For 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
- 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.
- The 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.
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.