Fridays Unleashed 1-23-2105

Last time we talked about Zocha’s careers and what she can do, so for this installment of Fridays Unleashed we’ll focus on who she is, what’s driving her, and what she can become. The following piece of new short fiction gives you a brief glimpse into the backstory of Zocha the Outcast.

Zocha vaulted over fallen trees and moss-covered stones as she raced through the unspoken and overgrown byways of the Gnarls, her precise movements making no sound despite her haste. Three days had passed since her failed challenge against Galbar for leadership of the White Maw, three days of self-imposed exile. In that time she had slain several scouting parties belonging to the farrow warband responsible for the death of her tribe’s former chieftain, and here was yet another. As she studied the winding trail of broken twigs and hoof prints with her trained eye, she knew she would spill yet more blood before the day drew to a close.

There were five farrow in all, each boar-like figure hefting a crude rifle banded with iron. A pair argued in shrill voices while the others swept the barrels of their guns over the surrounding forest. They’d caught her scent, as she’d expected.

The blurred shapes of trees slipped past Zocha as she skirted the farrow, avoiding what light filtered through the canopy. She drew a javelin from the quiver on her back and in the next instant twisted around the trunk of a tree and snapped her arm forward. The javelin struck the nearest farrow with enough force to pierce his torso and skewer him to the ground. Alarmed squeals filled the air, followed by the noise of gunfire as shots peppered the tree from which she had launched her opening gambit, but Zocha was already gone, legs pumping as she propelled herself through the underbrush and continued to circle.

The sight of blood and the screams of the dying farrow fueled her hunger for violence, and she invoked the will of the Wurm. Her strides lengthened and her eyes dilated. Her senses reached a heightened state, and the sounds and colors of the Gnarls became more intense to her transformed perception. A second javelin appeared in her hand, and she altered her course abruptly to charge headlong into the remaining enemy. She hurled the weapon to impale another farrow against a tree trunk. As soon as the javelin left her hand, in one fluid motion she drew a pronged ceremonial dagger from her waist and plunged it into the throat of the next farrow. The eruption of arterial spray coated them both with a fine red mist, warm and tasting of copper.

Her own blood brimmed with exultation at the feeling upon her skin. As she tore the dagger free, a rudimentary club scored a glancing blow on her shoulder. The impact sent her reeling, turning her out of the arc of a second club. In her transformed state she ignored the damage to her body and recovered quickly despite the numbness in her shoulder. Again she lashed out with her dagger, whose jagged edges clipped arteries and tore at vital muscle groups, the blade acting as a tooth of the Wurm itself. The terrified farrow uttered wild shrieks of panic. Each of the group’s remaining members fell under her sacral blade in turn, their lifeblood pooling beneath their bodies to feed the forest floor.

Zocha ran her tongue over the prongs of her weapon and savored the taste of her victory. A dull ache worked its way into her shoulder as the adrenaline faded and the blow she’d received from the farrow’s club made itself known.

Another five dead, and yet it was still not enough. Her progress had proven slow, and the many scouts she had killed brought her no closer to their warlord. She looked over the cooling bodies strewn about and gave in to the inevitable conclusion: to accomplish her goal of avenging her chieftain and slaying his killer, she was going to need some help.

Zocha is a skilled warrior with a mission: track down and eliminate Morrg for killing her chieftain. She is an outcast of the White Maw tribe, having exiled herself from them on her quest to defeat Morrg. She hungers for a direct confrontation with the farrow warlord and cannot rest until she claims his heart.

The White Maw tribe once controlled all of Blackmarsh Valley, letting others—like Gullin’s people—live at its fringes, but war with Morrg’s band forced them out of much of their territory. Outwardly calm and collected, Zocha relishes in calling to the power of the Devourer Wurm and letting its power transform her into a lethal and shadowy stalker.

Players who take on the role of Zocha are rewarded with a fast, hard-hitting melee character. With experience, they gain access to a larger suite of Blood Magic spells, like Blood Magic: Weaken, which decreases the strength of the enemy, as well as abilities like Battle Plan: Shadow, which lets all of Zocha’s companions become just as stealthy as she is. The Unleashed Adventure Kit contains plenty of options for Zocha along with guidelines for bringing her up to 15 experience points. Though that’s just a fraction of what a character can gain in the full Iron Kingdoms Unleashed game presented in the Core Rules, a character with that amount of experience has a broad range of options at his or her disposal.

The selections a player makes for Zocha can be transformative. Will she focus on amassing Blood Magic spells, or will she choose to enhance her abilities as a scout? Will you increase her skill with the tribal weapons of the Tharn or instead emphasize stealth and camouflage? The choices are up to you!