife and servitude by means of necromancy. They are most likely sentrys placed here to prevent any unauthorized entry into the temple, alerted by the trap you set off." 
"Nevermind the lecture, can you zap them or something?" the thief nervously pulls out his crossbow from underneath his cloak, but the bolt goes between the ribs of a warrior before slamming into the far wall.
"Aim for the head or sternum, you most break the bones to stop them! And no, magic isn't something you just "zap", it's a delicate art!"
Eutior mutters the last bit as he gathers the weave again, causing chains to shoot out from the floors and pillars, locking two of the undead in place!
The skeleton in the lead swings at Stin, who ducks under the clumsy blow. The sorcerer parries a blow with his own sword, knocking back the lead skeleton.

The bonds holding the other undead horrors soon break and Stin is soon fighting for his life against two attackers. He is shoved into the pillar and trips, a spearpoint bounding off the stone where his head was moments ago!

Rolling around the column and finding his feet, the thief finds himself looking at the unpotected back of a skeleton warrior. Stabbing at the neck, he manages to sever the head, well, mostly. The malevolent light goes out, and the bones crash to the ground, once again dead.

Eutior keeps an undead warrior at bay, but can't get an opening, he should have paid more attention during sword lessons.. 

A badly timed thrust leaves his foe overextended and the sorcerer chops of the arm with a vicious strike, followed by a swing that separates the creaking warrior into two halves. The bones clatter to the floor, lifeless once more.

Stin struggles with the last warrior, having trouble landing a blow that would affect the undead creature before him.
A particularly savage attack sends the young thief flying into the back wall, stunning him.

"Enough!" Eutior cries, as arcane energies start to form around him. His hand erupts in flame, and he points it at the last skeleton. "Begone."

A bolt of brilliant energy, too bright to look at directly, shoots out and strikes the creature head on. The force of the blast sends the disjointed bones flying, dispatching the last foe in an instant.

Stin looks at the sorcerer in awe and some fear too, he must admit to himself. "Are you able to continue?" Eutior asks the stunned Stin as he sheats his sword again. "Yes.. I.. I am fine." The youth manages. Without a word and only the smallest nod of the head, the sorcerer starts down the corridor now free of the undead.

Slowly making their way down several levels and past another few traps, the duo manages to disarm or bypass them without further incidents.

They soon find themselves looking at the main chamber of the head priest..

"This is it, be on your guard!" Eutior warns as they slowly make their way down the corridor. Stin doesn't reply right away, he is straining his senses, trying to detect further traps or monsters lurking in the gloom of the big chamber. "I don't sense anything." he finally admits, turning to his ally.

"There is a magical ward on the doorway. I will attempt to disarm it, but before that, take this." the sorcerer hands him a small vial of semi-opaque glass, some form of liquid sloshes around inside it. "It's a potion to heal wounds, in case the guardian of this place were to awaken, you might need it." Eutior continues. "Now stand back, I will lift the ward!"

The threads of this particular spell were very fine and crafted to foil just such an attempt however, Eutior just doesn't have the experience to untangle it without it breaking!

A wail, like the cold banshee in her grave assaults them, seemingly from every direction.

The lid of the casket in the centre of the pillared hall slides open, and falls to the floor with a crash. The high priest, once the master of this temple, rises to defend it from intruders once more!

Eager to put something solid between the baleful gaze of the high priest and themselves, both heroes rush into the hall getting behind a pillar on opposite sides. The venerable undead jerks to a sudden halt as chains of magic bind him to the floor.
Eutior's triumph at binding the creature is short-lived however, as it shoots a bolt of energy from it's staff. Wracked with pain from the bolt Eutior falls to the floor gasping for air.

Stin produces his crossbow at the same time as the high priest freezes in place and his bolt slams home, rewarding him with a hoarse hiss from the creature. 
With a mighty shrug, the high priest breaks the bonds, and strides forward with purpose. Stin attack when the creatures back is turned, his attention on the sorcerer.

Quicker than he had thought possible, the undead priest swings around, knocking him over with a strong blow.
Raising his staff again, he slams it into the head of Eutior, knocking him senseless.
Curses! What will he do now? Stin thought, the creature is stronger than he could handle on his own and wields magic too. But wait! He remembered the vial given to him for just such a situation! Rolling to his feet, narrowly avoiding the staff of the high priest, Stin opens the bottle and pours its content on the sorcerers face. The liquid seems to seep into his skin and a faint glow surrounds him for a fraction of a second.

Eutior's eyes shoot open. What happened? He remembered the undead priest, and then.. yes the staff hitting his face. His introspection was interrupted as the staff once again slammed down against him, but missing him this time.

It was time to finish this monster.

Picking up his sword and lunging at the creature, Eutior manages to knock him back, slowing the relentless advance of his foe.

Stin takes the opportunity to sneak up from behind and this time he will finish the job!
His dagger sinks into the hood, going right through the ancient wrappings and resins, piercing the skull. Like a puppet with it's strings cut, the undead guardian is no more!

Taking some time to compose themselves, Eutior thanks Stin for his timely intervention, but reminds him that the potions are meant to be drunk, not applied like perfume. Nevertheless he is pleased their partnership worked out so well. When they are both recovered, the pair stars looking through the room for anything usefull left in the chamber.

They find enough gold to fill two sacks and a gem or two that Stin secretly pockets for his rainy day fund. A light armor in near perfect condition hangs on a small stand, it would fetch a good prize they feel. Lastly, amongst the books and scrolls on a table Eutior finds both a spellbook in resonably good condition, but only a single spell of any use and a pair of enchanted gloves. The gloves protect their wearer from assaults from afar, turning both arrows and flung projectiles alike from their master. It might serve the sorcerer well indeed!

After a quick rest and some rations, the duo makes ready to return up to the surface, they have found all that is worth carrying away in this place.

When they reach the entrance again, they are greeted by the morning sun as well as a terrible noise from the mercenary encampment. Men are running about shouting orders and preparing for battle, donning armor and dousing fires. "What is going on captain?" Eutior shouts when he spots the leader of the band. "Raiders, sir. Damned dark elves have decided that we are the next targets. Get ready to defend yourselves, unless you want to spend the rest of your lives their slave!" The captain runs off to join his men, forming a defensive line.

"Archers, ready, aim and fire!" as the shout goes out the bowmen starts pelting away at the still distant raiders, but soon crossbow bolts are fired in response.

A single dark elf is lightly wounded, but most dodge lithely out of the way.

With the two groups focused on each other, Stin sneaks up between two mercenaries and readies his crossbow. Scanning the raiders for any signs of a leader, he quickly spots the one in charge.

This is where the young thief shines, attacking distracted or unaware targets. The bolt flies true, taking the dark elf commander in the throat and silencing his orders for good.
A lone crossbow-man on the far flank is unaware that the mercenaries also have a sorcerer in their midst. Eutior finds a good spot among som rocks and starts to weave a deadly spell. The last thing the raider sees is a light brighter than the sun arcing towards him!

In the center the fight is in full swing, one of the raiders pit fighters have found himself facing no less than 3 mercenaries, including the captain himself!

No stranger to uneven odds, the raider holds the soldiers at bay and even manages to inflict a severe wound with his chain on one of them, taking him out of the fight.
The mercenary archers keep firing, as rest of the raiders move in. Seeing that the mercenaries in the center might soon be overrun, Eutior quickly weaves another spell, the sands themselves rising to immobilize the dark elf witch warriors.

Now immobilized, one of the witch warriors is wounded as the captain comes to trade blows with her.

The master-at-arms continues the struggle against the pit fighter. His perseverance pays off, as his pole-axe spills the blood of the raider on the sand.

The second pit fighter fares little better, being repulsed by the combined efforts of Stin and the archer.
 He then throws himself in a headlong rush across the  desert floor, ending up in a position to help a witch warrior fight the mercenary captain.

With all the focus on the fight raging in the centre, Eutior sees his opportunity. He strides forth, first opening up the back of the pit fighter, before launching himself at the witch warrior. Her blades flash quickly, but the sorcerer manages to strike her on her already wounded side, bringing her to her knees. A quick thrust from the captain and it's all over.

The remaining raiders break, recognizing that they have no chance, having lost more than half their numbers. The witch warrior drags one of the pit fighters along, as the archers keep shooting arrows after them, to encourage their flight.

After gathering up the dead and stripping them of anything useful as well as treating their own wounds, the captain meets up with the sorcerer and the thief. "Blasted raiders, but we showed them, din't we boys?" The captain is in good spirits, the man downed in the fight was likely to make a recovery and the loot didn't hurt either.
Eutior smiled a weary smile. "We would like to get some rest, but then we leave for Tanis." the sorcerer made it a statement rather than a question. The captain saw no reason to argue, he had just received a big bonus as far as he was concerned.

Strange sounds and odd-colored smoke could be seen coming from the sorcerer tent that night and the man looks ashen and haggard when leaving it, even if he seldom does during the travels.
"What is it you do in there all day?" Stin one day works up the courage to ask. "I pay the price." Eutior simply says, refusing to elaborate.

After a day or so Stin cannot keep from sneaking up to the tent and peeking through a crack in the cloth. What he sees he could not really explain, but he knows it is something that will be with him til the end of his days.
In a small circle covered with runes and what he can only guess is blood, there stands a creature, half wasp, half something indescribable. Eutior speaks to it in hushed tones and the thing, for he didn't know what else to call it, chitters back in some language unknown to Stin. Suddenly one of it's multi-facetted eyes lock onto him and he recoils in horror. 
He never goes back to tent during the trip to Tanis again.

After about a forthnight, the party reaches the outskirts of Tanis. The mercenaries go to trade and drink, their contract fullfilled. "Where will you go now?" Stin looks at the sorcerer as he poses the question to him. He looks his normal self again, the weakness and corpse-like pallor gone.
"There is bound to be a few easy marks around here, I guess I will stay untill opportunites around the guild dries up."  Stin cannot look into the eyes of Eutior without remembering what he saw, what he dearly wished he had not.

"I could have use for a man of your talents Stin. Come with me, greater riches than can be found in the pockets of drunks and mercenaries is what I offer. What say you?"  Stin knew he should get as far away from this man as he could, sorcerers were not folk you should meddle with. But for some reason he couldn't explain, he felt strangely drawn to the mans words. They made sense to him somehow and besides, you should not anger a sorcerer, even he knew that much.

So he agreed.

Eutior smiled a warm smile, shook he younger mans hand and said "Our pact is made."

And so they walked into the streets around the hunters guild, ready for new chances at power, riches and glory.

That's the second part complete, 4 out of the 5 characters have now been introduced, only Ragnar is left!

Til next time!