Sunday 17 July 2022

Black Death Walking - A playtest!

 Being the Scandalous Diary the Succubus of L'Shan in the year 1466.

It has been three years since I deserted hell. My protégé, a human libertine calling herself Molly, has a vision of the future. One of ecstatic transcendence through the pleasures of the flesh. That, in a moment of perfect beauty, our sins will be cast away, and we will be called to heaven.

I confess, it intrigues me. Could one such as I - cast down from paradise millennia ago - escape the fires of torment? Could we escape this hell on earth? Could Molly be onto something? I don't know, but as I watch the mortals suffer and sicken and starve - as I see the torment I endured for so long inflicted on the daughters of Eve - I long to find out.

Molly numbers ten among her followers. Four are mere mortals, rakes drawn in by her mesmerising charm and stores of absinth. Two are grotesque things twisted by the plague, that shamble and gibber. Two claim to be mortals, but I have my doubts; I suspect spirits of hell like myself, walking abroad as the world comes to an end. And lastly, there is myself and my beloved L'Vor, refugees from hell, wanting something better.

For now, we merely roam the plague-stricken wasteland, in search of alchemical ingredients to further our work.

I'm playing as a Decadent Cabal, a warband that focusses on manipulating the opponent with disguises and hypnosis. My warband consists of:
Molly the Blue (leader) - a Libertine, with a Bow, Knife, Disguise and the ability Hypnosis.
Azure and Turquoise - two Mimics, with Disguises, Spears and the ability Hypnosis.
Agnes, Betty, Vera and Nancy - four Rakes, with Disguises and either Bows or Spears.
L'Vor and L'Shan - two Succubi, with Disguises, Healing Kits and the ability Hypnosis.
The Porter and The Footstool - two Grotesques with Paired Weapons, Horrible Trophies and the ability Unease.

It works like this: my enemies need to take a Test of Nerve to target disguised models, charge models with Horrible Trophies or resist Hypnosis when it's used on them. Every time they fail a Test of Nerve, they risk being hurt if they're around a Grotesque. So my warband is all about disrupting the enemy, and capitalising on that disruption.

My warband's Destiny, in the campaign, is a sort of drug fuelled transcendence. Of the six steps towards it, they've only taken one.

A Battle against 'the Dirty Scallops'

Today fills me with grief to see how the mortals are fallen. Our little band was following a road through the forest, a procession we'd made many times before.

Out of the trees, we saw a handful of pilgrims emerge, pushing a battered cart, asking us for alms. As we went to oblige, producing holy absinthe to share with them, their treachery was revealed, as more emerged from ambush around us! It seems they'd taken to banditry, and intended to rob us blind!

if they want our goods, they could have them. We resolved that before we drove them away, we'd show them a glimpse of heaven from our bottles. Considering the mesmerising charms of so many of us, bending them to our will would not be hard. Perhaps we would inspire them to be better.

The fight was quick and ugly. They fell upon us with chains and knives, ignoring our outward appearance as harmless travellers. Up close, we were able to compel many to drink, but this seemed only to infuriate them, and they fell upon us with great fury, shrugging off our gifts. Before long, a single swirling melee resulted in the centre of the road, as they attempted to surround us, beating us into submission and robbing us of our material wealth. 

One of our grotesques, the Porter, met with their particular displeasure. He was beaten to the floor, twitching and whimpering, and as I attempted to come to his aid, I saw one of their number step forward and bring her boot down on his neck, killing him. I weep to remember the cold hatred in their eyes.

Upon our poor grotesque's death, a tranquil fury came over us. Even as we were surrounded by more chain-wielding robbers emerging from the woods, we gave up on our generous gifts, cutting them down before we were forced to pull back. They recovered their injured, we recovered our dead.

I weep for humanity, that they should turn so far from beauty and pleasure. What hope remains for the world, when even the supposedly holy resort to such things?

We played the scenario The Procession, with the other warband being Flagellants, called the Dirty Scallops. The Flagellants could rob a model defeated in combat rather than injuring it, and the Decadent Cabal could use hypnosis to compel the other side to drink if they were near somebody to offer it: these were our main objectives for the fight. My grotesques didn't manage to achieve much, but hypnosis proved pretty useful. And having models with lots of spears, and enough disguises to prevent the enemy always being able to charge successfully, eventually let me turn the tide of the ensuing melee.

Our Mourning Interrupted

As we prepared to bury our beloved Porter, something unexpected happened. The poor wretch's carcass twitched, writhed and drew breath once more. It seems the touch of the plague refuses to let him die and reach his final reward, and he's condemned to remain among the damned on earth. Sorrowfully, we welcomed him back among our number. L'Var and I have set about mending his shattered neck.

It seems our recent tragedy has taught us hard truths. We grow cold, hard-eyed, cynical. Our mental scars make us ruthless fighters, but at what cost to our souls? Still, we were, at least, able to make a little money selling our gifts to the local peasants. Not all is lost.

Among those peasants, we seem to have made a friend. A local wise-woman, calling herself Black Peg. The Inquisitors of the Beast call her a witch, but we know better. She has herbs and potions, and we welcome her among our number.

After the battle, the one casualty returns, now undead. The survivors rolled for what they learned, mostly improving their speed, accuracy, and mental accuity.

I rolled for events after the battle, and got a Stranger - a Witch willing to be recruited to my warband. I had enough money saved up to hire her, and spent the rest on some more bows for my rakes.

* * * 

This isn't the first playtest of Black Death Walking, but it's my first using the campaign system. Suffice to say, I like it.

The game was on roll20. Here are some of the tokens I used! (art by wendy ribston).

Molly the Blue, my leader.

Nancy, a Rake armed with a bow.

Azure, a Mimic armed with a spear.

The Porter, a Grotesque who died ;__;

L'Shan, a Succubus and our narrator.

So, what is Black Death Walking?

In short, a skirmish wargame taking inspiration mostly from games like Mordheim. The setting is the mid 15th century, in a world devastated by the black death, then a zombie outbreak caused by that same plague, and then heaven deciding to kick off the apocalypse and smiting the world with four horsemen. It's bleak and grubby and inspired by black metal and grimdark wargames like turnip 28.
Each model is a character in its own right, and the warband as a whole has a destiny that calls to it. over the course of the campaign, your models will evolve as they learn and suffer injuries, and your warband will draw closer to their eventual destiny and end. The focus is much more on building a narrative than competitive play: while nothing is too unfair, the expectation is that balance is less important than being interesting.
Anyway, I'm pretty pleased with it so far. More updates soon, starting with this guest post from the other player!

1 comment:

  1. I absolutely adore wargames in the mordhiem style, and this one sounds much lighter and easier to use!