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.