Better Than Any Man: Karlstadt

Warning: BTAM spoilers ahead!

Having gained favour with the smuggler Gabi Tabbecker the Black Dogs find themselves sleeping in a farmhouse not far from Karlstadt with access to a tunnel they can follow into the town itself. They are rudely awoken by Gabi who gives them advice; avoid The Seven and their creatures and remember weapons of any kind are outlawed. Walking around looking like adventurers will get you in trouble.

The tunnel leads to the basement of a house at the northern edge of the town; last time it was used the building was empty but now it seems a family have moved in. Deciding they don’t want to be discovered the Black Dogs narrowly escape detection when Magdalyn, the wife of Gawinus and mother of Ruben (or so they believe having listened in on their conversations) comes into the basement for food supplies. A while later with various chores pressing the family leave the house, securing it on their way out.

Tough decisions are made about what gear to take onto the streets of Karlstadt and those with chainmail armour leave it behind along with all of their weapons. Even Maldron reluctantly leaves his two handed sword behind. Hemming takes his quarterstaff believing he can convince any who question him that it he needs it to walk. Because that would be rational, and there is an abundance of rationality in Karlstadt right now.

1407152925_peste-di-londraHemming unlocks a padlock on the back door of the house and Balock unlocks the door itself and within no time the party are out on the streets of Karlstadt.  The many buildings of the town are overflowing with refugees, and many are living on the overcrowded streets; all seeking safety from the Swedish army.

The air still thick with insects, the stench of effluent and human misery, our adventurers spend some time exploring the burgeoning town and as part of their investigations learn:

  • The locations of the homes of The Seven
  • To avoid Plague Alley
  • The Bauer House (cue sad attempts at singing “She’s in parties”), home of the 8th Sorcerer is in ruins
  • People like to make music and dance when the world is going to shit
  • The Catholic Church has been sequestered by the Burgerfriedensmiliz
  • The Joy spends her time in Zum Erleuchteten Hurenbrock and is a mine of information
  • The Provider feeds the populace of the town every day at 3
  • The Watcher can be found at the church or her home and just before midday every day heads from her home to the town gates to determine who may enter
  • The Reminder is handing out books; Hemming grabs a sample which contains a Read Magic spell
  • The Defiler visits the cemetery every night where she can be seen ranting
  • The Defender has a nice house to herself
  • The Mother hasn’t been seen in town for a while. This reminds Miklos of the mad woman he talked to last week who had a dim view of the Mother and ranted about the Insect God
  • 5_cyptids-320x320The creatures of The Seven are hideous things (at least those that have been seen so far)

With tentative plans for next session of a visit to The Joy (that is going to be fun!) and checking out the Bauer House plus with Gustavus Adolphus and his boys likely not too far away now, getting the heads of The Seven is looking like a tall order.

Owlbear and Wizards Staff 2018

525d4e50-a112-11e8-81c9-1b431fd718bc-rimg-w400-h400-dc1c1c1c-gmirA day after the events at Owlbear and Wizards Staff, I’m still coming down from the excitement of it all. Set in the welcoming town of Leamington Spa it promised a day packed with RPG goodness with a bus load of games on offer. The weekend started for me on the Friday night with a visit to a local boozer followed by the delights of Warwick Spice (just to be clear it’s a restaurant with amazing food), the whole evening hosted by the affable emcee Matt Broome. With great company all around I had a chance to catch up with some older gaming pals (I’d like to say old friends because it feels like they are, but I’ve only known most of them 12-18 months!) and meet twitter folk face to face for the first time.

Matt couldn’t believe the size of his poppadom! Great food, great company in Warwick Spice.

The day itself started early with RPG folk descending on The Band Factory, a rehearsal venue not far from the town centre but free of musical aspirants for the day. The space was perfect, well lit with good sized tables and facilities. Drinks and biscuits were readily available with a load of tasty samosas shipped in at lunchtime. I didn’t have to take more than a step or two to bump into someone I knew.

GM Lee playing us like a fiddle

I was playing Dungeon Crawl Classics in the morning session, expertly GM’d by DCC Judge Lee Nielson. Lee was well at ease with the system and quickly had us up and running through the 0 level funnel. But rather than being the usual fantasy peasants we were ordinary people from the 70’s somehow transported to fantasy land. My characters were a plumber (Mario of course), a taxidermist and a minister… other’s included a corny radio DJ, a drug addled hippy and a retired ex-SAS dude. It was a lot of fun imagining how these characters could rationalise the crazy fantasy world they had been transported to, and how they would feel having seen three of their fellow time travellers slaughtered by alien lizardmen. Lots of scraps and a few traps saw our numbers decimated until we came to the final encounter and bravely won the day. Great game, great GM, great players.

The Aliquam Martialis – Howard (hidden by my girth), Lee, Turan, Matt and Paul

After a chilled lunch spent chatting to some top gaming folk it was onto the afternoon session where I GM’d my Lamentations of the Flame Princess home-brew The Greater Share of Honour, set on the eve of the Battle of Agincourt. It’s a game I’ve ran a number of times at cons and it always seems to go down well. I had an great group of players who really engaged with the game and took to their characters with gusto – I had little doubt they would be able to carry out the King’s orders. On this occasion I struggled to fit the game into the 3hr 30 minute slot, hopefully we’ll be able to pick it up and complete it on Roll20.

There were a ton of other great games on throughout the day – like with most cons I wish there was some time trick we could do that would allow me to play in every game – I’m certain everyone there felt the same. Some of the other games being run included Mutant Crawl Classics, Startrek Adventures, WFRP, Monster of the Week (with the Hookland setting), Space 1889, Genesys, D&D 5e, Shadowrun, HeroQuest Glorantha, Runequest, Numenera, Call of Cthulhu, Fate, Elite Dangerous.

The day ended with a gathering of DCC/MCC GM’s – you wouldn’t want to bump into this lot down a dark alley!

DCC Crew

Now the countdown begins, only 364 sleeps until the next one!

Advanced Fighting Fantasy: Hellwinter Keep

The howling wind whipped the snow into flurries but did little to mask the roars of bears beyond the camp, one of a fully grown specimen, the other on the far side a cub. Aethed Elindan and Mithrielye watched and waited as bear paws thumped on the ground, big bear paws… Aethed stacked the fire high hoping to scare the creature away; a plan which may have worked had the party not started arguing about the nature of bears. Mithrielye believed it to be a noble guardian of the forest that would cause them no harm, while Aethed strongly argued a hungry bear was likely to try and eat them. Their conviction clear in their beliefs was inspirational, but the bear just heard noise, the kind of noise food makes.


Aethed was proven right as the full grown bear came charging into camp. The warrior and Pyram the Priest closed in on the beast while Mithrielye singed it with a fire bolt. Who’d have thought moving to close combat with an 8″ tall bear could be so bad for your health? It took a couple of swipes at Pyram, tearing into his flesh while Aethed tried to lure the creature nearer the fire, hoping it would fall in. Although this tactic failed a combination of force bolts and a coating of lamp oil saw the poor animal enveloped in flames, running a short distance from the camp before collapsing – dead.

A+ for a proper old school ingenuity and bear stakes for breakfast saw their spirits lifted, and after a decent rest and a smattering of healing for Pyram, they set off on the final leg of their journey to Hellwinter Keep.

Hellwinter TowerThe rain now turned to snow, the heroes struggled on towards Hellwinter, climbing ever higher along treacherously steep and narrow mountain paths. Despite taking great care Mithrielye lost her footing and tumbled from the path dropping 20 feet to a ledge below; her luck held as she landed on tough mountain grass, softening the fall. Many hours later the tower of Hellwinter Keep came into view, their journey close to an end.

Aethed nimbly scaled the courtyard wall and opened the gates. Within the desolate area with it’s drifts of snow and unswept paving stones are hints of neglect, not the warm welcome from Sir Gallaharn Kairn they were expecting. A graveyard to one side has many worn gravestones, and of those one with readable engravings stands out – Sir Deckar Kairn, an ancestor of Sir Gallaharn. No attention had been paid to this grave for some time; why has Sir Gallaharn completely neglected his ancestors resting place?

There is little else to explore in the courtyard, a well of no obvious consequence which our heroes chose to ignore and a stable door. Mithrielye ventured into the stable out of the snow, trying to pierce the depth of the shadows when the torn and bloody remains of a warhorse comes charging out. Shreds of flesh cling to bone and part of the poor creatures jaw is missing; there is no life in it’s eyes yet it charges at the adventurers. Blocking the door into the courtyard Aethed and Pyram take mighty swings at the undead nightmare, bringing it to halt in short order. The mystery of this place grows. Where is Sir Gallaharn and why the hell is there an undead horse?









A broken door leads from the courtyard into the tower itself and the heroes proceed onwards through it with due caution. Beyond is a common room, cold and damp with a large fireplace, engraved with a heraldic device of a Black Dragon belonging to a long forgotten order of knights. A ruined oak table fills the room while cutlery and dishes are scattered about. Two doors lead from this room while a staircase leads up to the next level.

Before the party can decide on their next step we have to call it a night. I wasn’t expecting to run a second session of this adventure just yet, but was pleased to give Advanced Fighting Fantasy an extended trial run. I’m really warming to the system, it’s very simple and does everything you’d need, plus the magic system is interesting – wizards and sorcerers are powerful even as beginning characters.


Better Than Any Man: Adred’s head

As we’re getting into the thick of BTAM, here’s the standard spoiler alert; this post has spoilers, if you think you might play BTAM at some point go and read something else (like my Advanced Fighting Fantasy: Gallows End to Hellwinter session report).

Surrounded by the misery and suffering of the refugee camp outside Karlstadt the adventurers consider how they might gain access to the town (their mission being to kill The Seven and take their heads to Wurzburg). Like the thousands of people in the camp who are fleeing the advancing Swedish Army and desperately seeking shelter in Karlstadt and protection from The Seven, there only seems to be one way in. Present yourself before the gates before the one known as The Watcher.


The party spilts to enquire around the camp and pick up some further rumours while avoiding the Burgerfriendensmiliz, the town militia who take a dim view of armed travellers. Miklos’ attention is drawn to a woman who is preaching portents of doom (like anyone around here needs reminding), who with her eyes rolling in her head shouts “the Insect God will devour humanity!” Miklos approaches and learns the woman, Solla Zurzen, once resided in Karlstadt and curses the one known as The Mother. “She killed my cat and has taken children, Ulrike Lamprecht is evil!” Unfortunately Solla is able to recall little about her Insect God prophecies as she made them in a trance like state. She does point out the swarms of insects that seem to be everywhere…

Meanwhile Maldron is approached by a worn and world weary thug who asks if he and his friends are looking for work. He tells the fighter that his boss has observed the group and believes they could help each other out. If so, Maldron should find his companions and meet him under a nearby tree in one hour.

Desperate MotherNot far away a despairing woman asks Hemming for help. Through her tears she introduces herself as Clora Machholter and asks will Hemming and his accomplices to save her daughter Lena who has been kidnapped. She found a note at the place she had left Lena for a short and shows the parchment with the demand for 1000 pieces of silver to be dropped at the Braasch farm a few miles away. The money was to be in bags on a mule, the deliverer then leave the farm and a couple of hours later the child would be on the mule. Despite pleading and making offers that showed the extent of her misery and desperation Hemming and the Black Dogs remained focused on their task – finding a way into Karlstadt.

After meeting the thug under the tree the Black Dogs are taken to meet Adred Jaeger, the leader of the self-styled Jaegerstruppe. Jaeger’s criminal business is prostitution, taking advantage of desperate women in the camp and the adventurers take an immediate dislike to him. However, an interesting offer is put on the table; if the party can kill Gabi Tabbecker, the leader of another gang in the camp that deals in smuggling and protection, he will show them a way into Karlstadt. With little to lose at this time the party approach the Tabbecker tent accompanied by one of Jaeger’s thugs Paolo.

It becomes apparent that Tabbecker is just as unpleasant as Jaeger, taking advantage of the refugees, however she is the lesser evil and because they talk to her first she makes a counter offer. Bring her the head of Jaeger and she will give them a safe route into Karlstadt. With the adventurers having taken such a dislike to Jaeger they take this offer and stealthily return to the Jaegerstruppe camp.


Sniping from the outskirts of the camp Miklos and Balock kill Adred Jaeger with their crossbows and it doesn’t take much for Hemming with his magic missiles to take down and scare away the remaining Jaegerstruppe. They plunder the camp and take Jaeger’s head back to Tabbecker.

True to her word she rewards the PC’s by taking them to a farmstead half a mile north of Karlstadt which gives entrance to one of the old smuggling tunnels into the town…


Advanced Fighting Fantasy: Gallows End to Hellwinter

For the past 12 months or so Monday evenings have been split between Flashing Blades and more recently a monthly session of Pulp Cthulhu. This week the regular Monday group was scheduled to start a modern day Call of Cthulhu adventure, however with one of our players out of action that was postponed. We were looking for something else to play and I had been looking for an opportunity to try out Arion Games’ Advanced Fighting Fantasy (AFF) – a game under consideration for Grogfight!

wpbb2109b7_06AFF is the most recent incarnation of the RPG based on the Fighting Fantasy series of game books; I’d eat my hat if you haven’t at least heard of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain; most likely you played it in your youth. The system has no classes or levels and is very simple with three core stats – Skill, Stamina and Luck, and the additional Magic and Magic Points for wizardly types, then special skills which allow characters to do cool stuff, and a few different types of magic. The system uses 2d6 for all actions; roll under stat+skill for unopposed skill tests and add 2d6+stat+skill for combat and opposed skill tests. These two different skill tests caused some confusion and in future I’ll use the optional rule of 2d6+stat+skill vs target number for unopposed skills – then all rolls will use the same mechanism.

The adventure started in Gallows End, a small frontier village on the edge of the Bron forest. Our heroes are tasked by the Baron of Tytern with discovering the fate of Sir Gallaharn Kairn, a knight sent to the frontier fortress of Hellwinter. After a few questions to the local peasants they pick up a couple of rumours: undead are gathering to the north and there are druids in the forest. Winter furs are purchased for the journey ahead the group set off through the forest.

The Gates of Hellwinter Cover

Torrential rain, grey skies and a biting wind make their journey through the forest a thoroughly unpleasant one, made all the worse by a goblin ambush (is there a starter adventure for any fantasy game that doesn’t feature goblins or kobolds?) Daggers flying out from the shadows of the trees injure the wizard and priest and before too long the party are toe to toe scrapping with their scrawny assailants.

This gave me a great opportunity to get a feel for combat, and I liked how it played. Each combatant rolls 2d6+stat+weapon skill and whoever gets the highest damages their opponent – armour can further reduce the damage. We had some spells firing off as well; a starting wizard feels much more powerful than a level 1 D&D/OSR Magic-User and the spells were used to fry some of the goblins.

The fight over and wounds healed the party continued to the foothills of the mountains on which the Tower of Hellwinter was perched, cold, wet and miserable. It seems it’s not going to be a peaceful night as roars from two directions bring them to attention…

The session was fairly short – no more than an hour and half, but the PC’s made decent progress. We may get to complete the adventure at some point, but I’m looking forward to starting Call of Cthulhu and the sessions served it’s purpose of giving me some insights into how the system plays at the table. While I’m still undecided on which system to use for Grogfight, AFF is starting to edge ahead of DCC…