Thursday, August 24, 2017

Four Servants Fled into a Red & Pleasant Land

I am so very happy to be running a campaign again. There are four Adventurers: A Fighter (who is a Bounty Hunter), A Magic-User (who is a Juggler), A Theif (who is a Miner), and an Alice (or Fool).

Four servants on a Moldavan estate fled an oncoming horde of soldiers (Polish? Hungarian? They do not know). The manor was burning, and so they ran through basement and back rooms until they found themselves in an ever diminishing tunnel, soon crawling around bend turn and angle.

And then suddenly each of them found themselves crawling out into a velvet curtained room, circular. Up above a gathering of officious voices. "Ah yes! The trial can begin! The accused have arrived!". And what was their crime? Trespassing, of course.

After each suffered a Trial By Biography they were ushered into a small chamber to await punishment (flensing, likely, they were told), they sipped on tea that tasted vaguely or iron or copper, and discovered a smallish tunnel of sorts of beneath the samovar, in the cabinet. Into it, they crawled.

This tunnel lead them into what seemed to be the bottom of a thorny well of roses, and it continued. on still. It came to stairs, stone ones, leading up into the moonlight. A cemetery? In the woods? It was hardly morning when this all began. A mumbled voice in the distance they heard. Sad, forlorn. "Oh no" it said. It seemed to cry.

The Juggler cried out: "Hello! Where are we?", and the voice bounds after a sound of scraping metal, standing up on long needle legs.

It greets them, the pale figure up above them. "Ah! You are persons!" it says, before impaling a rat on the tip of its' left leg, and setting it upon a gravestone edge. "I am a non-person, you see. And you can help me! Oh yes!"

And it explained that he held now his friends will, which forecluded that his dear friend (currently "indisposed" from battle, whatever that meant) would be killed by his own misericorde. The will, you see, demanded that the bearer of it avenge his killer, who shamed him so.

Such is the way things go, in the place they are. But could they go and get it, the misericorde, and destroy it perhaps? He would be most grateful! It was just there, at Tiger-Lilly Keep. Just over the little river. Why can't he go get it? A non-person can not cross any river, even one so small. And besides that, there are the Footmen. You can recognize them from their livery. Who are they? They are with the Colorless you see, the ones who they are skirmishing with over yonder. Over what? The Bridge! To where? None are sure, not yet, as they are fighting over it first. We are hoping, though, that it leads out and away to the gardens! But who are the Colorless? Not friends or foes, not yet, but we skirmish with them anyway. But we shall win, if you destroy that misericorde that is!

Conversation was voluminous and dizzying, but in the end they agreed to find this misericorde, and destroy it, despite understanding precious little about the Heart, and the Colorless, and having not yet even heard of the Pale. But then they met the Colorless along the way, and soon things became even more complicated than one minute before.
The Colorless representative was a hairless woman (fully bald), quite white, in large neck ruff and lengthy gown. She glided along the forest floor, near a pond of milk and honey, and in a syrupy tone insisted "please, do not destroy it! bring it back here, to me. We can help you, we know a way out of the forest, one that evades the toads!". And the toads were explained to them, giant and gruesome and attracted to a field of heads of sticks.

And so in a moment of sudden betrayal and oppotunism, they agreed to assist this emissary of the Colorless, and would do not as the Red one with the legs had said.

Besides, the Footmen would obey them if presented with this letter from their new Colorless friend.

And so they were welcomed into a Red & Pleasant Land.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Epiphanies, Dead Wizards, and Found Spellbooks

I got my copy of Vaginas Are Magic (moving and delayed mail-forwarding slowed me down, but it had mailed on schedule) Anyway, this is brilliant:

"about this “only women can cast these spells” thing. When creating new spells, It is perfectly fine to say that certain spells can only be cast by one sex, or people with brown hair, or people with no eyes. Or by those in certain moods, or who are wearing/not wearing jewelry or clothing made of certain materials, or who are covered in squirrel shit. It can be that arbitrary, that simple. If a caster wants to use these spells without the specific restriction, she can recover a spellbook with the spell in it and research her own version without the restriction. Spell research rules aren’t just there to fill out a page count."

Adding a restriction makes that whole "I found a spellbook!" situation much more interesting. Making up a restrictions on the spot when someone finds a spell has downsides; you might be too "random", too particular, or too predictable. Here's a table.

  1. Women. Someone or something able to be impregnated and carry a child to term.
  2. Men. Someone or something able to impregnate a female of its' species.
  3. The Infertile. Castration, Eunuchs, Old Age, the result of illness or curses. Whatever works.
  4. Those Who Reject Flesh. They must have eaten a fully vegetarian diet for a full lunar cycle, (unless you have an amazingly detailed calendar) count 30 days of commitment beginning in d30 days (when the next lunar cycle begins).
  5. The Bacchanalian: those who have drunk a bottle of wine of at least Decent quality each day, without pause, after an initial night of drunken excess.
  6. The Wearers of the Crown. The hair is not cut or washed, and is kept beneath a headpiece of some kind. If you get a haircut or a wash it'll be 1d4 weeks until the spell works again. If you take off the hat it'll be a full 24 hours of wearing it until you may cast again. This headpiece could be a conical "wizard hat", a relatively simple turban, a Crowley style pyramid, a sinister looking capirote, or a glorious dastar bunga kind of thing. Nothing normal. 1d4 x 10SP once you find a good hatter.
  7. Those Fasting. At least one full day without food must have already elapsed.
  8. Those Who Greet both Dawn and Dusk. The caster has gone at least one full day without sleep.
  9. The Mutilated. The caster must be missing a digit, or an ear, or have other visible scarring that impedes the functioning of the body or severely alters the appearance.
  10. Those with Hands Adorned. The caster must be wearing rings of precious metal, 1d4 for each hand, and each metal must be different from the others. (gold, silver, iron, copper, steel, brass, platinum, nickel)
  11. The Primitive. The caster must consume only foraged foods (including hunted game, if they hunt it). If they mistakenly consume a product of agriculture they will be unable to cast this spell until a day has been spent fasting and then a full day has been spent consuming only natural foods.
  12. Those Who Wear The Garb. Robes, cloaks, and so on of (1d6) ornamented linen, fur, velvet, satin, embroidered wool, or silk. Costs 20 x 1d4+1 SP, and a tailor who doesn't ask too many questions or tend to gossip.
  13. Those With Blood Upon Their Hands. The caster must have killed something using a Melee weapon within the past hour. Any life will do, some keep a goat or chicken handy.
  14. Anthropophagists. Cannibals. One mouthful is enough. It can't be the casters own flesh. It must come from someone else. It need not be cooked.
  15. The Decadent. The caster must consume 3 meals of at least Fancy quality, or one of Rich quality, before casting the Spell. If they continue to consume at least a Fancy meal each day they may continue to cast the spell.
  16. Bearers of the Symbol. The caster must be holding a (1d6) bell, ceremonial weapon, wand, amulet, goblet, censer. Costs as much as a Silver Holy Symbol. Is obviously an occult tool.
  17. The Bringers of Light. The caster must be holding a lit torch, candle, lantern, etc.
  18. Those In The Presence of The Dead. A corpse, a skeleton, even a long bone or skull. It must be human.
  19. Devourers of Flesh. The caster must have eaten only flesh for a full lunar cycle, timed as with #4.
  20. The Placid. The caster must have not Attacked anything with a physical weapon since the lunar cycle began, if you weren't tracking this already it was d30 days ago.

You could have a whole thing with magical restrictions and how Magic-Users might have to deal with them.
The big picture would be that Wizards invented magic, or discovered it. Perhaps they were magic. They are gone now, but they recorded their discoveries in coded texts, obscure journals of their esoteric research as usual.
Beyond the encoding the Wizards placed additional limitations on every spell.

A Magic-User is someone who has come into possession of one of these books, and has chosen and begun to translate its’ secrets, and make use of them. This has required both luck and sacrifice, as some of these criteria can only be met through circumstances of birth (or magical transformation). Others require deeds to be done, sometimes merely strange but often quite vile. On occasion it requires only an accessory, or other trinket. This is all quite expensive, and frowned upon by normal society.
This might have been done by the Wizards as a filter to attract only suitable acolytes. It might have also only been only perverse whimsy, or a way to mark whoever used Magic as an outsider to normal, moral life.

So as a Magic-User all the spells you would learn would come from this Spellbook, and gaining new Spells upon leveling up would mean you had deciphered a new one (or two). Perhaps Magical Research would be a process that allowed you “translate” a new spell (roll on the Spell Table for the campaign). Or perhaps you only have a tiny folio (with a mere 7 spells), and you want to find the great Thesis rumored to contain three-and-twenty in the lost etc.

It's just a half-sketched thing for now. The main notion is that every spell would requires something from the caster. Maybe components, maybe states of being, maybe having done something. Maybe all of that. It’d be more detailed than that stuff up above, probably some kind of nested chart with occasionally infuriating results. (“To Summon a Great Dragon you must cast the spell Nude, in the Moonlight, having the Requisite Tattoos, accompanied only by Goats and Wielding a Golden Spear.” etc.).

So, at level one you’d have your usual starting repertoire of Spells, but also with it the Tamed Snake Companion, Half-Shaved Hair, and Ceremonial Robes (or whatever) they’d require. As you increased in level you’d gradually become a freakish collection of accouterments and affectations, weighed down by the weird habits of long-dead Wizards. It might be fun.

When I was running Deep Carbon Observatory we tried something else. Magic was a way you were. Being a Magic-User meant you had learned a way. How to be magical. Casting a spell was an ineffable procedure only understandable through wordless epiphany. Realizing that if you had a certain image in your mind as you struck a particular pose and made a specific sound you could cause wondrous effect, but only in that instant. Spell books only described the various things a Magic-User could do, but never how. A Magic-User was someone who sought sublime and terrifying experience to inspire new revelations. This was just a way to have Magic-Users get new spells whenever they leveled up and have it make some sense without them needing to go sit around in a library, since they were all trudging through flood-lands I didn't want to have to think about spell book logistics too much. I could see this getting really interesting with a restricted casting situation the same way, gradually becoming ever-less-normal from what you've realized through Adventuring.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Magic Flavors

Wonder & Wickedness is almost perfect. You'll need it to make sense of this resource, so go and buy it if you don't have it yet.

I've used bits of it in almost everything I've run since I read it, but it does have a couple of gaps in some details. One of them is how every Maleficence also does something special; each has a secondary effect added from a one-word descriptor. It has some suggestions, and you could come up with something new every time if you want, but I started using tables a while back to save time and precious imagination during character creation. I've used them for a while now. It makes so you don't end up defaulting to "fire" and "ice" or whatever.

There's usually a round table discussion before any casting with Wonder & Wickedness, since the spells tend to be so potent and interesting. With these Maleficence I've seen that there tends to be the same sort of thing, a nice chat about if it's really the best time to unleash the most horrible cloud of spiders (or whatever).

They're great even if you aren't playing a Magic-User. I was playing a Fighter in a friends' game recently, and the Referee description of how the shadows became "unstuck" and then began slicing someone to ribbons at the Magic-Users request was very memorable (although the survivors came after us with farm implements, but that's another story.)Anyway, the tables. There's some description for fluff, and some sketched out effects. They're in that not-very-crunchy W&W style, as it were. Add a level of detail suitable to your game if it's too sparse.

In general I have things last an amount of time (Round or Turn) equal to the level of the Magic-User who cast it (that's what "several rounds" means). I use the generic term "Save" because I use a 2 save system, but you might use a 5 save system, and so on. Damage done by a Maleficence or its after-effects are always an open-ended (or exploding) die.

Oh also, if a character uses some kind of thingy (wand or dagger or something) to cast their Maleficence I promise I won't take it away to screw them over, since it's just fluff (unless it was a situation where they'd be unable to cast anyway, you get the idea).

Your Maleficence 
Roll 1d12
1. is summoned up and guided by you with dramatic, sweeping gestures
2. emerges from your pointed finger
3. spews out from the tip of your staff or wand
4. emanates from a medallion or amulet
5. appears as you assume a strange pose
6. is thrown out from your opened palms
7. sprays out from your open mouth
8. bursts forth from your heart or solar plexus
9. is a geyser from your forehead
10. beams out from your eyes
11. appears from an empty space above your head
12. is projected out from a ceremonial object (dagger, skull, crystal, idol, tablet, goblet) you carry

in the form of
Roll 1d20

flying horde of assailants that besiege the target (a sudden flock of carnivorous birds or bats, a plague of tremendous locusts or other winged insects, an army of fae folk with tiny sharp things). The target is disoriented by this hostile cloud and flails around blindly for several rounds, only moving a few yards in a random direction until a Save is made.

A thin shaft of pure colored light, a laser-like line so bright it looks solid (1d8: red. orange, yellow, blue, green, indigo, violet, white). The target and nearby witnesses must Save or be blinded for several rounds. Whatever is killed by this crumbles to ashes.

A long rolling tongue of unearthly fire (1d6: pink, blue, green, violet, black, white). This flame ignites something not normally so flammable after the initial scorch, which then burns, while nothing else does. (1d4. 1. things of metal, 2. skin and flesh, 3. the air like a continual fireball around the target, 4. the ground itself, in a circle around the target). These things burn for several turns.

The shadows become a sharpened whirling vortex. +1d6 Damage if the target is in chiaroscuro deep shadows, +2d6 if they are in complete darkness.

A swirling, undulating amoebic mass of pulsating dark and emptiness that causes the target to blur and fade as it envelops them. The target dissolves into the air if they are killed. The useful mind of the target is temporarily erased if they survive, leaving them in a stupor unless they Save.

A screaming wind carrying particles like ground glass and sandpaper grit. The target is flung back 5' per level of the Magic-User unless a Save is made, with loose possessions thrown much farther.

A dim crepuscular ray of light that withers what it lands on, wrinkling skin and crackling living surfaces with aridity. The target will act last on following rounds, and suffer penalties equal to the level of the Magic-User. Those killed by this desiccate into little dolls.

Long dark iron needles, or sudden spears of moonlight silver, or glowing translucent arrows fly forth and impale the target. They are pinned in place, or to the wall, unless a Save is made.Forms and shapes that shoot forth and collide, shatter, and explode.

A (1d4: mirror-like, transparent, dull metallic, glittering stony) (1d4: disc, triangle, cone, cube) with a sound like (1d4: glass shattering, vibrating bells, an angry choir, hideous thunder). The target and those nearby must Save or react as if they failed Morale for several rounds.

A column of air freezes, void of oxygen, the temperature dipping to below that of the void around the stars for an instant. Unless a save is made, for several rounds after the target may shatter into pieces when struck unless another save is made.

11. BILE
A jet and spray of vile sizzling fluids of a syrupy consistency (1d4: yellow, brown, grey, red). These saturate the target and “soften” them unless a Save is made: whatever strikes them afterwards does twice as much damage for several rounds. If killed the target melts into an oily pool of colors and material.

12. IMP
A sudden assault by a hellish creature (1d4: A snake-thing with arms and wings, a leaping fish with limbs, a small nude pig man, a howling bipedal cat). While mangling the target it takes something from them to return to the Magic-User, before departing whence they came. This can be a mere stolen object, or a severed limb if the target is thoroughly mangled.

A cloud of sparkling and twinkling glitter, motes of magic dust. The target is shredded by tiny flakes, and what falls off from them is transformed into precious metal shavings. They crumble into gold and silver leaf as they die. The amount of damage inflicted multiplied by the level of the Magic-User in SP litters the ground around the Target, if they are killed by this.

A sudden carpet of stinging insects: beetles, spiders, centipedes, and worms that en-robe the target, devouring them as they are filled with venom. For several rounds afterwards the target must Save or suffer 1d6 additional damage.

A contained field of optical distortion warps, wraps, and folds around the target. They are are contorted physically by this, malformed and bent into cubist contortions. Targets must Save or remain in this form for several rounds, severely impaired in movement and action until they unfold.

A shiny ribbon of vibration and movement thrashes the target, reducing them to a quivering blur thrashing through the air before depositing them on the ground in a place of the Magic-Users choosing, 10' away per Level, unless a Save is made.

Stony ejecta, hot mud, and heaps of dirt and loam are hurled onto the target, knocking them prone, helpless and half-buried unless they Save. If killed they are swallowed whole by the earth into an impromptu burial mound.

A tiny silver thread, a braid of unknown hair, a length of intestinal rope, or a sort of strange wormy tendril wrap about the target to constrict, crush, and hinder movement. The Target must Wrestle to escape, the Magic-User adding their Level to the contested roll.

A cobweb-seeming branch of fine spidery lightning (1d4: red, yellow, black, grey) that jaggedly arcs onto the target. This leaves the target numbed and stupefied unless they Save, causing them to drop all held items and be left unable to act for several rounds.

An oily point in the air, an ugly smear that leaves a stain in the visual field like a grease trail. The target is metaphysically loosened, sloughing apart and beginning to dis-incorporate. Those killed by this crumble into a pinguid puddle of slime. This inflicts 1d6 damage to those who step in it, and causes the same effect to any killed by it. This noxious substance exists for 1 turn per level of the Magic-User.

And I've been meaning to implement a second table for the melee range Maleficence, since it behaves differently than the other one in general it might as well have a whole different effect, no? I'll be using this in my next game.

In melee, your Maleficence is
roll 1d20

An eerie and unnatural light that pours out of you. Targets must Save or be unable to act the next round, covered in a plaster-like shell. Those killed are turned to limestone.

A sudden cloud of reeking gas rises up, a visibly poisonous fog (1d4: periwinkle, tangerine, chartreuse, lilac, beige, rhodamine). This lingers around you for several rounds, inflicting 1d6 damage unless a Save is made.

An instantaneous appearance of long thin spikes, in a halo all around you like great stag-horns, thorns, or urchins from inside your head. The dense tangle of points provides additional Armor for several rounds, and is never in the way of your actions.

Many dark tendrils, grasping claws, statuary limbs, or cruel hooks and chains reach up from the earth. Targets are pulled down prone unless a Save is made.

a shower of luminous sparks, in a gradient of colors, saturates the targets and make them sparkle. Targets may erupt into flame for several rounds afterwards without warning, unless a Save is made.

your fingernails suddenly lengthen while become sharp, curving to slice through your foes before separating from your hand as new nails reappear. Foes struck must Save or be unable to attack until they remove the embedded nail-blade.


a sudden eruption of growth of the ambient flora (even moss or mold) that overwhelm the targets and blanket them entirely as they are pierced with roots and capillary. All killed by this are desiccated into powder, each target producing a number of delicious and unprecedented fruits equal to the level of the Magic-User that each provide a days ration.

waxy clear anemone clusters reach out from you and caress your targets. They must Save or begin to melt, with unarmored foes suffering 1d6 additional damage, and Armored foes becoming less so.

A bitter blast that blows down into the earth, with this you rip out the souls of your targets out and fling them into the underworld as their heats cease beating. 1 target killed per level of the Magic-User remains "alive" as an empty shell. Unable to heal or speak, and lacking any will or conscious thoughts, they will obey simple commands until they are destroyed.

A sudden enchantment in the air about you, a fine mist, a strange scented charm that smells of (1d4: flowers and blood, skin, sweat and fire, hot meat and burnt sugar, decaying vegetables and citrus peels). It causes your targets to assault both themselves, and each other, with supernaturally accented force. Unless a Save is made they will run from you to attack another ally for the next several rounds.

The air is sucked from all nearby throats and then pulled out and away with great enthusiasm from their heads. Targets must Save or fall unconscious for several rounds, suffering ear, eye, and nosebleeds.

A sudden condensation of mucus and muck from the air, which poisons the flesh with septic juices. It is gluey and thick, and foes must Save or move with additional Encumbrance for several rounds.

The raging ghosts of the unjustly killed rise up, and with great flourish attacks your foes with scavenged weaponry. If attacking what would be considered a "Fighter" this inflicts +1d6 additional damage.

An orbit of stones forms around you and batters your targets. Their weapons and shields are dropped, if they carried any, bashed out of their hands by tiny meteors

You exhale a humid breath that the slows the flow of time, and stifles the will of the living. Your targets act last next round.

You call up the the one thousand invisible hands, who slap, punch, and batter the targets. All remaining targets must Wrestle free for the next several rounds.

In a ring around you a weight presses down like great unseen boulders. This concentrated gravity crushes those killed into smears, and those who survive must Save for several rounds if they wish to leave their position.

Each target is covered in a coral like netting of white blue lightning on the surface of the skin for an instant. Targets wearing metal armor suffer and additional 1d6 damage from it becoming super-heated. Hair is raised up by aerial static in the general area.

19. MAW
The earth below the feet of targets opens as a rock filled muddy mouth. Targets killed are swallowed up whole into vertical graves, survivors must Save or cannot move away for several rounds.

A gathering of defensive (1d4: razor sharp crystalline butterflies, flame filled iridescent bubbles, dart-tipped feathers, little winged weapons and shields with eyes) . For the next several rounds any that try to strike you and miss must Save or suffer 1d6 damage.

Magical Defense is another part of W&W that didn't get any fluff at all from the primary text. I haven't use this yet, but I figured Magical Defense ought to use the same thing that Maleficence does: instead of just being a simple "dispel" this would gives it some other beneficial effect.

When you use your Magical Defense
roll 1d20

The nullified spell falls to the earth as a glowing honey-smelling liquid. For each level of experience you may cause this ambrosia to instead fill 1 vessel in your possession with enough to double the rate of healing in those who consume it for one day.

The sudden appearance of a miraculous mirrored disc reflects the magic into the void. However, there is a 1 in 6 chance that you can choose to reflect this magic at a new target instead.

The aura around the target becomes thickened and rubbery, visible as a cotton-wispy shell, after absorbing the spell. They gain Armor equal to your level of experience for 1 turn.

You sublimate the hostile magic into the form of banal objects, which might be potentially useful. The objects are made of one material, are one color, and are not especially valuable. One is created per level of experience. (Use the object table in A Red And Pleasant Land or one of the various "I search the body" tables)

You may redirect the targeted magic into a nearby object, causing it to radiate unearthly force. Objects become hot to the touch, and will inflict additional damage if used violently. If the force is not dissipated from them quickly by striking something they become too hot to hold, and must be dropped.

The magic is transformed into several gently glowing phosphenes, 1 per level of experience. Phosphenes are identical to candle light, and levitate gently in the air around the Magic-User. They can be directed by the Magic-User to stay near a friendly target as well, until they burn out.

The magic is redirected into the creation of life, and a small harmless animal crawls out of the ground at the feet of the Magic-User. It will obey all their commands until it dis-incorporates in several turns. (Red and Pleasant Land has a nice animal table, if you need one.)

The magic is ceased with an icy blast of unnatural wind, an unbreathable gas which can be used to snuff lights and smother fires and the Magic-Users discretion.

The magic is diffused and scattered along with much visible light around the target, allowing them near invisibility for several rounds.

The magic is cast down into the dust, leaving behind a formation of mystical fulgurites that are useful to alchemy and other forms of magical research. These are worth Magic-User level x 100 x 1d6, for research purposes only. Sale value varies wildly, depending on the buyer.

11. MAZE
The magic is sent into an infinite maze in the air, sucked in by a deep gravity of logic and order that is hostile to all magic nearby as well. There is a 1 in 6 chance that another Magical effect nearby can be dispelled.

Loose minerals in the air and dust are gathered to form elaborate multifaceted traps. These are often mere glass, but on a 1 in 6 occasion a gemstone is formed worth the Magic Users level x 1d6 x 10SP.

A slick and slippery slime splatters around the target, this phlogiston muck is both highly flammable and incredibly slippery.

The flow of time is sped to disperse the magic throughout history, this effect may be used to damage inanimate objects nearby through sudden decades of neglect and wear.

A shower of gold leaf shreds scatter around. One turn spent gathering this yields 1d4-1 SP.

The magic is made into a tiny object of gustation, an abstract candy or snack. This invigorates the target as it flies into their mouth to their stomach, giving them first Initiative next round.

17. DIN
A roaring, screaming, crashing, awful noise around the target. They do not hear it, but those nearby must check their Morale.

A sudden burst of colored light (red, blue, violet, yellow) erupts. This stuns those nearby for one round unless they Save.

You "catch" the magic in your hand, and it sits there as a gentle flame. You may throw this as if it were a knife, and possibly ignite a target as if they were covered in Lamp Oil.

You "catch" the spell in your mind, and through visualization of a magical counterpoint cause it to cease to be. There is a 1 in 6 chance that you manage to instead "cage" the spell. This means that for a number of days equal to your level, you now have one "casting" of this magical effect that you may expend (in the Vancian style, you can't transcribe it or "burn" the casting on something else).

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

DIS: The City of Aldercliffe

Deformation in Subterranea is an adventure I've been working on for a while now, in between running games, and not running games.

It's an OSR product written with LotFP in mind, as it were. It'll be available as print and a .pdf thing when I'm finally done with it, but circumstances are that I probably won't be able to play test the thing for a while, despite it being mostly written, and that delays the overall project quite a bit.

I decided to start posting bits and pieces of it (with placeholder illustrations) instead of hiding the whole thing away until it's done. In my wildest self-publishing dreams I'm commissioning illustrations for it and all that too, but we'll see. For now the extent of the project is just text and layout, with some maps.

In terms of a "design concept" or whatever it's meant to be a campaign that's built out of several component segments that are all connected by elements weaved between all of them, in particular this location. Each part can also be pulled from the whole and made to fit into other campaigns somewhat easily, especially with the details smudged a bit. A set of short modules with some locations and tables and things, with a story to fuse them all together.

The setting is a fictional city in England called Aldercliffe, and the environment around it, between 1630 and 1640. The campaign is premised on the Adventurers all being without money and occupations and also somewhat stranded in this unwelcoming city, where they will be presented with Hooks for Adventures. Something fairly straightforward that goes into some strange places along the way.

I wanted to make something using a "real enough" world and some historical verisimilitude, which has been kind of interesting as a creativity restriction but also makes me fairly certain the next thing I make will be about wizards with dementia or metaphysical junkyard accidents or something more, uh, "free".

There will be precious minerals, monks, mutilation, large centipedes, incantations in Sumerian, pigments, boars, both psychedelic and poisonous mushrooms, martyrdom, spelunking, arson, and even more. Some magical encounters, lots of mundane ones, and just a few monsters. It will also have interactions with the Gnomus, who I've written about before.

There will be some room for the Referee to improvise things, and lay their own threads, but it's intended to be something that's basically "ready to go".

But who is Gilbert Ballard? What is on page xx? What about that old Monastery? There'll be more soon, but here's the city it all happens in and around for now.

So that's DIS, as of right now a rough-ish draft that's not playtested.

The city of Aldercliffe was, when founded, only a humble village on the banks of a river. It was framed by fertile floodplains to the south and meadows to the north, with a modest monastery on its' eastern edge. Those meadows are now filled with flocks of sheep, the fields with crops of corn and wheat, and the monastery is now a manor house, having been converted in the many years since the monastic orders were dissolved. Further East the more hill-filled land is still wild, the forested valleys home to only bandits and wild boar.

The town square is quite spacious, the streets are wide, and there is a sturdy wall and gates surrounding the city itself. There are large gardens and small farming establishments between the houses and apartments within those city walls, as well as three churches, more than a dozen legitimate alehouses. and numerous warehouses and workshops filled with artisans and laborers. Aldercliffe is the county seat, and home to the regional market where the citizens of numerous small villages and independent estates around it journey to each week to both buy and sell.

All told approximately 2500 souls live in Aldercliffe, and most work as simple farmers or weavers, or as apprentices or journeymen in the guild system. Despite the wealth that flows through the city most still live in poverty, and there are many beggars, vagrants, and petty thieves in the streets.  Scores lead dull lives of idle drunkenness and only occasional employment, and through the years numerous crises of famine, plague, and even fire have threatened it's continued existence on the whole. It  has long been a place of disorder.

Goods can be bought in the market at Urban prices, but there are not any permanent “shops” like one would find in the much larger cities like London. It is all rented booths, and these only exist during the market, which is every Tuesday.

Trying to purchase anything on other days requires finding the artisan or warehouse that might have it, and then hoping they’ll sell it to you “out of the window”. This is an uncommon favor for strangers. Furthermore, buying anything from anyone on Sundays is almost completely impossible, as it’s mandated as a day of rest by city law and infractions are punishable.

Adventurers trying to purchase goods on “off days” have only a 1 in 6 chance of Success for each item sought, and each attempt will take several hours. (Modifiers can be added at the Referee’s discretion, such as providing a bonus as market day comes closer.)

Meals and Standard Rations can be bought on any day of the week (except for Sundays), but due to widespread shortages the cost of any Meals or Standard Rations is doubled. Additionally, Iron Rations can only be purchased at Market, with their costs tripled.
Many have attempted to bring order to Aldercliffe through the years, but without much lasting success, save those in power now. Nearly all of those in positions of authority and privilege in Aldercliffe, including the Mayor, are Puritans. The faith only grows more popular among the lower classes as well.

The Puritans hope to reform the many sinners of Aldercliffe through the virtues of hard work, austere living, and strict adherence to the faith, and they are especially focused on eradicating the evils of fornication, drunkenness, and idleness through the enforcement of religious law.  This has been a difficult battle, as these three pastimes are long standing as some of the most popular around. They have also repressed dancing, gambling, music, and the theater, among other pleasures.
The Puritans severe attitudes have led many to resent them, especially those who visit Aldercliffe for the market, and find their numerous fines and punishments ridiculous and overbearing. They have made Aldercliffe a place both dull and turbulent for outsiders all at once. Inside of the city, however, they are respected. The wealthy Puritan leaders provide essential charity, such as education for the young and poor, and care for the old and sick. The careful planning of Puritan leaders has also prevented the current famine, and other past disasters, from being even  more devastating than would be usual.  As a result their regime has been welcomed, not resisted.

In addition to the usual edicts against theft, murder, witchcraft, and more typical forms of violence and mayhem there are laws against swearing, drunkenness, idleness, vagrancy, fornication, being a nuisance (or “common scold”), “chaotic and disorderly” behavior, begging, and being absent from church services on Sundays. The laws are enforced with fines, hard labor, and even physical punishment, all focused on the notion of public shaming. These punishments are applied at the discretion of the Bailiff, and modified and combined as she sees it.

Brawling, Violence, and being a "Common Scold": the ducking stool
Witchcraft: execution by burning at the stake
Fornication, Adultery: a skimmington
Vulgar Displays of Affection, or other Disorderly Behavior: a whipping
Vagrancy & Idleness, Begging: 1d3 days at the Corrective House, and expulsion from the city for some.
Theft: a whipping, the stocks or pillory if more severe
Debasing Coin, and Murder: death by hanging
Drunkenness, or Missing Church Services: 1d6 SP
Swearing: 1SP per offence (almost any use of the word "God" in anger qualifies)
Work or Travel on the Sabbath: at least a whipping, sometimes the Corrective House, and sometimes even the Stocks.

The Corrective House  is something between a workhouse and a prison. Offenders are punished with a day (or several) of tedious labor, such as making straw mats or weaving sack cloth, before being publicly whipped and sent away, while some vagrants are banished from the town entirely.

Debtors and serious criminals awaiting trial before judges (who visit quarterly) are kept in the Gaol, a jailhouse where inmates are subjected to daily sermons and nightly confinement, but are otherwise free to wander about the town (while chained) during the day. Outsiders are allowed to enter the premises and socialize with the prisoners, should they be so inclined, and some spouses choose to live with their incarcerated other halves as well. Those sentenced to die are also publicly executed here, by hanging.
The crime of Vagrancy is simply the state of being landless and unemployed, or without some sort of "master" or other sanctioned business within the city limits as judged by the Bailiff or Beadles. Those who keep quiet and stay sober enough aren’t likely to get noticed, and by avoiding the streets at night it is quite easy to avoid legal harassment. Beggars that are not a nuisance are not bothered much, and some Vagrants are even let go with only stern warnings. Adventurers are not usually inclined to take such precautions, and are thus likely to become involved in the chaos and disorder of Alderciffe, and likely suffer some sort of punishment as a result.

The most visible authorities in Aldercliffe are the Beadles, dressed in bicorn hats and long blue coats with distinctive wooden staffs. They patrol the streets in the daytime on watch for illegal acts, detaining those responsible or fining them on the spot. They also inflict whippings and other punishments, collect fines, make official announcements, and keep beggars and vagrants from becoming a nuisance. They also monitor the city gates, and report all newcomers to the Bailiff. Beadles are elected officials who are paid for their services, and on the whole take their work very seriously.

While mere interaction with a Beadle is not a guarantee that the adventurers will be sent to the Corrective House, it could quite easily go that way if they are perceived to be troublemakers. If the Adventurers make it point to be upstanding and helpful to the Beadles they encounter it might serve them quite well in the future, as news travels fast among them.

The Night Watch patrol the streets from dusk until dawn with staffs and lanterns, and arrest any drunks or suspicious “night walkers” they might encounter. They take these persons to a simple lockup where they are kept until morning, to then be punished as the Bailiff sees fit. All citizens of Aldercliffe are required to volunteer for the Night Watch at some point during the year, or at least hire someone as a stand-in. Not all can afford such a luxury, and as a result some of the Night Watch do not take their work very seriously at all, although most certainly do.
Beyond formal enforcement there is the practice of “hue and cry” among the general populace. A mob will quickly form to detain anyone who commits a violently antisocial act, such as theft or assault, until an official arrives. When the law is strongly resisted bystanders will also intervene to aid the authorities.

Private behavior is thought to directly affect public life, so infractions like drunkenness or swearing in the home are often reported to Beadles by concerned citizens who then inflict official punishment. It is also acceptable for Beadles and Night Watch to peep in windows and listen at doors as they go about their duties, and this often gives them justification to barge into houses that are otherwise closed off.

The position of Bailiff, the highest level of law enforcement, is held by a Puritan woman called Charity Be-thankful. She delights in her work. Tall and sturdy, with a naturally neutral expression and a dull, yet rhythmic voice. She exudes a kind of spiritual intensity, and is a hard-liner who punishes even moderate drunkenness with time in the stocks and a visit to the Corrective House. She sends all vagrants who are brought to her attention off for a day of hard labor, followed by a thorough whipping more often than not.

She begins most interrogations with a loaded question, such as "And what is your business in Aldercliffe?", interrupting answers to denounce and preach at offenders before sending them off for punishment, although well-feigned piety and even basic groveling can persuade her to be merciful.

If the Adventurers so much as mention a connection to Gilbert Ballard, however, they will be immediately sent to the Corrective House, followed by time in the Stocks, and perhaps a Whipping as well. Charity believed Mr. Ballard to be a practitioner of sorcery who avoided his just punishment by dying of natural causes, and has no patience for any “idle cronies of his that are now meandering about the township in the devils grasp, making a mockery of good order and virtue”.

Roll on the following table once per day to determine the chaos and disorder the Adventurers encounter as they conduct business in, return to, or depart from the city. If a duplicate is rolled choose the nearest new entry instead. If you don't have a d30 instead use a d20, using entries 21-30 to replace any rolled duplicates.

Any lasting consequences or rewards resulting from these encounters are left to the Referee to be determined, as these situations can easily end with the Adventurers being sent to the Corrective House as much as they could be a source of services or goods.

During these events, and all other disorderly happenings in Aldercliffe, there is a 2 in 6 chance that the Beadles (or Night Watch, if more appropriate) will become involved and complicate the situation.
A scraggly, bearded, long-haired fellow shambles towards the Adventurers. He reeks of beer and is clearly drunk. He mumbles a request for money or food “If you've can spare any some of that”.  After being given something, or nothing at all, he vomits at their feet before thanking them and stumbling away. He will be seen fallen over in the street if anyone looks back after walking away.

Three young men creep up behind a moving wagon, and then grab bushels of corn from the back of it and run into a nearby alleyway. One trips and falls on a pile of manure, spilling the ill-gotten corn and bashing his head into the ground. His companions leave him behind, but the driver hasn’t noticed a thing. The thief is about to scramble to his feet, and the Adventurers might be able to catch him.

Between two shabby houses a day-drunk group of 7 is dancing to the strains of a de-tuned fiddle. A number of the dancers are quite attractive as well. The Adventurers are beckoned over by one of them, and all will be given some tolerable home-brewed beer if they join in.

If the Beadles arrive they'll call for the dancing to cease, begin dumping the beer into the mud, and then fine everyone present 1d4 SP. The fiddler is quite resistant, and will be dragged off to the Corrective House after dropping his fiddle to the ground. "That was me fathers!" he'll stammer.

One man, who seems drunk, is loudly accusing the other of fornicating with his wife. The other denies it, but the first man begins to clobber him. The victim is shoved into one of the Adventurers during the struggle.

The one being beaten is not striking back, only trying to shield himself from the fists of the other. The wife in question soon appears, and tries to strike her husband in the head with a cast-iron pan.

An excited crowd of a dozen or so are passing by, calling on others to follow them to the bull baiting. They walk to the edge of town, where there is crowd of nearly 50 gathered in a field beyond a farmhouse.

A quite large brown bull has been tied to a stake in the ground, and waits placidly. Several men stand nearby with leashed dogs, the crowd formed into a partial ring just beyond them. After asking around, it will be explained that the dogs are to each fight the tied bull until it dies, after which it will be butchered and eaten.

A man approaches the Bull with a paper tube, said to be filled with pepper, which he will blow in its nostrils "though we've saved some for the bulls meat as well".

The man blasts out the pepper, and the bull is enraged. It knocks down the pepper-blower and pulls out the stake with a sudden tug. It stomps on him as it charges the startled crowd, the dog-handlers all panic, and the dogs run free. Dragging the stake behind it, the Bull then charges into the crowd. Several will be killed, or at least badly injured, after they are flung around like rag dolls. The bull will chase others off into the nearby gardens before barreling through the town until it charges out the gates, unless stopped somehow.

If the Beadles arrive, and are not mauled by the bull themselves, they will throw everyone they can grab into the Corrective House.

Armor 15,
Movement: 50' (150')
HD 4, HP 32
1 Attack: Horns 1d6. Charge as often as possible. ("Rules & Magic", page 58)
Morale 8: roll at 16 HP and at 8 HP, retreat if failed.

A crowd gathers as an old man is tied to a chair connected to a sort of crane on wheels (this is a “ducking  stool”). A Beadle leading the crowd announces “To the river!”, and they all march off. "You've done me all wrong!" insists the man in the chair "No one listens to old Tom!".

Upon reaching the river Tom will be dunked in it repeatedly, a punishment for being a “common scold”. The crowd jeers as he coughs and sputters. Afterwards he is untied and left on the banks as they wheel the stool away. Tom, if spoken to, actually is a judgmental, rude, short-tempered bastard, and it’s understandable why no one is very fond of him. He will lecture the Adventurers for the duration of the walk back into Aldercliffe.

A well equipped theater troupe is packing up their stage show while being supervised by a group of surly Beadles. They will soon leave town despite the muttering disappointment of the crowd that had gathered around them. One performer, a young blond man in Jester-like garb, drops a pouch as he enters the wagon. It contains d6 x d4 SP.

If it is returned to him he will thank the Adventurers profusely, and tell them that they'll be able to be found "just South of town", and that they ought to visit them there. The encamped troupe will offer to sell them some goods they've stolen recently (none of them weapons or armor), and if the Adventurers are interested, can attempt to steal various items for them from the next market (at half price, paid in advance), with a 3 in 6 chance of success.

One of the Adventurers is beckoned by a small man in an alley. "In need of finer shoes? These here will you fit you properly, I can see that from here". He offers a pair of very well made shoes, at a steep discount. “Too many shoemakers in town so says the guild, so I'm not permitted to sell at market!” He wishes to get rid of a few pairs before moving on.
If the Beadles become involved they'll send the shoe salesman to the Corrective House for a whipping and labor before ejection from the town, and seize the shoes as contraband.

Gaunt and visibly malnourished, a weary young woman and her two young children (both sons) approach the adventurers and beg for any food they can spare, or perhaps a few pieces of silver. Although they might seem suspicious this is not a scam. Their father abandoned the family several weeks ago, traveling to the colonies in Virginia.

An older man and woman both are locked up the pillory (like stocks, but just around the ankles, forcing them to sit). This has left them exposed to the the cruelty of the passing crowds. They have had numerous rotting vegetables thrown at them already, leaving slime and muck smeared on the man's bald head.

They beg for mercy, and if possible a donation of Silver: They owe a debt to the Beadles, a fine for drunkenness and missing church services, and cannot afford it. They need 7 SP before they are freed. The lock also does not look very sturdy.

A raucous crowd, lead by several Beadles, follows a pair of horses pulling a cart down the street. On top of each horse, facing backward, are a man and woman. They are acting out what seems to be a married couples fight in mocking tones, the wife loudly nagging the husband about being obviously unfaithful, the husband denying it with great outrage. The crowd bangs pots and pans, cackling with laughter. In the cart being pulled by the two horse is a profoundly ashamed couple, the targets of the mockery.

A wheel on the cart suddenly breaks, and the detained couple are thrown onto the ground. The ride will not be able to continue unless the wheel is repaired, and the couple slips and stumbles, trying to regain their footing as the crowd laughs.The husband has injured his arm in the fall as well.

A man and woman have set up a a blanket in the street, and a group has gathered around them. Each of them is missing an arm, one the left and the other the right. They demonstrate that they can perform tasks that would require two hands by cleverly working together. They fold napkins, juggle, and even knit. They can do this without even sharing a word between each other, so precise is their timing. The crowd is bemused, and begins tossing them some coin. They could be siblings, or a married couple, or otherwise unrelated. They were not born this way, and will explain what or who took their arms, after the crowd has left.

If the Beadles arrive they will disperse the crowd, and order the performers to move on. Sympathy prevents them from arresting them as they usually would.
A young man with wide set eyes and wearing a red wool cap bumps into one of the Adventurers. There is a 2 in 6 chance that he steals a randomly determined item from them.

If this roll is failed it'll be quite obvious what he was trying to do, and if successful it will also be quite obvious what he just did.

He will run, either way.

A group of younger folk beckon the Adventurers over to play a game of “Cherry Pit”: a one foot hole is dug in the center of a 10 foot circle, and marbles are knocked into it using a shooter. The winner gets to keep the marbles.

If the Beadles become involved they will halt play, chasing the children off into the streets. They'll likely confiscate the marbles, too.

A profoundly embarrassed man has vegetables and rotten eggs thrown into his face, and onto his ass, while he is bent over in the pillory. If questioned, passers by will speak of how he was caught sleeping on the night watch. The lock that holds him in is weak and flimsy, and he looks quite pathetic. He will be quite grateful if freed, as he swears it was only "the results of illness" that he slept, and not the drinking of beer as they say.

A mousy looking young woman looks the heroes up and down as they pass, and beckons them over to her doorstep. “Would you care to try some beer?”, she whispers. Her name is Anna.

Anna offers but a thimbleful to taste. It is quite delicious. She'll invite the adventurers in for a round, for 1 SP per person. She ask where the Adventurers are from, and if they encountered any bandits on the Southern road. She has heard rumors of numerous bandits in the recent weeks (see MISTAKES, page xx).
If the Beadles show up they will fine everyone 1d6SP and throw the beer into the gutter before dragging the poor woman off to the Corrective House for a few days.

A long-haired man called Blake will sell them “a strong and mighty potion" from an old blue trunk in his cart. This potion is 7SP per dose, a liquid in a brown glass bottle. It is said to be good for any poisons, acting as a purgative. He has many other medicines as well "all available at this weeks market, many fine tinctures! the most wondrous!".

It is essentially just plant soaked water and badly distilled liquor mixed in a decent bottle. It tastes bitter and awful, and has no medical effect beyond numbing the mouth a bit and causing some indigestion. Blake will not be found at this weeks market, or any other, as he will be have been chased out of town beforehand.

A persistent Beadle attempts to get “seven pieces of silver, for the seven oaths I've heard you speak” from a reluctant man with many missing teeth. This  man will say another oath as he pays it, then another as he's fined for that one.

This will escalate until the Beadle says he’s going to take him to the Corrective House instead, at which point the man slaps the Beadle across the face and a scuffle ensues.

The sounds of a bar-brawl erupt from a nearby alehouse. A ceramic cup flies out of an open window, bashing one of the Adventurers on the head, and dealing 1 Damage. Inside of the alehouse seven men brawl, as the Owner howls at them to stop before he is knocked unconscious.

Everyone fighting will be punished by the Beadles, if they finally arrive.

A cart bearing bundles of wheat is pursued by a group of ten people, men and women both. They surround it and begin shouting about the famine, and how the driver of this cart has no right to take this wheat out of town while so many go hungry. A few begin grabbing at it, and running off with armfuls. The driver attempts to stop them, to no avail.

A group of five men walking the streets is near ecstatic, as a bear baiting is soon taking place. "The first in many years!". They insist the Adventurers join them, as "you've never seen such a delight!".

A ramshackle pen has been built from fencing at the bottom of a slope, just outside of town. The few dozen gathered onlookers plan to watch from the slope, as a series of dogs torment the bear. The handler tries dragging his 6 fearful dogs closer to the staked bear, who seems disinterested. He gets closer and closer, until the bear suddenly lunges at him, and the collar holding it breaks. He startles, and the dogs, now uncontrolled, begin running out of the pen. Another handler runs in to try and pull the first one out, leaving the gate wide open. They will both be soon killed by the bear if none intervene. The crowd all flees, including any other animal handlers who might have been involved.

The Beadles will not become involved in this fracas, as it's a bit beyond the city walls, but will try to detain those who return to town afterwards if they become involved.

Armor 16
HD 4, HP 32
Attack 3, d6 d6 d8
Morale 10, roll once at 8 health. Flee if failed.

A muscular man leaps over a small fence, a plump hen tucked under his arms. He scampers away from the nearby home suspiciously. If caught and questioned, or brought to the authorities, it will be discovered that he is the quite successful blacksmith, William Buckler. He is stealing this hen despite having enough money to buy his own for reasons known only to himself.

You hear a thud and “oof” sound from the back of a nearby house. If investigated the Adventurers see the bare ass of a man as he stumbles in the other direction through the garden, attempting to pull his pants back up from his ankles while fleeing. He falls, and sees the Adventures. "Help me!" he stammers.

After a few moments another man enters the front of this same house, and begins exchanging some quite angry words about "Malcolm" with a woman inside it, while heading towards the back door. He will soon emerge wielding a knife.

“Would you help a poor debtor, locked away until he pays his dues?”. This man, Reynard Corbett, tells the truth: he lost all he had to one bad crop after another these past few seasons. He needs about 25 silver to be set free, at least.

An oafish man stumbles nearly into one of the Adventurers arms. He smells of ale, mumbles incoherently, and then grabs at that Adventurers face. If pulled off he grabs at another Adventurers face. If pushed away he stumbles, but grabs at the pushers face instead. He tries to put your fingers in his mouth, and his in yours. If knocked down he blacks out, and begins snoring. He is dressed like a wealthy merchant, and has 1d10 x 10 +1d10 SP in his pouch.

A rough looking woman carrying weaponry and bearing scars approaches the adventurers. Her name is Miranda. “Would you care to help a fellow traveler with some coin? I've seen much of the world, but have been left impoverished by the journey. I could tell you the story, if you're interested. You seem like the kind who might be.”

She has an elaborate tale to tell, either a wind-up, complete bullshit, or an adventure hook (at the Referees discretion). e.g. World of the Lost: “My companions and I had gone to Africa, to the terrible place called Khirima, to steal from their pagan temple. My companions were put to death for gazing upon the king!" etc.


A thin, ragged man, carrying many satchels and bags is being marched towards the Corrective House by a pair of Beadles. He appears to be a simple peddler, and is objecting loudly to this treatment and trying to wriggle free. As he fails to escape and is dragged away he drops 1d4 Miscellaneous Items (see page xx).


Two very clumsy Beadles are trying to walk a rather imposing drunk woman towards the Corrective House, but she resists and shoves them off. She doesn’t get far before they grab her again, as she's quite slow on her feet, but after she knocks one of them to the ground she begins to get away from the other.

A crowd gathers to witness an execution. A young man called Walter Ansgot is about to be hanged for the crime of debasing coin. He seems tired and distant, resigned to his fate. He does not renounce his crimes, even when asked to twice. It takes an agonizingly long time for him to die after he drops.

If the Adventurers watch the entire event one of them will have a 3 in 6 chance of having a random item stolen from them, with the thief vanishing into the crowd. If this roll is failed they will have a chance to grab the thieves arm before they escape instead. The thief is a young woman in Puritan garb.

A young and naive sounding man with a foolish mustache approaches the Adventurers. His name is Adam Hendry, and he has no desire to be a tailor as he can certainly "do a much greater thing". As they look like travelers, he’ll ask them for advice on where he should run to after this place, or if he could even join them. He is quite average in all ways, except for his ambitions and self-confidence.