Saturday, December 9, 2017

A Journey To Aldercliffe, Playtest Highlights: Three Vagrants

Deformation in Subterranea is something I'm publishing. It's meant to be something you can easily create a campaign from, with minimal preparation or heavy reading. An initial sandbox for things to happen in, and for players to have clever ideas.  It has a description of a difficult city, a simple premise to tie Adventurers together, a method for quickly creating those Adventurers, and several "adventure" situations without obvious or forced resolutions. It is set in an almost-historical 17th century England, with plenty of mundane strangeness. Supernatural danger and disaster potentially lurks in the far margins. Things are designed to be easily used in other campaigns, or expanded on with your own ideas.

After a very long time writing it I'm now running playtests. Here's what the first group has done so far.

The Adventurers are three vagrants: an Arquebusier named Charles (Fighter), a Magic-User called Samantha (who has the tools of a Barber-Surgeon), and the so-called “Viscount of Vascony”, who dresses fancy and carries a rapier (a Magic-User as well). All were desperately poor, each having only a Silver. They were traveling to an estate in the city of Aldercliffe where they had been hired as laborers.

After arriving in Aldercliffe the Adventurers encountered a man with a ridiculous beard wandering the streets. He tried to grab their faces, but they restrained him. After he fell asleep, reeking of beer, they helped a constable take him to the stocks and lock him up as punishment.

They arrived at the ground of the estate (a dusty, sprawling place) only to receive bad news. Their employer had died while they were en route, but the majordomo said they could still stay (as somewhat legitimate employees).

Each of them was given rooms in a long hallway (a former cloister). These rooms housed collections: one filled with seashells, the other butterflies and moths. The last was filled with beetles, but another was available that was filled with guns. This is where each would sleep. Charles befriended the tremendous dog that stalked the grounds.

They dug through stacks of old books, in a chapel that was meant to become a library, finding a book of anthropomorphic flowers that became shockingly pornographic as the pages turned. They kept this, and a bible, for later use.

They met a painter named Oswyn who lived on the estate, the dead master of the place was his patron. His work was unusual: very sloppy and very colorful. He had a request of them: another visiting painter in the city had some pigments he dearly needed, but he could not buy them. Could they perhaps get those for him, somehow? He would pay them for the trouble, as he seemed to mean he wanted them to steal. He also gave them one of his own paintings, as a token of goodwill.

They set off for the Goldfinch Inn where this painter was staying, carrying their painting with them, but on the way helped the constables once again: a woman resisted detainment, she was to be punished for swearing. Charles caught her when she escaped, and after he handed her over said he’d gladly meet her for a beer after her public shaming was complete.

At the Inn they met a spokesman of this mysterious painter, called Meinhardt: a large man from Leuchtenberg with a hideous fencing scar. He insulted their painting, and began a lengthy sales pitch to Samantha, who sat with him. Charles and the Viscount went outside, to snoop and spy. They peered into a sort of showroom when Samantha went there with Meinhard, then around to the back near the stables.

Samantha saw that the paintings were indeed quite remarkable (like photographs, were those to exist). Meinhardt seemed to be warming up to her. When she suggested meeting the painter he agreed, saying she might be able to sit for a portrait that could be finished later.

Meanwhile, Charles scaled the outside of the Inn to peek into the windows, and after some climbing saw a man sitting behind an easel. The Viscount went to the front, after meeting the perplexed innkeeper, he had set their painting and his hat there.

As Meinhardt took Samantha towards the painter's chambers a constable took notice of the Viscount, and questioned his behavior, and why he carried a painting. The Viscount said he had bought this painting. The constable became quite incensed: it is not permissible to buy things on off-market days. He whipped the Viscount in the streets for his wanton commercialism. This caused quite a commotion. He confiscated the painting, also.

This caused Meinhardt and Samantha to leave the painters chambers before she had a chance to even see his face. He said she should return tomorrow to meet him. Then entered Charles, and after some discussion about Meinhardt's fencing scars, it seemed as if they two might soon spar, in a contest of manliness.

They planned a wrestling match outside the city walls on the coming Monday. Meanwhile, the Viscount burgled the stagecoach out behind the inn, leaving with two excellent pistols and an ornate dagger.

The Sabbath night was rapidly approaching, they decided it was best to return to the manor. After attending a boorish Sermon with the majordomo and Oswyn (to avoid a fine), they returned to the estate grounds. They dug through the library, finding a textbook on engineering (written in Italian), and a musty tome filled with worms. They cast a spell to Animate Artwork on the pornographic flowers, briefly embarrassingg them. They made their way into a room of sharpened stones and stole small obsidian blades. They allowed the dog to damage a stuffed pigeon, which Samantha vivisected and then filled with a worm. They went to bed somewhat early.

On Monday they awoke and departed for the Goldfinch. En route they met a young man called Adam who wanted to travel with them, seeking Adventure. When they reached the Goldfinch the Viscount convinced him to trade hats with him, and join Charles and Samantha at the wrestling match. The Viscount said he would be elsewhere during this event.

While a small crowd left for the city gates the Viscount went to work. He climbed up into the window where Charles had seen the painter. He drew his pistol. He cautiously approached the easel.

The painter behind did not stir and had not seen him. The Viscount stepped closer.

He raised his pistol and clobbered the Painter on the head, knocking him unconscious with a single blow. He never made a peep.

The Viscount saw an eye-catching ring on the painter's finger, made of whirly white gold. It had an inscription on it in ancient Greek: "memory and skill". He took it, and after some rummaging found a few tubes of paint matching what Oswyn had requested. He lowered himself from the window, his face still covered.

Meanwhile, outside the city, Charles had absolutely demolished Meinhard in a shirtless bout of wrestling and won 12 pieces of silver. Meinhard said Charles would be the type of man he would hire for his "former business", and invited them back to the Inn.

Once there Meinhard took Samantha up to see the painter, as he had intended to before. A great commotion arose once they discovered the unconscious body of the painter, and evidence of a burglary. Samantha feigned fainting, and Charles carried her home. Several more severe and scarred Germans were speaking with Meinhard as they left.

Back at the Manor, with Adam, they hid the stolen pistols and paints.