This is the second Chapter mission of the Crown of Bones Inquisitor campaign, where three warbands clash in the lost colony of Fengel’s Hope. All are pursuing leads to the Crown of Bones, some picked up from their investigations on the Ius Soli. One warband has beaten the others to the area and has laid a cunning trap…
This is fifth scenario in the campaign, the others being Annex side missions like last week’s Silent Choir. The stakes are higher in Chapter missions, as it costs a precious Resource to buy in to the scenario. Fail too many Chapter missions, and your warband might lose its place in the finale for control of the Crown of Bones…
Setting the scene
Two Inquisitorial warbands are investigating an abandoned mining colony, conveniently ‘lost’ from all records, while a third warband lies in wait.
Archival data on the colony is scant at best. It is around a three decades old, predating the House Dacien cataclysm and the subsequent wholesale excavation of artifacts. It acted as a forward base for a chartered mining expedition for a Guilder called Foreman Fengel mining a rich seam of valuable ore, being profitable but otherwise unexceptional. Now, it is long abandoned.
The Inquisition are searching the colony as a result of their investigations on the Ius Soli. Something terrible happened in that cargo hold involving some agents of the Lucile Dynasty and House Dacien, and the only lead was a cargo manifest pointing to these coordinates. Perhaps a pick-up point for an alien artifact, or a front for a secret House Dacien base?
Dust squalls: Wind howls across Gehanna’s innumerable wastelands, and dust storms are frequent. All negative modifiers to ranged attacks are doubled, and Initiative checks are required to spot anyone over 24″ away. The tempestuous weather muffles sounds too, and all hearing distances are reduced by half.
Similar to Chapter 1, there are five pieces of evidence scattered across the map:
- The radar dish
- The exterior walls of every hab
- The central vox intenna (along with the Bonus Resource)
- The statues marking the entrance of the compound
- The interior of every hab
Characters had to be close enough to investigate each area and perform a relevant check (usually Sagacity) to collect the evidence. Gather more than half the evidence and it’s mission complete!
Explicator Stigg has been studying the ship logs recovered from Von Horne on Skathi. They paint a picture of Novator Hypatos, the mouthpiece of House Dacien, and his movements before he died during an artifact exchange on the Ius Soli. This abandoned colony was Hypatos’ last known location.
Stigg is accompanied by his accomplice Rogue Trader Phaelon and one of Phaelon’s more unusual crewmates, a purple Ork called Morado.
Inquisitor Holt’s warband makes a return from last episode, now with a bee in his bonnet about the entire affair, along with trusted compatriots Father Patroneus and Cultist Grapthar.
Holt had been contacted by Mistress Dacien, heir apparent to the Dacien throne and direct rival of Silvius Dacien. She tries to convince Holt that Silvius is duping him into engaging in petty squabbles with other inquisitors and unwittingly destroyed evidence of Silvius’s misdeeds at the Astropathic Spire.
She appreciates that Holt has no reason to trust her, but he can trust the evidence of his own eyes. She gives Holt the location of Fengel’s Hope, pointing in particular to the black box of the vox-antenna where all of Silvius’ dirty secrets will be kept.
As a final parting gift, she tells Holt to be wary of any pit fighters he encounters – some of the House Dacien labour force have been infiltrated by a Chaos cult lead by a gang of off-world pit fighters.
Thanks to Crowblade’s warband‘s thriving infiltration of the House Dacien workforce, they have been contacted by a “mysterious benefactor” high up in the House Dacien food chain with an impossibly delicious offer: perform a simple black box switcheroo at the lost colony of Fengel’s Hope and be rewarded with the location of the Crown of Bones.
Owing to their success on the Ius Soli, Crowblade was able to reach the colony before the other warbands and switch the black box in the vox antenna for one provided by the mysterious benefactor before the game had even started. Now he simply had to play the part of goofy guardian, put up just enough of a fight, and escape once the dummy black box had been stolen.
Both Inquisiton warbands could deploy anywhere near the periphery of the colony, and Crowblade could hold his warband back and deploy anywhere after the other two had set up. This is largely in the interest of speeding things up, as the first few rounds of a game are usually just spent walking towards the objective.
Explicator Stigg chose to deploy entirely behind the far hab, which has a door on both sides for easy infiltration into the compound.
Holt and Patroneus deployed at the entrance to the compound, with Grapthar crawling underneath a broken piece of fence at the far end to set up behind some barrels.
Crowblade split his warband in two. Both pit fighters loitered near the vox-antenna (with the dummy black box) and Crowblade and Karith set up near the radar dish hab to better observe what was about to unfold.
Holt and Patroneus approach the colony with apprehension. He had commanded Grapthar to skirt the periphery and cover their approach from a concealed vantage point, but was realising he might have used too many long words and had lost the cultist in the dust storm.
The colony of Fengel’s Hope was long abandoned. Despite the squall howling around them, the air in the compound was still, and dust hung in the air like it was trapped in amber.
An uneasy feeling clotted in his stomach. He glanced at Patroneus, who gave a small nod back. He felt it too. The deep stain left by the lightest touch of the warp.
As he squinted through the haze, he noticed some deep wounds gouged into the statues that marked the entrance to the compound. They were strange – heavy and uneven, perhaps made by some beast or vehicle accident, but no tracks or evidence of collision. (Holt picked up evidence 4 straight off the bat)
The marks continued along the corners and window frames of the hab blocks, and as Holt’s eyes followed them they settled on a figure appearing through the particulate.
A pit fighter!
He ducked behind cover, signalling Patroneus to follow suit, to observe and plan their next move.
Crowblade was agitated – something in the area was deeply unsettling him. He had felt this before, back on the corpse barge, but it was stronger now. Whatever it was had happened here more recently.
He tried pacing to keep occupied, but the wait was agonising. The sooner some Imperial lapdogs arrived to steal the wrong thing, the sooner he could leave.
Explicator Stigg pushed himself into a nook on the hab’s exterior to shield himself from the wind. The dust penetrated everything.
The Ork was keeping close to the ground, his elaborate optical headset can’t have been helping against these conditions, but he wore it anyway. The Rogue Trader hovered about like a fly on groxdung, eager to be ‘allowed’ to go poking around where he wasn’t supposed to.
If Stigg’s old master could see the company he kept these days, he wasn’t sure if he’d congratulate him or kill him. He let slip a mirthless chuckle.
“What is it?” Phaelon asked. He was a racing dog waiting for the starting gun. Stigg ignored him and moved the conversation on.
“You,” he pointed to Morado, then up to a nearby rocky outcrop, “Up there. Keep watch. Cover us.” The Ork had a blank look on his face. Stigg was already tired.
“Just.. stop anything from trying to kill us.”
Morado grinned, and in a blink had melted away into the sandstorm. Stigg had to hand it to him – purple Orks really were stealthy.
He produced a small leather box from his overcoat, pressing his thumb to the biocoder to unlock it. Inside is a single sliver of broken mirror, and trapped within is the fragment of a powerful daemonic entity.
Normally the mirror daemon reveals nearby psykers as part of a long-standing bargain with Stigg’s master, but today it was silent. It had pushed itself to the farthest recesses of the shard’s reflection and refused to cooperate. That was telling enough – there is something here that scares daemons.
He returned the leather box to his coat and looked at Phaelon, who was studying Stigg’s face for answers. Stigg said nothing, and poked his head through the entrance of the hab.
It was abandoned, a thin layer of dust coating everything. There was no sign of a struggle though – everything had been carefully packed up. Nobody abandoned this place in a hurry. There was even ore in hoppers next to processing stations. The mines were clearly still profitable, so why was this place abandoned? (Stigg grabs evidence 5)
“It’s empt-” Even as the words left Stigg’s mouth, the Rogue Trader was already pushing past. In a single stride he had touched and fiddled with half a dozen different things in the hab. Stigg sighed.
Memotong span his flail to distract him from boredom. Boss says to wait, so he’ll wait, but why does waiting have to be so boring.
Boss made the plan very clear. Boss says defend the vox-antenna until boss says to stop defending it. But defend it from what? He groaned under his breath, looking around for a distraction.
As if in answer to his prayers he heard a clattering from from a nearby hab, and a shadow move across the window. He jumped into action
“Oi! Whaddya doing? ‘Oo’s in there?” He bellowed at the hab window, loud enough for everyone in the compound to hear.
Fro the corner of his eye he spots another two figures peering through the dust, this time from behind some nearby pipes. He could barely contain the smile on his face as he raised his flail in accusation.
“An’ you too! ‘Oo a’ you?”
“I am Inquisitor Aubray Holt, here on official business. Identify yourself!”
Memotong gestures wildly with his flail. “Never ‘eard of you. Boss says no-one’s allowed ‘ere… so YOU’RE not allowed ‘ere.”
Holt steps forwards slowly and purposefully. “Stand down. This is your only warning.”
Stigg could hear some shouting from outside the hab. He figured Phaelon had been made, as he was making exaggerated attempts to be stealthy past all the windows. He heard the respondant, a booming authoritative voice claiming to be an Inquisitor named Holt. He’d never heard the name before, so clearly not from the local Conclave. The Crown of Bones must be bigger than he thought to attract outside attention.
He sidled up to the hab window to get a closer look.
Meanwhile, Morado had scaled the rocky outcrop with ease and had pulled himself to a peak that overlooked the compound.
He could hear shouting between two humans he didn’t recognise, but he was far more interested in a target directly below him. A hunched individual carrying a massive shoota, he was absolutely Target Priority One.
Morado shuffled closer to the edge, drawing his blade, and fantasizing about the most elaborate way he could carry out his orders to defend his employer. After all, the best form of defence…
Distracted, his footing slipped.
Grapthar pulled himself as upright as he could, his arms covered in painful cuts and scrapes from crawling through the perimeter fence. He squinted through the dust and could make out a few figures that weren’t his boss.
He grinned. Anyone who wasn’t the Inquisitor was fair game. He propped his heavy stubber on the barrels nearby and overwatched the two pit fighters.
If this goes well, he thought to himself, he’ll treat himself to another couple of crawls through that fence.
Some rocks fell by his feet, tumbling down from the outcrop behind him. Strange…
But no! This was clearly an insidious distraction by the Ruinous Powers to keep him from carrying out his mission. (He passed his Leadership test by an absurd amount to stay on-task of protecting his Inquisitor!)
Grapthar squinted down the sights, lining up the pit fighters perfectly…
Father Patroneus was furious. A thick vein bulged on his temple as he strode towards the blasphemous pit fighter.
“How DARE you question the Inquisitor’s authority? He is the WORD and FIST of the God-Emperor of Mankind!” Hand picked to root out and destroy heresy in all its forms, and wherever it may lie! Death is too good an end for a blasphemer like you!”
Memotong shrugged “Never ‘eard of ‘im. Boss says ‘e’s not allowed ‘ere, so ‘e’s not allowed ‘ere. Not you, not yer mate,” he gestured wildly at the hab block “and ‘oever you’ve got in there. Schipka!”
As summoned, the other pit fighter lumbered around the base of the vox-antenna to see what’s going on, stup pistol raised.
Holt raised an eyebrow at the prospect of a third party in the hab.
“Your boss is of no consequence,” Holt continued, walking forwards. “I have demanded you move, but you have not. Grapthar! Release!”
The roar of Grapthar’s heavy stubber, overlaid with his maniacal cackle, rips through the compound.
Memotong and Schipka are sprayed with hot lead and both dive for cover, but not before Schipka takes a few grazing rounds to his extremities. Schipka’s stub pistol goes sailing from his hand, falling in the dust nearby.
Crowblade had been listening to every exchange, using the southern hab as cover to get closer. As he watched high velocity rounds rip into his minions, he thought it was perfect cover to slip through the window of the hab.
Through the doorway he watched the cultist howl with excitement as he hosed the pit fighters with bullets. Crowblade readied his sword.
At the other end of the compound, Karith had worked his way into the radar dish hab and was keeping an eye on Inquisitor Holt and his priestly friend.
With the sound of automatic fire rippling across the compound, Karith took the opportunity to squeeze off a few shots at the Inquisitor. He loved sticking the knife in and slipping away, and this was the perfect moment for some delicious mayhem.
Phaelon didn’t want to miss out on the excitement. Gunfire was erupting all across the compound, and from his estimation he had the perfect run at the heavy stubber nest.
He could follow the fence round to the right, the barrels perfectly blocking the view of the gunner. Charging an emplaced heavy weapon using only hits wits and his sword, how daring!
He couldn’t resist twirling his moustache at the thought. He broke cover, leaving the hab behind him, and began making his way towards grapthar.
He barely took a few steps from the doorway when a streak of purple fell from the heavens. His heart sunk.
Morado whispered a small Waaagh under his breath and leapt, dagger raised.
He stumbled, catching his foot, and fell dramatically from the outcrop. He smashed both his legs on the way down, but with cat-like grace managed to twist his body so his weapon found its mark.
It plunged straight into the back of Grapthar’s neck, and Grapthar’s now lifeless body cushioned Morado’s fall.
It was an ambush! Holt wasn’t sure who was ambushing whom, but it was clear they’d walked into a trap. With gunfire coming in from every angle, he pressed himself against the base of the vox-antenna to take stock of the situation.
The heavy stubber fire had abated, but another gunman was keeping them pinned from a hab to the south. The auto-reader on Father Patroneus’ tome was already flipping the pages to the correct hymns of fury, and the preacher was belting out litanies to anyone within earshot.
The two pit fighters were rolling around on the ground, so Holt took his chance. He clambered up the ladder on the base of the vox-antenna, aiming to grab the black box of vox-data he knew was at the top.
Sensing a break in the gunfire, Stigg stepped from the hab. His head is on a swivel, keeping both eyes open for any more ambushers.
He noticed the exterior walls of the habs are all covered in messages painted in miners’ cant. They all seemed to be warnings or messages to the lost. “Gavinda, if you are reading this, we have returned to the estate. Saints guide you.” “A cursed place, do not enter” and “The temple should have stayed buried”. The colonists seemed convinced the mine at Fengel’s Hope was haunted. (Evidence 2 scooped up by Stigg as the bullets fly)
Both pit fighters were still scrabbling around in the dust, trying to hunker up near any sort of cover. He spotted a powerful-looking figure climbing the vox antenna, and made a safe assumption.
“Inquisitor Holt!” He yelled, “I am Explicator Stigg. I’ve been investigating here for some time – I don’t know your intentions, but I’ve been gathering evidence on an ongoing mission. Either vacate the area so I can continue unabated, or state how you will further the Inquisition’s mission with your actions.”
“How DARE you!” Father Patroneus shrieked, “How DARE you insult his lordship by questioning his actions! You don’t DESERVE to be in his presence! You are scum! Less than scum! You have no authority here!”
The preacher’s power sword fizzes and sparks from the atmospheric dust as he bore down on the Explicator and Rogue Trader, who now found themselves caught out in the open.
Morado had pulled his atoms back together and removed the dagger from Grapthar’s head. It all seemed to be kicking off in the centre, with even more humans and even more shouting.
He figured the safest place to lay low would be the nearby hab. There he could watch the carnage unfold and plan his next ambush.
Unbeknownst to him Crowblade had similar ideas, and had secreted himself just outside the hab. It was time to ambush the ambusher, just as planned….
The wind was knocked from Phaelon’s sails. Seeing Morado (at least, he assumed the angry purple blur was Morado) take down his intended target in such an impressive manner was a little deflating for the Rogue Trader.
Stigg was busy yelling at someone about something, and Phaelon was scanning the remaining combatants for signs of action.
One of the pit fighters had begun to recover and was reaching for his stub pistol on the floor. Not on my watch!
“Gnasher, fetch!” He swashbuckled with his sword in the direction of the pit fighter, who was now scrambling to his knees in a panic.
The mechanical creation bounded from the hab, pistons hissing and metal jaws chomping.
Phaelon drew his archeotech pistol in the other hand and pointed it at the other pit fighter to his left.
“Don’t move a muscle.” He said. Imagining how he looked to other people, a smile crept across his face.
Holt doggedly ignored everything around him and continued his mission, climbing the ladder to the vox-antenna. He could hear this so-called Stigg demanding fealty from the ground.
“I have complete authority to fulfil my mission in this sector!” Stigg commanded, “I request yourself or your master come and parley over what you’ve found in this supposedly abandoned location, or am I supposed to treat you as a risk to my mission?”
Holt arrived at the summit, and begun flicking switches and hitting panels looking for the black box release.
“Your needs are of no concern,” Holt responded, feeling around underneath the console “Stay out of our way and there will be no altercations.”
Crowblade wasn’t quite sure what he was looking at. It appeared Orkish, but the purple hue threw him off. Perhaps some kind of mutant? No matter. The creature was staring out the window and hadn’t heard him approach.
Crowblade thrust his sword into Morado’s thigh. He yelped in surprise more than pain, as pink-blue flames burst from the warrior’s blade and engulfed his midriff.
Morado staggered backwards, batting away Crowblades overhead swings and desperately trying to douse the unnatural flames.
Crowblade was impressed. This creature was both tolerant to flame, and a surprising swordsman. He could test his duelling mettle. Just as planned…
Stigg was asessing his options from the ground. This Inquisitor Holt character wasn’t playing ball, but he wasn’t actively shooting at him, so that was a positive.
“I will continue to secure the area,” Stigg shouted, turning round to look at Phaelon and Memotong, who had his hand and eviscerator raised in mocking surrender, “I hope whatever you find you’ll share for the betterment of us both.”
Stigg produces a set of magnacles from his coat and brandishes them at Memotong. “You’re coming with us.”
The pit fighters’ eyes glaze over, and his muslces twitch uncontrollably. The auto-injector roulette built into his spine had activated from some unseen signal, and the pit fighters were getting their random dose of combat drugs.
Schipka on the floor had been wrestling with Gnasher and suddenly found himself injected with Spur. With his newfound Initiative and Speed, he was able to throw Gnasher off and run for the hills, disappearing into the dust.
Memotong’s dose was less kind. He took a heavy hit from Barrage, doubling all his physical stats, and putting him to the top of the Speed order.
In his frenzy, he smashed Stigg’s magnacles aside and lunged at Phaelon. He fired in panic but the shot went wide, and Memotong brough his screaming eviscerator to bear.
Phaelon managed to get his sword up in time to parry, but the pit fighter’s sudden explosion of speed means he missed the back swing, and the eviscerator tore into his arm. The teeth of the eviscerator found purchase on his sword and span it high in the air, preventing the worst of the damage to the Rogue Trader’s arm.
Phaelon wasn’t taking any chances, and while the pit fighter was busy slavering and posturing, he leapt through the window on the nearby hab for cover.
Using the carnage as a distraction, Holt finally pulled the black box free from its hidey-hole and slid down the ladder, calling to Patroneus to leave (Grabbing evidence 3). The heavy stubber shooting had stopped, so he wasn’t sure what had happened to Grapthar, but he was sure they’d find him again after the dust had settled.
Crowblade slipped away from Morado, the dancing flames becoming too much of a distraction to fight him properly. The black box had been correctly stolen, just as planned, so it was time to retreat before any further casualties were sustained.
Crowblade slinked away into the dust storm, sending a telepathic message to his followers to do the same. As suddenly as he turned violent, Memotong simply downed weapons and sprinted off into the engulfing ash.
Stigg was left stunned. Phaelon came out of hiding, and a burning Morado tumbled out of a far hab to extinguish himself on the dusty floor. The abandoned colony was abandoned again. What had just happened?
This game was sadly cut short due to time, just at the moment that the pit fighters activated their combat drugs! We could squeeze in one turn of combat before calling it a night, and narrating the rest of the events based on how things went.
Luckily by this point everyone had achieved what they’d set out to, so we didn’t need to resolve any other conflicts.
Holt evacuated with the dummy black box, which contained lots of fabricated messages implicating Mistress Dacien in a series of kidnappings. Holt’s experts concluded that it was fake, meaning Holt had been stitched up twice by House Dacien. What will he do next?
Stigg’s warband were left with the site to themselves, so they could examine all the evidence at their leisure. They discovered a databank that would have stored all the vox and pict recordings of the original dig site when the colony was set up 30 years ago – they had been recently downloaded and wiped clean. More evidence of a coverup!
Crowblade successfully performed the switcheroo and returned to his House Dacien contact for payment – the location to the Crown of Bones. Perfect. Just as planned…
Holt managed to snag three pieces of evidence (claw marks on the statues, graffiti on the walls, the vox antenna) and even figured out the data on the black box he stole was planted, earning his victory 2 Resources a bonus Resource.
Stigg’s warband was left on the field, so had plenty of time to examine the lost colony after the game had ended. He gathered enough evidence during the game to earn his 2 Resources, but managed to paint a bigger picture of what happened here.
Crowblade’s plan worked perfectly – the box was stolen and evacuated before anyone knew he was there. 2 Resources all round!
A very fun game to run, with a good mix of roleplaying, violence, and intrigue. Crowblade’s player gets a special mention – he was so committed to the con that he used Crowblade and Karith to ‘gather’ evidence as the game went on, convincing the other players he was after the same thing as them!
The biggest factor was, is, and always will be, Time. We started a bit later than intended and had a particular cut-off point that loomed just as we got into the action. Other than tapping my watch impatiently as players mull over early game actions, I have three plans to keep games on-schedule:
- Set a framework: If we take an average turn with 6-12 models on the board as being about 30 minutes, and we have three hours to play a game, state before the game starts we’ll get about 6 turns before we wrap up. Resolve your conflicts (violent or otherwise) before then!
- Reverse Initiative deployment: Don’t set warbands up in the corners and make their first few turns walking. Allow characters to deploy anywhere on the board, starting with the slowest character on the Initiative list. You can briefly narrate how your heavy weapon thug climbed up to a sniper’s nest before the game started, but was spotted by a rival minion who has snuck up to the base of the ladder… Plenty of scope to dive straight into the action when the game starts!
- No fighty, no dicey: No dice are rolled until there’s conflict to resolve. Everyone performs all their actions and passes all their tests until there is a confrontation, whether that’s taking a shot, or rolling off to snatch the glowing orb.
I’ve been using the Reverse Initiative system successfully in most of my games now (hence Grapthar setting up on the opposite end of the compound from his warband), but I’ll encourage players to get more creative with it. As for the other plans, watch this space!
The story is properly unfolding now. The warbands have all encountered one another, and some rivalries are beginning to develop. This helps the above problem too, as less of the game is spent finding out what everyone’s up to.
Something big and terrible happened in the mine around the lost colony, enough to abandon it long ago. But someone seems to have gone poking around in it and hidden the evidence… Who could that have been?