Monday, 31 October 2016


I always write a ghost spooky story for Halloween.

You can read it here. The link should take you to the English translation. Scroll down if it doesn't.

(At si latine legere mavis, hoc vinculo utere.)

Saturday, 22 October 2016

House Rules for LotFP Magic in the Early Modern Period

The study of magic as both art and science is the subject of countless treatises, both laudable and infamous. Wildly varying opinions on its use and origin -- whether it be truly Inspired of God or all a great Enticement of the Divell -- have caused both saints (Albertus Magnus) and sinners (Iohannes Faustus) alike to be viewed as great magicians.

For our purposes, O Viator, the distinction is of little importance. All magic has some commonalities, and it is the approach to its practice which needs must concern us.

The pious Cleric, then, must be contrasted with the profane Magic-User, for they both command the same forces. The cleric's path is that of Natural Magic, whereas the magic-user seeks to subvert the natural order by force of will. Both, in the end, call upon spirits and the occult forces in nature to work their spells, whether Thaumaturgical or Theurgical.

I like the distinction between clerics and magic-users, but I also want the magic in the game to seem more like actual early modern magic than just D&D. To wit, I've devised a few house rules. The intent was to make only minor adjustments so as to leave as much of the rulebook intact as possible. I've still erred on the side of more game-like than realistic, else transcribing spells would be measured in turns and casting in days.

First level cleric spells can function as written, and are "memorised" through prayer as in the book. For second level spells and higher, clerics will need a spellbook exactly as do magic-users.

Spellbooks are written in natural languages, though the writing may be hidden or obscured by various means: steganography, substitute alphabets, codes, enchantments, or simple bad handwriting. Read Magic is thus no longer needed (strike from the spell list), but Comprehend Languages may be.

Furthermore, clerics and magic-users may learn spells off each other's lists, but the spells will count as being one level higher. Thus, a cleric may learn and prepare Magic Missile as a second level spell from their spellbook, and a magic-user may learn and prepare Cure Light wounds as a second level spell from theirs (n.b. as a second level spell, it must be memorised through study, not prayer). The rules for spell casting can remain as is (though see Ritual Magic below), with the spell list from which the spell is taken determining the procedure. Thus, the Encumbrance restrictions for casting spells on the Magic-User list apply to Clerics casting them as well.

Clerics start with access to their whole first level list, but gain second level and higher spells exactly as do magic-users. Spells gained for "free" when gaining a character level must be rolled on one's own class list.

Clerics casting lots of magic-user spells -- or even just higher level cleric ones -- will most certainly run afoul of the Church authorities.

Note that these rules are meant to apply to PCs and NPCs using spells from the main rulebook. Magic discovered in mysterious tomes from other worlds can and should function differently.

Now, as to individual rules changes (page references to the Rules & Magic book)...

Beginning Spells (p.79)
Read Magic is no longer needed, so a beginning Magic-User's spellbook just contains three random first level spells (an elf's would contain just one).

Preparing Spells Each Day (p.79)
~as written~

Spell Scrolls (p.80)
Scrolls are written in natural languages, so magic-users use the cleric rules. Additionally, magic-users and clerics can now use each other's scrolls interchangeably. Like a spellbook, the language of a scroll may be disguised with obscure alphabets or written in code, requiring a bit of decipherment (or a Comprehend Languages spell) to use.

The spell scroll is a D&D convention rather than a real-world one. The Greek magical papyri may look like the classical D&D scroll, but they are in fact spellbooks. In a campaign grounded more in the real world than a fantasy one, scrolls may not appear, or be very rare items. In their stead, I have created rules for Talismans.

An instance of the Divination spell (PGM II 141-175, LotFP Rules and Magic p.101)

Talismans ~new~
A Talisman, usually a scrap of parchment or small charm, may be enchanted with a one-use spell that affects the item's user (only). Use the rules for creating Spell Scrolls for time and cost. A parchment talisman requires the use of a library, others will require a laboratory. A non-spellcaster may use a talisman, but must make a saving throw vs. magic in order to "cast" the spell. If the save is failed, the magic simply does not activate, and a new attempt may be made on the next round.

Curse tablets may be made in the same way. The magic (specifically, the Bestow Curse spell) is released when the subject of the curse passes through a certain area wherein the tablet lies buried. Alternately, if a part of the victim (hair, nail clippings, blood, etc.) is affixed to a poppet or wax figure, the curse can be sent over a small distance (e.g. within the same city).

Writing a scroll (p.80)
~as written~

Transcribing Spells (p.80)
...from a Scroll to a Spellbook
This is not really possible, as only the end process will be visible, and much of the theory behind it will not be recorded. A spell scroll (or parchment talisman) will reduce the total research time to learn a new spell by Spell Level x 1d6 Days. This process uses up the magic of the scroll.

...from Spellbook to Spellbook
As written, provided the magic-user can read the language of the spellbook (Read Magic is no longer needed).

Alternately, you can hire a scholar to do the transcription for you. Roll time normally with no INT modifiers, and add the cost to the normal rate for a scholar shown on the retainers table. There is a 10% chance that an error or an idiosyncrasy of the transcriber will creep in, rendering a spell useless by the PC spellcaster. Check for each spell the first time it is cast.

Researching a Spell (p.80)
~as written~

Creating a Potion (p.81)
As written, though the magic-user will not necessarily need the help of a cleric.

Creating a Staff or Wand (p.81)
~as written~

Ritual casting ~new~
A spell may be cast as a ritual. Use the costs and times for Writing a Scroll as indicated in the rule book, but treat the spell as being one level lower (thus, a Magic-User casting a 3rd level cleric spell as a ritual treats it as a 3rd level spell).

Option: Ritual magic may even be attempted by non-spellcasters, though it is much less certain. They treat all spells as two levels higher, and have an effective caster level of half their actual level (round all fractions down, minimum level equivalent of one). They must also make a saving throw versus magic or the ritual simply fails and all preparations are wasted.

Time of Magical Activities (p.82)
Transcription and Research need not be completed all at once; however, each interruption adds 1 day per spell level to the time remaining. All other operations fail if interrupted.

Rolling for time taken: Intelligence modifiers are now applied to the die rolls BEFORE multiplying by spell levels, but all operations other than creating a staff or wand have a minimum of 1 day per spell level. Supplies must be purchased in advance (at the indicated costs). Running out will cause the operation to be interrupted. If more supplies are purchased than are needed, the excess can be used for the next research or enchanting procedure, but will only count as 1d100% of their purchased value  due to the differing requirements of each individual operation. Transcription from one book to another does not require a library, but neither can it be aided by the services of a hired scholar (all other rules for libraries, laboratories, and retainers are unchanged).

Option: Change the cost of transcription from book to book (only) to copper pieces. Even coloured ink isn't that expensive.

Libraries and Laboratories (p.83)
As written, but note that Clerics will need these now as well.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

LotFP solo - Horror adventure : epilogue

When Lalie and Éliane finally wake up the next morning, the sun is streaming in the window of their room at the village inn. Éliane sits up, stretches and yawns heartily. Lalie is still half-hiding under the covers in her bed across the room. Éliane moves to the small window and peers out. "How long did we sleep?" she asks.

"Dunno," says Lalie. "Can't be past ten. We asked the landlady to wake us."

"I think she forgot. The sun's way too high for it to still be morning."

"After what we've been through, I wouldn't be surprised if she did try to wake us and we just slept through it."

Éliane just yawns again in reply, and rubs the sleep from her eyes. After a few moments she throws on a cloak over her shift. "Well I'm going to make her bring us breakfast anyways," she says.

She unbolts the door and pushes it ajar then recoils, wrinkling her nose. "Ugh! it smells like someone's been picking wildflowers..."

[You know that part of the horror movie where it looks like everything is over, but the monster shows up that one more time...? It's harder to do in a blog, but I like to play with formats--

surprise rolls: PCs 5, it 1]

Suddenly, Éliane slams the door and throws the bolt.

"What? What's wrong?" asks Lalie, sitting bolt upright.

Éliane snatches the pistols from the night table. "It's followed us here. That... that thing!"

Lalie grabs a pistol and her sword belt, strapping it haphazardly over her night shift. "Do you think it saw you?"

The door rattles as a heavy form smashes against it.

"I'd say it did."

Lalie and Éliane back onto their beds away from the door. Lalie puts her pistols down in easy reach, and prepares to use her magic.

The thing smashes against the door once, twice, and on the third go the door bursts open as the bolt is ripped free from the frame.

[Round 1 - initiative: PCs 6, it 3]
Lalie speaks a quick incantation as the thing bursts into the room. Greenish flames leap from her fingertips and play over the beast, eating away at its gruesome hide [casts magic missile for 2d4=7 damage; it's down to 11hp]. Éliane discharges a pistol even as it leaps at her. The ball rips into its shoulder, and putrid brown ooze sprays from the wound [3 damage puts it at 8hp]. It contorts in pain and its jaws snap shut well short of Éliane [rolled a 5, missed].

[Round 2]
Éliane fires her second pistol right between its shoulders. It whimpers once and loses all the strength in its limbs, flopping down senseless on the floor [8 damage puts it a 0hp]. Lalie draws her rapier and leaps down atop it, piercing its torso and ramming the point of her blade into the floorboards beneath it [4 damage kills it].

She wipes the steaming gore from her sword on the blankets. Éliane is already reloading her pistols. Both dress in haste and run out of the room, gagging from the overpowering smell of honeysuckle radiating from the slain abomination.

All the other inhabitants of the inn have either been slaughtered or fled, but there are still horses in the stable. Our heroines help themselves to a fine pair, and ride hard for Amiens.

~ fin ~

(their next adventure begins here)

Friday, 14 October 2016

LotFP solo - Horror adventure : part III

Scene 7

Madness (d6)

Setup: d6=4, Interrupt (was: follow ghost to get their equipment back)
Interrupt:  PC negative - doubt / Friend (see below)

NPC list: Nicodème the coachman, Isabeau his daughter, Jeanne the mystery woman, Philippe the drunken rake, Frère Martin the monk, Frère Achille the novice, lord & lady of manor, servants

Threads: get equipment back, escape

Lalie and Éliane creep down a ladder into the blackness of a bare and dusty attic. When their eyes adjust to the their new surroundings, they find that their spectral guide is nowhere in sight. The pair slink forward to see a door at the foot of another stair opening, seemingly of its own accord. They follow down the steps, and out into a dark landing.

"Which way do we go?" whispers Éliane. "Now I really can't see."

As if in response, a door at end of the landing slowly opens.

[Q: Is there light beyond? 50/50 (4+): O6 C4 - Yes, but...]

A faint light comes from the room beyond. Lalie and Éliane make their way towards the feeble luminescence, moving as quietly as possible, though the floorboards creak and groan beneath their feet.

[1d6=1, PCs surprised]

A shout comes from behind: "Get them!"

They turn instinctively at the sound, to see a man wearing a costly, brocaded doublet scuttling along the ceiling behind them on all fours.

[1d6=] Four servants are in the dimly lit room ahead. They all grab knives and rush onto the landing.

"You're surrounded!" says the man as he scurries down onto the floor. "Put down your weapons if you want to live!"

There seems no choice for our heroines but to comply.

[The man in the brocade is a magic-user. When I rolled the Doubt / Friend interrupt, it suddenly seemed obvious that the ghost was really an illusion. I rolled a random Magic-User of level 1d6+2, giving (d6=) him Phantasmal Force and rolling the rest of his spells randomly. He used Unseen Servant to open the doors, and Spider Climb to sneak down behind the PCs.]

Magic-user, 5th Level, HP 11
CH 4 CN 9 DX 11 IN 16 ST 8 WI 11
Spells: 1st-- charm person, (spider climb), (unseen servant); 2nd-- (phantasmal force), mirror image; 3rd-- howl of the moon

Scene 8

Madness (d6)

Setup: chaos die=4, Interrupt (was: taken to prison)
Interrupt:  NPC action - Magic-user - perceive / presence

NPC list: Nicodème the coachman, Isabeau his daughter, Jeanne the mystery woman, Philippe the drunken rake, Frère Martin the monk, Frère Achille the novice, lord & lady of manor, servants, Magic-user

Threads: get equipment back, escape

The well-dressed mage has a pair of knife-wielding servants accompany him to march Éliane and Lalie down to the cellar of the manor house. He seems stylish and elegant in his expensive clothing and neatly-trimmed greying beard, but Lalie notes that his jewellery is very simple, and he wears no signet ring; he must be an underling to the manor's lord. But he does take a certain interest in the duo.

"You're the two with the rather interesting travelling chest," says the mage.

"I don't know what you mean," says Lalie.

"Haudquaquam ignoras, venefica."

"Heu, recte dicis."

"If you two are going to talk all wizardy," interjects Éliane, "then please just kill me now."

"My apologies, good lady. But I mean to say that you may be of more use to use than the rest of that rabble with whom you were travelling. But hold! what's that smell? No! It's got in the house! Take them! I give them to you! Leave me alone!"

A cloying smell of honeysuckle fills the air. Moments later, a terrible beast pads into the light. It is the size and general shape of a mastiff, with rotten, mangy skin hanging off its frame in festering tatters. In the places where its skin has fallen away, a steaming red chitin shows through, as if something alien and malign is growing beneath.

It regards the assemblage of trembling humans with empty, smouldering eye sockets, and launches itself at the nearest one. As the others look on in paralytic horror, the beast tears the unfortunate man apart with tooth and claw, then raises its bloody snout and emits a slow, sweetly-scented sigh.

[At some point I made a monster generator (on an automated Excel spreadsheet) combining the tables at the back of No Salvation for Witches with the powers table from the Summon Spell. So:

Form: Mange-covered hound.
Appendage: Scalding hot red exoskeleton
Smell: Honeysuckle

Nameless Beast (AC: 15, HD 4, Move: 150', 1 attack, Dmg: 1d8+paralysis, ML: 9, Special: Immune to cold)

It had won the initiative. The PCs are next, followed by the NPCs.]

Without a moment's hesitation, Lalie, Éliane, and their captors all turn tail and flee. The terrific beast bounds after them.

[Chase rules -- everyone rolls 1d20 + their movement rate.
E 16+12
L 8+12
MU 2+12
serv 3+12
it 9+15
The Magic-user is slowest...]

Éliane easily out-distances the rest, running blindly through room after room. Lalie is not terribly far behind, followed by the knife-wielding chambermaid. The well-dressed wizard is a poor runner, and the beast catches up with him. None dare pause when they hear his sudden sharp scream, nor the sounds of rending flesh thereafter.

[8 damage brought the M-U to 3hp, but he failed his save against paralysis.

I rolled a random location on the Scarlet Heroes dungeon-habitation places table to see where their flight took the PCs; d20=great hall

Q: Does the servant follow? Likely (3+): O6 C6 - Yes
+Event:  Move toward a thread - get equipment back - surprize / door]

In her panic Éliane runs straight past the front door and into the great hall. Lalie and the chambermaid follow close behind. Éliane skirts the long table and sideboards, throws open the first door she sees, and ducks inside. Lalie bursts in right after, then the chambermaid, who pulls the door quickly to.

Inside the small parlour is a small table with -- wonder of wonders! -- the little travelling chest and the rest of Éliane's and Lalie's possessions spread out over it.

[Initiative rolls were tied; the chambermaid has DEX 8]

Éliane [18 dex] grabs one of the pistols before the maid has time to react. Lalie [9 dex] follows suit a moment later. The two train their pistols on the young woman.

[She has a ML of 7, with a -2 penalty for the circumstances, but 2d6=5] The maid has a crazed look in her eye, whether it be terror or bravado or simple madness none can say. She rushes at Lalie, stabbing downward with her gleaming knife. The blade bites into her shoulder and she cries out in surprise [2 damage drops her to 4hp].

[Round 2]
Éliane hesitates, surprised at this turn of events. But Lalie doesn't waver, reacting before she even feels the pain of her wound. She presses her pistol into the centre of the maid's stomach and discharges it. The report is deafening in the small space. The ball erupts out of the maid's back in a shower of blood, flesh, and fragments of spine, and embeds itself in the heavy wooden door. The maid crumples [8 damage drops her to -3hp, mortally wounded].

"Shit!" cries Éliane, "Now everyone will know where we are!"

"Then grab our chest and lets away!"

[Q: Do they have time to grab all their stuff before anyone comes looking? 50/50 (4+): O2 C1 - No, and...

Who comes looking? (1d4): 1 the monster, 2 1d4 servants, 3 lord and/or lady, 4 roll 1d3 to see who isn't coming off that list]

They take up their things in haste. Éliane takes the little chest under her arm as Lalie throws her sword belt over her neck picks up the loose items in her skirt. Each has a pistol in their free hand.

When they rush back into the great hall, they are confronted by a group of three more servants armed with old-fashioned swords and a hunting crossbow. The servants seem nervous, and almost ignore the two women they are ostensibly here to recapture.

Then one lets out a shriek.

"That smell!" screams another. "The shot has summoned the monster!"

Éliane's nose begins to wrinkle at the cloying scent of honeysuckle, then the beast smashes through the doors into the hall.

[Initiative: PCs 4, it 1, servants 5]

Everyone starts running. The steaming horror gives gleeful chase.

[Chase rolls (Movement rate + 1d20)--
3 servants 25,15,32
L 29 E 24
it 35

Q: Can PCs get out a window in the next room? 50/50 (4+): O5 C6 - Yes
Q: Do the servants give chase? Likely (3+): O1 C 2 - No, and...
Q: Do the PCs reach a village safely? Unlikely (5+): O6 C2 - Yes, and...]

They run into the next room off the great hall as the beast pounces upon the slowest servant. The sounds of terrified screaming and breaking bones are thankfully muffled when the heavy door is closed behind them.

The two remaining servants block the door with a heavy table whilst Lalie uses a chair to smash open a window. The casement gives way, and Lalie jumps right through, followed moments later by Éliane and the two servants. The servants disappear round the back of the manor as Éliane and Lalie sprint down the drive and away.

They walk the rest of the night down the forest road, insensible to the wind and rain. The storm lets up as dawn is breaking, and our heroines come upon a sleepy village. They make straight for the inn, exchange a few words and coins with the landlady, and march up to their rooms to sleep away the entire day.

~ ~ ~ ~

Event Tables

All told, the adjusted Mythic event meaning tables worked well for me. They could probably stand a bit of editing still, but in the main I found that I spent a lot less time trying to make sense of the results in a way that fit the adventure, and I gave up on the results and re-rolled a lot less often too. On the success of this, I moved over to using the Monk charts for my main adventure as well. I wasn't expecting this to be a monster-movie adventure, but I don't think the tables are to blame. I honestly had no opinion about how the adventure should go other than see-what-happens.


The PCs have defeated a total of five 0-level humans, for (5x10xp)÷2PCs=25xp each. They got 0sp worth of treasure, for a total of 0÷2=0xp each.

My other historical game is running along much the same lines. To this end, I've devised a system for earning XP on a per-scene basis, based on the Chaos Factor table in my MCSV variations for Mythic. Each scene is now worth a set number of XP, divided equally amongst all PCs and NPCs in the party who were present. This replaces treasure XP. XP for defeating enemies is still calculated normally, especially since it will often be a matter of more than one scene (or even adventure) spent moving against a powerful enemy. I tend to run dungeons as single scenes, so those would provide XP normally. Very short scenes might not be counted for XP at all, though in longer adventures (44 scenes is my record, I think) this would all even out.

Chaos Factor Chaos Die XP
------------ --------- ---
*Boring        d20       0
Under control  d12      50
Average        d10     100
Out of control d8      150
Madness        d6      200
*Abject Chaos  d5      350
*Plaything of
   the Gods    d4      500

* optional chaos factors

Based on this, Scenes 1 & 2 were Out of Control, divided between 8 N/PCs.
Scene 3 was also Out of Control, and the party was down to the 2 PCs. Scene 4 was just Philippe, so the PCs earned nothing thereby. Scenes 5-8 descended into Madness for the 2 PCs. So:

  300÷8=  37xp
  150÷2=  75xp
+ 800÷2= 400xp
scenes:  512xp
combat:  +25xp
total:   537xp each

Thursday, 6 October 2016

LotFP solo - Horror adventure : part II

Scene 3

Out of control (d8)

Setup: through the manor

NPC list: Nicodème the coachman, Isabeau his daughter, Jeanne the mystery woman, Philippe the drunken rake, Frère Martin the monk, Frère Achille the novice, lord&lady of manor, servants

Threads: get equipment back, escape

The maid leads Éliane and Lalie out into the entrance hall, where candles still burn brightly. The rest of the manse is dark, and there are great shadows cast up the grand staircase. Éliane holds a dagger at the maid's back as they proceed.

[Q: Is anyone else about on the ground floor? 50/50 (4+): O6 C8 - Yes
Q: All servants? Unlikely (5+): O6 C1 - Yes, and... all doing more -or-less mundane things.
1d6=4 servants. reaction=6, neutral.
d6=5,4 neither side surprised.]

Despite the late hour, servants are moving to and fro on their appointed tasks. There are four in the hall and on the landing above. Éliane quickly conceals her dagger in her sleeve. Lalie does her best to hide the poker behind her back.

"Be so good as to show us up to our rooms," says Éliane.

[Q: Does this actually work? Unlikely (5+): O2 C8 - No.]

But when they get closer to the stairs, the maid leading them [1d8: 1 shouts, 2-4 runs, 5-6 attacks, 7-8 something odd; d8=4] turns and flees towards some other servants.

"Call the [d6=] master! Don't let them escape!"

The servants all run off in (d4=) four different directions. Éliane and Lalie bolt for the front door. [1d4-1=] A  single houseboy interposes himself between them and freedom.

[Round 1 - he wins initiative]
He makes a grab for Lalie, but she wrenches her arm free [failed grapple attempt]. Éliane slashes him across the chest with her dagger [3 damage], and Lalie lays him low with a blow from the poker [2 more damage brings him to 0hp, unconscious].

[Q: Is the front door bolted? 50/50 (4+): O1 C1 - No, and...they are already running through it
+Event: PC negative - Lalie - spread / Corse]

They barely slacken their pace and erupt straight out through the front doors. Éliane bounds down the marble steps in one graceful leap, but Lalie slides through some red goo spreading over the porch -- the shredded remains of a human (?) corpse. She almost falls on her face, but windmilling her arms she regains her balance and keeps running [save vs. paralysis succeeded].

They rush out into darkness of the manor's park, where they hide behind some sculpted hedges to catch their breath and make a plan.

Scene 4

increases to Madness (d6)

Setup: d6=3, Interrupt (was: plan to get stuff back)
Interrupt:  NPC Negative - Philippe - quit / House

NPC list: Nicodème the coachman, Isabeau his daughter, Jeanne the mystery woman, Philippe the drunken rake, Frère Martin the monk, Frère Achille the novice, lord&lady of manor, servants

Threads: get equipment back, escape

Suddenly there is a great crash as Philippe hurls himself through the window, having smashed through the shutters and wooden framed glass. He runs out screaming into the darkness. He is bleeding from numerous cuts to his hands and face [1d6=2damage total, 5hp left]. [d4-1=] Three servants clamber out the window in pursuit.

[All the same movement rate, so simple d20s are rolled for the chase: Philippe 11, servants 8,2,15.]

One of the maids catches up to Philippe and attempts to take him down [STR 13, d20+1=17, vs. Philippe's d20+0=11: grappled]. She jumps on his back and sends him sprawling into the grass. The other two servants are on him in a moment, and they kick him into unconsciousness.

His senseless form is dragged back into the house.

Scene 5

Madness (d6)

Setup: plan to get stuff back

NPC list: Nicodème the coachman, Isabeau his daughter, Jeanne the mystery woman, Philippe the drunken rake, Frère Martin the monk, Frère Achille the novice, lord/lady of manor, servants

Threads: get equipment back, escape

"Now what?" asks Éliane.

"We need to get our treasures back," says Lalie. "They were so hard won."

"Agreed. And our weapons. Then we should get some horses and get out of this awful place."

"So how do we proceed?"

"The maid said our things were brought upstairs. We'll have to climb in a window and then do a bit of sneaking round."

"And if we jump another servant to help us, we bind their hands this time. And maybe gag them."

"We should wait for things to settle first."

"I'm cold..."

[Q: Do they see anything unusual whilst they wait? Unlikely (5+): O6 C2 - Yes, and...
d30 Sandbox Companion table AG6 - Phenomena: d30=strange weather]

"OW!" exclaims Lalie. "Something fell from the tree and hit my head. Ewww. It's a frog. In my hair! Get it out!"

"Don't be silly, it's just a little animal. It can't hurt you. See, it's lost a leg in the fall. That's strange, it only has one eye... and... ears?"

Then another three-legged frog-like creature falls from the sky with a wet plop. And another. And another. A shower of them is spit forth from the nauseated heavens, and soon the lawn is crawling with hopping, flopping, slimy, writhing, mutant frogs. Those that survive the fall begin to feast upon those that do not, biting them with decidedly un-batrachian fangs.

Éliane and Lalie make a run for the stables, sprinting away from the shower of awfulness.

[Q: Do they get there unmolested? Unlikely (5+): O5 C6 - Yes.
Q: Anyone about? 50/50 (4+): O3 C2 - No, and...]

They rush inside the half-open door into the empty stables.

"Shit! where are the horses?" exclaims Éliane.

"How will we ever get out of here?" responds Lalie.

"First we need our guns. Then I suppose we go on foot..."

"But there must be horses! We came in the wagon."

[Q: Is the wagon present? Doubtful (6): O1 C3 - No, but...]

"Look there! the wagon cut across the grass. It left quite the ruts."

"Why would they take the wagon behind the house?"

"Weapons first, luv. I can't imagine they went anywhere nice."

Scene 6

Madness (d6)

Setup: sneak back in

NPC list: Nicodème the coachman, Isabeau his daughter, Jeanne the mystery woman, Philippe the drunken rake, Frère Martin the monk, Frère Achille the novice, lord&lady of manor, servants

Threads: get equipment back, escape

The shower of blasphemous frog-things soon ceases. Beyond the lantern-light of the front porch, the ground is an amorphous, writhing mass of the grotesque creatures.

"So how do we get in?" asks Lalie, peering out the stable door.

"I think the front door is out," replies Éliane, "even if we didn't have to wade through those things to get to it. Anyway, I think going in a first floor window might be safest."

"I do so trust your expertise in these matters," says Lalie.

[Q: Is there a trellis, vines, or something to make it a simple climb(i.e. not need a skill check)? 50/50 (4+): O5 C4 - Yes, but... up to the roof, not near any windows.]

"Not the most direct route," says Éliane, "but I think I can get us in unannounced. Follow me."

Éliane sneaks up to the corner of the manor house, Lalie close behind her. Lalie ties the poker to her belt with a kerchief so she doesn't lose it as Éliane begins scaling a vine-laden trellis up towards the roof. "It's solid enough," she calls down, and Lalie begins climbing after her.

[Q: Do they find a way in? Certain (2+): O2 C5 - Yes.
Q: Do they see anything interesting from up top? Likely (3+): O3 C3 - Yes, but... uncertain
+ Event:  Remote event - appear / Ghost

Well, then...]

Once atop the roof, they look down at the grounds to see if anything unusual stands out. There is the edge of a forest some hundred yards behind the house. A strange glow is visible, diffuse and yellow in the mist between the trees. What its source might be, neither can say.

As they make their cautious way in the darkness, a soft light appears in the air before them, indistinct at first, but quickly resolving into the ghostly shape of a young woman.

NPC Relationship: friendly
Conversation Mood: sociable
scheming - intent - previous scene]

"You must stop him!" says the spirit in a far-away voice, "He's mad! He thinks it will give him power but in truth it will only bring doom! For him, and for everyone!"

"I, uh, we, uh..." says a surprised Éliane.

"I was to be the young bride of Comte Kelnor, who sacrificed me to dark powers on my wedding night."

"Oh... um..." adds Lalie.

"I see the gleam in your eyes, that hunger after treasure. I will tell you where there lies a treasure beyond price, but you must stop him! Else it will be your deaths. Even if you leave here with your lives, you'll live but a moment longer unless he be stopped!"

"Then help we must," says Éliane. "But show us to our rooms first. We need our weapons to stop this madness!"

"Follow me!"

And so saying, the ghost glides silently downward through a trap door into the house. Lalie and Éliane follow quickly behind, and descend into the darkness of the attic.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

LotFP solo - Horror adventure: setup & part I

As it's October, I really wanted to get back to horror gaming. And earlier this year, I got to go to a handful of lectures whose common thread was magic and the occult in early modern Europe. The astute amongst you will already have gleaned that this means some Lamentations of the Flame Princess is in order. I could, of course, have taken up again the campaign I already have going, but the confluence of history and magic and horror has come together in yet another new project, or rather, the realisation of one of those ideas I've had rolling about in my head for years.

So I did the unthinkable, and started a campaign set in early modern Europe. I have a bit to say about historical gaming, but I will save that for another post.

Very recently in the Lone Wolf Roleplaying community, Alex Yari made a post about using converted word clouds generated from books to create themed solo gaming oracles. This struck a real chord with me, and I made two over the course of an evening (one silly, one serious), distilling novels into the Mythic event tables. So, naturally, I want to see one in action.

My historical campaign is well under way, but it might be December by the time I get it all written up. But, as it is also an LotFP game, I have been expecting heavy casualties (it's a bit of a slow burn; in ~15 scenes I've only lost 2/8 PCs). To that end, I created a secondary party of six PCs and their two 0-level hirelings, and ran them through The God that Crawls, with the intention of using the survivors to make up for character attrition. Three PCs made it out of the dungeon, but one was killed by the treasure afterwards. The two survivors both happened to be French, so it would make sense that they need to flee to the continent to avoid the English authorities. This seems a good set-up for an adventure to test my new oracle.

The adventure shall begin on a night both stormy and dark, as our heroines are taking a coach from Calais, bound for Amiens. I rolled up 6 quick NPCs to fill out the "party". The coachman was 0-level by default, the rest rolled on the following chart:

roll  class
----  ---------
 1    cleric
 2    fighter
 3    magic-user
 4    specialist
 5+   0-level human

The chart uses the current Chaos Die according to my MCSV. I started this adventure at d8 (Out of Control) since that sums up how they left things in England. I also rolled random social classes for each one, and used the results to figure out their connexions and reasons for being on this journey.

Nicodème, the coachman
0-level, HP 2
CH 11 CN 7 DX 11 IN 11 ST 9 WI 11

Isabeau, the coachman's daughter
0-level, HP 5
CH 13 CN 13 DX 10 IN 15 ST 16 WI 6
matchlock arquebus

The coachman was obviously a tradesman. I rolled tradesman for the strapping lass (STR 16) next to him on the 2x4 party character sheet, so proximity and social equality suggested she should be his daughter.

Jeanne, the mysterious woman
Specialist 1, HP 4
CH 10 CN 12 DX 8 IN 15 ST 10 WI 10
short sword, leather armour, specialist's tools
skills: Stealth-3, Search-2, Sneak attack x2

The mysterious Jeanne is also a tradeswoman by birth. I am leaving her background a bit of a blank, to be filled in by the Oracle when dramatically appropriate. She hasn't even told the rest where she's going.

Philippe, the drunken rake
0-level, HP 7
CH 12 CN 14 DX 7 IN 9 ST 9 WI 10
rapier, dagger, 24sp, 4gp

Phlippe is a noble! He shouldn't be on this carriage; he has his own, and much fancier. But he passed out drunk in some lupanar in Calais, and his mates put him on the coach as a prank.

Frère Martin, the monk
Cleric 1, HP 4
CH 11 CN 9 DX 8 IN 10 ST 15 WI 15
holy symbol, holy water
spell: remove fear

Frère Achille, the novice
0-level, HP 2
CH 11 CN 8 DX 12 IN 12 ST 16 WI 18
holy symbol

Frère Martin is a humble Franciscan of modest birth. Achille is a younger son of the gentry who has recently taken holy orders. The pair are bound for Amiens cathedral.

Lalie (« Laelia »)
Magic-User 2, HP 6
CH 10 CN 6 DX 9 IN 17 ST 12 WI 14
rapier, brace of wheelock pistols, leather armour, 30GP, 10Sp
Spells: Unseen servant, Magic Missile

Specialist 3, HP 13
CH 15 CN 13 DX 18 IN 15 ST 13 WI 7
skills: Stealth-4, Search-4, Sleight of hand-2, Sneak attack x2
dagger, brace of wheelock pistols, specialists' tools, 30gp, 7sp

Lalie and Éliane are the PCs: a pair of feckless, treasure-hungry chancers with a somewhat loose interpretation of ethics (or is that definition a tautology?). None of the characters on the previous expedition were developed enough to have a social class, so I rolled for these two now; Lalie is the black sheep of a minor noble house, and Éliane is street scum from Paris. Lalie usually introduces her as a paid companion and/or bodyguard, but in truth they put no store in social matters. It does, however, allow them to move about in society. Being a magic-user means that Lalie has ties to the world of the universities, though as a woman would not have attended one herself. Thus, there are many scholars who know her as Laelia, her Latinised name, and a few friends who are aware of her occult pursuits call her Aelia Laelia as a joke.

The pair of them have a small travelling chest (counts as an oversized item for encumbrance) containing the books, scrolls and jewels they recovered on their first adventure.

If the PCs survive this adventure, I should probably reward them with surnames of their very own.

Toolbox for the adventure

Scene 1

Out of control (d8)

Setup: In medias res - see below

NPC list: Nicodème the coachman, Isabeau his daughter, Jeanne the mystery woman, Philippe the drunken rake, Frère Martin the monk, Frère Achille the novice

Threads: -

It is a terrible night for travel. It was doubtful that they'd make the next coaching inn before daybreak even before the storm hit. Now the rain is falling in sheets, driven by the howling wind, and the occasional flash of lightning splits the sky. For the six passengers crammed inside the coach, the time for small talk has long since passed. None can sleep as the coach bounces over the uneven road, and a fair few times they have cause to fear the elements will overturn their creaking conveyance. Only the young nobleman is able to sleep, though in fact he hasn't been awake since his confrères bundled him into the coach in Calais. The others sit in an oppressive silence. There is some small comfort, for as damp and draughty as the coach is inside, at least they aren't sat atop it like the coachman and his daughter; though it be doubtful if any besides the monks have spared them the smallest compassionate thought.

Then suddenly...

[1d6: 1 highwaymen, 2 obstacle across road, 3 horse lamed, 4 horses spooked, 5 lightning strike on carriage, 6 horror within
Q: Does Nicodème stop the team ok? 50/50 (4+): O6 C2 - Yes, and... he's a pro]

...the coach lurches to an abrupt halt.

"What's wrong?" says Jeanne, her hand moving to rest on the concealed blade beneath her skirts "Why have we stopped?"

"You know what these roads are like," says Frère Martin.

"And in this weather!" adds his novice. "It's probably just a tree fallen over the road."

"I'm sure you're right," says Lalie, even as she and Éliane are making ready their pistols.

After a few moments, the coachman appears at the carriage door with lantern. As it opens those within are assaulted by the cold and wet. "Horse 's gone lame," he says bluntly. "Passed a manor house not too far back. I'll go for help. Me daughter'll stay up top and keep an eye out for bandits."

[Q: Are the NPCs amenable to waiting? Likely (3+): O4 C 8 - Yes.]

Nicodème closes the door soundly, and silence once again grips the coach's passengers. After a long space of stillness within -- though the storm shews no signs of abating without -- the drunken nobleman awakes with a start. [I rolled his reaction to the sudden "encounter"; 2d6=7, neutral.]

"What the...? Where the deuce am I? Is this a carriage? The devil take des Esseints and Durtal, those rascals! When I find my way back to Calais, they'll catch hell for this little jape -- please excuse my language, good ladies."

[Q:Does Nicodème make it to the manor? (Unknown: 1d6=1 100%; rolling for events or qualifiers) O3 C6 - simple, unmodified Yes.
Q: What happens when he gets there? bring / presence]

After the better part of an hour, a rider in a long, heavy cloak appears outside the carriage. He says that he was sent on ahead to inform them that a waggon has been dispatched to take them safely to the Château Drumer. Nicodème is waiting for them there before the fire.

Scene 2

Out of control (d8)

Setup: welcome, guests

NPC list: Nicodème the coachman, Isabeau his daughter, Jeanne the mystery woman, Philippe the drunken rake, Frère Martin the monk, Frère Achille the novice, lord&lady of manor, servants

Threads: -

[Q: Is the party received by Lord and/or lady? 50/50 (4+): O3 C6 - No.]

Most of the castle is in darkness, but candles burn brightly in the entrance hall. The guests are ushered into a cosy sitting room with a blazing fire. Nicodème sits before it in borrowed clothes, eating bread and warm broth. A servant brings in food and wine for the rest, and announces that their effects are being brought up to the guest rooms, and please would they take some refreshment whilst all is being made ready.

[Everyone gets a Search roll to notice anything odd, but they all fail; even Éliane (search 4) rolls a 5!

Q: Is the wine poisoned? Likely (3+): O3 C3 - Yes, but... given too early.
+Event:  Horror - PC (Lalie) - remember / death]

Everyone greedily sets in to the food and wine, and there is a bit of jostling for position round the fire. The monks, of course, cede their places to the ladies. Philippe does not.

Everyone is feeling quite restored by the hospitality, when Lalie catches sight of a large mirror reflecting the dark, sombre curtains. It suddenly reminds her of one of the terrors she witnessed in England, the shattering mirror and the extra-dimensional space beyond, and the death of Fr. Daniel whose throat was transfixed by a shard.

Lalie cries out and swoons, and half-collapses into an overstuffed armchair. She drinks down a strong draught of wine in one gulp, and Éliane rushes to her side, refilling her cup [-2 poison saving throw].

"No, I'm fine. I just took a turn. Really, I'm fine now. Don't fuss."

But then Isabeau drops her cup. Moments later she is lying on the floor beside it. And one by one the poisoned wine overcomes the others, and they drop into unconsciousness.

[Poison saves (+CON bonus):
N 11, I 1+1
J 14, P 7+1
A 5-1, M 3
L 20-1-2, E 15+1

No one really needs to read the saving throw results, but for a party of 8 it's nice to roll them all at once and then look them up. It looks like only the PCs saved... how convenient!

Q: Is the sitting room door locked? Likely (3+): O6 C3 - Yes, but... windows aren't.]

"We've got to get out of here!" cries Éliane, throwing her cup to the floor.

"Not without all our things!" replies Lalie.

"You're right! they were too hard won! When the servant comes to check on us, we'll jump him."

"What if he's not alone?"

"You take the fireplace poker. I've my dagger yet."

"Alright. I'll sit back by the fire, pretend to be asleep."

"I'll wait close by the door..."

[Q: Does the servant checks on them alone? Unlikely (5+): O3 C6 - No.
Q: Any classed characters come with them? Doubtful (6): O2 C5 - No.

1d4+1=3 servants; d6=4,6,5; all female]

After a few interminable-seeming minutes, the door opens and three housemaids enter. They check on each of the slumped figures in turn to make sure the poison has done its work. Éliane stands up slowly, and pulls the door silently to. [She has Stealth-4; her check is d6=1, success]

She creeps up behind one of the maids, grabs her mouth from behind and slips her dagger into the girl's lower back. The maid lets out a muffled cry and collapses to the floor with a thud.

Stealth check d6=2, success; sneak attack hits for (1d4=4)x2=8 damage, putting her at -4hp]

Lalie springs to her feet and brandishes the poker. "Surrender or you'll meet the same fate!"

The two maids stiffen, they look to one another, and then to the body of their slain comrade. A look of fear passes over them. [ML7; ML check 2d6=11, fail]

"Why are you doing this?" asks Lalie.

NPC Relationship: peaceful
Conversation Mood: guarded
inquisitive - questions - power

"You've nothing to fear," says one of the maids. "We are preparing them for a better Way of Life. Have you no concept of the Power granted to us by the Old Ones? Do you not also wish to bask in their Radiant Glories?"

"The Old Ones?"

"Ésa noï ar cay oï, è ici noï ar cay oï, oï ar cay oï es taï !"*

"τί φῄς ;" asks Lalie.

"Tip... what?" replies the maid.

"What you just said... That's Greek!"

"So it is, I guess. It is the prayer as was taught us by his reverence."

"What does it mean?" asks Éliane.

"Nothing good, I'm certain," says Lalie.

"What have you done with our things?" asks Éliane.

"They're up in your rooms. We thought you'd be in bed before the sleeping draught took hold."

"You will take us to them, or else."

"Really, this is all too much! You won't need your things when you see the golden future by that is planned for you! Come, let's discuss this like friends. There's no need for this unpleasantness." [UNE: insane - turmoil - rewards]

"I don't trust them," says Lalaie.

Éliane stabs a second one in the back [3x2=6dmg, 2hp=dead]. "Easier to keep one under control than two," she says.

The remaining maid looks a bit pale, but is otherwise calm.

"Take us to retrieve our things now. One scream and you're done for, understand?"

"I understand."

~ to be continued ~


* The maid has learnt the prayer phonetically by rote, though the individual words are meaningless to her: ἦσαν οἱ ἀρχαιοί, εἰσίν οἱ ἀρχαιοί, οἱ ἀρχαιοὶ ἔσται (The Old Ones were, the Old Ones are, and the Old Ones shall be).

During the course of her last adventure, Lalie made a Language roll to know Greek. She's got a good humanist education and uses Erasmian pronunciation.