Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Ashes of Angels: May the Winter's Wolves Surround You (LotFP session 3)

Our third Lamentations of the Flame Princess session was shorter than the first two. One of our players (Julius the fighter) couldn’t make it, and the rest of the group was loathe to get into too much trouble without him. Most of the session revolved around travel and administrative work, as well as an admirable amount of roleplaying.  They also fought some wolves and barely escaped with their lives. By the end of the session, though, they were properly set up to go straight into their next adventure.

(This play report should be spoiler free and safe for my players to read.)

Stay a while and listen…

Our Cast
Belinda Kage: Serpentblood 1, Midwife.
Madeline: Specialist 1, Grave Robber.
Mortimer: Alice 1, Librarian.
“Matthew”: Outlander 1, Iriquois warrior and former slave.

Absent PCs
Julius Cervantes: Fighter 1, Former witch hunter.

Ana Fischer: Rescued witch.
Deacon Girnot: Deacon of Nonsbeck's church. Intelligence and charisma sold off to the Ghoul Market.

The players exit the tunnel from the Ghoul Market and return to Nonsbeck. Madeline replaces the slab in the side of the monument that leads to the tunnel. The slab easily ker-chunks back into place, almost as though it’s magnetic. The party leaves the cemetery just as the first cock crows. They shuffle Girnot into his shed and retrieve the Black Book of Agamot from the hole under some haystacks where the deacon had hidden it. Confident that they’ve covered all traces of their otherworldly explorations, the party makes their way back to the inn.

Most of the party crashes into their beds and fall right asleep, but Belinda stays awake to eagerly copy the spells from the Black Book into her own spellbook. She is happy to discover that she now has access to Summon and Transylvanian Hunger (from Vaginas are Magic). Particularly, the regenerative benefits of Transylvanian Hunger might allow her to fix her face or replace the seemingly inevitable lost limbs that have been plaguing the group.

While the PCs doze away in their rooms, word quickly spreads across town that something has happened to Deacon Girnot. He seems to have gone quite mad, babbling incoherently about a nightmare world and monsters underground. The party had sold off a large chunk of his intelligence and charisma to the Exchequer (Session 2). While it didn’t erase his memory like they’d hoped it would, it left him unable to form coherent thoughts or express them to others. The villagers send a boy to a nearby town to get a physician, but there’s already talk of sending the poor man to an asylum.

Around noon, the PCs finally wake up and face the day. Belinda has allowed Ana to borrow her spellbook, and the witch dedicates herself to copying spells into her own fresh new book. (This gives a good boost to Ana’s Loyalty score.) Mortimer goes off to one of the local farms to chop wood for a few extra coppers, while Belinda buys a puppy from another farm. Her eventual goal is get a whole pack of loyal doggos. Madeline offers to help the innkeeper’s wife pluck chickens in order to pay for the party’s dinner. Since the grave robber has a fresh new demon arm, she refuses to take off her gloves or roll up her sleeves, even while elbow-deep in chicken blood. This causes some questions from Gella the serving girl, but Madeline manages to wave off her concerns. Meanwhile, Matthew heads a few miles out of town to scout around the road ahead. He finds several wolf tracks and the signs of a small pack operating in the area.

As the sun sets, everyone meets back in the Laughing Ox inn. Ana comes from downstairs, still clearly high from the narcotics required to research and transcribe spells, but proud of her success. Between the restoration of her previously fire-scarred face and the on-going reconstruction of her spellbook, the witch has clearly grown more confident and ambitious. Belinda notices that Ana is transcribing spells (“copying recipes into your new cookbook”) a lot quicker than expected. “Oh. It must be because they’re recipes I already knew and am only relearing,” Ana explains. This seems reasonable to Belinda and the matter drops for now.

It’s a busy night at the Laughing Ox. There are several farmers here, as well as another group of traveling soldiers and the two nuns the PCs had talked to previously. The nuns are eager to leave the village soon, but the PCs convince them to wait one more day and then they will escort them to the convent of St. Agnes as agreed.

The topic of Girnot eventually comes up. Asylums are terrible places, but no one seems to be too upset about sending the weasley deacon away. On the other hand, if the party decides to take him with them, they can use him to carry equipment and stuff. Belinda and Matthew decide to go and talk to Father Cristoff and ask for his permission to take Girnot with them.

In the church, Father Decaon sits in a pew, drinking heartily from a bottle of schnapps. He seems to be in a surprisingly jovial mood. Belinda and Matthew suggest letting them take Girnot with them in order to spare him the indignity of the asylum. “Yes! An excellent idea!” the priest agrees, almost before the words are out of Matthew’s mouth. “In fact, here’s 25 silver thalers to help with travel expenses! Let’s drink a toast to poor Girnot’s health.” Schnapps are poured, toasts are made, and a deal is struck.

Belinda and Matthew go to Girnot’s shed to tell him the news. The (now former) deacon is in a bad way. His shed smells of piss and sweat, and he’s clearly been digging around looking for the Black Book. He is terrified of the PCs, because he knows they did something to him, but can’t properly comprehend what. The thought of going underground fills him with horror. He’s also calling himself “Conrad” now for some reason. Matthew tells him they are going to take him with them to the convent “You know, where the nice ladies are. Maybe they can help you.”

“Oh yes,” leers Girnot, “The nice virgin ladies. They can help me indeed, yes.” It’s here that Girnot’s personality changes from Gollum to Ken Shabby.

The next day passes without incident. Belinda and Ana continue to copy spells, while the others buy and sell equipment and prepare for travel. Finally, the party leaves bright and early the next morning. The PCs and their ersatz henchmen are on horses, and the nuns ride a couple of stout mules. The little convoy heads north along the muddy road to Hegendorf, there to turn east toward the abbey of St. Agnes. The whole trip should take a day.  Julius (whose player is absent) stays behind in Nonsbeck to look after affairs.

Halfway to Hegendorf, danger rears its baleful head. The party hears they baying of hungry wolves. It’s winter in a time of constant war, so the beasts have almost certainly tasted human flesh. Four wolves bare down on them, charging towards their horses with terrible speed.

But the party has arrows, bolts, bullets, and several rounds before the wolves’ teeth can get at them. They are rightfully afraid that the gunfire will spook the horses, so Matthew, Belinda, Mortimer, and Ana leap off their mounts. Madeline grabs the rest of the horses and leads them, Girnot, and the nuns away from the combat, hopefully keeping them safe from the wolves.

The PCs take time to aim at the wolves (they’re still at long distance), while Ana begins chanting an alien rune. The air around here glows, and smoke pours from her mouth as she summons a smoke demon with multiple antenna and jointed eyes. She does remarkably well on her control roll and permanently bonds the demon (thanks to Ramanan’s awesome Summon app). The witch crows in triumph, feeling like a real spellcaster once more. Thankfully, Madeline is leading the nuns away, so they don’t notice this obvious display of sorcery.

Bullets and arrows fly. Two wolves are wounded, but none are killed outright. The smoke demon engages with another wolf, lashing it with festering wounds. There’s another round of fire from arrows and bolts. The alpha wolf is wounded as are two other wolves. The two lesser wolves fail their morale checks and flee. The fourth wolf continues to fight the demon, both exchanging damage. Matthew issues a war whoop, successfully drawing the attention of the wounded alpha wolf.

The wolf fighting the demon finally kills it. The wolf is badly wounded, but maddened by pain. From a distance, Madeline fires her pistol at the wolf but misses. Mortimer the Alice expresses his Frustration. He recalls a bit of information about wolves—they can often be distracted by fresh meat. This isn’t immediately helpful, because all they have on them is hardtack and dried beans.

"We leveled up!"
The alpha wolf is upon them! It leaps upon Matthew and tears off the outlander’s arm! He’s bleeding out and will be dead in moments. The good news is the wolves now have fresh meat! The alpha runs off with Matthew's arm, and the reaming wolf follows its leader. The wolves, having gotten what they wanted, have technically won this combat encounter.

Belinda’s chirurgy kit is on her person, not her horse, so she is able to quickly staunch Matthew’s bleeding. Madeline returns with the nuns. The younger sister looks positively green and ready to faint. Even though there’s a nice easy-to-follow blood trail, the PC’s decide not to track down the wolves. They know how to get to the Ghoul Market. Once they get their hands on a Writ of Protection, maybe they’ll get Matthew a new arm.

Hegerndorf was only an hour away, so the party packs up their unconscious friend and heads to the village. Hegendorf is another small village, maybe even smaller than Nonsbeck, without a proper church or tavern. But the people there know the nuns, and are willing to help the wounded outlander. The PCs spend only an hour in Hegendorf, reapplying bandages and giving Matthew some strong drink to dull the pain. They head east along the trail to the convent of St. Agnes where they are assured Sister Brunhilde is a talented surgeon.

At the convent, the party is greeted by several nuns, excited that their missing sisters have returned safely. Ana the witch seems reluctant to enter, but Belinda convinces her to come along. “What, does it burn?” she chides the witch. Matthew is shuffled off to the infirmary where he is attended to by Sister Brunhilde, a short, warty troll of a woman with the hands of an angel. Girnot/Conrad is locked into a nice comfy cell where he can’t cause any trouble. The rest of the party is invited to the dining hall for a simple but hearty meal of turnips, peas, bread, and short beer. The nuns they party escorted relate the events of their trip to the mother superior, Mother Ruth. They commend the party’s bravery and honesty. 

At dinner they meet a permanent guest of the convent. A nameless but harmless madman the sisters simply call “Mensch.” He showed up on the doorstep of the convent a year ago, babbling nonsense about a “Pale Lady.” He is a eunuch, so the mother superior allowed him to stay here. The PCs try engaging him in conversation, and he only babbles about the “Pale Lady, the Queen of Flowers” and how he and his sister were taken by her beastmen as a child, had his genitals removed, and forced to work in fields of flower with other men, women, and children. He only escaped when a man in a starry robe told him the secret words that let him escape her realm.

After dinner and evening mass, Mother Ruth invites the party into her office. She tells them how Mensch came to the convent almost a year ago, and confirms much of the story they have already heard. She has had to piece together the story from Mensch’s ravings over the course of several months. The nearby woods are supposedly haunted by a witch or demon, and her beast men kidnap children every winter. Mensch and his sister were kidnapped unknown years ago, when he was a child. The Pale Lady welcomes occultists to her home who enter as young men and leave aged. One of these wizards told Mensch how to escape through the hedges using a complicated magical phrase.

In his ravings, Mensch also mentioned a gleaming white cube of stone. Mother Ruth believes this is one of the fabled “Words of Creation” cast down to Earth after God created the world. Mother Ruth would like the party to travel to the Pale Lady’s realm and find out more about this Word of Creation. If they do this for her, she will give them the Sword of Prester John, an artifact the convent has hidden for many generations.

The gateway to the Pale Lady’s realm will be accessible only on the Winter Solstice. That’s only two days away…


  1. The combo of "Serpentblood 1, Midwife" has kept me mesmerized since the first play report... I understand that in your game Serpentblood = Elf (which is awesome). What about Midwife? Is it a background or a "failed profession"? Or just for flavor?

    1. Midwife (along with grave-robber, librarian, etc) are indeed their "failed professions," an idea I stole from 10 Foot Polemic.

      I let my players chose a skill to put a dot into to represent this previous job. For Belinda, that was Chirurgy, a healing skill I added for the campaign.

      More importantly, the failed career acts as tag that tells what kind of things the player should know or be able to do without having to make a roll. For example, as a midwife Belinda can recognize basic healing herbs, identify the cause of some injuries, or deliver a baby. If a roll is needed for whatever reason, her former career might make the roll easier or harder.

      At some point I'll share my house rule document, once I'm relatively sure everything's working like it should.

    2. That's cool! I also use backgrounds as a measure of the "general knowledge" of the character. Maybe I should give skill points as well...

      Also, when I run LotFP, Clerics are often interpreted as folk healers, midwives or cunning people.

    3. Yeah, in my campaign, Clerics are ususally lone mystics or weird hermits, rather than established members of the clergy. Folk healers and cunning folk would also work real well!