Monday, 23 October 2017

LotFP solo - Part II: Noc ve Starém Městě

30 April, A.D. 1601

"Disturbing rumours have reached my ears, my little Anežka."

"Not about me, boss... I hope."

"Of course not. You've never let me down yet. And that's why I need you to look into something for me. You're a good Catholic, aren't you?"

"You know me boss: confession every Sunday. Seems like I always got a lot of sins to confess doing our line of work."

"As do I... as do I. But there's a bishop that needs a favour done -- discreetly -- and he's offered me an indulgence in return."

"Huh. Aren't you a Lutheran, boss?"

"Quite. But as you say, we must often sin in our line of work. So my immortal soul can use all the help it can get."

"Gotcha. So what's the job, then?"

Scene 5 - track B

Under control (d12)

Setup: Ambiguous Event - Inquire / Rumour

NPC list: crime boss

Threads: -

[As I said, going along and adding PCs to the party didn't quite go the way I'd hoped. So this is the start of the second adventure Track (B). There were 5 PCs left unused, so I rolled 4d6 to decide who would be starting in this track (no rerolls or duplicate numbers, and 6=no one). Rolls were 1,3,4,5: Šimon, Anežka, Pauwel, Judit.

Since this is the first scene of their horror adventure, it too starts on an Ambiguous Event (according to the Mythic Variations horror theme). I rolled Inquire / Rumour, so, using my Rumours tables:

The rumour--
type: location - single room
magnitude: major, ruin (-8)
topic (Mythic): Abuse / The spiritual

She starts with Pauwel in tow +1d6-2=0 others. Oh, well...

Also, the PCs in this Track will all be speaking Czech amongst themselves unless otherwise noted.]

Anežka sets out into Josefov as the sun is disappearing behind the horizon. She's not planning on moving too fast on her little errand, so her attire is as non-descript as she can manage: a simple frock with a skirt that won't impede her movement but will easily conceal her dagger. With her is Pauwel, whom she considers a bit of an upstart and isn't sure she can trust. He's dressed like an off-duty halberdier, complete with halberd. She's told him to keep his distance unless called for, to which he grumblingly consented.

They proceed to a lively little tavern in the Jewish quarter. Anežka tells Pauwel to get himself a drink and blend in -- she's here to find a friend.

Her friend, Judit bat Nachmias, dresses like a man -- a gentile man, no less -- and swaggers about the nighttime streets of Josefov wearing a rapier as a sort of self-styled saviour of her people. Anežka thinks she's quite mad, but a good sort for all that. She finds Judit in the crowd, and lays out her proposition. Judit readily agrees, but insists that whatever happens, it cannot reflect badly upon the Jews of Prague. Also, she wants a share of the take -- for the poor. Anežka insists that publicity is the last thing anyone wants, and she'll be glad to split the earnings.

Anežka is about to say that they should collect her associate, but when she glances in his direction she sees that he has already gotten into an argument with one of the locals, a small, white-bearded old Jew. She pushes through the crowd to stop him, and finds Judit rushing ahead of her.

"Leave him alone, you brute," snaps Judit at Pauwel, and she puts her hand on the hilt of her sword for emphasis.

"Pauwel, what did you do?" says Anežka firmly.

"Do? He started it!"

"I don't care. Apologise, and let's get going."

Pauwel knows better than to protest, and immediately issues his half-hearted apology. Anežka seems satisfied, and motions for the three of them to leave. But the moment they have walked out into the street, the little old Jew scurries out of the tavern after them, and takes Judit by the arm.

"Judit! What are you doing? These are criminals!" he says.

"Šimon, I need to help them. It's important. You know I wouldn't otherwise."

"Huh. Well, in that case, I'm coming with you. So you don't have to be alone with them," he says, looking straight up at Pauwel.

Anežka can see Judit's admiration for the old man radiating from her face, and agrees to have him along, if only to keep Judit sweet. Besides, he may know more important people in Josefov than young Judit.

"So," asks Judit as they are all following Anežka through the streets, "just what, exactly, are we doing?"

"We're going to have a little nose round Madame Urania's," says Anežka. "I assume you all know of it?"

"Why ever would we need to go to such a place?" says Judit.

"It seems that some of the good Madame's clientèle are clergymen--"

"That's hardly a secret," says Šimon.

"Yes, but some have disappeared following their visits. Rumour has it that they're being murdered in a back room."

"Well, they shouldn't be going to such a place," says Judit.

"I'm not one to judge," says Anežka, "but the Church has a reputation to uphold. So they'd like to keep this quiet. And the last thing you people need, my dear Judit--"

"Is to be accused of butchering priests," sighs Šimon.

Scene 6 - track B

Under control (d12)

Setup: d12=3, Interrupt (was: case the joint)
Interrupt: Move toward a thread - Attract / Pleasures (see narrative)

NPC list: crime boss

Threads: investigate brothel

The entrance Madame Urania's establishment is located on a quiet side street on the outskirts of Josefov. It is rumoured to have other, more secret entrances, but whether they really exist, or are just idle speculation, or indeed mere tales told by Madame Urania to increase the allure of her place, is unknown -- at least to our heroes, who are now standing a good distance away in the street, and discussing their next move.

"Well, someone's got to go in," says Anežka.

"I volunteer," says Pauwel. "Only..."


"I'm afraid my purse is a bit light."

"I'm not exactly drowning in gold myself."

"I hate to say it," says Judit, "But he's right. This isn't the sort of place one just walks into without money for... for whatever."

The others (save Šimon, who just crosses his arms over his chest) dig into their own money purses and hand over all the bílé groše they find within. For bribes or (ahem) something. Anežka suggests he leave his armour and halberd behind if he wants to get in the door, which he does. She also tells him not to be too long, or she'll go in after him playing the angry wife.

[Q: On a scale of 1-6, how lavish is the place? d6=5
Pauwel needs to roll reaction of 10+ to even get in the door: 5+1(CHA)=no]

The others stand and watch Pauwel saunter up to the entrance, then go round the corner out of sight. Pauwel exchanges a few words at the threshold with the guards, who grab him by the arms, pick him up, and throw him bodily into the street [for 1d4=2 damage, dropping him to 8hp] where he hits his head on the cobbles.

[The Interrupt result was Attract/Pleasures, which in the context of this scene can only mean one thing: a roll on the 1st ed. DM's Guide harlot encounter table to see who comes to Pauwel's aid.

1d100=17, brazen strumpet. Scripsit Gygax: "the harlot is 30% likely to know valuable information, 15% likely to make something up in order to gain a reward, and 20% likely to be, or work with, a thief."

1d00=27, information.]

A young woman rushes out of the brothel. She's pretty enough, but is wearing a soiled dress and apron, and has her indifferently golden hair tied up in a scarf. She rushes to comfort poor Pauwel, and has angry words with the bouncers. They still insist he stay out.

"You could have gotten killed trying to go in there," she scolds, even as she is kneeling down to soothe the shaken young man. "The gentlemen in there aren't simple soldiers, and don't take kindly to their privacy being threatened like that."

"I have 25 grošů."

"That's so sweet! What were you going to get for it in there? Half a cup of wine?"

"I, um, er...."

"Come, let's away from here. Let me find a bandage for you head."

"You're too kind."

"My name's Zuzka," says the young woman as she helps Pauwel to his feet.


"Why were you really trying to get in there, Pauwel? Tell me, please. I must know."

"Why would I...?"

"Come now, my poor, injured Pavlik. You don't seem that thick. What are you up to?"

"The boss sent us to have a look round. There's someone gone missing."

"There's someone you ought to see then. A friend of mine. [1d6=]She'll have a tale to tell you." [UNE: knowing - account - contacts]

"We'd best go get my companions first. I'm not exactly in charge."

Scene 7 - track B

Under control (d12)

Setup: d12=1, Altered (was: meet Zuzka's friend)

NPC list: crime boss, Zuzka

Threads: investigate brothel

[Setup: Since Zuzka isn't one of Madame Urania's more valuable assets (she is often sent out into the streets or is hired as part of a package deal, and also has to do the cleaning), I decided her friend with the useful information must be coming from another angle, rather than being an inside source. So...

Q: Who is her friend? d30 Castle Employee table = chambermaid
Q: Are they related? 50/50 (4+): O3 C2 - No, and... foreign
d20 on my Origin table = 20, Other
Q: Where is she? 4=Staré Město

Hungary was the first Other place to pop into my head, so I found a list of Hungarian names online somewhere to arbitrarily come up with the new NPC, Magdollna from Hungary.]

Following curt introductions, and a few jeers at Pauwel's misadventure from both Anežka and Šimon, Zuzka leads her new friends through the streets of the Old Town to the back of a townhouse in a dark alley. She knocks at the servant's entrance door...

[Q: Answer? 50/50: O1 C3 - No, but... light within]

...but there is no answer. "Someone must be about," says Zuzka. "They're not the sort to just leave candles burning all night -- misers that they are."

"Allow me, my dear girl," says Šimon, as he produces a long file from the pouch at his belt and begins fiddling with the lock. [he has Tinker 4; d6=1, he picks the lock easily]

"See? it was open after all!" says Šimon with an impish wink.

Zuzka opens the door cautiously.

[Q: Anyone about? Unlikely: O3 C10 - No.]

The door opens into an oddly-shaped foyer, the thoroughfare between the below-stairs servants' quarters, scullery, storeroom, and stairs up to the main floor of the house. A large, simple cabinet occupies the main wall opposite the door. It is dark, save for a single candle left burning on the scullery table.

Zuzka tells her companions to wait here, whilst she goes to fetch her friend, Magdollna. She creeps down the narrow passage as silently as she is able, though her footsteps seems to fall heavily in the stillness.

[Sneaking: d6=4, failure
Q: Anyone around to hear? Unlikely (5+): O3 C5 - No.]

When Zuzka reaches Magdollna's room, she opens door, and sees....

[The scene Alteration, determined via the LL AEC Random Characteristics table d100=39, Enlarges]

...her friend lying in bed, swollen to three times her normal size. The girl's clothing has ripped away in shreds. Her skin is stretched thin over her tumescent bulk, and seems about to split.

[Q: Can Zuzka repress her scream? Doubtful (6): O1 C9 - No.
Q: Is there anyone in the house who hears it? Unknown 1d6=1 Certain(still must roll for modifiers & possible events); O2 C1 - Yes, and...
They will arrive in 1d6=1 round]

Zuzka begins screaming and screaming. The others are startled for a moment by the noise, but before any one of them has made a move either down the dark passage towards Zuzka or out the door to safety, they hear the heavy sound of footfalls coming down the steps towards them.

[Q: Who are they? (1d6): 1 villains, 2 servants, 3 family, 4 random, 5 guards, 6 roll twice; 3=family, 1d6+1=4 people

Q: Any classed characters? Unlikely (5+): O5 C8 - Yes (one of them; 1d4=Cleric, 1d6=3rd level
Q: Armed with gun(s)? 50/50: O1 C9 - No

                  CH CN DX IN ST WI HP AC
Marius (owner) f0 14 12 13 10 15  9  5 13 fireplace poker
Brutus (bro.)  f0  9 13 10 12  7 10  2 12
Zdeňka (maid)  f0  9 11 15 13 12 16  3 13 lantern
Cloelia (sis.) c3 12 13 14 15 12 12 12 13 dagger
 spells: command, prot. from good, sanctuary

NPC Relationship: distrustful
Conversation Mood: neutral
scheming - plan - allies]

Four people come rushing down the steps, and stop short when they see there are intruders in their household. The man in the lead is about 40, in his night-dress and brandishing a fireplace poker. Behind him are another man and woman, in their late and early thirties respectively. The three are obviously siblings, with the same high cheekbones and strong jaw, and the same thick, wavy, sandy blond hair. They are still dressed, though not well enough to receive visitors in such a fine house. With the siblings and bearing a lantern, is a house maid, a small, waifish girl of no more than 15.

Everyone starts talking at once: "Who are you?" "Where did you come from?" "How did you get in here?" "Who's screaming?"

"One at a time!" shouts Anežka in German to match the householders. "Pauwel go see what that screaming's about."

Pauwel runs down the narrow passage to fetch Zuzka. He looks in the door to the maid's room, and as his eyes adjust to the dim light...

[saving throw vs. poison, CON modifier applies: 1d20=3+2, failure]

...what he sees causes him to recoil into the passage, where he is violently ill. He stops heaving long enough to grab Zuzka and drag her back to the others, who are all eyeing one another nervously. Zuzka can barely speak, but Pauwel explains what he saw, briefly and between retches.

"It's loose in the house," says the maid.

"What is?" asks the man with the poker.

"The... the... nestvůra!" she replies.

"We speak German in our house," he scolds.

"I... I can't explain what it was. It had no skin and no mouth and it smelled like a full chamber pot. It touched Magda with its long arms and... it's too awful to tell! So I ran, ran to fetch the master...."

"Please," says the man with the poker, "you must help us! This thing is loose somewhere in the house."

"Ummm....," says Anežka.

"If you don't I'll go to the authorities to report you as intruders. Perhaps it was you who brought this thing here!"

"It seems we've no choice. All in a night's work, then."

to be continued...

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.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Dramatis personae sive morituri

Character creation

To start my campaign, I decided to generate a party of eight adventurers. Since I had more opinions about setting than characters, I rolled them all completely at random, including class (1d4) and gender (1d2). I will assume the reader is sufficiently familiar with the mechanics of rolling up OSR-type PCs (or isn't particularly bothered) and skip to the important part, which is determining their relationships to one another and to the setting itself.

To start with, I rolled Origin, Social Class, and Religion according to the tables in my last post. Most of the PCs are native Praguers and/or residents of the city, and I will figure out residences and finances for any of them that survive the first adventure.

Once I knew where they were from, I named all the characters. Any character connected to the world of the Universities -- in all cases below, specifically to Univerzita Karlova (Charles University) -- has their Latinised name in quotes. For some, it is the name they commonly go by, and so is presented first.

I made language rolls for each PC, checking for Czech, French, German, Hebrew, Latin, and Silesian. The party's lingua franca is most assuredly German, so one of them (Anežka, I think) got a free language; the rest rolled well on that round.

Language matrix

           VH TB ŠK KS AP PB JN GP
Czech       -  -  Y  Y  Y  y  Y  -
French      y  -  -  y  -  -  -  -
German      Y  Y  y  y  y  y  y  Y
Hebrew      -  -  y  -  -  -  y  -
Latin       y  y  -  y  -  -  -  -
Silesian    -  y  -  -  -  Y  -  -

Now that they were starting to look like people rather than stat blocks, I got out my trusty copy of Star Trader and rolled for connections between characters.

Finally, I wanted each character to have a Dark Secret. I used the following table (adapted from the Kult RPG) to determine the kind of secret, and then used the Mythic GME's event meaning tables to define some of them further.

Dark secret (1d10; inspired by Kult)
1.   curse
2.   family secret
3.   forbidden knowledge
4.   guilty of crime
5.   insanity
6.   pact with dark powers
7.   possessed
8.   haunted
9.   victim of crime
10.  occult experience

I didn't go overboard with background, as these are all first level PCs, and my games have a pretty high mortality rate. Plus, it's more fun to develop them through play. In fact, some of the backgrounds below contain specifics that came about as the adventure progressed (just one benefit to playing far beyond what I have time to post).

„Pater Valentinus Hastatus“ (Pfr. Velten Spieß) - Cleric

Valentinus is a Catholic priest attached to the Kostel svatého Ducha (Church of the Holy Ghost), which is the nearest church to the Jewish quarter. This proximity is unfortunate, for he holds most of the popular prejudices against the Jews, though none of the superstitious ones. His family hails from Prague's German gentry, which afforded him a good education, though he understands practical things (Wis 17) much better than the concepts behind them (Int 9). He makes up for this deficiency with pomposity, self-righteousness, and arrogance; he's basically a bit of a pratt (Cha 7).

Connexion: blames Šimon for past event. [Mythic: Lie / Evil]
Valentinus professes that the Jew Šimon will someday be brought to justice for the disappearances of several Christian children from good families. He knows Šimon is innocent of this crime, but doesn't care, for he is most certainly guilty of others, even if they only be the hereditary crime of his race, i.e. the killing of the Christ.

Dark Secret: family secret [Extravagance / Food]
The elders of the Spieß family are cannibals, and meet once a year to hold a secret feast, where they induct select members of the younger generation.

„Pater Valentinus Hastatus“ (Pfr. Velten Spieß)
Cleric, Level 1, male
Cha 7 Con 11 Dex 11 Int 9 Str 10 Wis 17
HP 4, AC 12,  AL: L
Background: German, Praguer gentry
Languages: German, Latin, French
Religion: Catholic
Weapons: dagger
Equipment: holy water, liber agendarum, biblia sacra, silver crucifix, 2 pouches, 3sp

Theophilus von Bunzlau  („Theophilus Boleslaviensis“) - Magic-User

Theophilus is the son of a German count (Graf) from Bunzlau (Mladá Boleslav) in Bohemia. He studied briefly at Univerzita Karlova, but dropped out to pursue his studies of the magical arts. He had a reputation as a bit of a rakehell in his youth, and usually lets on that this resulted in his expulsion from the university, in order to conceal the truth.

Connexion: Friendship with Kateřina through guilt [Neglect / Prison]
Theophilus he gave evidence at the trial of Kateřina's brother, which resulted in him being thrown into prison, where he later starved to death. He hopes to someday make it up to her, even though he looks down on her as a social inferior (and is loathe to admit this mere girl is cleverer than he (Int 17 & 14 respectively)).

Dark Secret: haunted
As a young and under-cautious student of the Art, he once raised the ghost of a long-dead courtesan, said to have been the most beautiful woman in the court of king Václav II. He still cannot rid himself of this most troublesome spirit.

Theophilus von Bunzlau („Theophilus Boleslaviensis“)
Magic-User, Level 1, male
Cha 9 Con 7 Dex 13 Int 14 Str 13 Wis 14
HP 3, AC 15,  AL: C
Background: German, Bohemian nobility
Languages: German, Silesian, Latin
Religion: Catholic
Weapons: wheelock arquebus, dagger
Equipment: secrete, buff coat, powder horn (50 shots powder), bag of shot (100), backpack, pouch, silver crucifix, 8sp, 3cp
Spellbook: sleep, mending, spider climb

Šimon Koc - Specialist

Šimon the clockmaker is a small, fine-boned, white-bearded man with a gnome-like twinkle in his eye, who is considered to be a good and wise pillar of the community in Josefov (the Jewish quarter). In reality, he has a host of unsavoury friends, but they do get things done. Šimon is very protective of his people, and will stop at nothing to remove threats to their well-being.

Connexion: Bitter with Pauwel about past event
Pauwel, the foreign mercenary, caused a violent tavern brawl in which many Jews were seriously injured or killed. [Violate / Peace]

Dark Secret: pact with dark powers
Though no magician himself, Šimon did once open an accursed old book and cause a spirit to appear. The spirit offered to help Šimon in his hour of greatest need, but this aid comes with a price.

Šimon Koc
Specialist, Level 1, male
Cha 11 Con 11 Dex 13 Int 13 Str 5 Wis 14
HP 6, AC 13, AL: C
Background: Jewish, Praguer tradesman
Languages: Czech, Hebrew, German
Religion: Jewish
Weapons: dagger, garrotte
Equipment: specialist's tools, drill, pouch, steel mirror, 33sp, 5cp
Skills: Tinker 4, Sneak attack x2

Kateřina Smutná („Catherina Moesta“) - Magic-User

Kateřina is the youngest of [1d6+1=] four children of a prominent jurist. A precocious child (Int 17), she dreamt of following in her brothers' footsteps and attending university. Alas, she was born three centuries too early, and had to make do with private tutors. One of her tutors had more esoteric pursuits in addition to natural philosophy, and through him she was introduced to Eufemia Švarcová, a genteel young lady and fellow practitioner of the magical arts (NPC).

Connexion: Knows Judit's dark secret
In the course of her wizardly errands, Kateřina has travelled to seamy parts of Prague the likes of which she'd never seen before. She's met the fiends that once imprisoned Judit bat Nachmias, and knows why they marked her flesh with certain sigils.

Dark Secret: forbidden knowledge
Kateřina has looked into books better left unread, and has pronounced words better left unspoken; she has seen beyond the veil of the everyday world, and glimpsed an unfathomable secret. [Open / Night]

Kateřina Smutná („Catherina Moesta“)
Magic-User, Level 1, female
Cha 14 Con 15 Dex 16 Int 17 Str 8 Wis 9
HP 7, AC 14, AL: C
Background: Czech, Praguer professional class (lawyer)
Languages: Czech, German, Latin, French
Religion: Catholic
Weapons: dagger, heavy crossbow
Equipment: quiver & 12 bolts, silver mirror, silver cross, ink, silver stylus, pouch, 13sp, 3cp
Spellbook: detect magic, charm person, summon

Anežka Prachová - Specialist

Anežka grew up in a hovel, and has had to fight for everything she ever got in this life. At the age of twelve she ran away to life on the streets as a pickpocket, soon forming her own little gang. Her activities soon came to the attention of a local crime boss, who added her to his 'family'. Anežka is smart enough to avoid most kinds of trouble (Int 13), but once she gets into it she tends to make a right mess of things (Wis 3); she just never knows when to quit.

Connexion: Dependant on Kateřina for emotional reasons
Anežka once was engaged by a gentlewoman (the above-mentioned NPC, Eufemia Švarcová) to steal some rather peculiar items from an alchemist. The lady sent a novice wizard as a go-between, whom she recognized as the daughter of that lawyer who sent down several of her comrades. But rather than seeking revenge, she's done her best to kindle a friendship, in hopes that Kateřina will be able to use her magic to erase the bad memories of the horrific crime she'd committed. [Move / The spiritual]

Dark Secret: guilty of crime
A break-in went very wrong and she was discovered in a wealthy residence. The burglary turned into a massacre of the entire family.

Anežka Prachová
Specialist, Level 1, female
Cha 9 Con 11 Dex 16 Int 13 Str 9 Wis 3
HP 4, AC 14, AL: N
Background: Czech, Praguer urban poor
Languages: Czech, German
Religion: Unitas Fratrum (Protestant)
Weapons: dagger, light crossbow
Equipment: 50' rope, grappling hook, tinderbox, crowbar, bottle of cheap wine, quiver & 12 bolts, wooden cross, pipe & tobacco, pouch, sack, 3sp, 5cp
Skills: Sleight of hand 2, Stealth 3, Search 2

Pauwel Buchta - Fighter

Young Pauwel always longed for a life of adventure. In his 17th year he managed to steal a sword and helmet, and ran off to become a mercenary soldier. Army life did not suit the undisciplined lad, so he deserted at the first opportunity and set out to make his fortune in the big city.

Connexion: Competitive rival with Anežka
Pauwel now works for Anežka's boss, who often sends him along with her when she needs muscle. Pauwel knows that the best way to rise in the boss' esteem would be to prove he's the more valuable employee.

Dark Secret: possessed
Pauwel hears voices telling him to do terrible things. Sometimes he does them.

Pauwel Buchta
Fighter, Level 1, male
Cha 13 Con 17 Dex 10 Int 13 Str 14 Wis 12
HP 10, AC 14, AL: N
Background: Silesian, peasant farmer
Languages: Silesian, Czech, German
Religion: Catholic
Weapons: halberd, rapier, dagger
Equipment: buff coat, lobster-tail helmet, pouch, 9sp, 5cp

Judit bat Nachmias - Fighter

Judit's parents were booksellers in Josefov. She was always superstitious, but after her parents' deaths she became obsessed with mysticism. She sought out wise old Šimon, who impressed upon her the need to safeguard their people, and now she wanders the streets of the quarter with her sword as a protector.

Connexion: Admires Šimon
She looks up to him as a surrogate father. Or grandfather.

Dark Secret: victim of crime
Judit once went to Malá Strana to consult a fortune-teller, who turned out to be a member of a cult worshipping the Other Gods. She was imprisoned in a dark cell for a fortnight, and blasphemous sigils were cut into her skin for an unknown and unknowable purpose. She doesn't remember how she escaped, and never told anyone about it -- not even Šimon. Her arms, legs, and torso are covered with arcane scars, but fortunately the modesty of her dress keeps them hidden.

Judit Bat Nachmias
Fighter, Level 1, female
Cha 9 Con 8 Dex 15 Int 15 Str 9 Wis 11
HP 7, AC 15, AL: N
Background: Jewish, Praguer mercantile class
Languages: Czech, German, Hebrew
Religion: Jewish
Weapons: rapier, dagger
Equipment: leather armour, Hebrew almanac, silver phylactery, pouch, 14sp, 5cp

Gephardt Pfeiler - fighter

Gephardt was a Doppelsöldner, fighting for the Emperor against the Turks in Hungary. When supplies dwindled and pay was scarce, Gephardt joined in taking what he needed from the local peasants. When he felt that he'd collected his due, plus a little more besides, he wandered off north in search of an easier life. He's now employed by Theophilus as a bodyguard.

Connexion: Secretly jealous of Theophilus
Theophilus has never had to work a day in his life. Should he get stingy with remuneration...

Dark Secret: guilty of crime
Gephardt was a particularly enthusiastic frontline soldier, which made him a particularly violent bandit.

Gephardt Pfeiler
Fighter, Level 1, male
Cha 10 Con 12 Dex 11 Int 9 Str 15 Wis 12
HP 8, AC 15, AL: N
Background: Swiss German, peasant
Languages: German
Religion: Lutheran
Weapons: Bidenhänder, smallsword, dagger
Equipment: buff coat, pikeman's armour, scroll case & maps of Bohemia and Prague, steel cross, 18sp

Next post: the adventure commences! Hopefully I'll get it up before too long, but as it's the month of Gothtober I'm inordinately busy...

Sunday, 8 October 2017


I don't often play RPGs in historical settings, because I go a bit overboard with research. It's far too easy to spend all one's time chasing after minutia instead of actually gaming. But for a long time I've wanted to run a horror/magic game set in Prague during the time of Rudolf II. I always assumed it would be Call of Cthulhu, but then LotFP came along...

So, then: Rudolfine Prague, c. 1601AD. As much as the social chaos brought about by the Thirty Years War (beginning, indeed, with the Defenestration of Prague) makes for an interesting backdrop for a game, I am much more drawn to the relatively peaceful and tolerant times in the city under Rudolf II, and the sheer number of scholars, magicians, alchemists, and charlatans who flocked to the city in those days. This makes a good setting for small cabals of wizards all pursuing their own ends, and possibly being invited into, or running afoul of, Rudolf's court.

As this is a historical setting, I will have to make decisions about the game-world veracity of many of the city's legends. I like the idea that Zlatá ulička is full of alchemists, and a single halberdier patrols the street at night lest they try to escape, but I'm not sure whether or not Rabbi Löw should be the cabalist of legend or the more prosaic (if no less influential!) orthodox Talmudic scholar of history. I tend not to have famous people showing up in games, so this last point is probably moot. But I am rather influenced by literature, so the golem is as likely to be a great automaton of clay (stats per Labyrinth Lord) as it is a strange psycho-spiritual presence (as in Gustav Meyrink's Der Golem).

There has been plenty of ink/electrons spilt about Rudolfine Prague and the Emperor's obsessions with art and magic, so in lieu of writing my own summary, I direct the interested reader here:

If you read Czech (or are willing to put up with an online translator):

If you read German:

Rather than writing out pages of rules and setting notes, I just started playing, and have been working out game-setting information as I go. I will be sharing anything I deem useful to others who might want to try gaming in Rudolfine Prague. When I get enough, I'll collect it all in one place, but for now this is very much a work in progress.

Now, I obviously intend to use my House Rules for Early Modern Magic (which I am still revising/expanding) for this campaign I'm playing, but any other game rules I share for the setting will refer solely to the hardcover LotFP Rules & Magic book as it constitutes a baseline to which all LotFP players may refer (and because I think there's a special level of hell reserved for people who expect you to use their house rules).

For starters, I present Background (Ethnic Origin & Social Class) and Religion tables for PCs and NPCs (heavily influenced by World of the Lost), as well as notes on Language and Money.  Later posts (in the works) will cover names, residences & living expenses, random encounters, and random locations.

Figure 1. A quick trip to the British Library
why I don't do much historical gaming

Nota bene : the following tables are my attempt at digesting actual historical facts and figures -- where I could even find them -- down to simple and gameable tables. The ethnic mix of a city of c.60,000 inhabitants cannot be adequately described by a roll of 1d20, and I assume no one will be bothering to roll these details for an NPC unless there is some need or desire to make them interesting. Rudolf II was more interested in alchemy than a census, so demographic details are incredibly vague.

Unlike World of the Lost, these tables are intended for natives and/or residents of the city, not new arrivals.


Table 1: Ethnicity

1d20   Origin     social class*
-----  ---------  -------------
1-4    Jewish     1d20+1
5-9    Czech      1d20
10-12  German     1d12
13     Silesian   1d20
14     Polish     1d20
15     Italian    1d10
16     Dutch      1d8+1
17     Spanish    1d8
18     French     1d12
19     English    1d12
20     Other      1d12/1d20

* mercenaries and soldiers (i.e. most fighters) roll 1d20 for social class regardless of origin; Jewish and Dutch soldiers apply a +1 modifier to this roll.

Depending on which source you believe, Jews made up anywhere from 15-25% of the population of Rudolfine Prague. Many Jews fled to Prague after being expelled from Moravia, Germany, Spain, and Austria in the 1520s-40s. If you want a specific national origin for a Jewish character, roll again (1d20 or 1d12+8) on the table with 1-9 being Czech.

Most burghers are Czech, with a significant and influential German minority. The Italians and Dutch had particularly important enclaves, and there were also important groups of French, English and even Scots. Spaniards are most likely connected to the emperor's court, as Rudolf II grew up in Spain. As to the Others, there are small numbers of Hungarians, Serbians, Croatians, Dalmatians, and others residing within the city, but its cosmopolitan nature attracted scholars, artists, magicians, charlatans, &c &c from all over.

Table 2: Social Class

die*  Social Class
1     noble**
2-3   gentry
4-6   professional
7-9   merchant
10-13 tradesman
14+   peasant/urban poor

* for PCs and general named NPCs, use the die granted by their origin. For a random bystander in the street, roll 1d30. If an NPC from the upper classes is needed, roll a d12, d10, etc as required.
** The first Jewish noble in Prague, Jacob Bassevi, was only given his title in 1622 by Ferdinand II; in Italy, Josef da Fano may or may not have been made the Marchese di Vellimpendi before this. Most Jewish noble families were not given their honours until after the Thirty Years War. In the 17th century, the Dutch nobility were in decline, and made up a very small fraction of their population. If a 1 is rolled on the social class die for a Dutch character, the referee may choose allow a 1-in-6 chance to be a noble instead of a member of the gentry.

N.B. Social class rolled for PCs has no bearing on their starting wealth. Indeed, it is more fun to explain why your baroness only has 30sp to her name, or your peasant farmer is sitting on a fortune of 180sp.

Table 3: Religion for Gentiles

                Cath*  Prot**
Czech & German
 Noble/Gentry   1-17   18-20
 Prof./Merch.   1-14   15-20
 trade/poor     1-4     5-20
Silesian        1-14   15-20
 Noble/Gentry   1-4     5-20
 Other          1-17   18-20
Italian         1-20
Dutch           1-2     3-20    
Spanish         1-20
French          1-18   19-20
English         1-2     3-20

*A Catholic priest (0-level human) has a 1-in-20 chance of being a Jesuit, or a 1-in-10 chance if he is a Cleric.

**Specific Protestant Sects by origin (alternate names in parentheses)

Czech (1d10): 1-4 Unitas Fratrum (Bohemian Brethren, Moravian Brethren), 5-7 Lutheranism, 8-9 Calvinism, 10 Utraquist (Calixtines)

German (1d12): 1-10 Lutheran, 11 Calvinism, 12 Zwinglianism

Silesian (1d10): 1-4 Lutheran, 5-8 Calvinism, 9-10 Socinianism (Anti-Trinitarianism)

Polish (1d10): 1-4 Calvinism, 5-7 Zwinglianism, 8-9 Socinianism (Anti-Trinitarianism), 10 Unitas Fratrum (Bohemian Brethren, Moravian Brethren)

Dutch (1d10): 1-4 Orthodox Calvinism, 5-7 Remonstrant Calvinism, 8-9 Anabaptist, 10 Lutheran

French: Huguenot

English (1d10): 1-9 Church of England, 10 Puritanism ; or see England Upturn'd


Rudolfine Prague is a major centre of printing, with books being produced in Latin, Italian, Dalmatian, Czech, Polish, German, Hungarian, Spanish, and Hebrew.

Czech is the language of the lower classes, with German being the language of culture and high society. The Jews were mostly Czech speakers, as evidenced by the prevalence of Czech glosses in Hebrew books. Latin is, of course, the language of scholarship.

Additions & Modification to the Language rules (LotFP Rules and Magic, p.37)

I love the LotFP language rules, if only because they remind me of D6 Star Wars. For the setting I have proposed above, mostly I need to say a few words about what constitutes a "cultural group" of languages based on a character's origin. The rules state that "Spanish, French, Swedish, English, and German would be part of the same 'cultural group' to use a real-world example". A character will know another language in this group if they roll their Languages skill + Int modifier or less on 1d6, and there are penalties for languages outside of it. Even if one isn't using these rules, the notes below should help make sense of deciding which languages N/PCs ought to know.

So, for the list of origins above, there are two broad cultural groups, each with a -1 penalty to languages contained in the other.
group 1: German, Italian, Dutch, Spanish, French, English
group 2: Czech, Polish, Silesian

For simplicity, a Silesian character's native language will be (1d8): 1-2 German, 3-4 Czech, 5-6 Polish, 7-8 Silesian*. These four languages count as an additional cultural group for Silesians, who roll for other languages according to the cultural group of their native tongue.

*The answer to 'What languages were in use in early modern Silesia?' turns out to be much more complicated and sensitive a topic than you'd expect. I'm going with Silesian being its own language rather than a Polish dialect, but note that the only written languages in the region were Polish, German, Czech, and of course Latin.

Hebrew counts as exotic (-2) to characters of gentile origin (but see below), and counts as a cultural group language for all Jews.

Magic-users and clerics may automatically know either Latin or Hebrew depending on their religious background. Latin, Greek, and Hebrew can all be considered to be in the same cultural group for university or seminarian scholars (i.e., no penalties on the Language roll). A Specialist with points in Architecture would also be entitled to have learnt Latin without a roll (how else would one study Vitruvius?).

Cunning folk will usually have their spellbooks in a vernacular language, and may possess Latin grimoires which they cannot read to display their occult knowledge to the punters. A rural priest may not have much (or any) Latin, repeating the mass by rote.

Czechs and lower-class Germans (tradesmen/peasant/urban poor) who are native Praguers or long-time residents count the other language as part of their cultural group. Professional- and Merchant-class Czechs get a +1 bonus to know German, the Czech gentry and nobility get a +2. The upper class Germans were famously ignorant of the Czech language, so they receive no bonus, and the referee may simply opt not to roll for them regardless of Intelligence.

A party of N/PCs should probably all have one language in common, so the referee may need to grant one to the members of any given group for free. This should be either the native language spoken by the majority of the group, or (more likely) German.


Rather than completely reworking the price lists, I advise keeping the standard 1GP=50SP=500CP from the LotFP rulebook. For flavour, the gold piece can be called a zlatý (lit. 'gold', German Gulden), the silver piece can be called a groš (or bílý (white) groš, German Groschen), and the copper piece can be called a krejcar (Kreuzer).

In reality, 1 groš = 3 krejcary*, and a zlatý was worth 60. There was also a malý groš (malý = 'small'), worth half a groš. Another coin, the gold tolar, was worth 1 zlatý + 10 krejcarů (70 krejarů); by 1621 it was worth 90, and had risen in value to 600 krejcarů by the end of the Thirty Years' War. Add into that foreign money and older coins found in treasure hoards, and you'd never be able to compute XP again, so unless you are obsessed with numismatics, game practicality should win out over historical simulation.

* I tried writing 'krejcars', but I just can't do it, so you're getting proper Czech plurals. Numbers of things in Czech are weird for those unfamiliar with Slavic languages; 2, 3, and 4 use one form (genitive singular), 5 to infinity another (genitive plural). So:
1 zlatý, 2-4 zlaté, 5+ zlatých
1 (bílý) groš, 2-4 (bílé) groše, 5+ (bílých) grošů 
1 krejcar, 2-4 krejcary, 5+ krejcarů
1 tolar, 2-4 tolaru, 5+ tolarů

Monday, 2 October 2017

Now in English! The rest of the monsters for Épées & Sorcellerie 2nd ed.

Blood Vine

Hit Dice: 10-60 hp [4-10]
Attack: +2 à +5
Armour Class: 8
Movement: 0
Alignment: Neutral

Blood vines are without a doubt one of the hardiest plants; this vicious vegetation grows in every environment, even the most sterile and the most hostile, such as the icy northern reaches or the burning southern deserts.

The blood vine can be recognised by its characteristic purple colour and its pointed leaves. With its tendrils, it captures its victims on a successful attack roll and injects a sleeping poison which plunges its prey into a deep coma if a saving throw is failed. The plant can maintain one creature in this state per 10 current hit points it possesses, draining the blood of its victims at the rate of 1d6 hit points per round. This does not prevent it from making normal attacks against other assailants.

Brain Devourer

Hit Dice: 6 [9]
Attack: +3
Armour Class: 10
Movement: 5
Alignment: Chaos

These strange creatures with unnerving anatomy haunt the nightmares of those who come into contact with magic, either directly or indirectly. Brain devourers are quadripedal brains, deep black in colour, which lurk on the material planes far beneath the ground, or in dark, wild parts of the ethereal and astral planes. They hunt sorcerers, attracted by their spells, and move about in the darkness like 10th level thieves, waiting to pounce on their defenceless prey to tear them apart with their sharp claws and deliver a searing mental assault. Each round, the GM should roll 2d6. If the result is less than or equal to the level of the sorcerer, their mind is obliterated and the twisted intellect of the devourer takes its place in order to trick the sorcerer's companions, all the while retaining mastery of its own body. Magic weapons are necessary to injure a Brain Devourer, and they are immune to spells, incantations, and supernatural effects.


Hit Dice: 9 [10]
Attack: +4
Armour Class: 9
Movement: 2 / 6 (fly)
Alignment: Law / Neutral

These winged, feathered serpents are seldom encountered outside their hot and humid native jungles. The primitive tribes who live there look upon them as with admiration and venerate them as deities, which does not displease these ego-centric creatures. Despite their knowledge of all spoken languages (those of humanoids, birds, and reptiles), they rarely intervene in human affairs, and will only aid their 'worshippers'. All couatls are priests of 5th-7th level.

Follower of Set

Hit Dice: 8 [10]
Attack: +4
Armour Class: 11
Movement: 4
Alignment: Chaos

The Followers of Set are barbaric creatures who walk the earth in the form of large humans with the features of birds of prey, muscles of steel, and coppery skin. These servants of the ophidian god are able to transform into giant serpents at will. They never flee, serving their pitiless master unto death, down the most trackless and convoluted paths, with their terrifying powers and demoniacal intelligence. Some of these monsters have mastered the black arts of sorcery, functioning as a sorcerer of level 4-9 (1d6+3).


Hit Dice: 12 [18]
Attack: +6
Armour Class: 13
Movement: 8 / 16 (fly)
Alignment: Law

Ki-rins are celestial unicorns that live in the clouds and are rarely seen on earth. These solitary creatures possess an ethereal appearance and an aura of purity that makes them particularly recognisable. Nevertheless, if one of them is appealed to properly, they will undoubtedly rise up on the side of Law in the eternal struggle against Chaos, where they will make good use of their intelligence and exceptional magical abilities. Ki-rins cast spells as 12th level priests, are resistant to magic, and also possess the powers of djinns.


Hit Dice: 10+1 [13]
Attack: +6
Armour Class: 12
Movement: 2
Alignment: Chaos / Neutral

These skeletal undead, sometimes dressed in the faded rags of formerly sumptuous robes, were formerly sorcerers or priests of great power, and are now animated by black magic, a curse, or an implacable will stronger than death.

They have the spells and abilities of a sorcerer or priest of their level. In addition, the sight of these horrors causes fear in all beings of less than 4 hit dice, and their icy touch causes paralysis. Creatures of 4th level or higher are entitled to a saving throw. Finally, liches are immune to mind-affecting spells, sleep, poison, and disease.


Hit Dice: 7 [9]
Attack: +3
Armour Class: 9
Movement: 5
Alignment: Neutral

Nâgas are legendary creatures of the far east. These monsters have the body of a giant serpent and multiple heads; females possess an even number of human heads whilst males have an odd number. The number of heads seems to directly influence their status, as does their age, but no one knows more, which can be very problematic as nâgas are very formal, and require that one address them with their endless list of titles and do them honours precisely according to their rank. They are often albinos, perhaps because they never leave the depths where they conscientiously and jealously guard the treasures of the earth. These ophidian creatures of great nobility will never touch any metal other than gold. Their bracelets, diadems, and their necklaces are made of this substance, and worked to attain an unparalleled purity. Nâgas  know 1d6+4 spells of levels 1-3, chosen from the priest or sorcerer lists, which they cast as if they were 5th level.


Hit Dice: 6 [10]
Attack: +3
Armour Class: 11
Movement: 4 / 8 (fly)
Alignment: Law

Phoenices are mythological birds of great rarity, although one might encounter them in the company of the great eastern magicians. Their appearance on any other occasion cannot but signify great changes, for it is said that they come from a faraway land across the ocean... or perhaps nest on the sun itself! It is said that these noble creatures are almost equal in size to rocs, and their iridescent plumage is surrounded with a halo of flames, which melts any weapon, even a magical one (saving throw allowed for magic weapons) which comes in contact with it. Sorcery is ineffective against these legendary birds. The virtuous have nothing to fear from the inferno which surrounds them, but others suffer one die of damage per round, at a range of ten metres.

Polar Worm

Hit Dice: 13 [15]
Attack: +6
Armour Class: 8
Movement: 2
Alignment: Neutral

These gigantic worms, 15 metres long and 3 metres wide, burrow in the frozen ground of the northernmost regions of the world, digging commensurately large tunnels far beneath the fields of ice.

Although they seem to be related to purple worms, this is not the case. They are in fact larvae. Of exactly what they are larvae is a completely different question; no one in living memory has seen them complete a metamorphosis. This is hardly surprising, for these annulated creatures have an astonishing power of hypnosis (saving throw allowed) which causes any creature staring into their maw filled with row upon row of teeth to walk up calmly to be swallowed, and then digested. Any ogre-sized creature or smaller will be swallowed on an attack roll of 15 or higher. A swallowed creature will be completely digested in one hour.

Psychic Flayer

Hit Dice: 8+1 [10]
Attack: +5
Armour Class: 10
Movement: 4
Alignment: Law

This subterranean humanoid race possesses a super-human intelligence. Although lawful, they behave in a fashion which is generally perceived as malignant by the younger races who do not know all their plans nor understand their mode of thinking. Their spongy heads possess 1d3+3 tentacles with which they attack their victims, aiming for the head. If an attack succeeds, corrosive juices dissolve the cranium and the tentacles will reach the brain in 1d3+1 rounds, killing the victim.

They can attack once per round with a wave of intense psychic energy, capable of killing every creature of less than 4 hit dice within 6 metres, and putting others in a coma. If a saving throw succeeds (modified by Intelligence), the effects are coma or stunning respectively. Psychic flayers have a +3 bonus to save against magical attacks.


Hit Dice: 12 [14]
Attack: +4
Armour Class: 11
Movement: 6 / 12 (fly)
Alignment: Chaos

Rakshasas are shape-changing demons from the far east who frequently come into conflict with the gods, sometimes successfully. In their terrible true shape, the hair and eyes of these immortal creatures burn with a supernatural fire whilst they pierce their prey with their extremely long claws. They particularly appreciate human flesh. They are the uncontested masters of illusion. One of the shapes they love to assume is that of a tiger-headed human. These soot-black demons can never refuse a wager, but nothing guarantees that they will play fairly, and a poorly-worded bet will often backfire on the careless challenger, unless the rakshasa uses dishonourable means to achieve victory.

Rakshasas can employ the following spells at will: Transformation, Invisibility, Illusion, Clairvoyance, and Suggestion. The regenerate one hit point per round and their claws are covered in a swift-acting lethal venom.


Hit Dice: 11 [12]
Attack: +5
Armour Class: 12
Movement: 1
Alignment: Neutral / Chaos

Avaricious and strange, these levitating monsters have a scaly spherical body and possess ten eyestalks and a larger central eye.

The creature can use 1d6 magical powers per round, each one dependent on one of its eyes: charm, sleep, telekinesis, slow, instant death, debilitation, confusion, disintegration, panic, dispel magic, statue. An even number on the damage roll indicates that an eyestalk has been cut off, and the creature loses use of the associated power.


Hit Dice: 9 [10]
Attack: +4
Armour Class: 10
Movement: 4 / 8 (fly)
Alignment: Law

These winged, human-headed bulls are among the most noble earthly creatures. Ardent defenders of humanity against the innumerable dangers of Chaos, they aid lawful heroes and sometimes join in friendship with humans. Shedus can converse telepathically and use Dimension Door and Invisibility at will. They function as 6th level priests and are surrounded by a permanent Circle of Protection from Evil.