Better Than Any Man: An abject lesson in OSR reality or how to nearly get your asses handed to you on a plate

We were so close to a full house of players this week, unfortunately The Captain was unable to join us. Still, the four PC’s should be able to handle the handful of remaining bandits after their encounter last session, right? Right?

The situation they are in is this: having been hired by Adelbert Klepzig, a villager from Thungen to hurry to said village and dispose of the bandits that were keeping the town hostage (by keeping their children incarcerated in a nearby barn and threatening murder on them), Balock (), Hemming () and Maldron () had headed to Thungen. They hired a wagon ride from the reticent local hunter Fridericus, having traded their horses for his wagon. A plan was formulated to take the wagon into Thungen posing as merchants to draw the bandits out (rather than, say, liberate the children first); of course this plan, like many PC conceived plans (including many of my own) went to crap, with combat breaking out and a number of bandits finding themselves taking an express coach to meet their maker.

Seeing his compadres being hacked down this way one of the bandits (we’ll call him Krugar), maybe following orders, stops half way between the inn and the barn holding a small head, clearly that of a child. The threat is clear – stop what you’re doing or more kids will end up like this.

Fucked up for sure. So what to do? This is how it went down.

5092bc62d6b359ca1194c8e34d6934abBalock cut one of the horses free and began chasing down Krugar, hoping to beat him to the barn. I had everything worked out beforehand… it was 600 yards to the barn, the bandit was half way at 300 yards. Krugar could cover 40 yards per round and Balock on horse could cover 80. If he had just ridden like that he would have just arrived at the barn before the bandit. However, I didn’t tell him that and offered the option to push his horse… with some justification from @Benelio Balock had some riding skill so pushing his horse worked like this:

  • Success of 1-3 on 1d6 means the horse covers 120 yards instead of 80
  • Failure of 4-5 on 1d6 means the horse pushes back, is pissed off and only covers 40 yards
  • Failure of 6 on 1d6 means the rider falls of the horse taking 1d4 damage

Balock had some luck catching up with the bandit, but unfortunately fell off a couple of times meaning the bandit reached the barn before him.  Battered and bruised Balock reaches the barn after the bandit has joined his friend inside (along with all the children!)

kick-in-doorAs Balock sets off after the bandit Hemming and Maldron, along with Captain Hermann, decide to tackle Dittmar and his remaining thugs who are hiding in the inn, while Fridericus starts reloading his musket to take another shot at the bandit. The Fighter and Magic-User storm inside the inn to find the common room deserted excepting the barman who pops his head over the counter and tells them that Dittmar is upstairs. Hemming screams threats into the inn in an attempt to weaken the resolve of any bandits laying in wait. They kick open another door…

Meanwhile Miklos (), who has been absent while trying to help the distraught Mathilda, arrives at the edge of the village on horseback. He sees Balock speeding off after the bandit and Maldron and Hemming entering the inn. Clearly something is going on… making a snap decision Miklos heads off after Balock, but after taking a tumble from his horse decides to head for the inn where he can see a man loading a musket looking in Balock’s direction. He regains his horse and charges at the man, not realising it is their ally Fridericus and with a strong blow smashes his skull with his sabre. He is about to head off after Balock when he notices Dittmar on the balcony of the inn.

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Back inside the inn Maldron, Hemming and Captain Hermann explore the rest of the ground floor rooms with Hemming entering into a desperate melee with one of the bandits. Unable to help Maldron runs up the stairs and finds the room Dittmar occupies. Dittmar shouts a challenge – the first person through the door will get their head blown off!

0c9d44b244436193a29c278202a85364Hemming finishes off his opponent, running his rapier through the bandits throat… blood spurts from the wound for a few seconds as the man’s eyes lose focus and are still. Hemming then joins Maldron and Captain Hermann.

Then a load of crazy things happen at the same time. Maldron grabs the body of the dead bandit from the ground floor, intending to use it as a meatshield, while outside Miklos, having spotted Dittmar on the balcony with a pistol pointed into the room, rides carefully underneath the balcony. However Dittmar hears him and takes a shot – but misses! On cue Maldron and Hemming barrel into the room and Maldron throws the body at Dittmar. This is enough to put him off balance as he pulls out his second pistol.

The body crashes to the floor, just missing Miklos who is getting ready to prepare a spell. Charging at Dittmar, Maldron tries to wrestle him to the ground but loses his balance and Dittmar defly sidesteps causing Maldron to tumble over the balcony, the sound of a crunching bone coinciding with him hitting the packed earth below. Dittmar turns on Hemming, points his pistol at his chest and pulls the trigger. However the shot only lightly wounds Hemming who strikes back at Dittmar with his rapier, missing the cunning rogue.

Miklos then puts his plan into action and casts the Command spell, telling Dittmar to sleep. A powerful adversary, nevertheless Dittmar is unable to resist Miklos’s righteous, god given power and collapses to the floor, momentarily asleep. Hemming takes the opportunity to plunge his rapier into Dittmar’s eye, bringing his reign of terror to a satisfactory end.

At the other end of the village Balock’s horse comes to a halt outside the barn and Krugar orders him to throw down his weapons and dismount the horse otherwise another child will be killed. Balock’s brain goes into overdrive as he tries to incite the distant villagers to rise up and save their children, all the while stalling for time as he can now see the others riding towards him, but still some distance away. Eventually he concedes to the bandits and drops his sword, kneeling on the ground. Feeling the cold hand of death touching his shoulder as Krugar steps up behind him, no doubt planning on slashing his throat he tries to trick the bandit by looking to one side and shouting “the villagers!” (or something like that). Krugar, caught of guard falls for it and quickly turns to look while Balock pulls out his dagger, intent on backstabbing the scoundrel. Unfortunately he is too exhausted to use stealth and enters a grim combat with Krugar. As the second bandit approaches to help kill Balock, the cunning thief takes the opportunity to run into the barn and bars the doors shut.

Seeing the rest of the party bearing down on them the two remaining bandits flee for the nearby woods, reaching them before Miklos can strike them down cavalry style.

And so the session draws to a close. The children are saved, the bandits dead or fleeing and Thungen is once more free (until the Swedish army arrive of course…) The Black Dogs are able to heal a little and decide to wait a day or two before carrying on. They talk now to the locals and find a little more of the events in Karlstadt and the names of the Seven.

This was another session taken up entirely with a big combat encounter – I hadn’t really expected that to happen, but even with things moving on at a fast past it took some time to resolve. It also showed quite clearly how deadly combat in this game can be, just a few bad dice rolls can bring a PC to only a handful of hit points and close to death.

Better Than Any Man: Save the Children!

Disclaimer: may contain BTAM spoilers

After a couple of sessions struggling on as a desperate duo, Maldron and Balock are joined by a recovered Hemming, his magical aura intact after a disturbance in the ether. Resting overnight in the village of Zellingen, Maldron and Balock are pleased to see Hemming catch up with them, sure they will need some extra muscle with a side helping of sorcerous power (people loved sorcerous power in 1630’s Europe).

feasting-peasants-in-a-tavernThe next morning was spent debating their strategy and questioning the hapless barman about Thungen and Karlstadt.  They consider the Thungen situation – a small village taken over by a band of ruthless bandits who are able to force the locals to assist them in waylaying travellers because they have taken all of the village children hostage and are holding them in a barn. Or take on The Seven, the Sorcerers in control of Karlstadt and the cause of much concern in the area.

The Black Dogs decide to head onto Thungen. An observer might be tempted to think they are putting off the Karlstadt situation despite being instructed to deal with The Seven by Nicklaus Stein, their Black Dogs contact, and a potential reward of 10000 silvers from the Prince-Bishop of Wurzburg for the heads of The Seven.

A plan is formed; hire a wagon and head into Thungen with Balock and their NPC assistant Captain Hermann of the Wurzburg watch hidden by straw, and Maldron and Hemming acting as vulnerable merchants. Draw out the bandits, kill them all and save the children. What could go wrong?

After trading a wagon for two horses with the local hunter Fridericus, they persuade him to drive the wagon to Thungen as part of their ruse. With some other small preparation they head out to the small village, and within a few hours are approaching the place. Bird noises are heard and scouts spotted, so the Black Dogs know they have been seen and the bandits will be preparing a warm reception for them.  Shortly they see the village ahead; a tavern, the blacksmith and a few houses with the barn a couple of hundred yards beyond. Two men can be seen standing outside the barn.

mr-n-t-hicks-as-claude-duval-1850-lithographBelieving the Blacksmith Trubald to be a potential ally they approach his workshop, but two brigands come out of the tavern and walk alongside the wagon. Sensing imminent hostilities Hemming takes the initiative and fries the pair with screaming skull death magic attacks. All hell breaks lose, other brigands run out of the building and engage in combat and their leader Dittmar leans of the tavern door and takes a shot at Hemming.  The Swedish Sorcerer responds by hitting Dittmar with more screaming death skulls – for the minimum amount of damage, lousy dice! Maldron, Balock and Captain Hermann all join the fray with heads rolling and brigands dying.

A voice halts their action and they look up to see Dittmar on a small balcony at the front of the tavern. He draws their attention to one of his men who stands half way between the village and the barn, holding up what looks to be a small severed head… Dittmar’s vicious reputation is well deserved it seems.

Is it possible for The Black Dogs to stop Dittmar’s henchmen from killing more of the children in the barn? We’ll find out next time…

Better Than Any Man: So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye

Now that we’re back onto the main BTAM plot the usual Spoilers ahead alert applies. This session Balock (played by @Benelio) and Maldron (played by @TonyLayter) were once more at a point of indecision. Where to next? What to do next?

Following last weeks happenings Captain Hermann of the watch suggested they follow up the job of bringing the heads of The Seven to the Prince-Bishop Franz Von Hatzfeld for which there is a substantial reward. They start the day questioning locals about goings on in the area; what do they know about The Seven and Karlstadt and where have all these damned insects come from? While checking out the details on the town noticeboard they see another job about a bandit problem in Thüngen. With the rest of the party unavailable for duty they decide to chase down Adelbert Klepzig at The Iron Pig Tavern.

Wurzburg Thungen Notice 2

Adelbert is an intense fellow, clearly not a man of any significant means. Tempting the adventurers with booze, but not yet cheese (that will be after the job has been agreed), he tells them that the small village of Thüngen has been taken over by vicious bandits led by a ruthless cur going by the name of Dittmar. The bandits are waylaying travellers heading east with the help of the villagers; of course the poor inhabitants are not doing this willingly, Dittmarr and his gang are holding their children hostage with a threat of killing them if they don’t comply.  They have already killed Thoffson the Dane because he raised an arm against them.

Adelbert doesn’t have any family, but is concerned about his business suffering – he offers 50 pieces of silver to rid Thüngen of the bandits and hints that the grateful villagers will likely give a further reward. Unable to bear the thought of these children suffering the battled hardened Black Dogs take up the offer (with a round of cheese to seal the deal), but first decide to visit the Marienburg Fortress to speak to the Prince Bishop about The Seven.

marienberg_wuerzburg

At the foot of the bridge crossing the River Main they meet Captain Hermann again who introduces them to Captain Wilfred Linden, a member of the Prince-Bishops guard. Captain Linden, a cocksure but clearly capable soldier is unconvinced of their credentials and ability to aid Wurzburg and the Prince-Bishop until they reveal their Black Dog tatoos. They are taken into the fortress past other guards, training soldiers and then Von Hatzfeld’s security. Their weapons taken from them they wait a couple of hours for their audience.

wu_marienberg450When they finally meet Franz Von Hatzfeld they discover he is a typical noble, arrogant, self-assured and easily bored. However they learn a little more of the threat in Karlstadt and why The Seven must be killed, their heads mounted on the walls of Wurzburg to show the invading Swedes the good folk of Wurzburg will not tolerate the devils work. They also discover that Von Hatzfeld places no value on the lives of the folk of Thüngen, and that each day a few merchants take goods to the refugees outside Karlstadt. As soon as the Prince-Bishop agrees to hire them for the job, he is disturbed by a servant who whispers in his ear, and as a result quickly concludes his business with the Black Dogs. He asks them to attend him on the field to the south of Wurzburg where the witch trials are being held; their loyalty to the cause of killing creatures of evil will be tested there.

2_the-last-witch-beheaded-in-europeMaking their final preparations to leave the town the troubled duo find that in response to their request for assistance from Franz Von Hatzfeld they have been allocated Captain Hermann who seems happy to accompany them and get away from the confines of the town. Before they can leave they take a reluctant final trip to the witch trials to witness the horror and brutality suffered by the poor women accused of witchcraft. As they approach, one of the victims, Alfrida Turmgever, is brought forward accused of dancing naked in her home and consorting with animals by Petran Longingbruck, a Burhger of the town. Knowing that he has no choice a conflicted Maldron carries out the Prince-Bishop’s order to execute the woman, and he swiftly beheads her, a quicker and more merciful death than she would have suffered at the hands of these more ‘civilised folk’.

Disturbed by the encounter Balock and Maldron, accompanied by Captain Hermann leave Wurzburg, glad to put the place behind them. They are lucky to be travelling by horse, one an old nag provided by Adelbert Klepzig so they can quickly reach Thüngen, the other acquired by Hermann from the watch stables. Anticipating reaching the village of Zellingen before dark they travel for a few hours, the stunning countryside a balm for the misery of Wurzburg. However, there seems to be no escape from the plague of insects that seems to infest the area.

Passing a farm off the road, a field of wheat between themselves and the small farmhouse, Balock notices a hand protruding from wheat and a head that seems to be looking at them strangely. Their curiosity piqued and never shy of getting into trouble, they decide to investigate and discover that to their horror the head and hand are severed and impaled on poles, then they see other body parts of different sizes similarly impaled and blood pooled beneath each. Trails of blood lead to the door of the farmhouse. What the hell is going on here they ask…

b7b7fc9c95649b40898f8d69d571243aThe noise they make searching the barn gives the insane Swedish soldier inside the farmhouse a chance to don his breastplate, grab his sword and load and prime his musket. When they open the door it’s no surprise that Maldron has his arm nearly taken off by a musket ball. A quick retreat and they fall back on the tried and tested method of setting the wooden farmhouse alight, waiting for the maniac to run out where they can more easily deal with him. Their plan works to a point, but the Swede climbs out of one of the boarded windows around the back. A fight ensues and despite the Swede being a brute and a capable fighter they are able to quickly dispatch him. The farmhouse on fire they decide to make a quick withdrawal in case other Swedish soldiers are nearby, and after grabbing the breastplate, sword and musket, head off to the village of Zellingen.

Better Than Any Man: He Slimed Me

Last session saw the Black Dogs descend into the dark, damp and thoroughly unpleasant basement of The Dogs Head tavern, a place they had discovered was used for torture and worse of children. All rooms off the corridor had been explored except the last one behind which could be the hellish monster; a collection of small body parts in various states of decay held together by an acidic slime. We left the group as Maldron was about to pull back the curtain covering the entrance to this room; perhaps it wasn’t too surprising that there was no monster there – only a bed-frame and a hole in the far wall, with traces of slime leading up to it.

The insistent shouting and banging on the tavern door could still be heard. Suddenly Balock and Maldron hear the door to the tavern smashed open and decide to crawl through the hole. A closer inspection reveals that the hole is in a concealed door – perhaps a route used by smugglers or for more nefarious means. With shouts of angry tavern goers behind the adventurers strike on through the tunnel which is dark and cramped.

Before too long the passage opens into a larger room which contains a stack of bones, perhaps other victims of the monster, for they find personal items amongst the skeletal remains; a comb, spoons, a brooch. A large chest is discovered which contains a nice haul; a large bag of silver coins and two gems in a wooden box.

Smugglers EntranceNow all is quiet behind and they do not believe they are being followed the PC’s continue along the tunnel and before too long they can hear rushing water. The tunnel opens in the side of the wharf with the river below; a distance to the left a wooden platform with steps up to the dockside. Balock climbs up onto the dock in time to see the scoundrels from The Dogs Head approaching – three ruffians and the priest from Wurzburg Cathedral. As Maldron and Miklos scramble up onto the dock the ruffians attack, but are quickly dispatched – one skewered by Balocks rapier, another sliced in half by Maldron. The priest flees shouting “Murder, murder!”, trying to get the guards to intervene.

The Black Dogs chase the priest who heads down a dark alleyway, in an attempt to escape. As the PC’s reach the top of the alleyway they can make out the priest, now just a silhouette, stop in his tracks. The light changes in the alley and the priest runs back towards the characters, but seems to be overtaken by an amorphous form, the light subtly twisting as it moves. There is no scream, and the adventurers decide it is time to take this creature head on. Nearby two city watchmen approach the dockside not far away and discover the bodies of the thugs – will they help or hinder the PC’s?

edb1401189428a55e32fb42d139b1257A brief battle follows, our hero’s (such as they are) versus a nightmarish creature borne from the suffering and agony of children; Balock’s bolts do little damage and Maldron seems to be unable to hit the creature. The slime encrusted body parts lash out at Maldron who is injured, and is then infected with the Grim Pox (we’ll find out more about that next week, hehe). Meanwhile Miklos keeps a distance, firing his crossbow when he can and healing the injured Maldron. More crossbow bolts slice small parts from the creature’s mass, then Maldron strikes a lucky blow, slicing the monster in half and Miklos finishes it off with a well aimed bolt.

It is not too long before the watchmen arrive on the scene, Hermann is summoned and the whole matter concluded. Maldron and Balock want to dig deeper, find out who’s really behind the horrific happenings at The Dogs Head, but Hermann reminds them that no one is offering to pay while the Prince-Bishop, Franz Von Haltfeld is offering a significant reward for the heads of The Seven, the Sorcerers of Karlstadt.

The next day Hermann brings the 500 silvers reward to the Sword and Flagon, the Inn which has served as their base. Now the Black Dogs need to decide what to do next…

Better Than Any Man: The Trepidatious Trio

After lasts week’s session being cancelled due to England playing Columbia in the World Cup we pick up this week with Maldron (@TonyLayter) recovering from his drunken stupor and tracking down Balock (@Benelio) and Miklos (@Lintillaz) as they ponder on what the hell to do about the horror in the basement of The Dogs Head tavern, and how they might explain the death of Emil Traschelmann to his mother Lucinda.

There is a lot of discussion and debate. Should they go back in and tackle the creature? Would it be better to wait until after dark and see who enters The Dogs Head? How about setting the tavern (and likely a large part of the town) on Fire? Or just doing a runner…?

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That’s a lot of questions that took a fair bit of time to work through. Their discussions took them from the alley to a rather pleasant inn where they paid well over the odds for some ale and cheese. Over lunch one thing was decided – a visit to the local Blacksmith to acquire some new weapons. After much haggling Miklos came away with a second hand but functional scimitar while Balock acquired a brace of balanced throwing dagger. The Blacksmith was certain these weapons would find use once the Swedes arrive…

After checking in on Mathilda, who was now being looked after by the barmaids at the Sword and Flagon, the hapless trio headed back down to Fisherman’s Wharf with a vague idea of how they might continue their investigation. They were passing the watch tower at the east end of the bridge leading to the Marienburg Fortress when they were hailed by Hermann, the guard who had initially put them onto the Traschelmann case. Balock quizzed Hermann about the watchman who had discovered the bodies on the previous four mornings; this resulted in them being lead to Henroth Blassman at his home. Henroth told them all he could of the bodies and his patrol route, but there was little information of any use; there was little flesh left on the skeletal remains of the victims, three of whom were found in crawling positions, the fourth slumped against a wall, and a residue of acidic slime was near all four bodies.

The Mainz WurzburgAs the sun started to set the indecisive gang headed back to Fisherman’s Wharf, still unclear on their plan of action. They chose to keep an eye out from the water side and before too long spotted a hooded figure entering The Dogs Head tavern. At last, direct action was taken and our Black Dogs entered the tavern and were soon questioning the owner, Liphardus Verbogen. Liphardus tried to escape via the side door but a thrown spear from Miklos and a tackle by Balock soon put a stop to that. Clearly this vile man had something to hide.

Before too long there was a banging on the door and a voice shouting from outside, “Open up Liphardus!”. The party, not wanting to hang around pushed Liphardus down the steep steps to the basement; unfortunately (depending on your perspective) he landed awkwardly and broke his arm. Now in pain and shock he is little use to the party. Once more they check out the dark, damp, grim corridor with torture rooms behind the curtains; the content of these rooms is enough to turn even the strongest stomach. As they move down the corridor, expecting to meet the slimy, body part filled mass of horror they had previously encountered, Liphardus moaned in pain and each Black Dog had his weapons drawn, ready for… something.

They reached the final curtain where Maldron pulled back the curtain to reveal…

 

Four Against Darkness

Four Against Darkness cover showing four heroes discovering treasure in a dungeonI grabbed this game in PDF a while back and had a little dabble, but it just didn’t click with me. Not so long ago I had a notification from the publisher Ganesha Games that the game had been revised and when I looked again I saw a few changes and a lot more support. With the recent spate of lulu.com vouchers I thought I might give it more of a go if I had it in print, so I bought the core rules and the Caves of the Kobold Slave Master module.

This is a small format softback book with a few pieces of black and white art inside. The colour cover captures the tone of the game – we’re off on a big dungeon crawl! The book has 2 pages of content listing and no index and after a read through I feel could do with some reorganisation. Following the RPG standards of intro, character creation and equipment we jump to How Monsters Attack, then the tables for generating dungeons – but after that a mix of encounters, spells, wandering monsters – it could just have done with a little more structure.

Photo of game materials - rules, character sheets, monster tracker and graph paper
All set to go dungeoneering. Rules, character sheets, monster tracker and graph paper.

Even with a thorough read through this lack of organisation was initially a hindrance during play as it was tricky to find what I was after e.g. elements of combat are spread across the How Monsters Attack and later Encounters section, but after a few encounters it became much easier. There really isn’t too much to it system wise.

Character classes include the four bastions of OSR gaming: Warrior, Cleric, Rogue, Wizard. We have Elf, Dwarf and Halfling as race as class and Barbarian thrown in for good measure. The classes all feel distinct and bring various strengths to the game, but because it is so simple one Warrior feels very much like another.

Photo of rule book and created characters
Grimhault, Talmar, Xavier and Midigya ready to adventure. Character creation is very easy.

The mechanism for building the dungeon could’t be simpler – grab some graph paper, roll a D6 and draw the matching dungeon entrance. Select which path to take, then roll for the room that appears. There are 36 room and corridor options in all, rolled with D66 (i.e. like D100 but with D6’s). The room or corridor (which are mechanically a bit different from rooms) can be oriented in any direction and there is guidance on how to handle overlapping rooms and rooms at the edge of the paper. Once the location has been added roll 2d6 on the Room Contents Table; this can give anything from empty rooms to treasure, traps, vermin, minions, weird monsters, boss monsters, special events or special features. Each has it’s own table to determine what happens – maybe an encounter with some goblins, a Medusa or a cursed altar. There’s enough variety here to give some interesting outcomes – bribing monsters, fighting, effects on the party, quests, and magic items, certainly enough to add variety for a few play sessions.

Map of the dungeon half way through
Half way through the dungeon. The rules give handy icons to track progress and know what is in rooms when you reenter them.

Combat and actions are resolved by rolling a D6 (with 6’s exploding) – if you attack a monster roll D6 plus an Attack modifier (Warriors add their level, Clerics add their level vs undead, Rogues add their level if the party outnumbers their opponents). If you roll the monsters level or higher you kill one vermin/minion or one hit point of damage to a boss or weird monster.  Multiples of damage can be caused with lucky rolls – a series of 6’s could kill a boss monster with one attack. When you are attacked you have to roll over the monsters level on D6 adding your Defense modifier for armour, shield or a class bonus. If you fail that character loses 1 health, with some monsters causing other effects such as poison. Actions and Saves are resolved in a similar manner, for example a trap might have a level of 4 which must be rolled on a D6 to avoid.

Combats are quick, however they aren’t the only choice when an encounter occurs.  You do have the option to negotiate with some monsters which can result in them asking for a bribe to let you pass or them fleeing the room. If you negotiate and they choose to attack then they strike first in combat; because of this I didn’t negotiate at all and became the ultimate murder hobo. Once a combat is over you may be able to roll on the Treasure Table which can give anything from a few coins to gems, jewellery, scrolls or magic items.

Wizards and Elves are limited to six spells but include the classics of Fireball and Sleep. A choice of 3 spells is made per dungeon although this can be expanded by collecting scrolls as treasure rewards. Clerics have 3 Blessing spells and 3 uses of Healing per dungeon as well.

Photo of game in progress
Mid session disorganisation – I need a bigger desk.

Besides all this there are wandering monsters, secret doors, clues and hidden treasures. Wandering monsters can appear when exploring an empty room or as a special event. These are nasty as they always get first attack and if you are in a corridor they attack the two party members at the back – often your weakest characters. Secret doors, clues and hidden treasure can be found when searching an empty room. While these all have different game affects clues are the most interesting as when you have three of them you get a nice bit of information such as the location of a magic item.

At some point in the dungeon you will encounter the Final Boss – the chances of this increase as you defeat more bosses and weird monsters and if you explore all of the rooms in the dungeon the Final Boss is in the last room. This boss has one more hit point and attack than the usual bosses, but lots more treasure. After defeating the boss you will want to make your way back through the dungeon to the entrance; it’s likely you will do this but you may well encounter wandering monsters.

As you adventure characters gain experience and can level up. Each time you defeat a boss or weird monster or defeat 10 minion encounters roll over a characters current level to gain a level (two can level with a boss monster). This basic book covers up to level 5 although Four Against the Abyss takes our characters up to level 9.

Photo of characters, monsters and map when game completed
Two World Cup football matches and much dungeon crawling later I defeat the unnamed boss dragon and safely make it out of the dungeon.

The book finishes with some guidance and frequently asked questions and presents optional rules for using FAD as a stand alone RPG, followed by a useful flowchart and quick reference tables.

That’s about it. I really enjoyed playing this game and want to give it another run through while the rules are fresh in my mind – I expect the session to be considerably different. The game has an active community backing it on Facebook which gives an indicator of it’s popularity.

Pro’s

  • Quick to read
  • Simple rules
  • Fast to play
  • Captures Dungeon Crawling Experience
  • Great community

Con’s

  • Rules could do with reorganisation

Better Than Any Man: The Traschelman Mystery

With just two players I decided to try a bit of adlib GMing, and so with a few random tables and a bit of brain storming I had a few notes and a starting point – I didn’t really know where it would end up though. Although I had previously said that I wouldn’t come up with narrative reasons certain characters were missing on some sessions, as they were conveniently stopping in the Sword and Flagon inn on Wagner Strass it was too good an opportunity to miss.

Noticeboard

Not wanting to waste time Balock and Miklos headed off to the town square, while Hemming, Maldron and The Captain were confined to their rooms, suffering the effects of dodgy food and ale.  Scraps of paper on the notice board offered rewards for the heads of The Seven of Karlstadt, pleas for help by the despairing folk of Thungen, news of brigands on the road to the north and a rant about a giant cat made of glass(!?!), but it was Mathilda, a young girl from Werneck who grabbed their attention. She told of vampires in the village, her mother had lost her life to them and her dad was always angry. No one in the village would talk about it or ask for help, so she stowed away on a wagon bound for Wurzburg to look for assistance.

Balock and Miklos were approached by Hermann, a guard from the watch who asked if they were interested in earning some coin; 500 silvers could be theirs if they could find the killer of Emil Traschelman, a young nobleman from a wealthy family. Realising that Werneck was too far away and they couldn’t help Mathilda at this time, they took up Hermann’s offer and started by talking to members of the Traschelman household.

With the information provided by Hermann and after interviewing Girnot the butler, Emil’s mother Lucinda and his sister Berlinda they discover:

  • Emil was the last of four bodies found down at the Fisherman’s Wharf on the river Main; each was found early in the morning by the night guard
  • Little was left of the bodies, no more than their skeletons, their clothes turned to mush. Emil was identified by a dagger he carried bearing the family crest.
  • Emil was only 19 and had no known friends. He was cruel to many of the younger servants, they feared him.
  • Many nights recently Emil would leave the house late and night and not return until early the next morning. He was known to frequent the Dog’s Head tavern down by Fisherman’s Wharf.
  • A tortured soul, Emil fancied himself and artist and had an attic studio. While checking this out Berlinda showed them Emil’s hidden paintings – scenes of dismemberment and torture.

Cobbles outside the The Dog’s Head are covered in a putrid slime, but the trail is disturbed and broken by passing feet and can’t be followed. The grimy inn is closed, but never ones to let that deter them Balock picks the lock and they explore the run down and decidedly seedy inn. An empty corridor with curtained doors to either side is discovered in the basement through a trapdoor behind the bar.

srroh3xPulling back the curtains to each room reveals scenes of torture, terror and violence and it is while checking the last of these that they find a terror lurking in the basement; a huge mass of crawling slime with body parts of children visible within, still animated by some macabre energy… taking a sensible course of action they flee and decide to return with the rest of the party. Just before leaving the basement a severed head briefly breaks the surface of the slime and in a desperate voice from beyond the veil begs ‘Help us…’