The campaign is ongoing, the system is Lamentations of the Flame Princess. A quick campaign review.
I called it “Decisions of Kings” when I planned it, but player decisions led far away from that, and it is colloquially called “Elves & Men” now. The setting is classic LotFP 30-years-war, with fantasy races thrown into the mix. The party was initially composed of 1 Elf, 1 Fighter, 1 Specialist, 1 Magic User and 1 “Alice”, a special character build, and took on the classic introduction adventure “Tower of the Stargazer”.
House Rules & Deviations
I had planned to make this campaign a test campaign to test different rules, but it turned out the Rules as Written in Lamentations of the Flame Princess are perfectly fine. There still are some specials:
We forget misfire rules for the guns all the time.
We forget lighting fuses for matchlock-guns just as often.
So they do not come into play usually, unintentionally. I will probably keep ignoring the fuses, but I want to remember misfire rules.
The Fighter is a sniper and owns a special hardcore musket with a scope, granting him +6 instead of +4 for aiming a round. It is also a rifled flintlock musket, so this gun is a very valuable, powerful item in the campaign. Still, one shot is not nearly enough to end most fights, so he carries several pistols and an extra rifle with no special bells and whistles for follow-up-shots.
The campaign started with classic fantasy religions: A Light God and several generic Pantheons. The Reformation was represented by different ways of Worship for the Light God. Close enough, and since the party did not even have a cleric, it seemed not important to go into more detail.
However, the players kept asking if this was representing Catholicism and if that was representing Protestantism, and how far the fantasy religion was differing from either, and what the exact differences between them were, so that I finally had to decide between creating deep lore or adopt real life. I dropped it and went with real-world-confessions to avoid firstly the confusion, and secondly.
The magic-user desired a dog and got one. This was very helpful, but got killed in action early on, and he bought a trio of dogs later. The dogs have individual stats and specialities (combat, hunting, tracker) and acted on the magic-user’s initiative. They got individual stats by breed.
Initially the party had some luck surviving brushes with death, and the players asked to change characters to maximum HP at every level. I allowed it, but in retrospect it has to be said that this makes combat encounters very heavily slanted towards the characters, in addition to their powerful items. I would not allow it again, but for this campaign I am rolling with it.
It is a bother, at least in my mind: Maximum HP makes a lot of difference, they are hardly ever in danger when they fight normal people.
I am tempted to give some NPCs maximum HP as well, but I resist it because mutual power creep would only lead to impossibly long combats, and then I could just as well play 5e. The good thing is that despite their titanic strength, they are still nervous most of the time and still mostly act as if they were squishy.
Some party members are highly interested in background lore, so with the help of one player we worked out an “official” map of the Elves & Men wider Europe plus North Africa, Ottoman Empire, Caucasus, and Muscovy. The campaign focus is much more local, though, so the big continental map has no bearing in sessions.
Making magic items
New player – a cleric – desires to create holy items. The rules cover only wands and staves, but they can form the basis for a system to make other magic items. One rules set that works with actual creation of magic items is Dungeon Crawl Classics. This too, can inspire a rule for the purpose here.
Not yet implemented, but toying with this idea:
The story so far
This group explored about half of the tower of the Stargazer and two players solved the treasure puzzle with surprising ease, getting fizzled twice, but the whole party survived and went off loaded with wizard cash.
Then they went west, (Alice dropping out) where I had prepared the option that they help the French Army to take down monsters in the untamed Broceliande Forest. However, on the way the party witnessed a Spanish troop besieging an Inn with the goal of capturing a French spy. Adventure design saw them freeing the Inn and kicking the Spaniards’ asses, but the party supported the Spanish and helped them capture the spy. They went on and remained anti-French, deciding to support the Elven quasi-Kingdom in the Bretagne with a long-term goal of toppling the King in Paris and replacing him with an Elf.
They convinced a war camp of Elves of the Living Wood to refrain from tactics like spreading plagues and unleashing monsters against normal folk, and promoted a battle for the hearts and minds of the peasants.
Several hit-and-run successes against French troops got them an audience with the Elven King Bruissement, who granted the MU and the Elf a magic ring each, to store 4 extra spells (by casting them into it, so it takes some time to load up. The artifact is still very powerful). The group decided to move out to find allies for the Broceliande Forest among the other powers of Europe, and after hearing that England had its own civil war and was not likely to be bothered helping Continent Elves, chose the Holy Roman Empire over Spain.
The Specialist met a pond nixie and was offered to join her for a year and a day to be her companion. He postponed this to avoid leaving his friends all alone, so he got a blessing by the nixie and is awaited once his quest is completed.
The Elf rolled very well on almost all languages the group encountered, so he is a great polyglot.
1 Scarecrow, 1 Witch & 2 Demons
Crossing the Border from France into Savoy, where they solved the Scarecrow-Adventure with only minor wounds, and from there into the war-torn Holy Roman Empire. Here they met a weird bishop, were mightily creeped out by him, and then they cast a spell at him, and he ate it with gusto. They fled, then, and laid an ambush with a cannon. This proved strong enough, and they destroyed him. He split open and spewed forth a hundred creepy biting bugs which fell upon the townsfolk. There was much fighting and hewing until they were all slain.
Then they took out the abbot of the nearby cloister, who was in cahoots with that bishop, and freed a mine that used slave labour, and also had a demon, a crab demon. This one was tough to crack, but was brought low by clever use of an Unseen Servant.
The whole adventure brought them the friendship and support of a small Protestant region and its mercenary army, as well as two additional retainers, a Human Fighter and an Orc Fighter.
To take on France they will need more, so they went farther East to find Wallenstein and his army, to turn it against Paris. A steep task, but they are going to try it. On the way they met a Protestant Faction called Free Western Army, and offered to help it against Catholic Marauders. But before that, they solved the pre-made adventure with the Post-Wedding-Murder and the Knight of Science, gaining his approval and trust, and therefore a good reputation. At this point one player – the Magic User – split.
Supported by 60 soldiers the party went to search for the approximately 40 marauders. They scouted ahead and found them, and stormed their hideout without the 60 soldiers, using powerful mass effect spells and their combat skills in tandem.
At this point, two fresh players joined, a Dwarf (a faithful Hussite) and another Magic User (very chaotic).
Interrogating the Boss they found out about a planned attack on a Catholic monastery and its Elven guests, due early morning the day after tomorrow. They talked their 60 into coming with them, left the captive marauders with 10 guards and force-marched deep into Catholic territory.
Monks & Elves
There they warned the monastery and the Elves – a princess and her bodyguard – and organized a defense with Elves, monks, and villagers from a nearby tiny settlement. Using the power of surprise they inflicted casualties and forced the attackers to retreat, then they pursued and heavily wounded one of their leaders, and captured a young witch.
At this point the new magic user player went uboat, leaving four players again.
With one leader down the attackers decided to retreat for good, and the now four-player party organized a full fledged counterattack on the retreating bandits using the protestant troops, routing the bandits and capturing the wounded boss.
After interrogation they sent the captives to Wallenstein with monks and villagers, to explain via letter what had happened. They themselves decided to support the Elves in their mission: going farther south into Baden Württemberg to counter a deadly epidemic with the help of anti-magic, as the Elves suspected magic behind the outbreak.
The next step of their journey was loosely based on Zzacharov Kowolski’s “Punchline“, (but differed in many key aspects). The idea at this point was to sort out this pescy epidemic and then go to Wallenstein to win his support for an attack on France.
The party travelled south to Weidhofen, met refugees, then heard of a missing girl. They exploded into immediate action, found three enemies and killed them and saved the girl. At this point, two of the party got infected. They did not lose any momentum, returned the girl, killing another foe on the way. Then checked a farm, where the inhabitants had been murdered, and killed the perps, taking three prisoners. They spent the night and interrogated the prisoners in the morning. Then murdered them.
One fresh player joined with another magic user, but advised that he was just dipping in for one session. He became a 1st level local.
The group became aware of the first infections, but ignored them for now, moved on to attack the ruins, murdered a bunch of enemies, including the top dogs, then moved on into the other valley, Gablingen, where they found the plague in full swing. They kept moving and in a quick push destroyed the whole cult and freed a second kidnapping victim, an orphan. They also took two prisoners – one of them from the inner circle.
At that point, they had five infected, and shit got real.
Hygiene and Healing
They had, however, a healing specialist with them, the Elven princess. So their chances were a bit improved, as her skills could lessen the impact of the deadly plague. That was important, since two core characters had CON scores of 7 – practically certain death with the Red Death effects.
However, all of them made their Poison saves, players and NPCs alike. And the Elven Princess of the Line treated them with great care and failed only two rolls, one for the Orc and one for her bodyguard. Then she herself got infected and came down with the fever, also made the save, but with no-one to pick and prepare the right herbs she had to endure the sickness alone. Almost a miracle: Only the Elven Bodyguard perished off the sickness, and the princess permanently lost 2 point of CON. The Orc and the human fighter were struck the worst, but both survived and avoided any lasting consequences. The elf lost one point of his already low CON, and among the NPCs, the little girl they saved suffered such a permanent CON-loss that she came out with CON 3 – scarred for life.
Bio-War, Rumors & Refugees
The brush with death drove home with the Elf that they had made little headway to bring France to its knees. So he had a fresh idea: Charm as many sick plague bearers as possible and send them all to Paris, to thin out the population of France. However, that idea found very little purchase with the Dwarf and with the Elven princess. She did not see much difference between that approach and the actions of the clowns.
The Elf relented, sullenly.
Instead, they brought the two surviving clowns to the Elf princess’ clan of the Line, where the clowns were locked up in a mountain for experimenting for a treatment. The princess and the little girl returned with fresh resources to the plague area to treat people. The others followed the descriptions of the lead clown to find the source of the plague, one castle Hohenrain, with six elves from House of the Line.
It was a lot of travel and picking up rumors: Wallenstein had already been fired by the Catholic League, his army was basically immobile. The Swedes were running rampant in the north, conquering shit, with Tully unable to contain them. Refugees were fleeing from Swedish brutality, cities had closed down because of plague outbreaks… and the Swiss had locked down the River Rhein to keep sick and hungry German peasants out.
But the party forced their way through the press of refugees and successfully negotiated their way across the barricaded bridge, reached peaceful Swiss lands, and Hohenrain. There the way to the castle was sealed off with friendly guards, and the population rumored something about vampirism. So the team stocked up on garlic and wooden stakes and holy water, and they snuck in in the dead of night.
The party climbed over the wall into the courtyard and was attacked by two silent dogs. They also found a dead youth, apparently a burglar, mauled by those dogs. In the stables, dead horses, in the servant quarters, three more silent dogs, and in a wagon in the center of the courtyard, five boxes with valuable items, prepared for moving them out of here … which never happened. They entered the main tower and found it empty, but also found a hidden basement. Down in the basement some devious traps, dead mutants and several acid-spewing critters with poison stings. But also gold painted on the walls, which they scraped off, even though it took all night.
One of the six elves got killed by the acid, one got heavily wounded and scarred, and the human warrior retainer was stung and poisoned, so the troop number is down three for exploration of the main central building and the chapel of Schloss Hohenrain.
They went through all the rooms in a methodical manner and found signs of someone looting before them, also found loot, various victims of the Red Plague, and a dead man spread out over an area, a huge, heavy, magical mirror of unknown properties, and a secret shrine to Satan. Killing the silent hounds where they found any, opening secret doors, and investigating the dead, the team avoided the ballroom for now, because they were able to see that some red mist is moving inside that ballroom, and two soldiers lie dead in front of its double doors. While most of the dead are four weeks old, and rotting heavily, the soldiers are merely one week old.
They moved all the dead out into the courtyard for burying / burning at a later point, and to air our the castle. Then they checked the chapel, where they found an Ossarium underground, with a cut rope, and down below, a hungry, weird woman. She suddenly attacked and looked like a ghoul, but the Elf managed to glimpse that she was a living being, captured her alive and put a Charm Spell on her. They fed her and found out she was one of five burglars who had come here to loot the castle. But there was treachery, and she was left below the Chapel to die.
A new player character showed up: A cleric who came up here to slay the vampires that rumors tell about. Together, they bury all the dead properly, then tackle the red mist by way of the huge magical mirror, sending most of it through the mirror to where-ever, and killing the tiny rest of the mist with holy water.
Then the party loaded up all the loot and pulled the wagon down the hill by hand. The cleric distracted the soldiers with an Enthralling sermon, the Elf blasted them with sleeping spells.
Getting rid of the money
The party went to Zürich in Switzerland to sell loot and learn spells. They decided to err on the side of caution and NOT sell it yet, to sell it in Bavaria, just to make sure nobody would recognize any artwork or items and connect them to the sacking of Schloss Hohenrain. They spent a lot of money during their stay, piled up a debt, and the cleric developed a new spell for himself. After almost a month they left and got back into Bavaria via Schaffhausen. From there they travelled not to Wallenstein, but to Munich first, to sell. Then they would move to the Dwarves, maybe, to secure financing for a possible Wallenstein hire.
In Munich they sold it all and paid off their Swiss debt, but got out of that almost broke. Only their new retainer specialist provided a few funds by “finding” one or two purses.
They spread word of their intention to find luck in the west, towards France, and attempted to convince soldiers of the Catholic League to come with them, but those have their command structure to obey, so no luck. Only two officers who know Wallenstein from way back and are now on sick leave are up to travelling to Tübingen with the group.
A rumor told of a ghost problem north of Munich.
Getting rid of the ghost
The party negotiated with an investing house about a possible fee to get rid of the ghost. They got a contract, but they got no forward payment for that. And the investors demand independent verification about a possible success. They went to the old house north and uncovered a twenty year old family drama. After interrogating villagers they developed a theory that the main baddie may be still alive, and the ghost a victim bent on revenge.
The party managed to capture the baddie and confront the ghost with him. The ghost was unreasonable, though, so they did not hand over the baddie, but rather kill him in front of the ghost, but out of her reach. Then they secured a proper Catholic burial for all the dead, and purged spiritual energy from an old diary. That won it.
The Cleric went on to develop the young village priest into a full Cleric, and cement the party’s new friendship with the village. Meanwhile, the rest of the party went back to Munich to report success and collect independent verification and the money.
To their surprise, they found that during their absence word about their quest for mercenaries had spread, and there were now 22 random mercenaries with an assortment of different weapons, and 2 sergeants were waiting for them, hoping for getting to come along.
They hired the troop, but for weekly payment, because they did not have the funds for a full month of mercanary salary. Then they decided to go to Wallenstein later, and first secure funds to pay their own small, and his large army. So they went to Dwarves in the Alps, looking for opportunities to become friends worth supporting. And of course, there was a Dwarf Count with a problem, deep underground, where the Swirfneblin, allied to the Dwarves, live. A spectral hand of darkness has shown up and killed. A party of ten Dwarves that went down to investigate lost four of their number, then retreated, figuring that the news must reach the Dwarfholds. So the help from humans is accepted. One of the party knew of an old legend which says that such hands can be destroyed with moonlight.
Aside from these deep problems, the Dwarves have a more obvious problem in the form of Goblins, which results in an underground war going on outside of human sight.
The group experimented with the mirror taken from Schloss Hohenrain and tried to open it up to capture moonlight with it, however to no avail. They dropped this line of research and went underground instead, led by six dwarves who know the land where the Deep Gnomes live and the spectral hand was spotted.
For 12 hours they travelled deeper and deeper through the mines, then found the Deep Village of the dwarves, where they spent the night. On the next day they moved through various caverns and gaps and crawlspaces, shook off the terror of being buried under a million tons of rock, and reached the City of the Deep Gnomes. On the way they met three cave spiders and two coral zombies. They were quite mindful about the light sources and made do with as little light as possible.
Among the Deep Gnomes they were welcomed, and here they heard that while the Dwarves fear the Hand of Darkness that lives in the Old Deep, the birthplace of spirits, the Deep Gnomes do not worry much about it. They instead fear the Great Crawler, who destroys the Earth Mother and turns rock into sand.
Their common foes are the Coral Zombies, or Death Stones in the words of the Deep Gnomes. Other dangers of the deep are flowing water, stagnant water, and the poisonous Cave Spiders, as well as the rare fossil vampires, and, of course, scouting goblins who may herald larger troop contingents.
Elves so far:
The Living Wood / Broceliande: Lord Bruissement;
The Line (of the Waterways): Princess Flusswassermoos
Dwarves so far:
Dwarfstead at Ještědský hřbet; partially Hussite refugees