Sunday, March 31, 2019

Burn the Witch-Hunter! [Ashes of Angels, Session 8]

This was a relatively short session that mostly revolved around trying to cure Mortimer’s illness. He was only one failed saving throw away from death, and the players were getting pretty frantic. Julius’ player wasn’t with us this session, so we didn’t get to introduce his new character.

Our Heroes
  • Belinda Kage: Serpentblood 1, Midwife
  • Madeline: Specialist 3, Grave-robber
  • Mortimer: Alice 3, Librarian
  • Gerrit Liddstadt of Worms: Fighter 1, Soldier
  • Ana Fischer: Witchy henchwoman
  • Ekans and Arbok: Belinda’s doggos

After returning from Pagan’s Well, the party wakes up the next morning in their rooms at the Happy Woodsman. Madeline, Mortimer—the three characters who has splashed around in the filthy black water at the bottom of the warchief’s well—were all required to make posion saves. Only Mortimer failed. The unfortunate librarian woke up oozing black tarry discharge from every pore and orifice, plastering his bedsheets (also, CON and CHA damage).  

Belinda and Gerrit tried to convince Svetlana (the innkeeper’s least-horrible daughter, who is also obsessed with Belinda) to keep their friend’s illness a secret. But villagers are going to gossip, and soon the entire town new that one of the visiting adventurers was sick. Rumors of plague begin to spread. Kerney the innkeeper considers tossing the party out of the inn but is mollified when the party gives him a good pile of silver, more than enough to buy out all the rooms in the inn and pay for new linnens to boot.

The rest of the villagers are fairly easy to talk down, because, again, they are all very stupid.

Gerrit and Belinda spend the rest of the day hunting for herbs in the woods (the parts they didn’t burn down) trying to mix a remedy for Mortimer and manage to put together a poultice that will give him a bonus to his next saving throw. (He needs to succeed at two saves in order to throw off the illness.)
Mortimer makes his save, and his condition doesn’t progress, although it doesn’t get any better. The party’s feeling pretty confident, and the villagers are less nervous.

Unfortunately, the next morning Mortimer fails his save (even with the bonus) and gets worse again. Mortimer is down to 3 CON and 2 CHA at this point, and things are getting dire. The party questions everyone they can in the village, trying to get information about any kind of healer folks might know.
On my list of rumors, I have an entry that there’s a folk healer in the marshes near Keil whose touch can cure the sick, so I decide to feed that to the players. Keil is only 8 hours south of Kodstadt, so the party (including Mortimer) decide to head to Keil with all due speed. Ana, still upset about losing her arm, stays behind. The witch tells Belinda that she’s realized that the Transylvanian Hunger spell can restore her arm, but it would probably require her to kill someone. Belinda tells her to behave while they are gone.

The ride cross-country to Keil is uneventful. About an hour outside of Kiel, they run into a man with a mule cart and pet bobcat. The man introduces himself as Simeon, a practitioner of the thaumaturgical arts on his way to visit and professional associate of his. He was ready to stop for the night in Kiel, but witch hunters are there right now, getting ready to string up some root-worker and a few other non-desirables. He decided it was safer to skip town while the getting was good.

The party rolls double-sixes on their reaction roll and convince the wizard to come with them. They all hate witch hunters and ask Simeon to come help run them out of town and save the accused. Simeon happily agrees, eager to show those self-righteous witch-burners what’s what.

The party stashes their horses and Simeon's wagon in an abandoned barn and creep towards the village. Belinda and Simeon keep their distance, while Mortimer and Madeline stealth towards the town square, where there seems to be something important going on. Simeon casts invisibility on Gerrit, and he slips into the village square as well.

A large crowd of filthy, sick, and hungry-looking villagers gathers around a large cross erected in the center of the village square. A large gallows platform, obviously of fresh construction, is art one end of the square. Four people stand upon it with nooses around their necks: Brother Timothy (the folk healer), Frau Shulz (the midwife), Sandra (a teenage girl), and Fletcher (the poison maker). Before them all, walking on a long roll of cloth to keep the mud off her boots, is Isadole Spence, the witch hunter. She is a severe-looking woman with a long skirt, high boots, a big hat, and a whip and pistol on her hips. She’s accompanied by four well-armed goons.

Isadole Spence, Witch Hunter (Specialist 5)
AC: 14 (Leather); HP:20; Morale: 10
Stealth 3, Sneak Attack 3, Search 5
Sword +2 (1d8)
Whip +2 (1d3, save or become entangled)
Pistol +2 (1d8)

AC: 13, HD: 1; Morale: 8
Sword +1 (1d8)
Musket +1 (1d8)

Isadole paces back and forth in front of the gallows, reading off the list of the condemned's crimes, quoting the gorier parts of scripture, and generally doing the whole witch-hunter thing. Madeline and Mortimer position themselves behind cover with their guns and crossbows, while Gerrit makes his way to the witch-hunter’s nearby wagon and finds her keg of gunpowder. Gerrit constructs a makeshift fuse and chucks the burning keg into the center of the crowd. It explodes, killing several villagers and causing the big cross to fall over, crushing a small child. The crowd panics!

Mortimer and Madeline open fire on the goons while the goons unload their muskets on Gerrit, thankfully missing. Simeon casts Summon and calls up a fungus demon. Sadly, he fails his control check, and the demon turns on him. (This spell will work properly at some point, I’m sure. As it is, Belinda has convinced herself to never use it.) Belinda cast Charm Person on Isadole the witch-hunter, who fails her save. Gerrit shoots dead on of the goons on the gallows.

With the guard dead, Madeline makes her way to the gallows platform and starts to free the condemned. Garrit engages one the goons, sword-vs-sword, while Mortimer’s crossbow bolt takes out another goon. Belinda makes her way through the panicked crowd calling for “help” until Isadole can see her. The charmed witch-hunter moves to her side. “Don’t worry, my dear, I won’t let any of these filthy peasants touch you!” Isadole says as she uses her whip to drive away the rabble.

Simeon's pet bobcat leaps into the fray to protect his master from the fungus demon. The large cat’s body ripple like water, and suddenly it becomes wolf-sized brain demon! Simeon's bobcat was a bound and shapeshifted demon this entire time! It’s a tense demon-on-demon fight, but Simeon and his familiar come out on top.

Garrit finished off the last goon while Madeline frees Brother Timothy the healer. The charmed Isadole is so distracted that she doesn’t notice Belinda placing her crossbow under the witch-hunter’s chin and pulling the trigger. The bolt shoots clean through her head, pinning her cool hat to a tree limb above.

The witch-hunters are defeated, and the villagers have scattered. The party leads the folk-healer out of town while Garrit loots the hunters’ wagon.

The grateful healer, a portly old man with a white smock and broad straw hat, introduces himself as Brother Timothy. He lives in a small cottage in the swamp, and his family has been providing medicines and physick services to Keil for generations. But sickness and famine hit the village recently, and as soon as the witch-hunters came to town, the villagers betrayed him, along with the midwife, some poor innocent girl, and the local poisoner. “Well, they might have been right about him. Still, how’s that for gratitude?”

Brother Timothy is more than happy to heal poor sick Mortimer. He rubs some moss on his chest and plants a few leeches on his face while chanting the Lord’s Prayer, and just like magic, Mortimer’s illness is cured! They ask Brother Timothy is he’d like to return with them to Kotstadt. Since the villagers betrayed him and Isadole and her goons burnt down his house, the folk healer thinks that finding a new home isn’t such a bad idea. The party says their goodbyes to Simeon and his familiar, and make their way back to Kotstadt with Brother Timothy and a chest-load of loot from the witch-hunters’ wagon.

When they get back to Kotsadt, Ana has a fresh new arm hidden under her cloak, and Gorst the huntsman hasn't been seen for a while. 

Treasure Gained
  • Gold crucifix (200sp)
  • 2 vials of holy water
  • 500sp in gold coins
  • Isadole Spence’s journal

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Into the Pagan's Well [LotFP: Ashes of Angels session 7]

I have been super busy with the (successful!) Draugr & Draculas Kickstarter and other projects. We’ve actually had two sessions of Ashes of Angels since my last actual play report. I’m going try and put them out pretty quickly, one after the other.

In this session, the party descended into the Pagan’s Well, which just so happens to be the mini-dungeon to be included in Draugr & Draculas. So, don’t tell me I never playtest anything.

Our Heroes
  • Belinda Kage: Serpentblood 1, Midwife
  • Madeline: Specialist 3, Grave-robber
  • Mortimer: Alice 3, Librarian
  • Julius Cervantes: Fighter 2, Ex-witch-hunter (dead)
  • Gerrit Liddstadt of Worms: Fighter 1, Soldier

  • Ana Fischer: Friendly witch
  • Ekans and Arbok: Belinda’s doggos

After tearing the grate out of the well in the previous session, the party erects their pavilion tent over the well to protect it from the weather and hide their activity from prying eyes. Ana stays topside while the party climbs down on secure ropes.

The bottom of the well has about a foot of water littered with thousands of copper coins. A statue of a raven, stag, and wolf rest against the walls. A bricked-up doorway stands between the stag and raven. Madeline leads the efforts to carefully remove the bricks and reveal the foggy passage beyond.

The hidden chambers beneath the well are cold and foggy, limiting vision to less than 20 feet, even with lanterns. Julius determines that the construction predates the Romans. The first tunnel ends in a T-intersection. The left-hand passage doesn’t go very far before it comes to a collapsed section. It will take several hours to safely clear away the rubble before they can pass. They decide to save that for later.

The right-hand path leads to an open chamber with a large trough of blood running to one of the walls, ten feet long by five feet wide. A carved image of one-eyed Balor (an evil god of old) leers above the blood trough. The blood seems distressingly fresh. Probing with the trusty 10-foot pole determines that the trough is about eight feet deep. There seems to be a 4’x4’ opening in the wall underneath the blood. No one seems eager to take a dip in the blood yet to check it out.

There’s another passage exiting out of this chamber, but the party decides to go topside and double check on things before continuing.

When they get back topside, Ana seems very nervous as she scans the treeline with her crossbow. “There’s someone out there…” she says.

Suddenly, there’s a “thump” on the top of the tent, and the canvas begins to burn. Someone’s thrown a flaming torch onto it! The party quickly exits as the expensive new tent goes up in flames. Immediately, they are assaulted by crossbow bolts coming from some unseen assailant in the trees. They immediately assume it is the weird, one-eyed, burn-scarred woodsman they met last session.

The party desperately scans the underbrush, trying to spot the sniper. Ana casts Summon and conjures a crystalline demon that she utterly fails to control. It turns to attack her and slices of her arm in one hit!

Madeline finally spots the shooter in the trees and calls out his position. Half the party opens fire on the shadowy form, while the rest try to get the demon away from Ana. Garrit hits the sniper with a solid arrow strike, and the assailant disappears back into the woods. The combined efforts of the party manage to take down the crystal demon while Belinda stabilizes Ana.

Garrit is not at all happy with the creepy trigger-happy woodsman, so he decides to burn down the forest. With the tactical application of a few burning oil flasks, the patch of light woods quickly goes up in flame. Alfred Pennyworth quotes are made.

The party returns to the village of Kotstadt and its stupid, stupid people. The Kotstadters wonder what started the forest fire.
“Do you guys know about that creepy guy that lives in the woods?” the party asks.
“You mean Madman Murphy?” the villagers reply. The party is not happy that no one warned them about this guy.
“Yeah, he did it. He worships Balor and set the forest on fire to appease his evil god. Also he cut off our friend’s arm.”
“That bastard!”
“Yeah,” says Garrit, “We should form a posse to go get him!”
None of the villagers are eager to do this, except fierce Father Hrothgar, the local priest.

Hrothgar grabs his old blunderbuss and he heads out with Garrit and Julius to find Madman Murphy, ideally in a part of the forest that isn’t on fire yet. A few hours and a couple of successful checks later, and the trio come upon Murphy’s shabby, secluded lean-to. Random fresh blood splatters indicate that the hermit is around.

Julius steps into a bear trap, shouting in pain and giving away their approach. Murphy fires upon them with his crossbow again. Father Hrothgar fires his blunderbuss, which misfires and explodes in his face, knocking him over, but doing no great damage. Garrit knocks out the supports to the lean-to, trapping Murphy under the old hides. Within moments, the trapped lump of Murphy is peppered with arrows. The evil hermit is dead. Looking trough Murphy’s belongings for treasure, they find a crude wooden idol of Balor, the rune-carved skull of Murphy’s father, and a bowl of hallucinogenic mushrooms, which they bring back for Belinda.

This is Ana. I don't blame him.
Everyone returns to the village for some much-deserved rest. Before going to bed, Julius, the former witch-hunter, goes to Ana to yell at her about summoning demons. Ana doesn’t feel like dealing with him and casts Charm Person upon him. Julius’s player makes the choice to play it as though he’s madly in love with the witch now. Fair enough. Ana tells him to leave and go to bed.
“Can I go to your bed?” he asks.
Ana considers for a moment. “Yeah alright,” she finally says, figuring that sex will certainly help seal the charm spell. She’s had a bad day, anyway, what with losing an arm and all.

The next day is New Year’s Day, and the party spends the day celebrating with the townsfolk. We roll on the carousing tables. Garrit makes friends with a travelling smuggler and later gets beat up after losing at cards. Madeline gets mugged. Belinda barely avoids marriage to one of the innkeeper’s horrible daughters. Mortimer and Julius manage to avoid complications.

The next morning, the PCs head back to the well, leaving Ana behind to rest and heal. The forest is now a smoldering wreck, but the well seems intact. They climb back down and make their way through the foggy passages. They still decline to explore the blood trough and make their way to the next chamber.

This room has a large, circular stone cap on the floor, like a big manhole cover, with an iron wheel in the middle of it. Belinda, Garrit, and Julius step onto the cap and turn the wheel in hopes of opening it (the wheel is very rusty and takes a combined STR of 20 to turn it).

The wheel does, in fact, open the cap, which flips 90 degrees and dumps all three of them into the 100-foot shaft beneath. Belinda and Mortimer, safely away from the capstone, watch with bemused horror. Belinda and Garrit make their saves manage to make their saves and catch themselves on the edge of the shaft. Julius isn’t so lucky. The plummets for 50 feet, gets lacerated by the crisscross of rusty razor-wire strung across the middle of the shaft, then falls the final 50 feet to crumple dead at the bottom of the shaft.

It was Julius’ player’s birthday, by the way.

Madline climbs down the shaft to retrieve her companion’s body and (more importantly!) to examine the stone coffin at the bottom of the shaft. She carefully removes enough razorwire for people to rappel down the shaft, then gets to examining the coffin.

The coffin sits in several inches of filthy black water but doesn’t seem to be trapped. She calls down Garrit and Mortimer while Belinda stands guard at the top. The three splash through the nasty water (save vs poison!) and bust open the casket. Inside is the decaying body of an ancient warchief. He wears gold braces etched with wolves, and his golden burial mask sports a large ruby! This is the biggest treasure haul the party has found  so far, which means it’s time to bug out and return to the village for now.

Julius Cervantes (Fighter 2)
Matthew, now an insane three-legged tree frog (Outlander 1)
Tranquilo (Fighter 1)
Hector (Alice 1)

Treasure this Session
Two gold bracers carved with wolves (1000sp each)
Gold burial mask with a single ruby eye (1000sp) 

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Champion/Punchfighter [LotFP Class]

My kid (who plays Madeline the grave robber in our LotFP game) is already thinking about their next character in the not unlikely event of Madeline’s demise. They wanted to know if there was any kind of class that specializes in unarmed combat. Of course, the easy solution would be to just make a Fighter and use a lot of unarmed attacks and the wrestling moves. But that’s kind of boring.

There are a number of B/X monk classes to be found around the internet, but neither of us wanted to go the kung-fu monk route. Instead we just wanted a big strong person that punched a lot. Like a mixture of luchadore, old-timey boxer, and circus strong man.

So, as a good father and GM, I put together the CHAMPION—a little bit Charles Atlas, a little bit El Santo, a little bit Jojo Jostar. Hopefully it’s a lot of fun. I haven’t done any playtesting with this, nor have I done any XP mathematics (I eyeballed it and thought Dwarf XP looked about right). Let me know what you think!

Champion (Punchfighter)
“I won’t use a sword to fight Grendel, since that wouldn’t be fair to the monster.”
--Beowulf, probably

Mustache optional, but recommended.
Champions (also known as brawlers, punchfighters, or kickpunchers) are warriors who have dedicated themselves to perfecting their bodies and honing their minds until they are perfect killing machines. As a champion, you abstain from using weapons or armor, preferring to rely on your own skills and training to prove your mettle against all comers. For you, combat is its own reward, and you are constantly on the lookout for bigger challenges and greater opponents. You have mastered many fighting techniques, called stances, that let you fight in a variety of ways using your hands, feet, head, or whatever happens to be lying around. Some of these fighting techniques even border on the supernatural.

XP Progression: as dwarf
Saving Throws: as fighter
Hit Die: as fighter
Attacks: When fighting unarmed, use the fighter’s Attack Bonus for your level. Otherwise, your Attack Bonus is +1.
Fighter Combat Options: When fighting unarmed, you have access to pressing attack, defensive fighting, and the better parry option.

Punches as strong as kicks: Your unarmed attacks deal 1d6 damage. You are never considered unarmed.

Skin Conditioning: When not wearing armor, add your CON modifier to your AC along with DEX.

Clean Living: The power of a champion requires a strict mental and physical discipline. You must choose one activity that you either must do every day, or you must never do. Maybe you must perform an hour of calisthenics every morning or drink a gallon of whole milk with breakfast. Maybe you abstain from alcohol or sexual congress.

If you break this regimen, you gain a dot of encumbrance, as the violation literally weighs upon you. You gain another dot every time you brake your taboo. You lose one dot of this extra encumbrance for every day where you spend at least 8 hours doing proper exercises, ablations, and reconditioning.

Your taboo should be a mild inconvenience but needn’t be too onerous. It’s intended to be a fun role-playing tag more than a serious power check. It shouldn’t be more troublesome than a magic user needing to memorize spells each day. As always, the GM has final approval over any taboo.

Stances are combinations of combat techniques and mental states that allow a champion to modify they way they fight opponents. Stances allow you to punch harder, fight multiple opponents, or even hit ghosts.

As first-level champion, you know the Basic Stance, plus one more stance of your choice. At second level, and every even level after that, you can add one more stance of your choice to your repertoire.
At start of combat, before initiative is rolled, you should announce which stance you are using. This defaults to the Basic Stance, if you can’t make a choice.

You can only use one stance at a time. Changing a stance happens at the movement phase of the round and replaces your movement. If you want to describe your body flaring with visible muscle energy as you shout out the name of your stance, I wouldn’t blame you.

You can maintain a stance outside of combat, but it’s like walking around with an unsheathed sword; you’re clearly ready to start a fight. So, not a real problem in a dungeon, but a bit of a faux pas when meeting the magistrate.

Maintaining stances requires freedom of movement. You cannot use any stance but the Basic Stance if you are more than lightly encumbered.

Basic Stance
  • No adjustments.

Bat Stance
  • You cannot see in the dark, but you can detect and fight opponents in within range of your combat movement without penalty while blind or in the dark or against invisible opponents.

Break Stance

  • Your unarmed attacks can harm golems and constructs, despite damage immunities. 
  • Your unarmed attacks inflict double damage (2d6) against inanimate objects. 

Buddy Stance
  • You have +2 to hit an opponent that an ally is also attacking in melee. One such ally gains +2 to their AC for the round.

Flash Stance
  • Add another 20’ to your combat movement rate (40’ for an unencumbered human becomes 60’) as long as you can make an unarmed attack against an opponent after moving.
  • Unlike other stances, switching to this stance does not replace your movement.

Flurry Stance
  • Can make two attacks per round. Add all your modifiers to your Attack Bonus and divide the total as evenly as possible.
  • Example: Dirkland (3rd level champion) has an Attack Bonus of +4, is making a pressing attack (+2), and the GM gave him a miscellaneous +1 bonus for having the higher ground. His total Attack Bonus is +7. If he makes two attacks, one will be at +4, while the other will be at +3. Dirkland can choose which opponent gets which.

Ghost Stance
  • Your unarmed damage drops to 1d4, but your unarmed attacks now count as magical for the purpose of overcoming weapon immunities.

Handsome Stance
  • Add your CHA modifier to you AC along with your CON and DEX modifiers.

Hornet Stance
  • Your unarmed melee Attack Bonus drops to +1
  • You can make ranged attacks with thrown small weapons (1d4 damage) with the fighter Attack Bonus.
  • These thrown weapons have range modifiers like a short bow.
  • You can make two ranged attacks per round. Add all your modifiers to your Attack Bonus and divide the total as evenly as possible. (see Flurry Stance above)

Lion Stance
  • Mortal opponents engaged with you take a penalty to their Morale equal to your STR modifier.
  • This has no effect on opponents with a 12 morale.

Nice Guy Stance
  • You can use improvised weapons to make melee attacks with the fighter’s attack bonus.
  • An improvised weapon must be a mundane item, able to be held in one or two hands, that is not designed to be a weapon. (So, a mop or beer mug is fine, but a knife or magic staff is not.)
  • An improvised weapon inflicts 1d8 damage and breaks on a roll of 1 or 8.

River Stance
  • You can make unarmed attacks using your DEX modifier instead of STR.

Turtle Stance
  • You no longer add your CON modifier to your AC, but your base AC starts at 14 (as leather armor).

Unbreakable Stance
  • Add your CON modifier to all Saving Throws.

Wonder Stance
  • You can knock bullets and arrows out of the air and gain +2 AC against all ranged attacks.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Educated Goats and Creepy Wells [LotFP: Ashes of Angels session 6]

My current LotFP game was set up to be a sandbox game, meaning the players decide where to go and what to do. The players also set the pace. The result of this means that so far, with six sessions under our belts, the PCs have been on, like, one actual “adventure” (The Pale Lady). Maybe one-and-half if you consider the initial escape-the-dungeon mission from Session 1. Maybe more if you count the excursion to the Ghoul Market, which I consider more as an exotic shopping trip.

And while unexpected, that’s fine! My players are all having a good time. And while there’s been little in the way of the traditional go-to-the-place-to-kill-the-thing-and-take-the-stuff “adventure,” things haven’t been boring. They’ve traveled to interesting places and interacted with interesting people. At the end of every session they’ve learned more about the world, made new relationships, and developed plans for the future. They aren’t just “playing house.”

Another unforeseen effect of this is that the theme and atmosphere is a little different than expected. I originally planned this campaign to be a grim-dark trip across Bleak Europe with a backdrop of war, plague, and famine. It’s shaking out to be more of a mixture of folk horror, Roger Corman, and Hammer horror movies--quiet villages full of eccentric weirdos, superstitious peasants, and Ingrid Pitt country girls. That’s also fine, because I like all of those things. I should probably remember to make life in these villages a little less pleasant, though. Everyone’s far too happy and healthy. There’s a war going on after all.

With that said, our last session was mostly a lot of travel, going from village-to-village, meeting some people, and having random encounters. One of my players was sick, so the rest of the players decided to follow up on some side rumors rather than go straight to the next adventure site.

Our “Heroes”
  • Belinda Kage: Serpentblood 1, Midwife
  • Madeline: Specialist 2, Grave Robber
  • Gerrit Liddstadt: Fighter 1, Soldier
  • Mortimer: Alice 2, Librarian

  • Ekans and Arbok: Belinda’s dog and puppy
  • Ana Fischer: Witchy henchwoman

After the unsuccessful burglary in Hegendorf, the party decided to lit out of town as quick as they could. Their ultimate goal was to get to the Pagan’s Well, somewhere south of Neubrandenburg and supposedly full of viking gold. They plotted a circuitous route that would take them off the main roads but bring them in contact with a few small towns and villages.

Things started off well, but quickly turned dire when an unusually bitter blizzard blew in from the north. Even with heavy winter coats, several of the party failed their saves and took Constitution damage. They saw the lights of a settlement in the distance, but with the snow and dark, they couldn’t determine how far away it was. They decided it was best to hunker down and weather out the storm. The game suddenly turned into a Jack London story, as the party hunted desperately for firewood, tried to erect their tents against the wind, and futilely built snow caves in the dry, non-packing snow. Eventually they managed to get enough shelter put together to survive the night, but two of their horses died from the cold. At least now they had fresh horse meat to supplement their hardtack.

As unusually cold as it was the day before, that morning was unusually warm, and the party had to slog through piles of slush and mud to make it to the next village. Merhold was a fishing village that sat on a river between two lakes. The townsfolk were suspicious of strangers, but the PCs ingratiated themselves a bit by spending money and volunteering to help shovel out the village streets. The party bought rooms at the Broken Fang inn to recover from their travels and the blizzard. Gerrit was finally able to find a gun to replace the one he lost in Hegendorf—a surprisingly fine arquebus of Molemanic construction from Goldberg.

While spending the night in Merhold, the party heard a very interesting rumor. A farmer in the village Lischt (to the north) had a cow that gave birth to a goat that could speak like a man. This talking goat also had the gift of prophecy! The party decided that Lischt was certainly going to be their next stop, and already started formulating plans to steal the talking goat.

They headed out the next morning. About mid-day, the party ran into a trio of men, obviously deserters, though they couldn’t tell from what army. The men were hungry and cautious, but they were more willing to talk than fight. The PCs gave them a few bits of hardtack, which the deserters eagerly accepted. With a brief exchange of information, the PCs told the men about the village they had just left (which, for now, had no military occupation). The three men warned the PCs that Neubrandenburg had been overtaken by Swedish soldiers. The two groups parted ways peacefully.

After another day of travel, blessedly free of snowstorms, the PCs arrived in Lischt. A shoddy, hand-painted sign proudly declared the village “Home of the Fantastical Talking Goat!” Clearly the rumors were true. The party made their way to the Green Mug inn to get rooms and ask where to find the goat. That lead to this memorable exchange:
  • Me (the GM): You enter the inn, the woman running the place, Widow Frammen, comes to greet you.
  • Gerrit: Is she cute?
  • Me: What? No… No, nobody would ever call her cute. But she has a certain presence about her. A distinct pride. Every line in her face, every streak of gray in her hair speaks of hardships endured and triumphs wrung out of tragedy. She’d make you---any one of you—a fine wife and partner.
  • Gerrit: So she looks like…
  • Me: Like Maude-era Bea Arthur.
  • Gerrit: Never mind.
Those callous louts don’t know what they missed out on. A successful businesswoman with her own land and strong opinions. Together they could have made that village a kingdom. But it was not to be…

Anyway, the party made their way to Terwilliger's farm. There they met Isaac Terwilliger and his two sons out chopping wood. “Are you here to meet my wonderful goat?” he asked. The party said that yes they were. “Excellent! I will send my youngest boy to the barn to prepare the goat. He must make sure the animal is in the right sort of mood to speak to strangers! We will just wait here a few moments while he does this!”

The party chatted with Isaac while his son ran off to the barn. After a few minutes, Isaac he said the goat must be ready now. He took the PCs’ silver pieces and led them to the goat. Inside the barn, a back stall was draped with purple cloth and incense filled the air. A painted lantern filled the barn with pink light. A goat with sparkling blue horns stood in the stall, lazily chewing on a boot. “Oh hello there!” said the goat, in a squeaky high-pitched voice. The PCs couldn’t see its mouth move, what with the boot and all, but it spoke with surprising clarity. “Who comes to me seeking the words of prophecy? Simply put more silver into my bucket, and I shall look through the mists of time to answer your questions.”

Farmer Terwilliger looked proud of his goat, and eager for the party’s silver. His oldest boy looked bored. His youngest son was nowhere to be seen. The players looked both disappointed and amused—a careful balance of reactions that I live for as a GM. The PCs gave a quick glance around the barn, while they stood there, watching the goat poop. The couldn’t see anyone hiding, but Gerrit was pretty sure he heard someone shuffling around the hayloft over the goat, and someone spotted what looked like a can of sparkly blue paint. In the end, they thanked the farmer and left without asking the goat for any prophecy.

The next day found the party back on the road, heading east towards Neubrandenburg. Not to far out from the city, they ran into a small train of brightly colored wagons. The peeling paint on the side of the lead wagon proclaimed this to be the Great Thespian Collective, a troupe of traveling actors, musicians, and other performers. Several of them seemed to have been recently wounded. Indeed, they had recently been run out of Neubrandenburg. The conservative Swedish occupiers have been driving actors, puppeteers, and other “undesirables” from the city. The party sympathized with the troupe and spent the afternoon with them, sharing a meal, trading gossip, and making sure the actors' wounds were attended to. Belinda and Ana spent some time talking to the troupe's resident magician, one Doctor Jupiter, an actual practitioner of real magic. He was able to give Belinda some tips on how to use powdered faerie horn (from the Pale Lady) as a reagent for the Summoning spell.

Eventually the parties split ways, and the PCs headed towards Neubrandenburg. Seeing that the gates were heavily guarded by Swedish soldiers examining every traveler and cart entering the city, they decided the skip the city for now and head west towards where they hoped the Pagan's Well could be found.

After another day of travel, they came upon Kotstadt, the village supposedly near the Well. Kotstadt's main industry was pig and sheep raising, and the village certainly smelled as such. The PCs made their way to the Happy Woodsman inn and tavern, where the patrons were all well into one of the bawdier verses of “She Loves my One-Eyed Monster,” a much beloved drinking song. The hostler Kerney and his cousin-wife Zelda were all happy to tell the party about the old Pagan's Well. It was a well known source of good luck for the village, and young couples often pitch pennies into its depths for luck and large families. Of course, no one would ever dream of climbing into the well to see what was at the bottom. That was bad luck! Why, the last people who tried to do that 50 years ago were never seen again, and it brought plague to the village.

Such dire warnings didn't deter the party, and the next morning found them traipsing through the light woods a mile south of the village, looking for the Pagan's Well. Before they could find the well, however, they ran into a mysterious and creepy man with one eye, dressed all in filthy leathers and collecting hallucinogenic mushrooms. When asked about the Well, the man said “Some things is best not looked into. And bad things happen to those what do. If'n I was you, I'd go pitch my pennies, then leave the well be.” The party assured him that they'd take his advise under consideration. The strange woodsman nodded grimly, then disappeared back into the shadows and underbrush.

With only a slight feeling of foreboding, the party continued their search and eventually found Pagan's Well. It was a large and ancient structure, waist-high, eight feet across, and covered in moss and lichen. About ten feet down, the well shaft was blocked by a rusty iron grate set into the stone walls. Belinda used her Unseen Servant spell to tie ropes around the grate, while the rest of the party lashed the other ends of the rope to their horses. With a few minutes of equine exertion, the rusty grate was wrenched from the shaft walls with a cacophonous shriek of metal, knocking down one side of the surface well in the process.

Well,” I said, you've got a clear path to the bottom now, but anyone in these here woods is certainly aware of what just happened.”

And that's where we stopped!

XP and Rewards
No combat and no treasure found, but 90 XP to each PC for travel, finding new places, and surviving the snowstorm.