Better Than Any Man: The Tale of shortly lived Shylock

Warning: BTAM spoilers ahead!

Last session we left the Black Dogs mid-combat, scrapping with The Provider and her creature. Accompanied by a handful of conspirators, Balock and Hemming were joined by a new PC, one of Hugo Beck’s conspirator lieutenants, Shylock the Specialist. A long time resident of Karlstadt and a hunter in the area, he has a good knowledge of The Seven and a strong desire to see them deposed.

The flickering flames across town (started by conspirators at the Black Dogs request) cast dancing shadows and mixed with the cries of terror from the refugees outside the town create a strange and eerie setting in the early dawn light. As Shylock joins the desperate melee Jutte Beckman The Provider also joins the fray, hacking at Hemming with her cleaver while the Magic-User tries to smite the tentacled creature with the holy leg bone of St Burchard. Combatants on both sides are injured, but after taking a heavy whack from a club wielded by a conspirator, The Provider flees into her kitchen followed by Hemming, while Balock, Shylock and the remaining conspirators take on the creature.

UntitledBeckman, now terrified and fleeing for her life runs across the kitchen but before she can escape Hemming, now able to cast a spell sends a magic missile flying after her in the form of a swarm of screaming skulls that tear at the flesh from the feet up… The Providers screams mingle with those of the skulls. After a moment all that remains is the head of the poor woman (the one who tried her best to feed the starving refugees) which Hemming scoops up and stuffs into a sack.

Now armed with the leg bone, Shylock, Balock and the conspirators are able to bring down the creature, and upon it’s death it dissolves into a puddle of black corrosive sludge.  It’s not then long before the voices of more militia can be heard outside and the PC’s run out the back of the house, finding a quiet alley to recuperate and catch their breath.

The Defender is known to live nearby, one of The Seven the group have yet to encounter, and so they set off to her house. Shylock knows The Defender is the only person in the town who has a large house to herself, but it is likely to be guarded by Burgerfriendensmiliz. A quick scout of the area shows a large group of militia stand guard outside the front of the house and a small group of 4 are at the rear. Displaced refugees crowd the streets around the house and watch on with fear, amazement and wonder at the scene that unfolds.

Having arranged for one of the conspirators to draw the four guards at the rear of the house away, Hemming and Balock approach wearing the Burgerfriedensmiliz uniforms they have acquired. When the conspirator throws a rock at the guards, the Black Dogs convince them to chase down the scoundrel while they guard the door. The plan worked as expected, and with the guards temporarily indisposed, it would be an easy job for Balock to pick the lock! Except he couldn’t… after 5 attempts. In the end they smash a window and gain entry through a vestibule to the side of the main corridor.

The DefenderEntering the house they can hear a woman gently singing, her plaintive voice travelling from a large room; they assume the voice comes from Griselda Uhrlitz The Defender, although she is out of sight. A quick check of the ground floor reveals two doors into the room. But the Black Dogs will have to act fast as a large group of milia outside of the building can also be seen – fortunately the front doors are locked, bolted and barred.

A plan is formed. Shylock and a conspirator will wait by one door while Balock and Hemming head for the other, then on cue they will open both doors and throw flasks of oil into the room, then set them alight before closing both doors so The Defender and her creature burn alive. It didn’t go quite as planned, largely because they were unaware of the creatures special power; it drained the best AC, hp, spells, stats and damage from amongst the PC’s for itself and The Defender, leaving the owner of the stolen ability with the lowest, most feeble value. This is what happened.

  • Hemming opened a door, took in the scene and saw Griselda and her horrific creature; a brain suspended in a pod supported by multiple serrated tentacles. Throwing his oil flask he missed by some margin.The Defender's Creature
  • Shylock was more successful and his oil flask splattered across the floor. Then he shut his door but found his movement was slowed.
  • Hemming tried to cast a Magic Missile but found he couldn’t recall the spell, so he shut the door on the advancing monstrosity.
  • The creature moved to attack, ripping the door open. Hemming was surprised as he felt very weak compared to the overpowering strength of the creature.
  • The Burgerfriedensmiliz at the front of the house started trying to bash open the door to save The Defender.
  • Both Hemming and Balock were attacked and badly damaged.
  • Meanwhile Shylock had entered the room and tried to backstab the creature but missed. The conspirator accompanying them fumbled twice, injuring himself and allowing The Defender to escape.
  • As Shylock chased after The Defender, Hemming and Balock, both badly wounded, jumped through a window into the street and joined the remaining conspirators.
  • The conspirators moved in to attack The Defender but were unable to hit her (she had the highest AC from amongst the party!), so Shylock took a further backstab opportunity, missing again.
  • As the Sorcerer fled around the front of the house to find safety amongst the larger group of militia the creature, approaching from behind wrapped it’s tentacles around Shylock and ripped him in two (a series of criticals left him in a bad way). Although he was carrying the leg bone of St Burchard Shylock managed to fling it clear before meeting his grisly end and it was collected by one of the conspirators.

At this point, badly wounded and one party member dead, Hemming and Balock decided it was best to retreat back to the conspirators house, their minds turning to escaping Karlstadt and tackling The Mother at Goblin Hill.

 

Grogfight Dredd Vikings Blades

This last week and a bit has given me quite a few great gaming moments; initially I had planned on writing individual articles on each, but as time has been against me I decided to bundle them up into one neat package.

Grogmeet

I have been looking forward to Grogmeet for ages – it is the highlight of the gaming calendar (Expo comes a close second IMHO) offering an opportunity to run and play RPG’s with fantastic GM’s and players and catch up over a few pints with the great folk who are part of the community.

Dirk the Dice had asked me to organise something OSR/Old School for the Friday afternoon, so after much brain wracking and ideas backwards and forwards we ended up with Grogfight! A four table, four system, four GM, table hopping bar room brawl with added dungeon to fill the hours of the Friday afternoon. The GM’s were all great (buying into this ludicrous idea) and in the run up we had a few online meetings to tie things down. I had chosen to use the Advanced Fighting Fantasy system, while  was running Tunnels & Trolls, was running Classic Fantasy and himself running The Fantasy Trip. As Grogmeet weekend coincided with Chaosium’s call to play a game and honour Greg Stafford, we decided to put the Stafford Rune in as a puzzle at the end of the dungeon… I believe it was a bit of brain teaser, although my group didn’t quite reach it.

Stafford Puzzle

I thoroughly enjoyed GMing for great players and everyone seemed to enjoy it – as an experimental multi-table thing it worked well and was a good ice breaker. The table hopping element of the game was a bit of a pain as I had to interrupt all the games to swap players around – after a couple of hours I gave up on that and everyone just got stuck into their own tables.

I’ve used Advanced Fighting Fantasy before and it was nice to take it out for another spin. I couldn’t see it being my daily driver but it’s great for one shots – it’s light and fast with some nice options to personalise characters and the Fighting Fantasy angle means it’s generally familiar to most players of a certain age.

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The Grogfight GM’s… smiles of relief?

Once Grogfight was finished and following a quick hotel check-in and chippy tea it was time for the evening session. I was lucky enough to get onto the Judge Dredd Savage Worlds table GM’d by @DailyDwarf  and a grand job he did as well. The whole session oozed original Dredd with comic book frames pinned to the wall as the game progressed, a really nice touch. I was one of the MegaCity Judges hosting two Brit-Cit Judges, and from the start we played out the tension between the two factions while trying to complete the missions in front of us. It was great fun! Savage Worlds was a great fit, a simple system that captures the energy of Dredd comics.

We rounded off the Friday evening with a good few beers in a nearby pub; it was great to catch up with gaming friends, particularly because my old gaming mates from a long forgotten time (the 80’s),  and , were there.

Unfortunately my Grogmeet weekend was cut short so I didn’t get to run Carnival of the Damned, but I know everyone thoroughly enjoyed the Saturday events. There are write ups here:

Vikingr

spends most of his time in the sunnier climes on the west coast USA, so while he was back in Blighty we took the opportunity for more face to face gaming. A game was planned at short notice and I offered to run Vikingr, an OpenD6 game also by Arion Games. I’d picked it up in their Kickstarter earlier in the year and it had really caught my imagination; at the time I had cobbled together a few notes for an adventure not knowing when I would run it. This presented an ideal opportunity.

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The players all grabbed one of the pregens provided with the game (actually they are templates based on archetypes – the Berserker, Gothi, Warchief etc that are easily converted into pregens), and in no time were off on an adventure in the wilds of Norway. I thoroughly enjoyed running the game and the system held up really well – even though I was quite rusty with it. I’d love to run it again.

Blades in the Dark

Dirk the Dice was running Blades in the Dark at 24 hour RPG, a charity event that runs this time each year in Southport. Games on offer also included WFRP 4th Ed, WOIN, Numenera and D&D, but I’d selected Blades in the Dark as I knew I’d get a great game with Dirk, had wanted to try the game and the 12 hour slot was more within my current endurance limits…

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Even with two players we had a cracking game, in fact I’d suggest there were certain benefits to having just two ambitious sneak thiefs… our plans were quickly formulated and generally uncomplex. Blades in the Dark is a great system, very intuitive with some clever narrative tricks that are perfect for the genre. Dirk kept us on our toes with lots of turns and twists, with NPC’s based on number sequences given by Grognards who had donated to MIND, the charity supported by the event.

The flashbacks mechanism is pure genius; during a scene, particularly when things aren’t going your way you can jump to a flashback. Maybe you planted a dagger under the table earlier in the day, or as we had done blackmailed the bodyguard of another gang leader to plant an item in the gang leaders room. There’s a different rhythm and style of play to most other RPG’s, but once you get into that the game just flows.

Dirk has written a cracking session report on his blog here.

Donations to MIND, the charity supported event, can still be made here:  https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/24hr-rpg-challenge-2018

That’s lots of great gaming behind me, so it’s on with the regular Roll20 games now until the con season kicks off again next year with Convergence in early March. Can’t wait!

Better Than Any Man: The Death of Joy

Warning: BTAM spoilers ahead! Don’t even scroll down if you intend to play this module

Returning to the conspirator’s house following their assault on the church of St Andreas and the assassination of The Defiler, the Black Dogs decide to rest and recover for the night allowing spell-casters to refresh their spells. The noise of the panicked refugees and citizens of Karlstadt persists throughout the night, while the Milizionäre comb the town door to door searching for the assassins.

The PC’s are awakened by muffled screams coming from one of the ground floor rooms in the house; on investigation Hugo Beck (the head of the conspirators) tells them that a group of militiamen came into the house searching for assassins and all but one were killed by the desperate rebels. The surviving militiaman, a young fellow with a beaten face and broken bones, had been tortured for information on The Seven; what are their plans following The Defiler’s death, where are they all now?

329271Schemes are formed as Hemming Kristofferson shows his true chaotic nature and gleefully tortures the poor lad for intelligence to help formulate a strategy [there’s something about Lamentations of the Flame Princess that brings out the dark side of players]. The Black Dogs ask the conspirators to start fires around Karlstadt to distract The Seven, while they target The Joy and The Provider*.

The conspirators split up to make movement around the town easier and avoid Burgerfriendensmiliz patrols while Balock, Hemming and Miklos lead a group of conspirators to the Dammen house where they dumped their gear on first entering Karlstadt. Being properly equipped against The Seven is very important after all. Along the way they encounter a patrol and a gang of conspirators peel off to deal with them while the PC’s proceed to the house. Gawinus and Magdalyn Dammen have the house locked up tight and clearly do not expect, nor want visitors – protecting their only son Ruben is their top priority.

FightHemming formulates another plan (one of many) to trick Gawinus Dammen into opening the back door of the property. Approaching the front of the house he bangs on the door, telling Gawinus that some rogues have been trying to break in to the property around the back. Gawinus buys it and opens the back door to the alley. Balock and Miklos hide out of sight while Hemming tries to convince the unfortunate citizen that said rogues forced their way into his basement. As Gawinus takes a look Hemming tries to knock him out, but by now suspecting treachery he attacks the Magic User. A scrap ensues in which the loving husband and father is killed (oops) and as a result his distraught family have to be coerced into keeping quiet (poor Magdalyn quietly sobbing and Ruben asking for Papa) while the party recover their gear.

Now properly equipped the Black Dogs lead a mob of conspirators to Zum Erleuchteten Hurenbock, the known location of The Joy. As the mob approaches the whorehouse the workers loitering outside panic, run inside and shut the door, but The Joy (the only one of The Seven to have given away her creature) steps outside to challenge them. She is given little opportunity before she is struck down and her head hewn off, to be tied by the hair to Miklos’ belt. The conspirators are even more fired up – taking down The Seven is going to be easy!

The Provider's CreatureMoving on to The Providers house they find the front door open and a seemingly empty reception room within.  Appetising smells drift from the back of the house. The party carefully enter with a handful of conspirators and (no surprise!) are surprised by The Providers creature, a tentacled, octopoid nightmare that rips the arm off one conspirator and the face off another. In the grim combat that follows Balock, Hemming and Miklos are all injured, the creature is hard to hit and damage and some power of the creature prevents Hemming from casting spells. With the end of the party in sight, just in time they remember the Leg Bone of St Burchard, a holy item believed to have the power to smite demons, and once used it changes the balance of the encounter somewhat. Just as it looks like they are making headway against the monstrosity The Provider herself steps out from the kitchen and joins the fray…

* For context, The Provider is a convivial, caring, warm woman, rather overfond of food, who feeds the starving refugee populace of Karlstadt every day. And our ‘heroes’ want to kill her…