Thursday, 30 November 2017

LotFP solo - Part VII: Walpurgisnacht

Theophilus is convinced that the family portraits hanging in the salon must contain some clue to the goings-on in the Domus Horatiorum. He examines them carefully, and exhorts his two companions to help. They read every inscription, and are disappointed to find them all of the Nomen + anno aetatis suae variety. Valentinus is certain that if a clue is to be found, it will be coded somehow amongst the numerous busts of famous Romans. Yet other than an inordinate fondness for the Severan dynasty, he can find nothing of actual significance.

Scene 20

Madness (d6)

Setup: d6=4, Interrupt (was: explore house)
Interrupt: NPC negative - look / hands

[The above was technically from the end of scene 18:
left to d20=12, salon
no encounter,treasure,hazard,feature
Q: Any clues? 50/50 (4+): O3 C2 - No, and... all very conventional. 2 turns wasted]

Whilst the other two are musing over paintings and sculptures, Fr. Mikuláš notices the burns on his fingers are spreading. The redness and throbbing in his fingertips from touching the strange candles is starting to move further down his hand. He hides his injury in his sleeve, and hopes the others don't notice. Fortunately, they are too wrapped up in their own private ideas to notice the beads of sweat on his forehead.

[Q: Will he say anything? 50/50 (4+): O2 C5 - No.

N.B. no track for this - scene xp will go to M only, if he survives]

Scene 21 - track A

Madness (d6)

Setup: explore house

NPC list: Eufemia Švarcová, Felicitas z Trautenberka, Fr. Mikuláš

Threads: Eufemia's illness, get book

[d20=13, entry hall; no encounter]

They finally give up in the salon, and decide to try their luck elsewhere, which this time seems to be the house's entry hall, though the front door is conspicuously absent. Moreover, there is the gruesome corpse of a young man [Pauwel] whose midsection has been torn apart, spilling blood and innards all over the floor. A rapier lies nearby, though it is unclear how much of a fight the man could have put up. Whatever killed him cannot have been human, for it seems to have slithered away, leaving a wide track of blood leading down the hall from the corpse and into a doorway.

[Actually, it was just Kateřina's skirts that made the trail. None of the N/PCs present know Pauwel.]

Mikuláš looks as if he's going to be sick. Valentinus is worried that the killer from the inn [end of scene 4] has followed him here somehow -- or was here all along. Theophilus is just glad it isn't him.

"Whatever did that...," gasps Mikuláš, "it went that way."

"Let's not go that way," says Valentinus.

"Do you think it will matter?" asks Theophilus. "Do you think we'll go to the same place? We haven't gone back the same way even entering and leaving by the same door."

"I'd rather not find out," replies Valentinus. "Let's go this way instead."

[to d20=7, brother's room (this brother is the NPC magic-user who hasn't appeared yet)

Room contents (via Scarlet Heroes): encounter, treasure

encounter is: (1d10) 1-2 Zdeňka / Skin Demon, 3-4 Blood Demon, 5-6 innocent (free), 7-8 innocent (bound), 9-0 other conspirator

d10=6, 1d6=m

The 'Page' result made me instantly think of the use of young boys for onychomancy (divination by gazing at the fingernail) as described in Richard Keickhefer's excellent Forbidden Rights, an analysis of a 15th century grimoire of black magic (Codex Latinus Monachensis 849 in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Munich).

Karl, a lad of 14
German, mercantile class
CH 11 CN 14  DX 8 IN 11 ST 10 WI 7
HP 4 AC 11 ML 7

Q: Armed? likely (3+): O5 C4 - Yes, but... not handy.

The doorway takes them to a sumptuous bedroom. Stretched out on the bed with his back to the door is a lad of about 14. He is flipping distractedly through an old, oversized history book, looking only at the engravings, and is eating candy from a silver bowl. He hears the door close, and starts speaking even before he has turned round. "I waited like you said, and... Who are you? How did you get in here?"

"For whom are you waiting, child?" asks Valentinus.

"I'll ask the questions here! Who are you, anyway? You don't look like burglars."

"We aren't," says Theophilus. "We're looking for our friend. She was taken inside this house."

"Well, I haven't seen her. I haven't seen anyone except you fools. And if she's anything like the three of you, I can't think of a single reason your friend would have been brought here. They have standards, you know." [UNE:hostile - judgment - friends]

"Watch your tongue, boy, whilst you still have use of it!" snaps Theophilus.

The lad seems unperturbed by Theophilus' threat. "You're all going to die, you know. Coming here was a mistake." [mysterious - whispers - enemy]

"You don't say?"

"Once it's started, there's nothing you can do to stop it. And he'll destroy you all for interfering. Or trespassing. Or just being somewhere you oughtn't. And when it happens, I'll laugh..."

Theophilus lowers his arquebus, approaches the lad, and back-hands him across his mouth with all his might.

[hit for 1d2=1 damage, down to 3hp
Q: Does this change his attitude? Likely (3+): O2 C4 - No, but... it does shut him up for the moment.]

"Are we finished?" asks Theophilus. "Good." He then addresses his companions in Latin. "Now what to do about this one... do we take him with us?"

"Take him with us? Why?" asks Mikuláš.

"As a guide, perhaps. Or a hostage, should things continue to worsen."

"I believe that is prudent," says Valentinus.

[Q: Does Mikuláš agree? Likely (3+): O4 C5 - Yes.]

"Agreed," says Mikuláš.

Theophilus turns back to the boy. "Get up. You're coming with us. But step out of line again and I won't be so restrained as I was just now. Understood?"

He nods eagerly.

"Now tell me," asks Theophilus, "what's going on here?"

"My master is preparing to open the vault of worlds -- by himself -- and by so doing take all the power to himself. And he's promised me that I will sit at his right hand, and... and... well, it will be a power beyond reckoning, and--"

"Where's this vault?"

"In the cellar."

"How do we get there?"

"Why, go down the stairs, of course. Then down the other stairs. And then the others. How else does one get to a cellar?"

"Where does that door lead?" snaps Theophilus, pointing angrily.

"Where...? The landing! What sort of stup-- um, what sort of question is that?"

"Come on. Out. You first, we'll follow."

The lad hops to his feet, lest Theophilus strike him again. He doesn't have time to wonder at the inky blackness when the door is opened, for he is shoved roughly through.

[to d20=15, shrine

Q: Blood demon still there? 50/50 (4+): O2 C4 - No, but... signs of its passing
Q: Altar destroyed? Likely (3+): O2 C3 - No, but... candles knocked over
Q: Architect still there? 50/50 (4+): O4 C2 - Yes, and...

Archibald(us) Cook - the Architect
English, professional, protestant (CofE)
specialist, lv 1, architecture 5
languages: English, Latin, German, Czech
CH 12 CN 13 DX 9 IN 13 ST 11 WI 11
HP 2/6, AC 12

the lad's ML 2d6=7, just; doesn't falter, but too shocked to speak
Archibald's reaction 2d6=11, friendly]

The room they come into looks to have been the scene of a slaughter. Blood is pooled about on the floor, splashed over all the walls, and even drips from the ceiling. There is some sort of pagan altar at the far side of the room. Sever of the candles that once lit it have been knocked to the floor, and were extinguished when they rolled into the blood.

A man is half-lying against the altar, weeping. He is bloodied from head to toe; it's a wonder he yet lives.

"You're hurt!" exclaims Valentinus.

"No, I'm... Yes, I'm hurt... it's not all mine..."

"Whose is it? What happened?"

"You wouldn't believe me if I told you!"

"Try me," says Theophilus, his shock at the scene being rapidly replaced by his growing impatience.

"He... he summoned a demon to kill me!"

"Who did? Make some sense, man!"

"Mucius-- Herr Grollenbach. He must have decided I'm no longer required, now that I've built the mechanism."

"The mechanism?"

"The mechanism which opens the vault. Or rather, allows one to open it. I don't know that I can explain."


"There is a vault in the basement, older than this house. And there's a door carved into one of the walls. It's covered in sigils, and can't be opened; indeed it's just solid carved stone. The Grollenbachs have been trying to open it for years, tracking down the proper rituals and necessary supplies to complete them. These rituals must be performed at the proper time, and what's more, at the proper time. Now, are you familiar with Al-Kindi? You are? Good. The rituals require that the operators work under the proper astral influences, but the proper conjunctions won't occur for thousands of years. So I was brought in to design and build a machine as a kind of lens, to deflect the stellar rays and celestial emanations down into the vault, so the ritual can take place. Tonight."

"So what happened? What about all this blood?"

"The demon's."

"You vanquished a demon"

"Hardly. It was made of the stuff... it splashed everywhere. It chased me here, I don't remember how, and I thought the shrine would protect me. It didn't seem to be bothered by it. Then the door opened, and a woman came through, or it grabbed her. She got away from it and ran, and I thought it would go after her. It didn't. It stayed and grabbed me and held me and... and... it's too horrible! I wish it had killed me."

"What happened?"

"It left me with this." He holds open a tear in his shirt to reveal a bulbous and glowing protrusion under his skin. "And then it left."

"Can you walk?"

"I'm not sure... I think so."

Scene 22 - track B

Madness (d6)

Setup: explore the house

NPC list: Daniela (maid), Zdeňka (maid/skin-demon), Floris (thief)

Threads: investigate brothel, investigate death

[d20=1, mechanism room (honestly what I rolled; the serendipity of solo gaming sometimes mimics proper narrative)]

The mechanism takes up most of the oddly-shaped attic room in which it has been built. There is a large, rotating central column of polished brass in the room's centre, going from floor to ceiling, around which the rest of the mechanism is in constant motion. There are huge assemblages of gears, looking like the parts of some gigantic and unearthly clock, connected to springs, coils, levers, plates and lenses. Polished stone fittings are to be seen throughout, as well as precious metal rods and pendula, and gemstones arrayed in whorling patterns. It ticks and hums and whirs and creaks in a of semi-rhythmical cacophony.

"What is it?" says Floris, dumbfounded.

"Don't touch!" says Judit. "Šimon, does this look like anything you've ever seen?"

"No," says the clockmaker. "It's... I don't know. I've never seen anything like it. It moves, but to no purpose... or to some occult purpose, at which I hardly dare guess."

"This must be one of the rooms we were forbidden to enter," says the maid.

"Is it responsible for what's going on here?" asks Judit.

"It might be," says Šimon.  "Or it might only be a part of what's happening."

"What do you think we should do?"

[Q: Does Floris pipe up? 50/50 (4+): O4 C5 - Yes.
1d4: 1 try to stop it, 2 try to destroy it, 3 sit and watch it, 4 leave it alone]

"We should see if there's a way to stop this thing," says Floris. "Maybe it will return things to normal."

The others look on in fascination whilst Šimon goes about examining the mechanism.

[He needs to roll against Tinker (4): 1d6=1, success.
Q: Is there an obvious way to stop it? (d10): 1-2 yes, it's easy; 3-4 yes, but it's difficult; 5-6 yes, but it's dangerous; 7-8 not without breaking it; 9-0 no way at all]

He studies it for a while, peering at it from every side. Finally he stands up straight (as he is able) and says, "I think I could do it. But it would be difficult. Judit, I'll need your help. And yours, my dear child."

Šimon directs Judit and Daniela to pull on certain pairs of levers. He stresses that the three of them must all perform their task at the same time, or the gears might snap instead of slowing to a halt.

[They all need to make Tinker rolls modified by Strength (skill levels: Šimon 4-2=2, Judit 1+0=1, Daniela 1+1=2). Two out of three rolls must succeed.
3d6= 5,1,2 success.

effect (1d10): 1-2 everything back to normal, 3-4 ritual altered, 5-6 magical backlash, 7-8 releases entity, 9-0 too late - no effect

d10=3. The alteration will be determined later (Scene 25)]

The strange machine begins to slow, and as they keep pressure on the levers, it eventually comes to an abrupt stop. Everyone waits, almost afraid to breathe, training to hear or perhaps feel a change in the environment. Floris finally breaks the silence. "This is stupid. Let's just try the door."

He throws it open, only to be greeted by impenetrable darkness. "Dammit! There must be some way out of this maze!"

Downcast, the rest follow him through. At first they end up in the kitchen, and once the disorientation fades they make a hasty exit. Leaving there they are transported to...

[d20=10, master bedroom
Feature (Scarlet Heroes): A prisoner or victim of the dungeon inhabitants: A hapless civilian being held for ransom or sacrifice]

...a grand bed chamber, which is the scene of recent, awful carnage. It is uncertain just how many persons met their end here, but no one -- not even Floris -- wants to wade through the pools of blood and gobbets of flesh strewn about the room in search of clues and/or valuables. They make a hasty exit, and end up in [d20=19] the study.

There is probably some order to the apparent chaos in the room. Books are piled high on every horizontal surface, and the shelves are overflowing. The oversized desk is hidden beneath piles of parchments, upon which many strange and colourful diagrams and symbols have been scribbled.

"What is all this nonsense? asks Floris, perusing the papers.

"Horoscopes, astrological charts, and the like," answers Šimon.

"Does any of it relate to today?" asks Judit.

[search rolls all fail]

Scene 23 - track A

Madness (d6)

Setup: explore house

NPC list: Eufemia Švarcová, Felicitas z Trautenberka, Fr. Mikuláš, ruffians

Threads: Eufemia's illness, get book

As Judit, Šimon, and Floris are rifling through the books and papers, the door opens. They wheel about to see a young lad in fine clothing stumble out of the blackness of the doorway, followed by Valentinus, Theophilus, Mikuláš, and Archibald.

"It's a bit cramped in here," complains the lad.

"You!" shouts Valentinus. "I should have known I'd find you involved in this unholy plot, you deviant. Prepare to die, servant of evil!"

He raises his crossbow and takes aim at Šimon, but hesitates.

"O holy father," says Šimon, "how could you possibly think I am involved in all this?"

"Don't call me that! You insult the Holy Mother Church with such mocking speech!"

Judit moves between them, her rapier drawn. "Who threatens pan Kac threatens me. Lower your weapon. Now!"

"All of you, stop this nonsense!" shouts Theophilus. "It won't get us anywhere. Do either of you know-- hey, where'd that damnable child go?"

The lad had slipped away in the few moments all attention was focussed on Valentinus, [2d6=8, Karl failed ML/loyalty] who even now is still aiming his crossbow at Šimon, who keeps stepping out from behind Judit to taunt him.

"They're not of this house," says Archibald. "I would say that makes them our allies."

Theophilus and Archibald eventually persuade Valentinus to see reason. Judit convinces Šimon (in Hebrew, lest the others hear their disagreement) to stop tormenting the priest. In the end, an uneasy alliance is formed.

Scene 24 - track c

Madness (d6)

Setup: chaos die = 3, Interrupt (was: get to vault)
Interrupt: Horror - PC - perceive / sentiments

NPC list: Cloelia (cleric), Brutus (brother), Dr. Helvetius (astrologer)

Threads: Eufemia's illness, get book

Brutus and Dr. Helvetius exit the garret room, leaving Kateřina alone for a moment with Cloelia.  As they are standing over the unconscious maid and deciding
 how best to move her, Cloelia suddenly grabs Kateřina by the wrist and whispers a hideous threat. Kateřina shrieks, and tries to pull away. Cloelia's eyes glitter in the candlelight.

"Oh come!" she sneers. "I'm not going to kill you now. Who'll help me with this? Perhaps she's the only thing keeping you from being cut down the middle, and your insides offered up in sacrifice."

Kateřina backpedals as swift as she might, and begins to mutter an incantation. Cloelia springs towards her, grabbing her by the hair. She pulls back her fist...

[initiative rolls: 3,3 -- tied; dex 16 vs. 14, K's Charm spell is cast first. save d20=8, failure]

...and stops suddenly short of punching Kateřina in the face. "I-- I'm sorry," babbles Cloelia as the spell washes over her. "I don't know what came over me. I... this is all so very disquieting. I just lost my temper. I didn't mean it, honestly I didn't. Please, please don't be cross with me."

"No, I understand," says Kateřina. "It is forgotten. Let's not talk about it again. We must find the vault like you said, dearest."

Scene 25 - track c

Madness (d6)

Setup: get to vault

NPC list: Cloelia (cleric), Brutus (brother), Dr. Helvetius (astrologer)

Threads: Eufemia's illness, get book

Kateřina and Cloelia drag the unconscious maid into [d20=12] the salon, where Brutus and Dr. Helvetius are waiting. They continue on, and end up in [d20=8] the kitchen, from which they make another quick exit. When their disorientation subsides, they find they have finally come to the hidden vault below the house.

They have emerged onto the landing at the top of a rough, narrow staircase, which looks for all the world like it leads to the dungeons beneath an old castle. There is the suggestion of a doorway behind them, but the door itself is gone; it is as if they have just stepped out of a bare wall.

They make their way down the steps and into the vault itself, a long, low chamber with unevenly hewn stones lining the walls and floor, and unfaced square columns supporting the roof.  Dozens of candles illumine the vault, about half of which appear to have been knocked over. The floor is covered in immense chalk circles and diagrams, bearing characteres, sigilla, and names of magical import. Bitter incense perfumes the air; the bronze censer lies on the floor by foot of the stairs, dented, having been hurled there with some force. On the far wall is great carven doorway of black stone, set into the natural stone of the chamber itself. The intricate carvings of dragons and monsters are whorled round with knot work and vines, and present a decidedly pagan aspect. Before the doorway is the crouched figure of a man, weeping uncontrollably.

[Some die rolls for set-up:

Contents (SH): encounter, treasure

encounter? (d10): 1-2 just Mucius (the M-U), 3-4 Zdeňka (maid/skin-demon), 5-6 blood demon, 7-8 something else, 9-0 roll 2d8

1d10=1, Mucius (the treasure is on him)

How long until the ritual is complete? (d4) 1 rounds 2 minutes 3 turns 4 already finished:  1d4=4

In another perfect example of solo-rpg serendipity, the mechanism was stopped on this very turn, so I need to determine the Alteration to the ritual (from scene 22). I also need to know if the M-U knew what he was doing when he started without the others.

Q: Did the magic-user know what he was doing? 50/50 (4+): O2 C5 - No. He's opened a portal to somewhere else.

Q: What is altered when the mechanism stops?
Alteration (1d12): 1 kills officiant, 2 random effect on officiant, 3 random effect on everyone, 4 good and bad effect on everyone, 5 bestows flawed power, 6 ruins spell ability, 7 random spell centred on officiant, 8 one of those weird summon results, 9 temporal fluctuations, 10 random LL spell centred on officiant, 11 portal unstable, 12 possession


who speaks first? 1-4 Cloelia 5-8 Mucius 9-10 Brutus 11-12 Dr. Helvetius


NPC Relationship: neutral
Conversation Mood: withdrawn
friendly - aid - family]

"Mucius, why did you do this?" says Brutus with genuine concern. "Starting without us was ill-advised at best. You could've been killed."

Mucius starts at the sound of his brother's voice. He wipes his face upon his sleeve, then turns to face his siblings. "I wish I had been killed!" he says. "My magic is gone. All of it. I don't know what happened... this is a disaster. I can't even open the portal."

"Did it fail, then?" asks Brutus.

"No. Look at the door. There's a gap -- it's no longer plain rock. There's something behind it now. Can't you feel the current of air coming from beyond it?"

"You've made another mess of things," says Cloelia [insane - illusion - future action]. "And whatever you were planning has come to nothing even before you've gotten started. Just another one of your foolish daydreams. Now, let's see what... you've... done......" be continued

my time & location tracker sheet

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