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Kogan's Secret

Kogan's Secret

The shelling rose in intensity again, marking the sixth fake halt. Kogan still remembered when they had started this war, when a simple shelling salvo abruptly ending was the herald of oncoming carnage. The enemy had learned quickly, emerging in the lull with all weapons readied, exacting a massive toll. So they’d moved to a dance of expectations. Each time, they varied the length of the bombardment and the length of the pause between. Last assault had been on the fifth pulse; today’s was scheduled for the eighth.

“Hold to Thorgar’s blood Sister” he murmured to Caella, resting his hand on her shoulder. He could feel her trembling. The curse that affected so many of their race tended to run strongest in those that were called to the military. Though perhaps it was simply that those who felt the curse most keenly were most likely to seek out one of the few areas of life where it could be indulged. He didn’t like to examine that too closely, given his own life.

He tried to ignore the bitter taste on his tongue that came from Thorgar’s name and the feeling of betrayal and shame that accompanied it. Thorgar, the ancestral saint of his people, held up as a paragon of restraint, renowned for overcoming the bloodlust that bedevilled his race. He still remembered his first meeting with that mythological being. His incredulity, his unwillingness to believe who he saw, what he saw. That his people could have got it so wrong was…inconceivable. Thorgar was never a paragon, or a symbol of the victory of restraint over their tainted blood. Quite the opposite. Kogan now believed Thorgar was the source of the corruption that had, over the intervening centuries, come to pollute his entire race.

He had no idea how, over that time, Thorgar had come to be a symbol of peace and harmony, but to present it as irony was an understatement of horrible proportions, and speaking his name in the ritual greetings now left Kogan sickened and guilty. Unfortunately, none would credit his story even if he were willing to tell it. Which was a twofold relief; he had no desire to bear the responsibility for shattering a saint, and even less to admit to his people that he had travelled to the cursed realm of Between.

Invoking Thorgar served its purpose anyway. Caella drew a shuddering breath and squared her shoulders. The rage faded down in her eyes and he could see that she was back in control.

It wouldn’t be long now before they would both need that rage. The rest of the storm force were assembling around them, preparing for the assault. The rage was a curse in day to day life, but a weapon at the right time. And this, like all of the assaults, would require it.

This would be a bloody event, judging by the last two days. The enemy were so deeply dug in that the shelling of the last day would have done little but keep their heads down. It would be up to his team to dig them out, and that would cost both sides dearly. He couldn’t pretend that he feared it; such a large part of him needed the violence as a release and revelled in it. He wasn’t proud of that, but he carried no shame in it either. He knew too much now of the origin of his race to feel shame over something that ran in his veins. He had done his best to control it, to channel it to a purpose that benefitted his people. That was all he could do.

He continued his round of his team, giving what reassurance he could to those who wanted it. None of his team knew his secrets, but he felt sure some suspected. They had seen him take too many wounds, too many blows that should have bought him to an end. Some, like Caella, viewed his seeming luck as a talisman, but he could feel others becoming wary. The belief that the summoned were cursed, a curse upon those who knew them, was deeply rooted in their culture; so deeply that Kogan himself had nearly collapsed under the weight of the knowledge, nearly buried himself forever when he’d first returned and realised exactly what it was that had marked him above his heart.

Now he viewed it differently. He’d come to recognise the tendrils of influence that had been exerted on his people over time, moulding them along with the other races. Aimed at shaping the whole world and keeping all of the true power in the hands of a select few. He’d identified some of those he felt were responsible and sworn to himself that if no one else could hold them to account, he would. To do that, he would need all the power he could get and so here he was. The summonings seemed to increase in frequency when he was involved in the war, which was enough for him. He had no real idea whether the violence here on Athien was directly linked, or whether it was simply that as he gained more strength the summonings naturally increased in regularity. He did know that the bloodlust rose easier in him now than ever before, and his new strength made it even harder to keep himself from the battlefield.

The other five members of his team appeared calm and ready, and not in any need of encouragement. The assault teams drew a wide range of personalities, but those who survived tended to either be very calm and capable….or mad. Which bought him to the Shaman.

Ettin

The last of his small team was Dayn. He found him sitting against the trench wall, staring at the opposite wall. The Orc’s eyes were wild; wilder than usual. He was mumbling one of his ritual incantations, a mannerism that was really the reason he’d been transferred to Kogan’s team in the first place. No-one else wanted him. As Kogan got within arms-reach of him, the eyes snapped into focus on him and the dark intelligence that Kogan had come to recognise regarded him while the mouth continued with the unintelligible murmurings.

“Saved a special prayer for us today I hope, shaman?” Kogan yelled above the roar of the shelling.

“They are all special, Sam’delab” The orc’s voice didn’t seem loud, but Kogan never had trouble hearing it. There was something about the delivery. It seemed to simply appear in his ears. Sam’delab, the name that Dayn had called him from their first meeting. Kogan had no idea what it meant, had never been able to find anyone that did and the Orc had no interest in explaining it. He worried that it held a meaning, perhaps even referred to his touching of Between, but while no others understood, he supposed it didn’t really matter.

The time had come to start moving. The roar of the shelling had risen to another crescendo, and the rest of the assault force was positioned to start the advance. He couldn’t have made a speech in this cacophony even if he had been the type, which he wasn’t. With a gesture, he pulled them all to readiness and before he had time to second guess, he chopped his saw through the air.

They rose from their trench in a wave and moved into the darkness. The footing was treacherous, but since only orcs could see worth a damn in the dark and all of them were on his side, he knew they could afford to take their time until they were close enough to be seen. He did have to admit that a cautious advance didn’t come naturally to him or his race, which was awkward since the assault teams were almost entirely composed of Orcs and Minotaurs. Humans were the next most common members, Dwarves tended to be too slow for the actual assault and Elves were pretty rare. Of the Elves he’d come across, only two had ever thrived on the closeup carnage. They’d been the maddest and shortest-lived team members he’d had. Neither had lasted more than one or two assaults, lacking the constitution to survive injuries but, more than that, lacking the desire to survive that marked the true veterans. There was an art to surviving this sort of semi-controlled chaos.
It started with not being first into the enemy lines.

As they moved through the roaring darkness, strobe-lit by explosions, he slowed the advance of his own team just a fraction. He allowed the rest of the assault to gain a bit of ground, perhaps only a dozen steps or less. Small enough to not be obvious, but large enough to ensure the first shapes that would emerge from the smoke would not be them.

It was only another few moments before he heard the change; the tempo of explosions began to slow. He knew the enemy had learnt their tactics, and would be waiting. As soon as the explosions faded they would be up and firing again, expecting the assault teams. The entire assault force dropped to the ground as the enemy began firing blind. Kogan counted under his breath as the explosive tempo kept falling. He braced for what he knew was coming, a few breaths before the explosive chorus roared back to a crescendo. Both sides had learned, but now it was a dance of second-guessing. Was this the tempo drop to herald the assault? Or was it another pause to lure you out, and catch you in the open?

The enemy were short on artillery in the area, thankfully. A week ago, they had assaulted an enemy with its own support. That had added another complexity. They had predicted the assault team’s presence on the field and shelled the no-mans land viciously. The entire assault had collapsed, shredded with nowhere to go but backwards since their own forces were still shelling the area in front.

This time though, the enemy weren’t so well equipped. The tempo dropped again and Kogan stayed planted; the next pulse would be the final one. It was a harrowing experience to lay waiting on the open ground with explosions raining down so close ahead, but it was still preferable to trying to make the entire advance without cover. Small shrapnel wounds were commonplace for the assault teams. Minotaurs and Orcs shrugged off such wounds without issue, which was a large part of the reason why they were so predominant in the teams in the first place. The advantage of being halfway across the field when you start your charge made the risk worthwhile. While they could shrug off shrapnel, the larger calibre weapons of the defenders were another matter.

This pulse was intended to be shorter, giving the defenders enough time to seek shelter, but not enough to start preparing to come back out. He waited for the staccato clap of the ‘barker’, an artillery piece that fired a loud air-bursting projectile, designed to allow signalling during the shelling. He didn’t have to wait long. The clap tore through the other sounds, and the remaining shelling dropped almost instantly. The assault force rose from the ground as one in the darkness, and the true assault began.

Kogan and his team gathered as they advanced, moving at a jog rather than the headlong run he’d seen others employ. Ahead of them, the defenders would be pouring out and attempting to lay down fire, but in the darkness it was nearly impossible to pick targets. The bulk of the fire would be ineffectual until they got close enough that the assault teams’ own weapons would be in range. Some of the defenders had managed to keep some lights protected and dragged them into position, sending wedges of illumination cutting into the shrouded field. They mostly lit up nothing but smoke and dust, but caught several unlucky attackers, who were cut down immediately in a hail of fire. It was far too little to keep the assault at bay, and Kogan could see the enemy trench now as the front of the assault began to hit it. The silhouettes of the defenders were braced at the edge and firing desperately. At last he let his rage off its leash and broke into a run. Caella roared with him and was in front of him in a matter of steps. Dayn’s voice rose in an almost melodic chanted prayer as he flung a pair of grenades ahead of them, dropping directly into the trench they were approaching. Smoke billowed up where they had fallen, and defenders were obscured even as the rest of the team opened fire with a variety of weapons. Kogan sprayed the area ahead with shot, aiming to kick up mud and injure more than kill. The confusion bought them the few seconds they needed to cross the intervening ground, and he ignored the stabbing pain in his thigh and a brief tug at his side as his final stride carried him straight into the smoke and down, into the trench.

Minotaur

******

Kogan staggered to a halt what felt like an age later. His saw was dead and bent on his hand, all of its fuel expended in the carnage long ago. It was bent in the bludgeoning that he was forced to use it for in the last few moments when, out of ammunition, they’d burst into a room with a handful of the last defenders. In reality, Caella had killed most of them. He’d just dealt with the couple that had tried to get behind her. It was going to take a while for her to recover from today. The wounds on her back should have probably killed her, and they possibly still would. His team had survived though, with no deaths during the fighting, which was nearly unheard of. He’d taken a half-dozen wounds, starting with the two bullets that had caught him right as they made contact, and ending with the bayonet that a Dwarf had managed to plunge deep into his gut before Kogan could kill him.

The wounds hurt, but not as much as they should. They slowed him, but they probably should have killed him. Again, he thanked whatever divine providence had led to him being blessed with such resilience, and wondered how much longer it could possibly remain a secret. He’d seen the looks from the other assault teams, the combination of shame and guilt at their own losses, coupled with anger and resentment that his team should emerge relatively unscathed again and again.
Soon, he knew, there would come some form of reckoning. He was beginning to think he might have to leave before then, to spare his team the choice of betrayal or protecting one of the cursed. But not today. Today he could find a place to rest, safe, out of the way. The fighting would drag on for hours, if not days. The main forces were driving the remaining defenders back as far and as fast as they could. He could feel the summons pulling gently at him. It had started in the middle of the assault, and even though he was exhausted, he knew he would answer. He couldn’t resist the call any more than he could resist the call to battles on Athien. He knew that others would think his life a living nightmare, but he could no longer imagine anything else. Perhaps one day he would finally get a grip on those who had driven his people to this state, and finally wrest from them the control they had so carefully assembled, and shatter it for good. On that day, maybe he would rest and seek another life-path, one with a bit less bloodshed. Though he struggled to imagine what else he might be good at.

“Perhaps a lumberjack”, he muttered to himself. “At least I’ve got experience with a saw.”

By Colin "Bobliness" Hill

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Judgement Patch Notes #3

Judgement Patch Notes #3

Herein lies the third clarification and errata document for Judgement. From the very beginning we socialised the fact Judgement would be a regularly "patched" game, in keeping with its MOBA origins and to ensure the game's rules are kept in an optimal state. Our patch schedule is quarterly, with the changes becoming official on the 1st day of the start of the next quarter. Therefore the official date for this patch is the 1st of July 2018.

Remember that all hero, monster, magical artefact and rules can be downloaded from the Print & Play section of this website.

Language Standardisation

All hero, monster and magical artefact cards, have been updated with standardised language, including terms such as True Damage. Therefore all cards have had their version numbers incremented by 1, to reflect this change. Only the heroes, artefacts and monsters listed below have had actual rules errata performed on them.

Errata

Kogan

Knocked Down has become a powerful condition and we felt that Kogan was able to apply that condition a little too easily from range. Therefore we made it slightly more difficult for him to execute that Combat Manoeuvre.

Kogan

  • Power Shot's cost has been changed from 2S to "1S+1J".

Skye

We love Heroic Stand, however it still seemed to have too much of an influence on a battle, particularly in 3v3 games. This change tones down the power a touch more.

Skye

  • Heroic Stand's radius reduced to 5", instead of 8, and 4 temporary health, instead of 5.

Thorgar

Thorgar is pretty much universally considered to be the strongest aggressor in the game. He definitely brings a lot to the table and has the advantage of not being Fate hungry. We are very happy with where Thorgar currently sits, in terms of his play style and strengths in the game, however we felt, if anything, his ability to throw, and knock down, an enemy model was too readily available. Similar to Kogan, we decided to make Gore Thrust a little more difficult to execute.

Thorgar

  • Gore Thrust's cost has been changed from 2S to "1S+1J".

Xyvera

Xyvera has been a tough one to get right, which is was always going to be the case designing a hero that performs so differently to the rest. Soul Link, in particular, was having a huge bearing on battles and provided little counter play, therefore we changed it so the Fire condition partially counters it (no healing). We also swapped Soul Link from level 2 to Level 3, moving Diminish Will to level 2. Finally we introduced True Damage into her abilities removing the RES multiplier she was able to utilise in her original kit.

We feel these changes make her more interesting, and challenging, to use, and provide some counter-play by her opponent.

Xyvera

  • Soul Link moved from Level 2 to Level 3
  • Soul Link changed:
    • damage is actually inflicted on the 1st model before it is transferred
    • damage is transferred as True Damage
    • original model heals any damage that was transferred, therefore the Fire condition will prevent this
  • Corrupt Bond now inflicts True Damage on both heroes it affects

Zhonyja

Zhonyja was always intended to be a direct damage monster. She does exactly what she says on the tin, however we felt that her kit lacked that little bit of variety to make her interesting, particular at higher levels. Therefore we gave her a new level 3 ability that keeps in line with her aggressive melee persona.

Zhonyja

  • New level 3 ability called Counter Strike.

 

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Soul Burn, an Ettin's Fury

Soul Burn, an Ettin's Fury

The sickening sound of metal slicing through bone was quickly followed by the scream. Pain, fear. Skoll could feel it. Smell it. Taste it. As he steadied himself to make the killing blow against the prone elf before him, Skoll sensed danger. Senses from two heads simultaneously gathering data from his surroundings, heightening his awareness, making him ever vigilant, keeping him safe. Skoll trusted his instincts, and spun around just in time to parry a mighty dwarf warhammer that would have shattered his shoulder. Skoll recognised the dwarf immediately, Thrommel of the Ironbeard clan. It took all of the ettin’s might to stall the dwarf’s hammer blow and fend off the immediate follow-up strike. Skoll knew he’d been frustratingly close to driving the elf from this place, but he could only growl in rage as she slunk away, all of his attention required to prevent the dwarf from braining him with his infernal hammer.

Skoll had fought Thrommel before and knew he had little chance to finish this fight quickly, it would be difficult and drawn-out, unless fate intervened. It appeared that fate heard his prayer when the sound of hooves clattered on the cobble stones behind the dwarf. Thrommel turned to his side an attempt to dodge, but couldn’t escape the thrust of two mighty horns that pierced his gut plate, and then sent him sailing through the air, to land hard on his back metres away. Skoll was big amongst his kin, yet the huge frame of Thorgar towered over him, and for a moment, Skoll feared the beast would not know friend from foe. The moment passed, and the rage in Thorgar’s eyes subsided enough to allow a snort, and a hand gesture indicating that Skoll should pursue the elf priestess who had fallen back to the outskirts of the melee. The minotaur then turned and made a beeline for the prone dwarf, clearly intending to finish that fight permanently.

Skoll ran towards the priestess as she drew yet another soul out of the ground. There were now two of the blue spectres whirling around her, in some kind of macabre dance. She seemed renewed, most of her wounds healed, and she was clearly braced to fight this time as Skoll bore down on her. Although the instincts of his race urged him to charge head-long into melee, he fought the urge and instead drew on the reservoir of will that his two minds, joined in unity purpose, granted him. This formidable will was the root of what had bought him such grand status amongst all the orcs of Athien, and here in this place, it could rend the earth itself. Bending his mind to the task, Skoll drew deeply from the power vested within the Effigy that had summoned him, and magical energies surged through his body, contorting his muscles and popping veins in his neck, to the point where he thought he may burst. The release was ecstatic as a pulse of pure energy rumbled outward from his feet in all directions, staining the ground red as it passed. The wave reached the elf before she could react, her gaze moved from the ground to Skoll, and the realisation of what was to come dawned in her.

As the wave struck her, the souls around her were dyed blood red as the ground, and their dance became disjointed and broken, leaping around her in a frenzy before freezing for an instant. Then, they exploded, shattering in unison and blazing with a hell-red fire that scorched the elf. She screamed for a moment, silhouetted in light, before wining out as the chord that bound her projection to Between was severed and Saiyin returned to her mortal body on Athien. Skoll revelled in the backwash of power around him as she was driven away, a new soul, carved from her energies, and the Effigy that had bound her here, coalesced on his skin, and formed the familiar light blue ball that danced around him. The power felt like a drug in his system, opening new possibilities, removing limitations. Though he knew this was only a temporary gain, sure to leave him when he left this plane, he knew he had some time to enjoy it.

He whirled around to survey his surroundings once again. The sounds of battle reverberated around the ancient amphitheatre they had been summoned to, grey and bleak in the half-light of the plane of Shadow. The dwarf had somehow survived to continue his struggle with Thorgar, and Skoll could see further of that the rest of his war band was faltering without their two largest fighters to hold off the enemy. He hardened his grip on his massive axe and bellowed a war cry plunging headlong back into the fray. Today he would gain much power before the battle was done.

Origins of Ettins

The origin of Ettins is unknown; most dismiss them as aberrations of Orcs, others as some unholy union between Orcs and Ogres. The truth is somewhere in between. The exact time the first Ettins walked Athien is not really known, however they are inexorably linked to the Orc race, and always have been as long as anyone can remember.  The union of an Orc and an Ettin can produce offspring of either, as can, strangely enough, the union of two Ettins. However there are no recorded incidences of the union of two Orcs producing an Ettin, therefore the debate continues on how the first Ettins came to be. In any event, most Orc tribes treat Ettins as they would any other Orc, albeit with the respect and fear such a large, violent creature demands.
 
The population of Ettins is roughly a tenth of Orcs, and there is only one known Orc tribe that consists entirely of Ettins. Most of the time the Ettins mingle with Orcs freely and have the same status and rights as their smaller brethren within their society. In general, Ettins have shorter tempers, are more irritable, and less tolerant of anyone standing in their way. This is largely attributed to the fact their two heads are often squabbling, for it is most common that over time the two heads of an Ettin get on each other's nerves and spiral into dangerous love/hate relationships. The squabbling sometimes turns violent and can even lead to death. For while an Ettin can survive with one of its heads “dead” or removed, it is a sad existence and inevitably leads to what remains of the Ettin taking its own life.

Occasionally, the two heads get along, have common cause, and work together to achieve common goals. These are by far the most powerful, respected and feared Ettins. One such Ettin is Skoll Bonestorm, who has grown in stature over decades amongst the Orc tribes. It would be difficult to find an Orc on Athien, that does not know of Skoll, or even one who could not recite stories of his exploits in great detail. For Skoll is an example of what an Ettin can achieve when its heads work together. Skoll is even more remarkable, since he is the first of his kind to be summoned, which has only increased his powers and renown.



Like all Ettins, Skoll has extraordinary fortitude and constitution, being able to withstand remarkable amounts of punishment in battle before being felled. The union of his two minds makes Skoll similarly resilient on Between where opponents find themselves struggling to shatter his will, and drive him off. These traits have accelerated his rise amongst the chosen and made him a preferred choice of the new gods seeking to bolster the strength of their Warbands.

The 54mm resin miniature of Skoll Bonestorm can be purchased here.

Narrative by Andrew "Guns" Galea
Edited by Colin "Bobliness" Hill
Miniature painted by Gavin "Slardy" Clarke

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