Better Than Any Man: Double Vision

With a small change in personnel from last week we are missing The Captain, but are joined by Ben playing Balock, a specialist. Planning for this campaign I used the approach take by Steve in his RuneQuest game – a session will go ahead if we have at least 3 players, and rather than construct dubious narrative explanations for why a particular character isn’t present, we will just add and drop them as needed. No narrative sleight of hand required. Characters are there or they aren’t. Any anomalies will be dealt with as they come up.

I also expanded upon the house rules for the campaign. RAW LotFP is fantastic, but there were a couple of bits I wanted to tweak – adding occupations, critical hits and fumbles, dual wielding and some tweaks to the skills system. My house rules are here.

As with last weeks report this contains spoilers for A Stranger Storm and Better Than Any Man, if you expect to play them at any point read no further.

The Incontinent Vicar

Last week our adventurers found themselves in The Incontinent Vicar, a roadside inn not so many miles from their destination, Ochsenfurt. They had been warming themselves by the fire, and eating and drinking while talking with the innkeeper Dieter Letzel until way past the early hours. Our last session ended when Dieter Letzel came down the stairs in his nightshirt.

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Both of the Dieter Letzel’s are identical apart from their clothes and after the initial shock, accusations of fraud, deceit and witchcraft they both attack the other grabbing makeshift weapons. Before they can do much more than clobber each other Miklos hauls the innkeeper Dieter across the bar and into the kitchen while Maldron grabs nightshirt Dieter in a bear hug. Confusion reins – what the hell is going on?

Both Dieter’s claim the inn is theirs, the other Dieter is an impostor, a witch or a demon. And they are frantic, both as convincing as the other.

449069eb6811b5da5e88234ed52362baIt’s not long before the entertainers and merchants come running down the stairs, woken by the furore. Some of the entertainers are armed with rapiers and daggers, perhaps believing the adventurers to be bandits (what could possibly give them that impression?), and come upon a scene of two restrained Dieters and four heavily armed rough and ready types. The leader of the entertainers, Friedwart Pfefferberg steps forward and demands to know what is going on – both him and his companions look particularly disturbed.

The scene is set for an evening of confusion, paranoia and desperate plans.

  • One of the young entertainers, Adelgis Schottel, is the exact duplicate of the body outside with the knife wound in his back. They tell the party that they offered a lift to a minstrel on the road as he was soaked from the storm, but after getting into their coach he transformed and was identical to Adelgis. There was a chaotic fight and one of the Adelgis’ was stabbed in the back. Fearful of the outcome of their actions they hurriedly hid the dead Adelgis’ body in the bushes to the side of the road.
  • Balock checks Dieter’s room and finds a crucifix, a bible and a letter confirming employment with Ursula Gottlieb, a young lady employee as a cook from the nearby village of Simmershofen.
  • Hemming recalls that doppelgangers (or changelings) have a valuable gem embedded in their heart.
  • The leader of the merchants Guntram Schneller declares that the characters have no right to stop them leaving and the merchants move to the stairs, but their way is blocked by Maldron and Hemming makes it quite clear that if they insist on trying to leave things will not go well for them.
  • For the nth time Hemming shares his idea of burning the place to the ground with everyone in it.
  • Balock and Miklos take nightshirt Dieter into the kitchen and question him, but everything adds up – surely he can’t be the changeling. This Dieter asks them to fetch Father Drucker from the nearby village of Simmershofen, he will know how to resolve this situation.
  • While questioning Dieter in the kitchen Ursula Gottlieb arrives for work, ready to cook breakfast for the guests. When she sees Dieter with the two armed men she screams, but eventually calms down enough to be questioned about Dieter. Little useful information is obtained.attack_on_tavern_by_daroz-d5sgav4
  • Now everyone is back in the common room Hemming questions innkeeper Dieter, trying to catch him out on a lack of knowledge, but this Dieter seems to know as much about the inn as the other Dieter. He even shows where he keeps a pistol hidden under the floorboards behind the bar. Dieter suggests fetching Father Drucker from Simmershofen, he will know how to resolve this situation.
  • The external kitchen door is heard to open again and upon checking Hemming is (or maybe isn’t) surprised to find Ursula Gottlieb coming into the kitchen, ready to cook breakfast for the guests. She screams and tries to run back out through the kitchen door, but her way is blocked by Balock. Taken into the common room, Ursula’s screams amplify as she sees two Dieters and another Ursula. The other Ursula joins her. It takes a while to calm them both down.clayface_5
  • Innkeeper Dieter tells the characters that he has some information that he believes will help them sort this mess out, but he will only give it out of earshot of the other Dieter; so Balock and Miklos lead him into the kitchen. Once the kitchen door is closed Dieter changes shape and in a second is an exact duplicate of Balock. Even though Miklos saw the transformation, he is not sure which is the real Balock and which is the changeling. The Balocks start to fight and one is lightly wounded before both offering to be tied up so this can be sorted out. Both Balocks are taken captive and brought back into the common room.
  • Hemming drags the body in from outside and hacks it to pieces in the kitchen, discovering a gem in it’s heart. At least they can believe Adelgis is not a changeling. Returning to the common room covered in blood, his grim visage triggers another bout of screams from both Ursula’s.
  • The merchants want to get underway as they have important business to attend to; the entertainers are in no rush. However, they all want to change into their travelling clothes. A plan is concocted to tie them together in their groups, so to deter any would be dopplegangers from mimicking anyone else (did someone say paranoid?), but the party do not have any rope.
  • Miklos and Hemming fetch rope from the coachhouse and discover there are too many horses for the coaches, 16 in total, while the two coaches are designed to be pulled by two and four horses each… someone suggested there could be doppleganger horses, a ludicrous notion. The merchants and entertainers get dressed although it takes some time.
  • Real non-changeling (as far as they adventurers know) Dieter advises the group to fetch Father Drucker from Simmershofen, taking Ursula Gottlieb (one or both?) with them. He will not leave the inn, the merchants want to get underway and the entertainers want reassurance from a priest before travelling further.

What the characters are going to do next I have no idea…

 

Lamentations of the Flame Princess House Rules

I’ve GM’d LotFP RAW and it runs great, but I wanted a few tweaks for Better Than Any Man. This is a well trodden path and there are lots of house rules out there, many focused on one or two items, and a couple of complete and significant sets such as Ten Foot Polemic’s Unified House Rules. I didn’t want to change too much, so hand picked a few house rules from different sources that seemed a good fit.

Character Creation

Occupations from lotfp666.com

Combat

Initiative – with Roll20 use individual initiative, around the table use group initiative

Criticals and Fumbles

 

Dual Wield [Ten Foot Polemic’s Unified House Rules]

  • When using two weapons to attack roll once to hit as with a normal attack.
  • If the attack hits roll damage twice, one for each weapon with damage delivered being equal to the highest value.
  • If the same number is rolled on both dice, damage is doubled (i.e. the total of both dice rolls).

Skills

Skill Checks

  • Skill checks are made on 1d6 as RAW
  • Create Advantage: the character creates an advantage by using appropriate tools, taking more time or some other aspect that will increase the chances of success – roll skill dice twice and take the best result [based on these house rules by The Gnarly Gnoll]

Additional Skills

First Aid

  • Takes one turn and if successful heals the recipients HP for the number shown on the dice.
  • Can only be used once per character after each combat to heal the damage from that combat.
  • A roll of 6 deals 1hp damage to the patient.
  • Requires a Healing Kit which costs 100sp and has 10 uses.

Lore [based on these new skills from Deep Delving]:

  • This skill represents the character’s knowledge about the game world – geography, history, current events.
  • Each character class has ‘Deeper Knowledge’ about their area of speciality which grants adds +1 to the skill
    • Cleric: Religions and Gods
    • Fighter: Wars, Military, Warriors, Weapons and Armour
    • Magic-User: Arcana, items of power
    • Specialist: Nations and Societies, Ruins and Catacombs
  • Common knowledge is always rolled with advantage

Skill Points [taken from these Class Revisions by Deep Delving]

  • While specialists are still the main class for developing skills, all classes can gain some skill points:
  • Cleric and Magic-User
    • 1 point at levels 2, 5, 8, 11, 14, 17
    • Can choose from First Aid, Languages, Lore, Search
  • Fighter
    • 1 point at levels 2, 5, 8, 11, 14, 17
    • Can choose from Bushcraft, Climb, First Aid, Languages, Lore, Search, Stealth
  • Specialist
    • 4 points at 1st level
    • 3 points at levels 2, 5, 8, 11, 14, 17
    • 2 points every level otherwise

Better Than Any Man: A Stranger Storm rages

renaissance-soldiers-smallFor weeks now I’ve been preparing to run Better Than Any Man, the 2013 Free RPG Day offering from Lamentations of the Flame Princess. After printing and binding the PDF I’ve read it through a couple of times at least; there’s so much great stuff in here that I can’t talk about without giving spoilers. And despite it being free it’s up to the high standards of much of the LotFP catalogue.

A mini-campaign set during the Thirty Years War it’s based on historical events, but wouldn’t be LotFP without some really weird stuff in there. The blurb from the back page reads:

The Swedes are invading!
Sorcerers have taken Karlstadt with the aid of unearthly creatures!
In Würzburg, the Prince-Bishop schemes to retain control of his domain.

… and yet darker forces gather…

Thousands – perhaps tens of thousands – will die before the week is out. Can a group of luckless adventurers change the course of the events? Profit along the way? But what can they possibly do against those who consider themselves Better Than Any Man?

Better Than Any Man is a deluxe LotFP: Weird Fantasy Role-Playing adventure for character levels 1–4. Dungeoneering, wilderness adventuring, investigation, politics and negotiation, many new spells, magic items, and monsters—this one has it all!

Using ideas from the Black Dogs zine the characters start the adventure as Black Dogs, monster hunters and swords for hire. All have had an encounter of some kind in their past that has lead them to this point.

The session started with character generation, each player creating two characters each “just in case” their first character meets an unpleasant and premature ending. An hour and half later, characters created, the players selected their first victim adventurer.

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  • Hemming Kristofferson (Steve), a Swedish Magic-User, outcast by the superstitious folk of his village because of his odd ways and recruited into the army of King Gustavus Adolphus for the same reason, he was trained for many years to be a battle mage. No longer in the Swedish army for unspecified reasons, he seems keen to avoid the oncoming Swedish horde.
  • Maldron (Tony), a natural Fighter who followed his brother Den into war. During one battle they lost contact and Den’s body was not found amongst the dead. Maldron has not seen him since.
  • Miklos ‘Papist Antichrist servant’ Tamas (Rick), an unhinged Catholic Cleric of undetermined past.
  • Michael Caine as The Captain in The Last ValleyThe Captain (Graham), a German Fight based on Michael Caine’s character in The Last Valley. A true soldier of fortune who has seen the evil of mankind and experienced the supernatural.
  • Unnamed as yet (Ben wasn’t able to make this first session).

I’d hoped to start the campaign proper after character generation, and had planned to begin with the adventure from the LotFP Referee’s Guide, A Stranger Storm. From this point on there will be spoilers for A Stranger Storm and Better Than Any Man, if you think it likely you will play them at any point turn away now!

A Stranger Storm

Travelling to Ochsenfurt (Germany) in The Holy Roman Empire to meet an agent of the Black Dogs, one Nicklaus Stein, the terrible storms caused their coach to crash off the road resulting in one dead horse and a badly injured horse and coachman. With time pressing they push on through the storm and travel for many hours, soaked to the bone, when they spot the warm glow of inn lights not far off in the distance.

On the approach to the inn the adventurers discover a body apparently hastily hidden under bushes beside the road, bruises and scratches on his face and a substantial dagger wound in his back. Taking the body they leave it in a haystack outside the inn which has a sign hanging outside identifying it as The Incontinent Vicar.

Tavern External

Inside the inn a welcoming fire warms the common room, but the place seems to be empty apart from a sturdy innkeeper by the name of Dieter Letzel. Dieter welcomes the group and tells them that unfortunately all of the rooms upstairs are full (a travelling entertainment troupe and some merchants occupying them), but offers them a table near the fire to warm themselves, sup ale and eat. The PCs hint very strongly that there is a body outside which, based on a description matches the appearance of one of the entertainers, but Dieter seems uninterested, convinced that the guest is safely tucked up in bed.

As the night wears on Dieter asks the Black Dogs about themselves and what they are doing on the road. One of the guests comes down to empty a chamber pot, then quickly returns upstairs. The innkeeper talks about the approaching Swedish army and a rumour he’s heard about sorcerers in Karlstadt, and there is more idle chatter.

A while later further footsteps are heard coming down the stairs and Dieter Letzel enters the common room wearing a nightgown. Both Dieter Letzel’s are shocked and confused (as are the PC’s understandably), and they are both quick to anger… it seems things are about to get interesting.

UK Games Expo

UK Games Expo Logo

It’s hard to contain my excitement about UK Games Expo, my giddiness levels are nearly as high as in the lead up to Grogmeet. Even more so since my UKGE weekend has been extended to include a Dungeon Crawl Classics game in Loughborough (thanks to Bruce Cunnington) on the Thursday evening; as well as a cracking game session this means I can get to the NEC earlier than if I was travelling down from Liverpool.

There’s little that hasn’t already been said about UKGE that I can add to, other than one piece of advice. Last year I wasn’t too surprised to read post-con that the trade hall was rammed on the Saturday and people were struggling to get near the popular stands. This contrasted to my Friday morning stroll around the trade hall where I was able to browse the goods on offer with ease and talk to game authors and publishers. So my advice is, if your plans allow it, get to the trade hall early IMG_20180520_153921.jpgon the Friday – I plan to get there when it opens at 09.30.

In addition to the required UKGE lanyard I’ll be wearing one with my Old Scouser Roleplaying symbol on it; if you don’t already know me and you spot it say hello.

Besides picking up some bits in the trade hall I’ve got a few gaming sessions which I’m really looking forward to:

Friday 1 June

15.00-19.00 Symbaroum  with Matt Broome

20.00-00.00 Feng Shui 2 with CJ Romer

Saturday 2 June

10.00-14.00 HeroQuest with Ian Cooper

15.00-19.00 I’m GMing LotFP

Hope to see you there!

Lunchtime Lairs 6: Fire and Murder

After last sessions debacle excitement the adventurers believed they had the poor leprous old lady Olga on the run. Now joined by a hungover Blegrim after his excessive ale binge and after a quick rest and perhaps overlong assessment of the situation they head through the door Olga escaped through, stepping into the Library. A window is open, curtains fluttering in the wind. Had Olga fled the building, or was there more to be discovered?

Basement-stairs

Aware of the strong smell of smoke (Romula had set the kitchen on first last session), while Seneca checks the windows for traps, Romula pulls all of the books off the shelves, revealing an odd panel where the library wall meets the staircase. Charged with smashing the door down, Blegrim spectacularly fails, embedding his axe in a wooden support. Hector charges through the door and manages to keep his balance only to be charmed (again!) by Olga who waits in the basement below.

A giant talking frog sitting in a tub of sludge and a scrawny man held prisoner behind bars add to the strangeness of the scene, then as is all too typical, chaos ensues with Andromeda catching her sling on a nail and ripping it, Romula tossing the cheese wheel down the stairs, Seneca trying to hit Olga with an arrow from her bow and Hector trying to resist orders to kill the rest of the party. Olga summons great skeletal demons armed with great blades, but fortunately Romula is able to turn them, and at the same time Hector breaks the charm and the whole party pile in.

Giant Frog

Sensing the end is near Olga retreats but ultimately falls under a barrage of chocolate based Magic Missiles cast by Faqual and strong attacks from Blegrim. The post-decapitation calmness which descends on the scene is broken by the croaking voice of the frog which offers to answer three questions about the local area and so the party learn that Mina does not intend to betray them and that a local rancher, Baron Pavel, requires adventurers to deal with a troublesome matter (there was a third question, but memory fails me on this occasion).

Fleeing the burning house and returning to Mina the party are duly rewarded and have little time to rest (and some level up) before heading out of town to see Baron Pavel.

As was always the case with Lunchtime Lairs we wanted to have rotating GM’s, and so I handed over the GM reins to Andrew, pulled out a character I had created earlier and before too long we were off adventuring again. Andrew’s blog entry on the start of his game is here.

Chatting to the other players, Dave and Sam are both interested in running games, this is perfect and exactly what we wanted Lunchtime Lairs to be. With a bit of luck we’ll get a few more players and could soon have two tables every Wednesday. There’s bags of potential here and lots of scope to expand beyond The Black Hack. I look forward to seeing how it all develops.

Lunchtime Lairs 5: Eat cheese, live longer

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This week we were joined by Sam who played Hector the Hoplite and James rejoined us with a new character, Seneca of the Streets, after Fean the Quick perished a couple of weeks back. We were also missing the strong arm and directness of Blegrim.

Now according to Google a Hero is:

a person who is admired for their courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.

It wouldn’t really be fair to describe our characters as heroes this week because they happily accepted Mina’s offer of a fat wedge of cash to bring her the head of her scheming aunt Olga. No questions – is this right, is this necessary? Just a simple ‘Yes, we’ll murder your aunt for cash, no questions asked?’ So, nothing heroic is going on this week.

After a further recon of the Olga’s home, not quite big enough to call a mansion, but surrounded by trees and railings the players took quite a bit of time determining their plan of action. Options included:

  • f84ba96f639243630112d2b69cea127dLocating a mercenary company and hiring their Trebuchet
  • Approaching a pirate ship with a view to loaning an Arbalest
  • Recruiting street urchins to create a distraction (very community focused, helping poor kids earn a crust)

In the end the plan decided upon was quite simple. Hector and Senaca would approach the house (as they would be unknown to Olga) under the pretence of having information. This would create a distraction while Romula, Andromeda and Faqual stealthily positioned themselves to attack the poor old lady.

hag

Hector and Seneca were able to blag their way into Olga’s home convincing her and her manservant that they had information of worth with the condition that they leave all their weapons outside (Hector was able to conceal a dagger though which in the Black Hack is as good as any other weapon in the hands of a warrior). While they were doing this Romula and Andromeda were trying to sneak over the railings and Faqual approached the building from the front.

4a8a24fe9de970557356bd1a4f42aa11Of course it didn’t take long for all hell to break lose and within moments Olga was casting Charm Person spells, her manservant was hacking at Senaca, Hector (now charmed) was hacking at Senaca and Olga was making her escape. Faqual joined the fight from outside a broken window and ended up in a scrap with the manservant while Hector and Senaca duked it out. Romula and Andromeda arrived in the nick of time, Romula using the classic Cheese Wheel distraction technique to break both Hector and Senaca out of their charmed state. Andromeda quickly dispatched the manservant.

And that was were we left them. Olga had fled into another room and they were only marginally closer to having her head on a platter. I don’t think Frodo, Aragorn or Boromir have anything to worry about in Hero hit parade, but Elric may want to look over his shoulder.

It’s great to see new players coming along to Lunchtime Lairs, that’s 7 of us now and I’ve been told there are a couple more on the way. We’ll have to start a second table soon.

Lunchtime Lairs 4: Underground Inferno

Last session we left our heroes in a diseased flesh filled underground cavern which they had set on fire while trying to rescue Olga’s daughter Mina from Elias Goldtongue and the psychic space beetle. Andromeda was able to slap Faqual out of his brain addled state and they were both able to help Romula free Mina while Blegrin showed his love of axe work and set to on Elias and the beetle. Unfortunately the beetles teleportation ability allowed it to get behind Romula which it then took out of action.

homemqueimaThe situation was looking desperate, Andromeda making a frantic bid to escape with Mina when Blegrin hoisted Elias over his head and cast him into the flames. Consumed by fire the evil cleric writhed and screamed and the beetle disappeared. The group deduced that Elias had summoned the beetle, and that’s why it disappeared when he was killed, but they haven’t yet considered that maybe Elias wasn’t the mastermind.

With little time to spare as the city watch closed in on the temple the group fled and returned to the Pigs Stick and Carrot tavern where their adventure had started. Their intention of returning Mina to Olga her ‘mother’ was questioned when Mina told the party that Olga was really her evil aunt who needed her alive to get access to her inheritance. Refusing to hand over Mina to her aunt they took her to a different tavern to decide what to do.

Mina told them her story, how her aunt Olga wanted to get her hands on her fortune, left to her when her parents died. Now Mina has offered them a handsome reward to bring her Olga’s head. The session ended just after our heroes had staked out Olga’s mansion. Will they be able to call themselves heroes any longer if they are willing to behead a leprous old lady?