The Hunt for the Specimens - a Gauntlet for a Mu/Re/Co Magus

Since it was well received last time, here are my prep notes for another "stand alone" session. The player of this magus is new to the game and it will be his second session of ArM (I ran a slightly modified version of my Narva 1241 scenario as the Gauntlet for another Magus).

The Apprentice (Ivan ex Bonisagus) is a Mu/Re/Co flesh-buffing borderline necromancer who grew up his whole life in the tiny one-mage-Covenant of his great-uncle-parens in the Swiss Alps (Yep, Dr. Frankenstein). He will be aided by two grogs, one shield/axe sergeant (Jörg the Bear) and one archer/hunter (Jaeger Sepp).

Here is the general session plan.

  1. Given intro by Willhelmus ex Bonisagus. Aged necromantic looking man. (He moved to the alps as an apprentice decades ago, along with his sister, the PC's granny). As Ivan’s Gauntlet, he must track down and take down the two subjects before they do too much damage (they of course have not escaped but been let out as a test).
    One is the large Hulk 7.5 feet tall, 200 kg of bone and muscle and the other is the Lithe (wiry strength, lithe, clawed, pallid skin). One of the reasons for these two enemies is also to introduce the size limitation of Co spells.

  2. Set off to hunt

  3. Spend a day following the tracks downhill and through woods (survival/hunt rolls).

  4. Find dead slashed short haired St Bernard* and cow in the pines next to a farm late in the day.

  5. As they get to the farm, two more St Bernards start barking aggressively at Jörg.

  6. Unless they can calm/intimidate the farmer, he’ll set his dogs on the party. (will flee if medium wounded). Chance to try spont-ing ReAn to calm dogs or ward against them (this is a chance for the player to try out spontaneous casting and to see that mages are more flexible than their spell book indicates).

  7. After they set up camp, they will be ambushed at night fall by the Lithe. Two awareness rolls while on watch to spot it, the second one will be easier.

  8. Fight 2 rounds (time for the fight to be joined by the awoken party members) then it runs off.

  9. The Lithe will attacks again a few hours later if not too injured. (Jorg can roll bodyguard to save Ivan and Sepp alertness to notice it in time).

  10. Spend the night camping, survival rolls.

  11. If the Lithe was injured enough, they track down the blood splatters and finish it off in a small cave.

  12. Pick up tracks of the Hulk (hunt)

  13. Cross a river (Per+wilderness sense roll, Sta or Str swim rolls).

  14. Find a bloody bull beaten to death next to a house. The house has been ransacked and the door was ripped of its hinges. Noise from within (chance to prep for combat).

  15. The Hulk is playing inside with a wooden stick with a carved horse head.

  16. If provoked it will attack, but otherwise just stays there playing like a child.

  17. Killing either grog is ok, Hulk and grogs (live or dead) will be pulled into the air by magic of Parens if Ivan seems at risk of getting flattened.**

  18. If they do not fight it. Ivan will be gifted the Hulk to add to the Covenant once founded. The parens would praise his discretion in use of force and be surprised that he didn't kill it.

*: I chose St Bernard both because they are large enough dogs to be threatening to the party and because they are the iconic Swiss dog.
**: I made the hulk following standard rules, but with Sta 3 (boosted to 4 by giant blooded), tough and enduring constitution it is an absolute tank.

Since I am running the session next week, I welcome forewarnings.


Two thoughts:

It's always fascinating to see another storyguide plan. I personally go less into detail but have more branching options.

I've been wondering if the Hulk is size 2 or more. Does he have spells that work against a big creature (ReMe10 does)?

Since I approach this as a one-off session as a chance for the players to test out combat and the magus, I chose to keep things quite linear. After this, I will drop them in Duremar to get briefed by Murion and from there there will be a lot less hand holding. Here's the map of the Rhine region, here is what you find in the Library concerning the 4 ex-Covenants, go sort yourselves out. For example my Narva adventure was much more of a sandbox. I ran it twice, and the second time, they just walked back and forth all around Ida virumaa campaign, chasing faeries and buying themselves tailor-made boots...

The mage has both the crystal dart and the wounds that weep to do direct damage (though the size 2 hulk is deliberatly so big to show a limitation of Co), the other relevant spells that might be helpful are the bear's endurance to buff the grogs and the cherry on the cake: Awaken the slumbering corpse.

So if a grog dies or even if he chooses to keep the Lithe as an "attack dog" he'll be able to affect the outcome quite seriously.

He can try to spont ReMe, though since it's his first time playing a mage I don't know if he'd think about it (possibly the other players might suggest). I'm thinking I might give the hint to spont ReAn when confronted by the dogs and then let the idea sit in the back of his head when fighting the specimens.
Edited after rechecking the character sheet: his ReMe total is only 10, so he's unlikely to pull off a call to slumber. It's a risky move to allow one of the grogs an easy attack, but even with shouting and waving he'd need to roll 8+ on the die (less than 30% chance of success). We shall see.

Looks like a good outline.

St. Bernards are somewhat anachronistic but that's not a bad thing to introduce new players to either.

I read the wiki on them, and yeah I'm 500 years too early, but they are such a distinctive breed and immediately give the right colour. Of course dog breeds were not so set in stone back then (maybe rottweilers, but that's further north).


Against an opponent with not only high Soak (I assume) but also higher-than-average Wound Range, small spells like Crystal Dart may have trouble inflicting other than Light Wounds. And by themselves these will never kill or incapacitate the enemy. That should be a consideration.

Now, if you (like me) feel that non-combat Soak rolls are affected by wound penalties, the repeated use of Crystal Dart will eventually whittle away at the Hulk, and in time larger wounds will statistically be inflicted, and so on.

Otherwise, 20 or even 50 Light Wounds on the Hulk does not help the magus!. But eventually even a lame grog with a wet noodle can actually land a killing blow, if the Defense modified by Wound Pen is low enough.

So the Magus in question was very much designed as a grog-buffer. The bodyguard grog would probably lose 1v1 against the Hulk, but is not completely outclassed. To try and estimate how the fight might go (without having to Monte-Carlo it), the Hulk's Att+Dam is one point lower than the Def+soak of the Shield grog, this drops to dice difference -4 once the mage buffs his bodyguard with Endurance of the bear. The archer grog has an Att+Dam of 3 higher than the Hulk Def+Soak, meaning that if he can get a dice difference of 4+ he'll inflict a medium wound.

I see the wound penalty applying to the defence but not too the soak. So even if the mage isn't the one inflicting the killing blow, each light wound whittles down the Hulk's overall defence for the others to take advantage of.

I was discussing this encounter with my other gaming group and I realised that given the magus' good ReCo, he could just spont Rise of the feathery Body on the whole party and just kill the Hulk by throwing axes/shooting arrows and darts at it. Which would be very clever if anticlimactic.

Part of me hope that they'll see the pathos of the monster playing with toys and be merciful. But I want to leave them the option of being as bloodyminded as they want to.

My biggest worry is that they might mess things up and let the magus get punched by the Hulk, since the mage is squishy his Soak+Co form bonus+dodge is sufficiently low compared to the Hulk that he'd likely be one shotted by a punch... On the other hand, he could just be hovering safely.

So we had the session yesterday, and while their initial plan was to set the house on fire, the mage chose to sneak up to hit and hit it with ReMe to make it docile. This worked and they could not believe their luck at not having to fight the Hulk.

They did have very bad luck against the farmer whose dogs they killed, he delivered both a light and medium wound to the shield grogs thanks to exploding dice. Both time they fought him they used sponted ReMe to end the combat in a non-lethal manner. A small part of me wants to have that farmer who lost his three dogs the same day go full John Wick on the party, but it just strains credibility too much that he'd make his way from a Swiss alpine meadow all the way to the middle Rhine just to land a couple more punches...

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Thank you for the follow up on that session. It is both very interesting and a valuable learning tool to see some notes on how other people prep for and play out their ArM games.

What happened the hulk after the players made him docile? did they leave him be, take him with them or something other?

I would be totally hilarious to have the farmer go full john wick even though it would also be somewhat unbelievable. But you could still find ways to make him a recurring character and adversary to the players. Maybe have him start asking questions about wizards and thus be recruited into the turb of another covenant, and put him in positions where he can be nuisance, like have the grogs of the player covenant have to deal with him or something. Especially if your players are not quite ready to outright murder him purely for opposing them, he might be a good low-stakes antagonist.

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So, a fuller summary:

The party tracker/archer was plagued with botches, to the point where it was almost disruptive...

The party struggled to find tracks at many points getting lost. They struggled to cross the river and had to really exert themselves as well as letting the mage start sponting spell (rise of the feathery body to help get the hunter out of the river etc)

They found the dead dog and then went to the nearby hut, fearing that they'd find a carnage. The farmer was not too happy to see them and suspected them of the dog's disappearance. Between the mage's gift, the shield grog's "offensive to animals" and the archer pulling his bow on the farmer led to a fight. The dogs were set loose on the grogs though they did no damage, the farmer rushed in and managed to score a light wound on the leather-armoured shield grog. The archer then tackled the farmer who was then put to sleep with a touch range "call to slumber".

They were smart and realising the predatory nature of the Lithe set a trap for it. They set themselves up with a fire at the entrance of a cave (good survival roll) and the mage sponted eyes of the cat on everyone. The archer who was mounting watch made some good guile roll and was able to discreetly wake the shield grog, before botching and tripping over the mage while trying to wake him nonchalantly.

The Lithe sprinted into action and the shield grog exerted himself to boost his defence that round (he was out of armour and really afraid) but it didn't draw blood. The axe came down for a medium wound and the archer and mage (crystal dart) got a good rolls and put another light and medium wounds on it. The shield grog then put his axe into it and the archer finished it off.

They felt bad for it and built a little cairn over it so nothing would happen to the body. They slept a few more hours but chose to be tired for fear of the Hulk going on a rampage.

The tracker botched yet another tracking roll to find the Hulk's trace so I had him bump into the farmer who manage to break each other's noses in a brief punch up (each dealt a medium wound). THe mage sponted ReMe to get them to split up (also the threat of a 3v1 helped calm the farmer).

After this they tracked down the Hulk to its house. They wanted to set it on fire but the mage has neither Cr nor Ig. So the mage snuck up to it in the hope of putting it to sleep (it was his first session playing a spell caster, so he was still shaky with sponting and the magic system). The Hulk botched its awareness roll and just continued playing with it's toy wooden horse. The mage got a poor roll and was only able to spont a "minor change to mental state" at voice range so decided to make the Hulk feel more sociable. From then on they played with the toy horse with the Hulk. Since they were never violent or hostile to it, I didn't have it start hostilities.

They walked it back to the magic tower where they started and the apprentice was congratulated on passing his gauntlet. His wisdom was praised and he was gifted the hulk as a grog for his new Covenant as graduation gift.

Since I still had ca 1hr left in the session, I then cut to Dunremar 3 months later where they met Murion, got sworn in, met a few more of the magi in Dunremar and got their mission and a few grogs.

I let them keep all the grogs they played during the warm up scenarios (the faery blooded sailor and the charming tracker from the Narva 1221 session as well as the two shield grogs and the gifted Hulk) so that they can get attached to people but also realise that if people die the Covenant will have lost someone. In addition to those, I gave them a few grogs donated by Triamore and Fengheld (I am reusing the 30 Rhine grogs I made last year, just with a fewe minor modifications to fit them better to this party):

From Fengheld and the Rheinstrasse chapter house:
Golo, the Winemaker as a grog with Area lore Middle Rhine and who can make wine
Krabat, the ex-Infernalist Miller
so that they have a food related grog and an infernal lore expert

from Triamore:
Siegfried, the One Handed Blademaster As another fighter grog and sword master (one of the mages wants to be a more Melee kind of mage and has some single weapon) as well as having a bit of Etiquette
Simon/Simone, the Boneworker Who matches well with the other two mages: one is a borderline necromancer and the other is Verditius

And then as guide to Dunremar:
Katherine, the Custos The gentle gifted mage also took venus' blessing, soooo.....

In time I will also add to the crew:
Hagen von Rothbart, Noble Skinchanger as a cadet from a castle near their Covenant (once they pick a location) to give them a very social character who's a bit shady and get them politicking with the locals.
Brunnhilde, the burly milkmaid so that they have more food producing grogs and to continue the Nibelung theme.