Wednesday, 18 October 2017

LotFP solo - Part I: Mysteria pragensia (incipit)

26 April, A.D. 1601

As Theophilus von Bunzlau crosses the bridge over the Moldau, he feels a terrible heaviness, as if his heart had turned to lead. He glances up at the Castle looming over the city atop its hill, wondering vaguely if the legion of alchemists there in residence could offer him a way to change his troubled spirit of base metal into gold. But alas! gold is the very reason he has been sent into the city, and thus could not be more onerous a task, concerning as it does the fortunes of his ancient and noble family, rather than the pursuit of ancient and hidden knowledge, the only thing he considers worthy of his interest. Still, magic isn't an inexpensive endeavour, making this family business a necessary evil. And the one he must meet shares his inclination towards occult matters, and may be of use to him, he thinks, in more than just temporal affairs. But then why this feeling of dread?

So he walks and broods, all but insensible to the constant stream of patter in a rustic, nigh impenetrable Swiss patois coming out of the mouth of the mercenary he's paid to be his bodyguard. But Gephardt's words finally break through his maudlin haze, and demand to be answered.

"I said, do you even know where we're going? We came into town on that side of the river, why didn't we just stay there?"

"What? Yes, I know where we're going. And I told you already, the only decent inn is in the New Town. I would have thought that after so many nights in the field, you'd welcome bedding that's not infested with vermin."

"Pah! I just want to hurry up with our business and get out of this city. Too many people looking suspicious, and you can't understand the half of them!"

[After all that set-up, the campaign begins at last! Or does it? In addition to being historical, the adventure is a bit experimental in other ways, too.

I had no pre-conceptions about the first adventure, other than 'Horror adventure beginning on a random scene'. To avoid having to figure out just what sort of tavern could plausibly attract PCs of such disparate backgrounds, I decided to start with a sub-set of the characters I'd made and add more as things progressed. It didn't quite work out that way, so after a time I started a second group on their way.

So for each scene, I also have to note which Track (A, B, C...) it follows. When the tracks merge, they keep the designation of whichever one has the worse Chaos level. I originally had each track on its own numerical sequence; this was a terrible mistake, and I had to go back and renumber about a dozen scenes that followed on from 4A. At some point the whole party will be together or all but one of the tracks will have a TPK and things can proceed normally.

To start, I rolled 4d8 to choose random PCs, with no rerolls for duplicate values: 1,1,2,8 = Valentinus, Theophilus, Gephardt

Toolbox for the adventure

I am using the Horror theme from Mythic Variations, but I modified the Event Focus table slightly to force the Dark Secrets each PC harbours to come to light.

Focus Table
1d100 Event Focus
----- -----------
01-08 Dark Secret
09-18 Horror - PC
19-30 Horror - NPC
31-37 Remote event
38-52 NPC action
53-55 New NPC
56-58 Move toward a thread
59-65 Move away from a thread
66-75 PC negative
76-78 PC positive
79-85 Ambiguous event
86-97 NPC negative
98-00 NPC positive

As the first scene started with an Ambiguous Event (Travel / Bureaucracy : Theophilus sent into town on family business), I had to make a few more rolls to decide what was going on. So...

Q: Where do the PCs convene? (1d6) 1 appellate courthouse (apelační soud, in Malostranské náměstí (Lesser Town Square), 2 Staroměstská radnice (Old Town Hall, the one with the famous astronomical clock), 3 a prison, 4 Kostel svatého Ducha (Church of the Holy Ghost, Valentinus' church), 5 home of an important person, 6 criminal's den
1d6=5: important person, 1d6=F

Eufemia Švarcová
Age: 1d6+1=2, in her 20s
Social Class: 1d8=3, gentry
cha 16 con 12 dex 11 int 15 str 9 wis 14
Random Personality: Heartless, Hesitant
Motivations (via UNE):
1. take contraband
2. learn old religions
3. attempt the church

Lastly, unless otherwise stated, assume everyone is speaking in German.]

Scene 1 - track A

Chaos: Under control (d12)

Setup: Ambiguous Event - Travel / Bureaucracy

NPC list: Eufemia Švarcová

Threads: none yet

Despite the mercenary's repeated apprehensions about being lost in the maze of little streets, Theophilus does indeed know where they are going, and he leads them on a sure path through Malá Strana (the Lesser Town). When they have almost reached their destination, Theophilus sees a familiar figure walking up the street before them, and calls out.

"Good father! I didn't expect to see you here. A bit far from your parish, aren't we?"

"Salve, Theophile," says the priest. "Yes indeed I am far from home, but the parish is merely a worldly boundary. For the One I serve counts the whole of His creation as a parish. So you see, the spiritual needs of all good Christians fall within my remit, be they in the Old Town, the Lesser Town, or even far away in Spain."

"Why the evasiveness?" says Theophilus, "One might get the impression that you were up to something shady."

"Really, now! That's rather unfair--"

"You wouldn't be meeting someone in this street, would you?"

"As a matter of fact, I am responding to an invitation from one who lives in this street."

"Miss Švarcová?"

"Why... why yes. How did you...?"

"Not an invitation then, but a summons. I too have been summoned. Come, the lady does not like to be kept waiting."

Eufemia Švarcová's domicile is undistinguished on the outside, but the opulent interior speaks volumes about her family's fortune, of which she is the sole surviving heir. Theophilus looks round admiringly as a servant bids them enter; indeed he is the only one of the three who neither looks nor feels out of place, clad as he is in rich fabrics under his plain travelling mantel. Valentinus looks skittish and ill-at-ease, though Theophilus notes this as nothing new for the cleric -- he scarcely seems to stop fidgeting in the pulpit. And as to Gephardt, he looks out of place any time he's not wading through a battle or its aftermath.

Eufemia is reading by the light of a single candle in her sitting room when her guests are shown in. "I was unaware of the hour," she says, and bids her servants light more candles. The sitting room is revealed to be exactly the sort of tastefully appointed room one expects of a woman of Eufemia's station. The book she was reading, however, is not. The unwieldy volume is unmistakably bound in human skin, and its warped and worm-eaten vellum pages betray its antiquity. Eufemia closes the book carefully, revealing a bloodstain on the cover partly obscuring the title (CT... AQVAD...), and when she puts it aside there are brown smears on her dress where it had lain and the desiccated leather of the spine crumbled off.

Eufemia merely glances in the direction of a settee, and her guests take their seat. She has the sort of personality that fills any room, and no matter how many times one meets with her, she is always remembered as being eight inches taller. Eufemia is small and fair, with delicate even features and teeth like pearls. She can be all sweetness and light, but when she means business her demeanour betrays understanding in excess of her 23 years.

"Gentlemen," she says, "I have read your petitions, and I am ready to lend you both my support. But like many things in this world, it is not freely given. Rather, it must be earned."

"What may we do for you, Miss-- my good lady?" asks the priest.

[Q: What indeed? Assist / Anger - she wants their help against an enemy, who has a valuable item (a snap DM judgement; V&T would be terrible assassins, and not terribly useful in social manoeuvring either).

d30 Sandbox item=codex/manual/tome
language = Czech*
title = Zamyšlená pochybnost (The Abstracted Doubt*)

*Rolled on my not-quite-finished book language and title tables]

"I assume you both know -- or at least know of -- Felicitas z Trautenberka. There is a book in her possession that I require, and she refuses to lend or even sell it to me. This is an intolerable slight. I need that book, more than I need my friendship with her to continue. I propose that the two of you will go and procure it for me."

"Have we any choice?" asks Theophilus.

"Not really... I've said too much already, on the understanding that you'd readily agree in order to court my favour."

"Mademoiselle, you drive a hard bargain."

"It has been so remarked. Now, the book you must retrieve for me is called Zamyšlená pochybnost."

"Mademoiselle, I regret to say I have no Czech."

"Nor I," adds the priest.

Eufemia sighs. "Of course you don't. Here, let me write it down for you. That way she can't send you off with an old prayer book or something."

[Q: Does Eufemia know what, if anything, guards the book? 50/50: O2 c2 - No, and... not even sure what it looks like
+Event: Horror - NPC. d30 phenomena=fever]

Eufemia goes to her writing desk and writes down the title on a piece of parchment. Theophilus walks over to take it from her. But as she hands it to him, she suddenly swoons. A sudden sweat comes over her, and her hands shake with feverish chills. She excuses herself perfunctorily, and calls for a servant to see her guests out.

Scene 2 - track A

Chaos: Average (d10)

Setup: decide to find Felicitas' house

NPC list: Eufemia Švarcová, Felicitas z Trautenberka

Threads: get book

[Q: Where does Felicitas live? -random neighbourhood-
1d6 Neighbourhood (Czech / German names)
 1  Hradčany / Hradschin
 2  Vyšehrad / Hochburg
 3  Malá Strana / Kleinseite
 4  Staré Město / Altstadt
 5  Josefov / Josefstadt
 6  Nové Město / Neustadt

(=1 Castle district, 2 High-castle, 3 Lesser Town, 4 Old Town 5 Jewish quarter 6 New Town)

1d6=4, Staré Město]

"Admit it," grumbles Gephardt, "you're lost."

"Well I don't spend a lot of time in the city, now do I?" snaps Theophilus. "Valentinus, maybe you should lead."

"I must confess," answers the priest, "that as well as I know the Old town, I don't rightly know where Madame von Trautenberg resides."

"Well we should try to do something before it gets dark," mutters the mercenary.

But the others do not listen.

[I alternated Search rolls with random encounter checks rolled in Midkemia Press' Cities book. Inappropriate results = no encounter. Not much happened until...]

A group of six armed men, former soldiers by the looks of them, has suddenly surrounded the lost travellers. The leader steps forth, addressing Theophilus in heavily-accented German. "You look like you have money. These streets are not safe at night. Perhaps you require our services as bodyguards"

"I am afraid," says Theophilus, "that such a mighty band would frighten off my business associates. So sorry, but I must decline."

[Reaction roll, 2d6=10, no problems]

The man laughs heartily, and the soldiers step aside to let them pass. Valentinus and Theophilus are relieved that there was no further incident, but Gephardt is extremely disappointed that it didn't come to violence. But the night is young! The three hurry along, until Valentinus spots [d6=1] one of his parishioners. He rushes up to ask [d6=] her for directions to Felicitas' house.

[Q: Can he get directions? Likely: O3 C3 - Yes, but...
+Event: New NPC - Lie / Balance: d30=Cleric; level 1d8-3=1; age ~30]

Valentinus returns to his comrades with a smug grin. "That clears it up, he says. Old Mrs. Friesen has told me the way. Follow me!"

It is soon apparent that they are even more lost than they were without the beldame's directions, and they pause in an empty street, stone buildings forming a canyon on either side in the deepening twilight gloom.

Then Theophilus spots a young man with a lantern coming round the corner. "A priest!" he exclaims. "I'm going to go ask him if he can help us find our way."

"He's not to be trusted," says Valentinus.

"You know him?"

"No. But just look at his habit; he's a protestant."

Theophilus ignores him and sets off toward the newcomer, a slight and reserved-looking man, certainly in his 30s despite the mien of perennial youthfulness.

[Reaction roll was initially 6 (neutral), but...]

"Excuse me, my good man, but my colleagues and I seem to be lost. I don't suppose you might be able to show us the way to the house of Felicitas z Trautenberka."

The priests eyes widen at the mention of the name. "Why... why are you going there? Are you friends of Její Excelence Paní z Trautenberka?"

"Friends? No, I think not. We are charged with undertaking some business which requires an interview with the good lady."

[Via UNE:
NPC Relationship: peaceful
Conversation Mood: cautious
friendly - alliance - skills]

"Quite the coincidence," says the priest, "for I too have necessary business there."

"Why you going, if I may ask?"

"I need to know what's going on there. I've heard terrible rumours about unnatural goings-on. Perhaps we could aid one another..."

"I believe we could. Though watch yourself around Pater Valentinus; he's terribly intolerant, and just as likely to accuse you of unnatural goings-on. It's all just bluster to hide how scared he is."

bratr Mikuláš Kovář („Frater Nicolaus Faber“)
Cleric, level 1
Cha 14 Con 11 Dex 13 Int 10 Str 7 Wis 11
Background: Praguer tradesman
Languages: Czech, Latin, German
Religion: Bohemian Brethren
Equipment: silver cross, lantern, 41sp

Following curt introductions (Valentinus is just as obnoxious as Theophilus expected), Mikuláš leads the band through the winding streets to the house of Felicitas z Trautenberka. They stand before it in the street, unsure of how to proceed.

[Q: Anything obvious about the house? 50/50: O1 C10 No
Q: Anything unobvious about the house? 50/50: O1 C3 - No, but...]

"Did those curtains just move?" asks Valentinus.

"I didn't see," says Gephardt.

"Is there a light within?" asks Mikuláš.

[Q: Is there a light within? 50/50: O1 C6 - no]

"It looks dark," affirms Valentinus.

"Not even the upper levels?" asks Gephardt.

"Do we try the door?" asks Theophilus.

"That seems unwise..." says Valentinus

"Perhaps we need to consider this further."

[as they are standing around, check for random encounter: 1d6=1
via BOLD: physical - pursuit - corrupt
solution: enemy help

a band of 1d6+2=8 ruffians looking to shake down wayfarers on this dark street
Q: Any classed characters? Unlikely: O2 C2 - No, and...
+Event: PC Negative - Valentinus - Betray / Evil]

a f  9 13 11 11  8 11  5 12 -1 club (1d4)
b m  7  6  6 11  9  5  4 11    rapier (1d8)
c m  8  7 12  9 16  6  3 12 +2 rapier (1d8)
d m  5 16  5 12 15 13  6 10 +1 club (1d4)
e f 14  3 10 11  7 10  3 12 -1 short sword (1d6)
f*m  4  7 11 18 12  8  1 12    rapier (1d8)
g m  6 16 10 13  7  8  7 12 -1 short sword (1d6)
h f 16 15  7  4 14 12  4 11 +1 rapier (1d8)
* leader

For the second time this evening, a group of armed bravos appear out of nowhere and surround the little band.

"Well, well," says the head ruffian, "what do we have here? A few wealthy travellers and their woefully outnumbered protector. And look, if it isn't that priest that keeps picking on our poor friend pan Kac. Tell me, is it his religion that you despise so, or is it his wisdom?"

"I've nothing to say to rubbish the likes of you," sneers Valentinus.

"You're going to regret that..."

Gephardt reaches for his sword, but he is too slow [Initiative: PCs 5, ruffians 6], as two of the ruffians grab his arms. He struggles, but cannot shake off the pair of them [a&b grapple to immobilise: a rolls 3-1+1, b 17+0+1, G 10+3]. Each of the others finds himself menaced by two armed bravos each. They quickly surrender.

The lead bandit holds his rapier at Valentinus' throat, and is on the point of taking his money pouch when the door to Felicitas' house opens and a white-haired servant comes out bearing a lantern. He squints at the scene before him in the street, then yells something our heroes cannot understand: "Vy! Co děláte v té ulici? Jděte všichni pryč!"

The ruffians scatter.

Scene 3 - track A

Chaos: Average (d10)

Setup: in the house

NPC list: Eufemia Švarcová, Felicitas z Trautenberka, bratr Mikuláš

Threads: get book

The house is dark inside and silent. The servant shows the guests to the parlour, where a chandelier burns brightly, and the heavy curtains are drawn. The servant tells them the lady of the house will meet them shortly.

Felicitas is a tall and elegant woman. Age is beginning to line her face, but her long, fine hair, which hangs down well past her waist, is still black as a moonless night, matching the simple, satiny dress she wears and the jet and onyx she prefers above all other jewels.

She speaks in a low, measured voice, her German precise and fluent but with an unaccountable, yet somehow unplaceable, foreign accent.

[age d6+1=50s
Personality: Smooth, Delicate
1. defile secret societies
2. guard academia
3. fulfil lies

Q: Is Felicitas a Magic-User? Likely: O5 C10 - Yes. Level 1d8=4

NPC Relationship: neutral
Conversation Mood: sociable
prejudiced - assessment - future action]

She engages her guests in the requisite amount of small talk, showing a marked preference for Theophilus. The others are content to let him do the talking, especially after Felicitas abruptly changes the subject to more serious matters.

"I don't believe your endeavours are going to be successful if you insist on working for that frivolous Eufemia Švarcová."

"Working for...?" stammers Theophilus.

"Don't dissemble. Why else would you be lurking in the streets at night before my house."

"Well, she may have twisted our arms."

"Then you should consider your options carefully."

"What options? Can you offer better?"

"You should not cross me. I don't want to make threats, but you cannot begin to imagine what I am capable of." [UNE: insane - fear - antagonist]

"Then we should be leaving," says Theophilus flatly.

"You'll be back. I can see it in your eyes. And the forced calm in your manner betrays you. You'll meet a bad end like the rest, wizard." [prejudiced - belief - the character]

Theophilus stands to leave, and the others look on in consternation.

[Q: How does she react? Activity / Magic]

Felicitas z Trautenberka
Magic-User, level 4
Cha 13 Con 11 Dex 11 Int 18 Str 7 Wis 8
HP: 14, AC: 12
Spells: Enlarge, Message, Force of Forbidment, Stinking Cloud

Felicitas' tranquillity vanishes in an instant. She leaps to her feet, nearly upending her armchair with the violence of the motion. As Theophilus takes a step towards the doorway, she rasps out the words to a strange charm, gesticulating wildly. Theophilus stops short, unable to advance [she cast Force of Forbidment; 1d20=3, he failed his save].

"Let me go!"

"Sit down! I'm not done talking with you. Sit down. Now!"

"Unhand him!" says Valentinus, rising to his feet and brandishing his crucifix. "Begone, witch!" [casts Command (begone): her saving throw 1d20=15, spell fails]


Gephardt draws his short sword and leaps forward to attack, but his sudden fear of the witch makes him hesitate [7+3-2(weapon drawn)=miss].

[Round 2]
As Gephardt steadies himself, Felicitas starts screaming something he doesn't understand: "Pomoc! Pomoc!" Mikuláš understands that she's merely calling for help [which will arrive in 1d3=3 rounds], but he's rooted to the divan in fear.

Gephardt makes a half-hearted stab at the witch, almost expecting his sword will break or his arm wither, but he finds only that she can, in fact, bleed [2 damage puts her at 12hp].

Theophilus tries his own magic against Felicitas, and she feels the spell wash over her like a gentle breeze -- and no more [he cast Sleep; 2d8=3HD, not enough].

[Round 3]
Felicitas invokes the Might of Hell as Gephardt lunges at her again. She dances aside, but he still leaves a bloody gash across her shoulder [4 damage drops her to 8hp]. But he was too late -- gouts of yellow, sulphurous smoke begin billowing up from the floor [she cast Stinking Cloud; it takes effect next round]. Theophilus draws his dagger, but wavers.

[Round 4]
The horrid smoke now fills the entire room, and all within, including Felicitas, begin to choke and retch. Everyone staggers out the doorway into the hall.

[They need to save vs. poison or be incapacitated for 2-5 rounds after leaving the cloud: only Gephardt succeeds.

Help is nearly there, but what kind? (1d6) 1-2 servants, 3-4 guards, 5-6 summoned beastie; 3, 1d6=2 guards]

10 11  6 12 12 11  3 12
 5  9 12  7 15  8  5 13
halberds, buff coats

[round 5]
A pair of halberdiers run down the steps in the hall to find their Mistress and her guests coughing and sputtering, leaning against the walls to avoid falling over. One of them, however, is menacing their Mistress with a sword. Too late does Gephardt see them rushing towards him. He is skewered on the points of their halberds before he can even bring up his sword in defence, and pinned to the wall besides. He goes limp a moment later, and when they wrench their arms free, he collapses, twin streams of blood pouring forth [7+3=10 damage total, dropping him to -2hp].

When the others have stopped retching and can stand upright, they quickly surrender.

Scene 4 - track A

Chaos: Out of Control (d8)

Setup: chaos die=3, Interrupt (was: captured)
Interrupt: Horror - NPC (Felicitas) - Adversity / Inside

NPC list: Eufemia Švarcová, Felicitas z Trautenberka, bratr Mikuláš

Threads: get book

The nausea and incapacitation slowly wears off for all but Felicitas, who becomes sicker and sicker. She doubles over in pain and falls to the floor, contorting and screaming in inarticulate agony.

Theophilus still clutches his dagger. He takes advantage of the confusion to rush the nearest guard [1d2=a; 4damage puts him at -1hp]. The other guard sees his comrade collapse, takes one look at Theophilus holding the bloody knife, and then bolts [ML 9, but failed].

[Q: Are any servants coming? 50/50: O2 C3 - No, but... more guards 1d6=2]

Two more guards appear at the end of the hall. "Your mistress is in pain!" shouts Theophilus, to make himself heard above Felicitas' screams. "I must fetch a physician at once!" [reaction 2d6=10]

They rush to their Mistress' side, and wave away Theophilus in their panic and confusion. He runs out into the street, followed by the two priests. As soon as they are out the front door...

[Q: Are any ruffians still nearby? Unlikely (5+): O5 C4 - Yes; 1d8=2 of them (at random, d&g)
Q: Do the PCs have a head start? 50/50: O5 C6 - Yes

Everyone has the same Movement rate, so just making 1d20 rolls; The party get +3 for their head start. Rolls:

Theophilus 19
Valentinus 17
Mikuláš 22
ruffian d 19
ruffian g 18]

... they are spotted by two of the ruffians from earlier, who crept back to lie in wait since they entered the house.

d m  5 16  5 12 15 13  6 10 +1 club (1d4)
g m  6 16 10 13  7  8  7 12 -1 short sword (1d6)

They give chase at once, and Mikuláš, Theophilus, and Valentinus all run off in different directions. The two bravos are after Valentinus, and one gets close enough to slash open the back of his cassock -- and his back -- with a his sword [both attack, one hits for 2 damage, leaving him at 2hp].

He sprints down a side street, barely aware of the pain, just a strange and breezy feeling at his back, and eventually loses his pursuers.

[Q: Do T&M make it to safety? 50/50: O6 C6 - Yes (average inn, 5sp each)
+Event: Horror - PC (Valentinus) - Punish / The public]

Valentinus has no light, but eventually makes it to a cheap inn (1sp), the kind where no one is going to ask why there's a bleeding priest looking for lodgings. He throws a silver Groschen at the innkeep for a private room, and stumbles upstairs. He has the presence of mind to wrap a sheet round himself for a bandage, then whispers a quick prayer for deliverance before passing out face-first on the bed.

When he wakes the next morning, the inn is completely silent: no sound of servants bustling through the corridors, no murmur of voices coming up from the common room, no creaking floorboards above. Valentinus gets up, and finds the sheet he'd wrapped round himself is now stuck to the wound in his back. "I'll just give the innkeep a few Kreuzers for it," he thinks. "The blood will never come out, anyway."

But when he opens the door of his room, a gory spectacle is before him. Mutilated bodies and parts of bodies are sprawled in heaps all along the corridor, and congealing blood is splashed up the walls almost to the ceiling. Every other person in the inn has been killed most horribly whilst he slept. A blind panic overtakes him, and he dashes down the steps and out into the street. He runs to the nearest church to seek sanctuary.


  1. Fantastic, absolutely fantastic. I can't wait to read what happens next. I noticed your solo games have a high KIA rate. Is that something which is part of LotFP?

    1. Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it. I will try to post more soon, but real life is a whirlwind at the moment. November should see more a more regular posting schedule.

      LotFP is definitely known for a high incidence of PC death. The rules themselves are actually a bit more forgiving than B/X D&D, but the implied setting's ethos always skews towards Call of Cthulhu. Part of it is definitely my implementation though. I'm s really severe solo GM, and pretty forgiving with other players. My high school CoC game only killed off 2 PCs, and it was their own foolishness that did it. Conversely, my pre-blog Traveller solo campaign was a meat grinder.

  2. Great, I love this! Rudolfine Prague is a very interesting setting.

    1. Thanks. It's a setting I've wanted to try for ages.