The Witchfinders – Story arc conclusion

After a few hours of careful planning, the party finally enters the dungeon beneath the Baron’s castle. They explore about a dozen rooms and corridors, come across venom-spitting, snake-men, mind-controlling snake-men, and crablike skittering horrors. Hilariousness ensues when they need to wash some venom out of a blinded party member’s eyes, and after giving their character sheets the once over, they realize no one is carrying a waterskin. Not a drop of fresh water anywhere. Someone asks “Um, so what if I just spit in your eye.”

Everyone cracks up. Other alternatives to fresh water or spitting are proposed, and somehow this degenerates into Jim asking his wife (who came home at around this time) “If someone has snake-venom in their eyes, and we’d need to wash it out by peeing into her eye, would it be possible for her to contract syphilis?”

In hindsight, not a high point of comedy. But it was funny for a few minutes.

After a short break we got back to the business of serious role-playing.

During the previous session I had struggled a bit coming up with meaningful (e.g. not stupid) things for the NPC’s to say. So this time I had actually taken a few minutes to write down a few lines of dialogue, most of which I ripped off from a movie running on the telly at the same time. This dialogue was intended for the main villainess of the piece, and contained a lot of exposition on different unresolved issues in the campaign so far.

I needn’t have worried. About a couple of sentences of diatribe, the party goes “Screw this, lets just kill her and be over with it!”

The party is soon overwhelmed. One goes down, then another. A third party member decides to leg it with his henchman. One more goes down, at which point the main villain’s right hand man gets cocky, tries to take the last remaining player character alive, and gets a mace to the face.

To make a long story short, the PC gets mind controlled, and is sent on an errand. She runs across the party member who ran away earlier, who pretty much immediately notices something’s awry, and knocks the mind controlled PC unconscious. He then loads her up in a wheelbarrow with all of the loot, and makes for the open road. Witchingham be damned!

As it is extremely unlikely, that the party will ever be in the position to ever get to hear the villainess’ complete monologue, here it is reproduced in its entirety.

”Greetings, brave souls. Have you come to receive my blessings? No? Very well, then. What do you seek? Treasure? There is plenty here, free for the taking. Please, you have my permission. I have no need for it. After all, you deserve a reward for all that you have done. You freed me from captivity, and proceeded to systematically rid me of my enemies. I am deeply grateful. That fool of a baron Rupert, his halfwit son Christpher, that blowhard Godfrey, and the rest of those poor, misled wretches. Many thanks to you.”

”Oh, you wouldn’t by any chance know the whereabouts of that whore Genevieve? She and I still have a bone to pick. You wouldn’t be hiding her by any chance? Bring her to me, and I shall see to it that you are rewarded for that as well.”

”Do you know what I am? I am as close to a god as you people will ever witness in the flesh. I have been here since time immemorial. I was here when the Romans held sway. Such a wonderful people, the Romans. They knew how to indulge in the ways of the flesh. So unlike your own god nailed to a wooden cross, who locked up his brides in convents. Did they really enjoy themselves, hm? Poor little virgins masturbating in the dark. Then they repent for their sins indulging in flagellation until they wept tears of blood. Captive virgin whores of an impotent god.”

And yes, that dialogue rips off Ken Russell’s film adaptation of Bram Stoker’s The Lair of the White Worm, a great film, which every fan of campy horror should be familiar with. Not convinced yet? Then have a look at this screenshot from a scene where nuns are raped by Roman soldiers while a blue skinned heathen snake priestess oversees, and a huge, white worm is taking a bite out of the arm of some guy nailed to a cross.

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The Witchfinders – The Story So Far

The Witchfinders campaign has now been running for about five game sessions. Out of the five original players three have lost their original characters, and have since made new ones. Jim’s Witchfinder Killbody got an axe to the head in the first game session, Mattias’ fighting-man Blackjack Davy was killed in a roadside ambush, and Corentin’s French midget was captured by the Baron’s guards, and hung the next day. The replacements are a Witchfinder called Pennycock, a drifter and sell-sword going by the name of Average Dan (and sometimes by the name of Spectacular Dan; a specialist), and Lancelot, a gallant swashbuckler. The scotsman McIre, and the zealot Pearl are the only ones remaining of the original party. We’ve also gotten a new player, a role-playing first-timer, who made a Magic-User. As fitting the tone of the game, the first-timer also got his first taste of character death, when his scholar got a pistol shot to the head near the end of the gaming session.

At this point I think it is safe to say that the campaign has been successful. It has been well received by the players, the rules work like a charm, the setting is intriguing, and some of the house rules, for instance the firearms rules we are using are working out fine, and add to the feel of the game rather than detracting from it.

Among other house rules I’ve employed is a modified (from the LotFP rules, that is) initiative, where every group, instead of every participant in a combat situation rolls for initiative, and the dexterity modifier acts as an individual tie-breaker. This means that if the party wins initiative, all of the party can act before any of the opposing party can act. It also means that Pearl the dexterous Specialist always acts before Pennycock the clumsy Witchfinder. I rather like this system myself, since I always felt that the calling out of numbers from six to one took away from the feel and description of battles. This way everyone knows when their turn is coming, and since they know when the enemy is going, they can actually coordinate the group’s activities, so that it feels more like these people know and trust each other, and can think out combat tactics on the fly.

The campaign started out with the party staying at a roadside, only to discover that the innkeeper, and his friends were murderous, cannibalistic thugs, who worshipped some kind of demon idol. The Witchfinder Killbody met his end at the inn, receiving a skull-cleaving blow to the head from an axe wielded by a homicidal maniac.

Coming to the town Witchingham, the party immediately decided, that the local baron is most likely somehow involved in all this demon-worshiping, witchcraft, cannibalism, and whatnot. Further investigations involved rumours of witches, ghosts, snake-oil salesmen, strange folk in dark robes, flying things with bat-like wings, fallen angels, cursed monks, disappearances, so on and so forth. There were so many rumours to investigate, that for the most part the players couldn’t make heads or tails of how to fit all of the pieces together.

By the third session the party had decided, that there were most likely a cult at work here, and the roots of the cult lay either with the monks worshipping the fallen angel a few decades back, or with the baron’s dusky-skinned West-Indian wife. This all got turned topsy-turvy, when during a brawl with the Baron’s guards, the guard captain Alistair seemingly lost control, flashed snakelike eyes, and spit poison in the eyes of a party member. After a brief scuffle, the majority of the party found themselves behind lock and key in the Baron’s dungeon.

Finding an escape rout from the dungeon in the form of a secret passage, the party came across something monstrous living in the sewer system beneath the Baron’s keep. The barely manage to escape with their lives. The party seeks refuge in the town, only to come across more horror and evidence of depravity. At the end of the game session they decide to retreat into the woods, where the Baron’s son (supposedly a nitwit) has taken refuge with a small group of men loyal to himself.

The next session sees the group make plans on ridding the barony of Witchingham of the evil that has infested both the village, and the keep. The party decides on a two-pronged attack, where the Baron’s son Christopher leads his men into the keep through a secret passage, and occupies the guards, while the player characters go in through the sewer entrance discovered earlier. The two attacking forces will meet up “in the middle”, and go from there.

The plan seems sound, but still almost manages to get derailed, when the player characters come across a third party making byways into the keep. This third party is evidently linked to the men encountered at the inn (game session one), and it seems they also have some kind of grudge against the poor Baron (at this time suspected by the players dead or incarcerated by his own men)

Furious room to room fighting breaks out in several parts of the keep. The fighting culminates in the throne room, where the last of the Baron’s men, and the third attacking force meet grizzly ends at ends of the swords of Christopher’s men and player characters. In the aftermath, Christopher turns coat, and tries to kill the party, almost succeeding in killing off Pearl. Christopher flees into the dungeon beneath the castle, where he hides out while the pursuing player characters come across inhuman robed things, scuttling crablike monstrosities, and devilish traps. Christopher is finally caught trying to sneak out the back way. He fires a shot with his pistol, that ends the life of yet another player character, but is cornered by the Witchfinder Pennycock. Pennycock goes down fighting, and for a moment it looks like Christopher is going to make his escape, when a tentacled monstrosity reaches out of a hidden pool, grabs Christopher and rips him in pieces.

The party decides this beastie is too much to tackle in one go, and retreat to lick their wounds.

Next game this Sunday.