Lamentations of the Whispering Tyrant

For a long time now, my two main interests in role-playing have been Old School games (mainly Lamentations of the Flame Princess), and “new school” fantasy role-playing (D&D 3.5 and Pathfinder RPG). I’ve participated in over 50 game sessions of each in the past few years, and have more than a passing familiarity with both game systems and play-styles. Both of these games have their roots in Dungeons & Dragons, but are nevertheless fundamentally different on almost every level. The only thing they seem to have in common is that both claim to be D&D, and both are fantasy role-playing games.

Each of these games provide something the other does not. Old school gives me easy, flexible rules, a free-form type of play, an emphasis on player skill and ingenuity, and a focus on exploration and investigation. New school gives me a robust game system, that appeals to the gamist in me, and a wealth of enticing campaign world and story material.

And so, after some brainstorming and research, I’ve decided to try and combine elements of both games into one campaign. The new campaign is going to be called Ustalav. It uses the LotFP rules, and old school sensibilities in play-style. Pathfinder RPG provides the story fodder in the form of the Carrion Crown Adventure Path, a new school mega-adventure about the gothic horror -themed nation of Ustalav in Paizo’s campaign world Golarion. The adventure path spans six books, for a total of around 300 pages of gaming material. Considering the relatively slow pace of old school campaigns, this campaign has the potential to last years.

Lets see how it turns out shall we.

Edit: An earlier post I wrote has relevance the topic of this one. For anyone interested in the topic, it might be worth checking out: D&D 3.5 Mega-Adventures Old School Style.

The Red Corsairs Mk. II

I’ve recently been tinkering with my army list, trying to find something new and interesting to play with. I’ve also played some test games, and gotten some new models painted. In a previous post I bemoaned the fact, that most viable lists are variations of the same list. To a point this is still true, but I think I’ve managed to find a combination that at least manages to provide me with a slightly different gaming experience. And here it is: The Red Corsairs Mk. II, now with added BOOM!

Red Corsairs Chaos Space Marines 1750 pts.

HQ
King Hell (Chaos Sorcerer)
Mark of Slaanesh, Lash of Submission

Voormas the Violator (Chaos Sorcerer)
Mark of Slaanesh, Lash of Submission

Elites
Barakka’s Blood Reavers (3 Chaos Terminators)
Reaper Autocannon & Chainfist, 2x Combi-Melta & Power Weapon

The Kraken (Chaos Land Raider)
Dozer Blade

Troops
Murat’s Crew (5 Chaos Space Marines)
Melta Gun, Icon of Chaos Glory, Rhino

Barbossa’s Crew (5 Chaos Space Marines)
Melta Gun, Icon of Chaos Glory, Rhino

Jagha’s Crew (10 Chaos Space Marines)
2x Melta Gun, Icon of Chaos Glory

Typhon’s Crew (5 Plague Marines)
2x Plasmagun, Rhino

Heavy Support
Black Bess (Chaos Vindicator)
Daemonic Possession

Scylla (Chaos Vindicator)
Daemonic Possession

Beasts of the Deep (3 Obliterators)

The Sorcerers go with the five man squads into the Rhinos. Now that Lash isn’t a shooting attack anymore, the Sorcerer can lash out of a Rhino that has moved full tilt and popped its smoke launchers, which should provide targets for all that heavy artillery. The Land Raider deploys empty, and the ten man squad goes in there. The Terminators can either deep strike or start on the field, hammering away at all those soft Rhino and Chimera hulls.

The main difference between this list and the previous one is that there is more firepower, but it is generally shorter range, so the Rhinos with the Sorcerers need move up fast, and start bunching together targets for the 24″ range Vindicators, who also need to get a move on fast. The Obliterators and the Land Raider can hang back, since their range is a lot better. The squad in the Land Raider is there for taking objectives, so don’t stay too far back for too long. The army as a whole isn’t fast, so objectives on the opponent’s side of the field must be kept in mind from turn one.

I’ve played two games with this army now, both Annihilations, and both decisive victories. Methinks I need to test my mettle against more capable generals next…

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.

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.

E Chuta!

This has been a really busy month. I haven’t had time to write about any of the things I was supposed to. So, instead of writing a proper post now, I’ll just settle for quick updates on various topics. Oh, and I do believe a skin change is in order. What do you think of this one?

Personal and professional

As some of you know, I’ve recently been promoted to Senior Store Manager in the mygamestore.fi gaming store chain. I’ve also moved from Tapiola to Katajanokka, and my place of work is now the Stadin Pelikauppa store in Kaisaniemi, instead of Tapiolan Pelikauppa in Tapiola. I’ve also taken on some new responsibilities in the chain, as in addition to managing the Stadi store, I’m also in charge of buying all of the miniatures, and boardgames related stock for the chain.

Wargaming

Wargaming is still going strong. My Red Corsairs Chaos Space Marines army totals at about 3000 points at the moment, and I think I’ve reached somewhat of a water mark with that army, as I pretty much have all of the units I’m ever going to use with this army using the current codex. The converted Chaos Space Marine Chosen squad still isn’t quite finished, as I still need to do some details on the Rhino, and the squad members. The fiery red tiger stripe camo pattern on the marines looks dead on, though, so I should really get them finished, and have some pictures taken.

My Warriors of Chaos army is at about 2000 points, and progress with these guys has been really slow. I made the mistake of taking part in a Warhammer Fantasy Battle tournament, and some bad experiences there made me pretty much lose interest in that particular game. It is quite unlikely I’ll ever dabble with the tournament side of WHFB ever again, as that game really REALLY doesn’t work very well in tournament play. As a beer and pretzels game it works just fine, however.

Role-Playing Games

I’m currently refereeing a Lamentations of the Flame Princess: Weird Fantasy Role-Playing campaign, in which one of the players is Jim Raggi, the author of LotFP. The campaign is run in English, and after minor initial language difficulties, the campaign is now running quite smoothly. We’ve played three times so far, and I have the impression the players aren’t hating it, since they keep coming back for more.

I also ran a short Vampire: The Masquerade campaign a few months back, but that one didn’t last, since pretty much all of the players were very busy, and thus organizing regular game sessions was a real pain. I also found out, that if I’m going to run a regular game, it needs to be a weekly game, or I will lose my interest in it very quickly.

Star Wars

I’ve been a fan of Star Wars for as long as I can remember. My first contact with Star Wars was the original movie trilogy when it came out on VHS in the eighties, and the ensuing toy craze. I never had any of the original toys myself, as my parents thought they were too expensive. A childhood friend of mine had lots of them, though, including the Millennium Falcon, an X-Wing Fighter, and an AT-ST Walker.

Later on I kinda lost touch with Star Wars, only occasionally re-watching the movies when they were shown on TV. Then the new trilogy came, and man was I disappointed. What it did manage to do, however, was bring me back the old movies. It also opened my eyes to the Expanded Universe, which in my case meant the Dark Horse Comics, and the Star Wars role-playing game. Comics have always been one of my loves, and the Dark Horse comics were exactly what I’d loved about that original trilogy, and had missed about the new trilogy, e.g. swashbuckling space opera, with engaging storylines, and interesting characters. I’ve since invested quite a bit in Star Wars -related comics, and have quite a collection of them.

My other connection to Star Wars is through work. Stadin Pelikauppa is really big on Star Wars, having the largest selection of Star Wars related merchandise, collectibles, and vintage toys in the whole of Northern Europe. The 501th Nordic Garrison trooping in our stores is what brought me into contact with the NG in the first place.

And so, finally, after years of being a Star Wars enthusiast, I’ve decided to take that extra step into fandom, and have decided to make a Star Wars costume of my own, hoping for eventual 501st approval with it. My project is Count Dooku. I’ve already purchased the first part of my costume; the cloak clasps and chain. The next step is getting the lightsaber, the boots (from an army surplus store), and the actual uniform, for which I have enlisted the aid of a friend, who designs, and makes clothes professionally. She did the costumes for Iron Sky, so Dooku’s costume is going to be a cinch for her.

There you have it, recent hobby-related activities handily summarized. More on various topics later on, when I have more time to spare.

The Witchfinders – First Session notes

Just a few quick notes from today’s game session.

The characters created were:

  • Blackjack Davy (Fighter) – A mercenary sort, just in it for the money (and the free booze, and the occasional wench)
  • Hubert McIre (Specialist) – A Scotsman, and thus the butt of many a joke
  • Pearl (Specialist) – The daughter of a Witch, now a fanatical Witchfinder
  • Judge Killbody (Cleric) – An unscrupulous Witchfinder, whose career proved short
  • Theodule (Halfling) – A homicidal French midget with even fewer scruples
  • Marmaduke Pennycock (Cleric) – Poor Judge Killbody’s replacement

    The players’ notes (what I can make of them anyway):

  • Father Wilfred – The local pastor at Witchingham
  • Vicar Bertte – (I have no idea who this guy is)
  • Rupert, The Baron of Witchingham – The local Baron, a sickly old man, and a re-married widow
  • Christopher – The Baron’s son, a dimwit
  • Genevieve – The Baron’s mulatto wife from the West-Indies
  • Penny – A woman rescued from devil-worshiping cannibals
  • Doctor Godfrey – By all accounts a quack, and most likely linked to the above-mentioned cannibals
  • Captain Alistair – The Baron’s Guard Captain, who is rumored to be in relations with the Baron’s missis
  • Innkeeper R..? – (Another name I made up on the fly, and have now forgotten)
  • Something Wife-Witch – Possibly relates to rumors about the Baron’s wife
  • Theodore the Monk Accursed Something Something – Who’s ghost is rumored to haunt the Castle

    Rumors:

  • People have disappeared mysteriously.
  • Black-cloaked strangers roam the countryside.
  • The Baron’s wife is a witch.
  • A few decades ago, an angel fell down from the heavens at the side of the Baron’s castle.
  • Winged fiends have been spotted at night.
  • A snake-oil salesman was through these parts some time ago.
  • Those who bought the miracle medicine are the same who’ve since disappeared.
  • The Baron’s keep is build on a monastery, that was abandoned when the monks fell into devil-worship and debauchery.
  • The Guard Captain is in secret liaisons with the Baron’s wife.
  • The Baron’s son Christopher is a dimwit.

    Confirmed facts:

  • People have disappeared. They’ve possibly been kidnapped.
  • The Innkeeper of the Black Rooster wayside inn is not the same man, who until recently ran the inn.
  • The men at the Black Rooster were cannibals who murdered travelers staying at the inn. They worshipped a demon idol. One of the men matches the description of the snake-oil salesman.
  • One of the kidnapped women was held at the Black Rooster.
  • There is a secret passage which leads from the Black Rooster to a demon shrine.
  • The shrine at the Baron’s Keep has seen only little use, possibly only one regular visitor.
  • The Baron keeps a local man prisoner at the keep. The man is most likely innocent of witch-craft. He is, however, a drunk, and a blasphemer.
  • The Baron’s son Christopher is a dimwit.

    The game session had swashbuckling action, vile cannibal cultists, secret passages, demon idols, rumors of witches, kidnappings, ghosts, and winged devils (among other things), and the skull of a player character cleft in twain by a heinous villain. More on the actual goings on later. Stay tuned.

  • The Witchfinders – Character Classes

    The demi-human classes have already been discussed in a previous post, so this post will deal with the remaining four classes.

    The Cleric

    The Cleric in this setting is typically, (and not too surprisingly) a Witchfinder, e.g. a man of the cloth who’s purpose in life is to seek out and destroy witches, warlocks, demons, vampires, etc. The Van Helsing type characters of old Hammer movies make for excellent clerics. Of course, a cleric might also be a more traditional priest or monk, if the player so desires.

    The Fighter

    The Fighter is pretty much what it is in other settings, e.g. someone proficient in fighting and warfare. What might be of importance in this setting is a fighter’s allegiance, that is, on who’s side is he or has he been fighting, and does he still hold some allegiances to one of the parties of the civil war.

    The Magic-User

    The big question mark in a campaign seemingly geared towards hunting witches to extinction would obviously be the Magic-User class. The Magic-User taps the raw forces of chaos, harnessing the building blocks of the universe. Thus, as per the LotFP rules, all Magic-Users are of Chaotic alignment. The method of harnessing, however, differs from individual Magic-User to other. There are those who seek out otherwordly beings, and perhaps even worships them. These would be the classical devil-worshiping witches and warlocks. There are those who commune with forces other than the Christian god, and find power in places, objects, and creatures both mundane and otherwordly. There are the scientists and doctors who meddle with alchemy, and sciences most people today would consider ludicrous.

    Any of these types of Magic-Users risk the wrath of superstitious mobs or zealous Witchfinders, and so they are forced to practise their respective crafts in secret, behind closed doors, or far away from population centers.

    Needless to say, a zealous Witchfinder, and a Magic-User who openly flaunts his talent in the same player character party is an ignited powder-keg waiting to explode, and probably best avoided altogether. The same goes for the Elf.

    The Specialist

    The Specialist can be pretty much anything. The class is customizable enough to emulate any kind of, well, specialist, be it a thief, a grave robber, a scout, a spy, an assassin, a scribe, an interpreter, a wilderness guide, or what have you. The Specialist is what the player makes of him.