Chivalry & Sorcery Essence

It has been my observation that most Chivalry & Sorcery fans relish in the perceived complexity of the game. I am not sure the game is actually very complex, at least in its actual mechanics, although there are certainly a lot of topics covered in the rules and the presentation of the rules themselves could be more accessible (something I hope the upcoming 5th edition rectifies where appropriate). I think the legendary tiny font size of the 1st edition of the game, necessary to fit in what by the standards of the time was a truly exhaustively complete set of rules, created a certain reputation for the game and C&S purists wear that reputation like a badge of pride.

And more power to them, I say. I have a lot of respect for people who play AD&D 1e “rules as written” too, because despite my enormous affection for Gygaxian prose, I am still not entirely sure I understand what the rules are for some systems (overbearing immediately comes to mind). Still, one of the reasons I am generally an OSR gamer and one especially drawn to Basic D&D and systems inspired by Basic D&D is that I quite like the simple, easy to play and easy to tinker with mechanics. I certainly like not being drowned in hundreds of pages of rules like I am when I try to play Pathfinder. Perhaps this is why Chivalry & Sorcery Essence appeals to me. Plus, at least until the 5th edition Kickstarter, Chivalry & Sorcery Essence is the only version of C&S you can currently buy in print (it is available as print-on-demand) unless you want to pay top dollar for a print copy of a previous edition of C&S proper.

Chivalry & Sorcery Essence shares the ability scores and the same basic concepts as Chivalry & Sorcery proper, but uses a different system, based around rolling under a success chance on a d20, rather than a d100. Of course the book does not have the exhaustive set of character options, equipment, or spells that Chivalry & Sorcery 4th Edition has, but it has a good selection and everything is simple enough that you can easily see how you could make or import your own. Simple enough that you can easily see how to tinker is a feature, not a limitation, to my taste.

The 44 page book includes all the rules you need to play, and an introductory scenario set in its own fantasy medieval campaign setting, Darken. Despite the rules being about the same size as the core of Basic D&D, there’s nevertheless a lot of options for character creation and advancement, a blow-based combat system which makes all your decisions count and is much more tactical and realistic-feeling than D&D, and even a mass combat system! There’s quite a lot to sink your teeth into even at the relatively small size.

There are a few “rough edges”. Some of the interior art is not high enough resolution for print – but most of it is very serviceable. The layout is also “serviceable”. This is a 2011 book, so it is unfair to judge it by the standards of some of the amazingly laid out OSR books of recent years. The game is designed to be played using a d20, but in some places a d10 is more appropriate (e.g. in character generation I’d rather roll a d10 than halving a d20 roll).

If you’re an OSR player who likes rules light systems but is intrigued by C&S I think you might enjoy Chivalry & Sorcery Essence. At the very least, it’s worth a look while you’re waiting to check out Chivalry & Sorcery 5th edition!


You can buy Chivalry & Sorcery Essence here via my affiliate link in PDF and print-on-demand format. Some of the artwork in the print-on-demand version is a little low-resolution but it is still nice to have in hard copy, I think.

Character Class: Nymph

Nymph

Nymphs are semi-divine beings linked to natural places – forest glades, underwater grottos, lakes, mountain pastures, and so on. They are always female and take the form of beautiful human women. There are numerous types, or subraces, of nymph. Some are the dedicated handmaidens (and often lovers) of the gods, or their courtiers and attendants. Others are linked to the natural world and are the most likely types to be encountered by mortals. These nymphs are the ones who may become adventurers.

Adventuring nymphs are those who have not yet bound themselves to natural location. As such they can be called free nymphs. They are able to roam the world just like mortals, and they grow old and need to eat and drink just like mortals do. When they have satisfied their wanderlust, nymphs bind themselves to a particular natural feature – dryads to a tree or glade, naiads to a stream or lake, auloniads to a mountain pasture or vale, and oceanids to an ocean grotto or beach. Once they become bound nymphs, nymphs become ageless, and require no sustenance – they will endure so long as the natural feature to which they bound is preserved.

Nymphs are exclusively female, but can reproduce with males of any species, or even gods. Any sons they bear will be of the same species as their father, and any daughters they bear will be nymphs.

If a player wishes to play a nymph, they should also choose which subrace of nymph they wish to play – dryad, naiad, auloniad, or oceanid. Each has slightly different abilities as indicated below.

Prime Requisite

Wisdom and Charisma

Requirements

Wisdom 8 or higher, and Charisma 12 or higher.

Restrictions

Nymphs cannot wear armour nor bear shields. Nymphs can use daggers, spears, javelins, staffs, blowguns, nets, slings, and whips as weapons. Nymphs can use any magical items permitted to clerics (except weapons), and any magical weapon of a type they can use.

Advancement

Nymphs are powerful creatures and advance more slowly than other character classes.

LevelXPHit DiceLevel 1 Spells/day
101d80
230002d80
36000No increase0
4120003d81
524000No increase2

Note that a “typical nymph” encountered as a monster may not be the equivalent of a level 1 nymph character. For example, a typical dryad is equivalent to a level 3 nymph character (levels 1 and 2 representing younger dryads).

Saving Throws

Note your saving throws on your character sheet as per your character level:

SaveLevel 1-4Level 5
Death119
Wands1210
Paralysis1412
Breath1614
Spells1513

Attack Table

Note what your character needs to roll on 1d20 to hit each Armour Class on your character sheet. This roll is modified by Strength for melee attacks and Dexterity for ranged attacks.

Lvl9876543210-1-2-3
110111213141516171819202020
29101112131415161718192020
39101112131415161718192020
4891011121314151617181920
5891011121314151617181920

Special Abilities

Home Environment

In terrain similar to their home environment, nymphs never suffer ill-effects from bad weather or exposure. The terrain which is sufficiently similar to a nymph’s home environment for these purposes is determined by her subrace:

  • Dryads: Woods, Jungle
  • Auloniads: Grassland, Mountains, Hills
  • Naiads: River, Swamp
  • Oceanids: Ocean

Natural Armour

Dryads and auloniads have natural armour, their flesh as resistant to blows as the wood of the natural features they protect. They have an Armour Class of 7 prior to any Dexterity modifier.

Water Breathing

Naiads and oceanids can breathe underwater. Naiads can use this ability in fresh water, and oceanids can use this in saltwater.

Purify Water

Naiads can purify fresh water at will. This takes one turn for the equivalent of 6 water skins of water, thus it may take many turns for a naiad to purify a large body of water.

Discern Direction

When on land, Oceanids can always discern the direction of the shortest path to the ocean, and they also intrinsically know which sea or ocean is the nearest. When at sea, Oceanids can always discern true north, as well as the direction of the nearest landmass, and can thus be extremely helpful for navigators.

Charm

At level 2, a nymph gains the ability to charm. Treat this ability as the magic-user spell charm person. A free nymph can use this ability 3 times per day. A bound nymph can use this power once per round, and victims make their saving throw vs spells at -2.

Spell Casting

At level 4, nymphs gain the ability to cast cleric and druid spells, except those which affect good or evil. The level 1 spells a nymph gains the ability to cast are as follows (* indicates a reversible spell): cure light wounds*, detect magic, light*, purify food and water, remove fear*, resist cold, animal messenger, detect animals and plants, divine weather, find dangers, and faerie fire.

Shape Change

At level 5, nymphs nominate a natural form appropriate to their subrace: a dryad or auloniad would pick a plant which might be found in a forest or vale respectively, a naiad would pick a pond, spring, or similar, and an oceanid would pick a rock pool or coral. The player should nominate a specific natural form along these lines – no animal form is permitted. The natural form should be vaguely the same size as the nymph (although there are no restrictions on shape).

The nymph can change into her nominated natural form (and back again) once per day – the transformation takes one round in each direction. When she transforms, the nymph regains 1d4 hit points/level, up to a maximum of half the damage she has sustained (thus, she cannot fully heal herself by shape changing). The nymph cannot cast spells, attack, or take any other action in this natural form, except change back to her humanoid form. The nymph can still be attacked in this natural form, and can be hurt as usual. can hold this natural form for 1 turn/level.

Bind Soul

A nymph may choose to bind her soul to a natural feature of an appropriate type for her subrace. Once her soul is bound, the nymph becomes almost immortal, in that she ceases to age and requires no food or drink to survive so long as the natural feature to which she has bound her soul endures. She cannot move more than 240 feet away from the feature to which she has bound her soul for more than one turn, or she will die. If the natural feature to which she has bound her soul is destroyed or dies, the nymph will also die.

Languages

Nymphs can speak their alignment language, Common, the local human dialect, and Nymph.

Movement, Size, and Encumbrance

A nymph is the same size as a human woman, and can move as far and carry as much as  normal human characters.

New Spells

First Level Druid Spells

Animal Messenger

Range: 10’
Duration: 1 day per caster level
Reversible: False

This spell summons a tiny animal (bird, mouse, or insect) to the caster and compels it to act as a messenger for the caster. Once the summoned animal appears, the caster tells the animal the message. The caster then tells the animal who the recipient is, describes them in terms sufficient for the animal to identify them, and describes their general location accurate to one square mile. The animal must then travel to the recipient and deliver the message within the duration of the spell, or it will forget the caster’s instructions. If, after delivering the message, the animal still has sufficient time remaining within the spell’s duration, it can take a response to the caster. Note that while affected by this spell, the animal will be able to speak to the recipient of its message, but only for the purposes of reciting the message.

Detect Animals and Plants

Range: Caster
Duration: 6 turns
Reversible: False

This spells allows the caster to know the direction of an animal or plant of a type named by the caster so long as that animal or plant is within 120’ of the caster. The caster does not need to know the specific name of the actual animal or plant being identified, just the type of animal/plant. If there are no examples of the type named within 120’ then the caster discovers as much through the spell. This spell cannot be used to detect the location of intelligent creatures.

Divine Weather

Range: Caster
Duration: 12 hours
Reversible: False

This spell allows the caster to know the accurate weather of the area around them (to a radius of 1 mile per caster level) for the next 12 hours.

Faerie Fire

Range:  60’
Duration: 1 round/level
Reversible: False

A pale glow surrounds and outlines the subjects, making them hypervisible. Outlined subjects shed light that makes them visible in darkness. The spell may outline up to one human-sized creature per every 5 caster levels. The Faerie Fire does not cause any harm to the objects or creatures thus outlined. However, their greater visibility grants attackers a +2 bonus to hit them while the spell is in effect.

Find Dangers

Range: 5’ per caster level
Duration: One hour
Reversible: False

This spell reveals hazards to the caster. Once casting the spell, the caster concentrates on a single item or area (1 foot by 1 foot) for one round and immediately knows whether the item or anything (including creatures) in the area is dangerous. The caster will also know the degree of danger (e.g. immediately or potentially dangerous). Large items/areas can take multiple rounds to search for dangers using this spell.

Character Class: Faun

Fauns

Fauns generally have the upper-body of a human, and the lower-body of a goat (although some, generally called satyrs, may be more human-like, exhibiting only minimal goat-like characteristics). They inhabit wild places, and are fickle, chaotic creatures. Fauns are exclusively male, although they can breed with nymphs and humans. Human women who fall pregnant to fauns give birth to fauns. Nymphs who fall pregnant to fauns have an even chance to give birth to a faun or a nymph.

Prime Requisite

Dexterity

Requirements

Dexterity 8 or higher. A faun cannot have an Intelligence greater than 15, nor a Strength greater than 16. If the player rolls an Intelligence or Strength higher than these maximums, then they may trade them for points in other attributes as usual. A faun must be male, and cannot be of Lawful alignment.

Restrictions

A faun can use any weapon or armour made for their body type (remember that some fauns are more human-like than others). They can use any magic item not restricted to magic-users, and they can use any musical instrument (including magical ones restricted to other classes). Likewise, fauns can consume any magical food or drink and benefit from it, even if it is normally restricted only to other classes.

Advancement

Fauns advance quickly compared to other races.

LevelXPHit Dice
101d4
210002d4
320003d4
440004d4
580005d4

Note that a “typical faun” encountered as a monster is the equivalent of a level 1 faun character.

Saving Throws

Note your saving throws on your character sheet as per your character level:

SaveLevel 1-4Level 5
Death1311
Wands1412
Paralysis1311
Breath1614
Spells1513

Attack Table

Note what your character needs to roll on 1d20 to hit each Armour Class on your character sheet. This roll is modified by Strength for melee attacks and Dexterity for ranged attacks.

Lvl9876543210-1-2-3
110111213141516171819202020
210111213141516171819202020
39101112131415161718192020
49101112131415161718192020
5891011121314151617181920

Special Abilities

Natural Armour

Fauns have natural armour, giving them a natural Armour Class of 8 when unarmoured. They can wear armour made of their body type, but only benefit from the armour if its Armour Class exceeds the faun’s natural Armour Class.

Amplify Emotions

At level 5, a faun gains the ability to amplify the emotions of another character using a musical instrument. This takes a full round, during which time the faun can do nothing else but play his instrument. The target must be able to hear the faun play in order to be affected, and is permitted a saving throw versus spells to resist the effect. The faun must declare which emotion/impulse/primal urge he is trying to amplify in the target (e.g. anger, love, hunger, fear, lust, etc). The target’s saving throw is modified by the faun’s level, with a cumulative -1 for each round the faun has been playing his instrument (including the first). For example, against a level 5 faun, the target gets a +4 to their saving throw on the first round, +3 on the second round, +2 on the third round, +1 on the fourth round, no modifier on the fifth round, -1 on the sixth round, and so on. If the faun is attacked, his playing is interrupted and he must start again from the first round. If the faun plays long enough (6 rounds or more), his music may even backfire and affect him! The faun himself must make the same saving throws as the target or be affected by his own music.

If the target (or the faun) fails their saving throw, then they become completely dominated by the emotion in question. The exact effects of this must be adjudicated by the referee depending on the target’s emotional state and the emotion/urge the faun was trying to trigger. If the target is a little angry with one of their allies, for example, then the faun’s music may make them so angry that they actually attack their ally. If the target harbours romantic feelings for another character, then the faun’s music may cause the target to forget all other tasks but the pursuit of their beloved, whom the target will indeed love with an all-consuming intensity even if the prior romantic feelings were mild. Once affected, the target remains consumed by the triggered impulse until they have acted upon it. Once again, the referee’s careful judgement will be required.

Languages

Fauns can speak their alignment language, the local human dialect, and Nymph.

Movement, Size, and Encumbrance

A faun is about the same size as a man, perhaps a little shorter due to his goat legs. A faun can move faster than a human but can carry less.

Weight Carried (coins)Speed (feet/turn)
Up to 300150
301-600120
601-90090
901-120060
1201-150030
1501-180015
1801+0

Character Class: Centaur

I want to add some creatures from Greek mythology to my Basic D&D game as playable classes to replace the Northern European mythology-based demihuman races of dwarf, elf, and halfling. There is a great BECMI supplement, PC1 Tall Tales of the Wee Folk, which is useful for this purpose, but I always found the system for “monsters as PCs” from this era to be a bit confusing. Effectively, I think there was a decision made that the monsters which appeared in the monster listings in the rulebooks were supposed to be the “Normal Man” equivalent for their monstrous races. Character levels would therefore follow the “Normal Man” level. To balance powerful monsters (e.g. a centaur) with other low level PCs, this system also added a “pre-Normal Man equivalent” level. This makes sense from a design consistency perspective, but I’m not sure it does much but add complexity in play – you start with negative experience points, have to get to 0 to become a “Normal Monster”, then you have to earn thousands more to get to level 1. It just seemed inelegant to me, so I redesigned some of these monsters as conventional character classes. Here is the first one of these: the Centaur.

Centaur

Centaurs have the upper body of a human and the lower body of a horse. They resemble a horse up to where the horse’s neck should be, at which point their human torso begins. They are formidable and wild warriors, found on the fringes of civilisation.

Prime Requisite

Strength

Requirements

Strength 9 or higher.

Restrictions

There are no restrictions on the weapons a centaur can use. A centaur can wear barding, and armour made for a creature of their size. A centaur does not gain any benefit from armour whose Armour Class is not better than their natural Armour Class of 7. A centaur can use any magic item which can be used by a fighter.

Advancement

Centaurs are powerful creatures and advance more slowly than other character classes.

LevelXPHit DiceHoof DamageNatural AC
102d81d28
240003d81d48
380004d81d67
4160005d81d67
5320006d81d67

Note that a “typical centaur” encountered as a monster is the equivalent of a level 3 centaur character – levels 1 and 2 represent young centaurs.

Saving Throws

Note your saving throws on your character sheet as per your character level:

SaveLevel 1-2Level 3-5
Death1210
Wands1311
Paralysis1412
Breath1513
Spells1614

Attack Table

Note what your character needs to roll on 1d20 to hit each Armour Class on your character sheet. This roll is modified by Strength for melee attacks and Dexterity for ranged attacks.

Lvl9876543210-1-2-3
19101112131415161718192020
2891011121314151617181920
378910111213141516171819
46789101112131415161718
5567891011121314151617

Special Abilities

Attacks

Each round, a centaur can make 2 hoof attacks and 1 attack with their weapon. They can make hoof attacks with their rear hooves against an enemy behind them, or with their front hooves against an enemy in front. If equipped with a lance, they can make a lance charge (as per the usual rules) which does double damage, but they cannot attack with their hooves on the same round as they make a lance charge.

Natural Armour

Centaurs have natural armour, which is reflected by the natural Armour Class shown in the advancement table. They can wear human armour made for the upper body and horse barding (or a special suit of armour combining both), but only benefit from the armour if its Armour Class exceeds the centaur’s natural Armour Class.

Horse Whispering

Centaurs can speak to horses, donkeys, and similar equine animals.

Languages

Centaurs can speak their alignment language, Centaur, the local human dialect, and Nymph.

Movement, Size, and Encumbrance

A centaur is a large creature, only slightly smaller than a horse and rider together. A centaur can move considerably faster than a human (assuming they have the space to move around, as they do above ground or in dungeons with high ceilings), and can carry more too.

Weight Carried (coins)Speed (feet/turn)
Up to 1000180
1001-2000150
2001-3000120
3001-400090
4001-600060
6001-750030
7501-800015
8001+0

Demonic Pacts with Lord Gogmak

This write-up is from my Lamentations of the Flame Princess campaign where a player character has formed a pact with a demon lord…

Lord Gogmak

Lord Gogmak is a mighty demon, worshipped by several cults across Europe, including the cult based in Blexham House in Southwick, London.

Pacts with Gogmak

Lord Gogmak will enter into pacts with mortals who offer up their immortal souls and service in exchange for Lord Gogmak’s assistance, generally with some task/quest (their great work). Once the task is complete, the character’s soul is forfeit. They will join Gogmak in the afterlife when their mortal life ends, or when their body is taken by another new devotee of Gogmak (this latter part is not disclosed nor explained explicitly by most of Gogmak’s cults to new potential devotees).

Lord Gogmak will grant an artifact or ability intended to assist the mortal with their great work. Each use of this artifact or ability has a 1% cumulative chance of causing a mutation (I use the mutation tables in Cults of Chaos – that is an affiliate link). Artifacts are not intended to be transferred to other mortals, and each use of an artifact gifted by Gogmak to somebody else requires a Save vs Magic or the unauthorized user will suffer a mutation.

Lord Gogmak will not allow a mortal who has entered a pact to complete a great work to fail at their quest unless they give up by themselves. If the mortal should die before the completion of their great work, they will immediately awaken in the body of another of Gogmak’s still-living devotees (one who has already succeeded at their own personal quest), effectively “reborn”. The new body’s previous soul is banished from this existence to the afterlife with Gogmak, and the mortal has another chance to finish their great work.

Rebirth Procedure

  1. Determine the body’s age. Roll 1d10. 1 or 2 = young adult (12+2d4 years), 3 to 4 = mature (20+1d4 years), 5 to 8 = mature (20+5d4 years), 9 = middle aged (40+1d20), 0 = old (60+1d10 years).
  2. Determine the body’s biological sex. Roll 1d100. Female on 51 or lower for young adult and mature characters, otherwise male. 50/50 split for middle aged and old characters.
  3. Roll 3d6 for STR, DEX, and CON. Middle aged bodies roll 1d12 for each year past 40 – on a roll of 1 to 3, no attribute loss, otherwise lose a point of STR on a roll of 5, 8, 11, a point of DEX on a roll of 6,9,12 and a point of CON on a roll of 4, 7, 10. Old bodies also lose a point of STR on a roll of 1, DEX on a roll of 2, and CON on a roll of 3.
  4. Replace the “reborn” character’s re-rolled physical abilities with the numbers generated for STR, DEX and CON respectively.
  5. Retain the rest of the character’s INT, WIS and CHA, along with any skills, levels, XP, and class abilities. Hit points can be re-rolled with new CON modifier if any. Gear and equipment remains with the original body!
  6. The Referee must determine who your character has “replaced”. This will generally be a cultist who has offered their soul to Gogmak who has already completed their “great work”, although sometimes it will be a cultist who otherwise offered their soul without such a geas, or perhaps an unfortunate victim of the cult.
  7. There is a 1 in 20 chance that the new body already has a mutation (sustained during the previous occupant’s tenure). If they have a mutation, there is a 1 in 20 chance that they have another, and a 1 in 20 chance that they have another after that, etc.

Teaching D&D to Teens

My kids are young (10 and 8 at time of writing), and so when I run D&D for them and their friends, I feel justified running my preferred iteration of the game: Basic D&D. It’s perfect for kids this age, for whom D&D is their first step into fantasy roleplaying games.

A while ago a friend of mine (who is not a gamer) asked me if I would mind teaching her teenage son how to play D&D. Her teenage son plays a lot of computer games, so I assumed he has a good exposure to computer RPGs already. Of course, I agreed, and then started to ponder what version of the game I should teach him and his friends.

Edition

I love the OSR and TSR’s versions of Basic D&D. But when asked to teach the hobby to somebody else’s kid, a teenager who has a lot more experience with the genre (albeit through the video game world) than my own kids, I hesitated. 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons is either the most popular version of the game ever or the most popular since the early 1980s anyway. It’s the version of the game he has seen played online on Critical Role (maybe I should watch some of that to get an idea of what expectations he may have), and the version of the game that kids his age are going to play. The logic was inescapable – teaching 5th edition gives the best chance for this interest to turn into a long term hobby.

Starter Box or Not?

The next decision to make was whether to use the D&D Starter Box or my own dungeon to introduce the game. I already bought the starter box for my friend to give her son, and I figured the beauty of that boxed set is that it is designed to teach the owner how to DM, not just how to play D&D themselves. I also figured that if and when he wants to DM, he will likely be running a game for the same friends who will be playing in my game. I’d like to leave him the option to run the starter box adventure for them.

Theatre of the Mind vs Miniatures

Next, I had to decide whether it was better to use miniatures or not. On this point, my recent experience running D&D for my own kids and reflections on my own first experiences of the game informed my decision. I used pre-painted miniatures and dungeon tiles to build the dungeon map dynamically and to make combat unambiguous. There’s multiple reasons for this:

  • Miniatures add a visual element to the game.
  • It is difficult for new players to keep the details of where every opponent is in combat in their head. This is why the 1991 starter box I have praised so much came with a complete set of fold-up paper minis and a large battlemat map.
  • Mapping is tough for experienced players and is not really part of the “modern game” of D&D (since 3rd edition if not earlier). Using dungeon tiles will let me reveal the map progressively on the table, as if they are mapping the thing out themselves, without forcing the players to keep maps.
Dungeon Tile Map
Top down shot of the sewer dungeon I created for the game. During play, I revealed this map progressively. Falling (or jumping, or being thrown) into the sewerage provoked a Constitution save to avoid penalties to physical tasks and attacks.

The miniatures seemed to be a big hit with several of the players, and were instrumental in convincing my friend’s daughter to join the game as well. As much as miniatures can seem “superfluous” to many experienced roleplayers, they were extremely important in “selling” D&D to the teens.

Give out XP

Even though this was a one-shot, I gave out XP at the end of play. Several of the players, those who had relevant video gaming experience, were looking forward to XP and were happy to see how close they came to levelling up (it helped that characters need very little XP to reach level 2 in 5e). Honestly, if I was going to do things again, I may even have planned to have a break part-way through to distribute XP, and give out enough XP to let students reach level 2.

Pre-Gens

I used a big variety of pre-gens – mostly from the WotC website but some generated using using Fast Character Maker. The pre-gens were selected to match the pre-painted miniatures I had available. I laid out the character sheets with the corresponding miniatures placed on top of each sheet on the table for the players to make their choices when they arrived. Again, this was about making the character selection visual. I also had a Player’s Handbook on hand and told the players that if they ran their own campaign in the future, they could create characters of their own with the rules in the book.

Play-Time

Much as I would for a con, I planned a very short dungeon, intending to play for 3 to 4 hours. Allowing some time to teach the players the basics about dice and advantage/disadvatnage, some time for some short breaks, and to get going in the first place, we had about 3 hours of actual play. The player characters cleared the sewers of a goblinoid criminal gang, lead by an ogre. There was one casualty, in the very final fight, which was climactic and only served to make the player whose character died even more excited by the game. I couldn’t have managed that on purpose if I tried, but I suppose the lesson I take away is that just because it is the first dungeon doesn’t mean it should be a cakewalk. Most OSR players I know can remember dying, often repeatedly, in their first session, and they stuck with the hobby, so don’t shy away from killing player characters in an exciting final battle

Did it work?

The kids seemed very excited and interested in running their own campaign (using the mini-adventure path in the starter box) by the end of the session. Ultimately, until they actually do that, I won’t declare that the kids are hooked! I know that the morning after I had dozens of WhatsApp messages from my friend about how much both her son and her daughter (whose participation was initially unplanned) enjoyed the game, and how both were planning future adventures, and researching buying funny dice, books and miniatures of their own

Games I want to play: Chivalry & Sorcery – A Song of Ice and Fire

One of the games I own but haven’t played is Chivalry & Sorcery. I have three versions of it:

The games are sorted above from most rules heavy to least. In truth, even Chivalry & Sorcery proper is not so much “rules heavy” as it is “complete”. There’s a lot of detail, but the rules themselves are not terribly complicated to use. Although the game has a distinct 90s feeling to the layout, all the tables and options and details make me enjoy thumbing through the books and think wistfully about playing. Almost all “serious” gamers I know have several games they have never played in their collection, in addition to several they will never play again. I’d really like to play C&S. While these books are currently in that “games I have never played” section of my collection, I’d really like to change that.

One of the regular players in my King Arthur Pendragon campaign made the observation not long after we started to play that the game system could be adapted to be a pretty fun A Song of Ice and Fire roleplaying game. While I am inclined to agree, and spent a few weekends working on a conversion, I eventually stopped working on it for a few reasons:

  • It was hard coming up with regional traits and passions for most regions of the world, frankly.
  • Pendragon’s “killer mechanic” is the personality trait system. In principle this should be great for A Song of Ice and Fire, however, I feel that most players would emphasize the “negative” traits (perhaps because of how salacious the Game of Thrones TV show is), and there would really be minimal social penalty and next to no “literary penalty” to doing so. The world of ASoIaF is more cynical than Arthur’s Britain. In play I suspect there would be less conflict between “positive” and “negative” traits and more simple indulgence of the negative traits.
  • Pendragon also has a defined “downtime” in the Winter Phase. Each session should be 1 year of the campaign, speaking generally. This would mean the whole of the events from King Robert visiting Winterfell to now, for example, would take only a few sessions depending on whether you preferred the book’s pacing or the TV show’s pacing.
  • Pendragon is about playing knights. You can also play ladies. There are more characters from more backgrounds than just those two in ASoIaF.

The more I think about it, the more I think a Pendragon version of ASoIaF would be fun, but not particularly faithful to the source material, which would be one thing if it was D&D, but almost sacrilegious to do to a game so perfect for its source material as Pendragon.

However, C&S seems to address these issues for me rather nicely! I can neatly side-step my difficulty in selecting regional traits etc by leaving those personality details up to the players, the personality trait system would not be present to be abused (replaced with some useful mechanics instead for influence), downtime is more flexible, and you can play any character from any social background. C&S also has a suitably low-key magic system (which would lend itself to tweaking to match the spell casting seen in ASoIaF), so I wouldn’t necessarily need to rule-out player character magicians as Pendragon 5th edition encourages.

So maybe A Song of Ice and Fire is my best shot to find players to play Chivalry & Sorcery with me… we will see!

The Horror of Hull

This is an adventure location from my English Civil War Lamentations of the Flame Princess campaign. It is intended to take place in 1642, and uses the alignment system from England Upturn’d (which you can find on the blog of the module’s author, Barry Blatt, here: http://expanduniver.blogspot.com/2014/04/cavaliers-and-roundheads.html). Some spells from Vaginas Are Magic! are also included.

Background

Kingston-upon-Hull, or Hull, is a town build where the river Hull joins the Humber, in the East Riding of Yorkshire. Its population in 1642 was about 6000 people. On 23 April 1642, the Governor of Hull, Sir John Hotham, refused the King entry to the town, acting on the orders of Parliament to prevent the King from obtaining access to Hull’s arsenal. After fruitless negotiations, King Charles was forced to withdraw without entering the city. In July 1642, the King will lay siege to the town.

Hull, from Wikimedia Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wenceslas_Hollar_-_Hull.jpg

Sympathies

Sir John Hotham, himself a Parliamentarian, estimates that Hull is 5/7 in favour of the King in the present dispute. The wealthy elite, however, embodied by the corporation, is Parliamentarian in its sympathies. The town is mostly moderate (non-separating) Puritan in its religious allegiance, although the previous vicar did succeed in a few “Laudian” projects, including beautifying the churches of St Mary and Holy Trinity.

Key Figures

Historical

Sir John Hotham, 1st Baronet of Scorborough

Level 3 Anglican Fighter, Cavalier Republican, 52 years old

Sir John Hotham has been Governor of Hull once before, that time at the direction of the King. Parliament re-appointed him, and sent him with his son, Captain John Hotham, at the head of a troop of horse, to take control of the city and its defenses, to prevent the arsenal there from falling into the hands of the King.  An old politician-soldier, he is regarded as untrustworthy and duplicitous in the finest tradition of politicians, and hard and heavy-handed in the finest tradition of soldiers. King Charles has pronounced him a traitor.

Captain John Hotham, the Younger

Level 5 Anglican Fighter, Cavalier Republican, 31 years old

John Hotham is an energetic cavalry commander, who fancies himself one of the more capable military officers in England, and believes that the coming war will give him a chance to prove it. He is held in higher esteem by Parliament than is his father, and keeps a close eye on his father’s activities in Hull. Their relationship has become strained by jealousy and distrust.

Reverend William Styles, Vicar of Holy Trinity Church

Level 1 Puritan Cleric, Roundhead Republican, About 40

Reverend Styles has recently been appointed as Vicar of Holy Trinity, having replaced the “Laudian” Reverend Richard Perrott, who died last year. He also holds the office of Lecturer, which comes with a generous wage. His appointment blocked the Archbishop of York from appointing another Laudian cleric. He has not yet removed the “popish idolatry” which Reverend Perrott had re-installed in Hull’s churches as part of the Laudian beautification project, but can nevertheless be relied upon for a zealous sermon in the finest Puritan tradition.

Peregrine Pelham MP

Level 0 Puritan, Roundhead Republican, 40 years old

The second Member of Parliament for Hull (the other member, Sir Henry Vane, is at this time in London serving as Treasurer of the Navy), Pelham is a former merchant and sheriff.

Alderman Henry Barnard

Level 0 Puritan, Roundhead Neutral, About 40

Not a Royalist as such, but as mayor opposed Hotham refusing entry to the King. He was replaced as mayor, but is still part of the core group of aldermen who govern Hull. He resents Sir John Hotham.

Alderman James Watkinson

Level 0 Anglican, Neutral Royalist, 61 years old

A former MP and Hull’s only Royalist Alderman, he was “invited to leave” the town shortly after Hotham refused entry to the King.

Lord George Digby, aka Jacques Berruyer

Level 1 Anglican Fighter, Cavalier Royalist, 39 years old

Intelligence +1, Wisdom -2, Charisma +2

Languages: English, French, Spanish

Lord Digby is a hot-tempered English politician. He is well-educated and accomplished, and very good looking. These should be considerable advantages to a politician, and Lord Digby might make a very good politician if not for his emotional instability. A restless, dashing romantic, Lord Digby has been described by a former friend, the Earl of Clarendon, as “the only man I ever knew of such incomparable parts that was none the wiser for any experience or misfortune that befell him.” Perhaps for this reason, he fled the House of Lords in February just ahead of being arrested for treason by order of Parliament. After sailing to and from the Netherlands, he was captured on his return trip from York to the Queen (presently residing in the Dutch Republic). At this moment, Lord Digby is disguised as a humble French sailor, and is held prisoner at Castle Hull.

At some point (ideally involving the PCs as intermediaries or witnesses), “Jacques” will tell his gaolers, in broken English, that he has some important information to tell the Governor, which will help Parliament. Not long after, he will be interrogated by the Governor, and will secretly reveal his true identity to Sir John Hotham, trusting Hotham not to reveal him further and hand him over to face Parliament’s charge of treason. A few days later, in a further interrogation, Lord Digby will negotiate the surrender of Hull with Hotham, securing Sir John’s agreement that if the King comes again before the town’s gates with a single regiment and fires a single shot against the walls, the Governor will consider his duty towards Parliament discharged and admit the King. Like so many of Lord Digby’s negotiated agreements, this won’t actually pan out, of course, but Sir John Hotham will subsequently allow him to escape and flee to the King at Beverly.

Colonel William Ashburnham

Level 1 Anglican Fighter, Cavalier Royalist, 38 years old

Currently held prisoner in a comfortable castle cell, as befits a gentleman. He was taken prisoner on the same ship as Lord Digby aka Jacques Berruyer, but did not disguise himself. He will happily pay a reward (200sp) to any PC who facilitates his escape, and will add another 50sp if the PCs also affect the escape of his “loyal Frenchman”. If the PCs find out the Frenchman is really Lord Digby, who is wanted by Parliament, Colonel Ashburnham will increase the offered reward for helping both men to escape to a total of 500sp. Naturally, this payment cannot be made until both men are freed and able to escape to the King’s camp.

Mayor Thomas Raikes

Level 0 Puritan, Roundhead Republican, About 40

Newly elected mayor for the second time (last having held the post in 1633), Thomas Raikes is an able administrator and well-respected member of the community.

Alderman John Ramsden

Level 0 Puritan, Roundhead Neutral, 30 years old

A relatively junior alderman from a wealthy merchant family, who lives near St Mary’s Church. He imports exotic goods from the continent (Amsterdam mostly) and sold Richard Fox the Malleus Deus, Tales of the Scarecrow, and the Sword which is Uncertain.

Fictional

Elizabeth Mawson

Level 5 Anglican Magic-User, Roundhead Neutral, 32 years old

Armour 12, 12 hp, Morale 9, Strength -1, Intelligence +2, Wisdom +1, Charisma +2

Spell book

Level 1: Goat Perversion, Charm Person, Summon, Hold Portal, Sleep, Shield, Spider Climb

Level 2: Change Self, Magic Mouth, Levitate, Speak with Animals, Phantasmal Force, Force of Forbidment, Knock, Stinking Cloud

Level 3: Howl of the Moon, Speak with Dead

Spells typically Memorized

Charm Person, Shield, Spider Climb, Change Self, Speak with Animals, Howl of the Moon

Elizabeth Mawson is the last survivor of a coven of witches which operated in the East Riding of Yorkshire. When Yorkshire was beset by plague in the late 1630s, many blamed the onset of the dreadful disease on witches. Hull was devastated by the plague in 1637, during the previous term as governor of Sir John Hotham. Most of Elizabeth’s coven was caught up in the subsequent persecutions, and after being interrogated under torture, were tried and hanged to the jeers of townsfolk eager to be avenged for the loss of their loved ones to the plague. More information can be found in this hand-out. Elizabeth fled the town and has spent the last five years seeking the proper spells to help affect her revenge. Now that Sir John Hotham is back, so is she.

Already in turmoil, having found itself the playing board for the opening moves of the English Civil War, wrought by political disunity, Hull has another enemy within its walls – a werewolf, or so assume the townsfolk. Almost every night, Elizabeth casts Howl of the Moon upon an unsuspecting man, who spends much of the rest of the evening running through the streets of Hull, howling at the moon and attacking people like a wild animal. When morning breaks, Elizabeth’s unwitting instrument has no knowledge of what he has done (although the blood on his hands and teeth should really be a strong indicator that they did something terrible), and the people of Hull find new victims lying dead in their streets.

D&D For Kids: The Sanctuary of Elwyn

As I mentioned late last year, I have started running Basic D&D for kids (specifically, my kids, two of their friends, and one of their friend’s dad, who is a gamer too). The ages range from 8 to 11. We play in short sessions (approximately 2 hours), fortnightly. After our first 3 sessions, we just finished our first dungeon, The Sanctuary of Elwyn the Ardent as it appears in In Search of Adventure. I’m posting here a few of my “lessons learned”!

B-Series Modules are HARD

Personally I like that these modules are truly dangerous, but they’re hard for adult players, let alone kids. In The Sanctuary of Elwyn the Ardent the party of brand new level 1 characters fought a black dragon, and several monsters which could only be damaged with magical weapons (only one of which they found in the dungeon prior to defeating the eponymous Elwyn). These are not appropriate challenges for the typical level 1 party in Basic D&D! I needed to allow the party to damage the monsters even without magic weapons, and more or less ignore the damage the black dragon’s breath needed to do, just to allow the party a chance of progress. There was still a casualty, and plenty of things which should have been casualties, which leads me to…

Hit Points

I let anyone who rolled a 1 or a 2 on their hit die re-roll their hit points. I also didn’t declare characters dead at 0 hit points – instead, they just fell unconscious at this point, and if they could be healed at the end of the combat back to positive territory, they survived. Finally, I allowed characters on 0 hit points to recover 1d3 hit points after being successfully treated with a successful roll under the Intelligence of the character giving first aid (basically borrowing something like the Healing skill from Rules Cyclopedia). By the book (1991 Black Box Basic D&D), I should have done none of these things, but if I didn’t, nobody would have survived.

Armour

Any character who is proficient with plate armour who can afford the measly 60gp it costs when they create their characters should buy it. Demihumans are all proficient with heavy armour. The few player characters who started with lighter armour despite their proficiency with plate instantly bought plate upon their return to Threshold at the end of the first dungeon.

The Adventure Flow Chart may be wrong

While all the B-series modules are tough, as mentioned above, The Sanctuary of Elwyn the Ardent includes some monsters which a brand new party literally cannot hit. This despite the fact that it is the first dungeon in one of the pathways on this flow chart:

Yes well in fairness it doesn’t say that all pathways are actually survivable…

I’ll bear this in mind for future adventures!

Does Old = Old School?

When I think of old school play, I think of freedom, exploration, meaningful choices, and of course dangerous dungeons. The Sanctuary of Elwyn the Ardent ticks the last one of these, but as a dungeon it is entirely linear – it is just a spiral of rooms and connecting corridors, bringing the characters closer to Elwyn after funneling them through encounter after encounter. The main trap involves the party exploring a particular area which they will only explore if they find a treasure map showing them to explore that area. There’s no way really to get the treasure without falling into the trap, but it is not too deadly a trap anyway. The whole experience is very linear and there are not many meaningful choices for players to make. This is why the inclusion of so many monsters which can only be damaged by magic weapons is frustrating and simply has to be ignored by the referee – there is no way to avoid fighting most of these monsters!

Most irritating of all, the module includes a number of secret doors on the map but tells you not to allow the party to detect them otherwise the dungeon will be anticlimactic. This is true, it would be anticlimactic, and it is easy to fudge failed rolls searching for secret doors if you are rolling behind a screen, since this is always a type of roll which the referee should be making anyway. But it just irritates me – I have players who created characters with the ability to detect secret doors and they are being cautious and searching for them. This is really the only element of player skill to the dungeon exploration component of such a linear dungeon, where even mapping is more or less redundant, but it’s completely nullified by needing to fudge the rolls. I ended up allowing the party to detect the secret doors when their rolls indicated they could, because it just felt wrong otherwise, but then I ruled the doors were locked and could only be opened from the inside, so they couldn’t short cut straight to the end, but I still found this deeply unsatisfying. The players, being kids, didn’t seem to mind too much though, they all had a lot of fun.

Treasure!

There’s a lot of treasure to be found in this dungeon, and a lot of treasure in the way of rewards offered to the party by the Church of Karameikos. Even only giving XP for the former and not the latter, there was enough treasure for all 5 player characters to level up. The cleric even reached level 3 (oh, this reminds me of another way I broke the rules – I allowed the characters to level up during the dungeon since we played across three sessions). That’s a lot of gold they can spend back in Threshold!

Resources for the Weird Fantasy English Civil War

As mentioned in earlier blog posts, my Lamentations of the Flame Princess campaign is set during the English Civil War, starting as it did with the excellent England Upturn’d module published by LotFP by Barry Blatt. I thought I’d post here a collection of online resources which I have found very useful for my campaign. I hope it is useful and/or informative to people who might be interested in using the setting as the basis for their own campaign.

England Upturn’d

Barry Blatt’s England Upturn’d is a great module and campaign resource for any English Civil War campaign. Even if you don’t intend to start your campaign with the adventure in this book, you should start your planning for an English Civil War campaign as the referee with this book. Its appendices alone are filled with great material about alignment, religion, equipment, etc. I happen to think that of all the LotFP modules published since the publisher decided to go with the “Early Modern” era setting, England Upturn’d does the best job of actually showing how to merge D&D into history.

Get it in print or in PDF from the LotFP store: http://www.lotfp.com/store/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=232

The author of the module, Barry Blatt, has a blog with numerous helpful blog posts with resources and the like. I link to a few posts here and you can dig around and find others (mostly made during 2015 and 2014):

Other Adventure Modules

I have used quite a few other adventure modules which are either explicitly set in the English Civil War, or require trivial adaptation to make them set during the English Civil War:

  • Sirenswail by Dave Mitchell (buy it on Lulu: http://www.lulu.com/shop/dave-mitchell/sirenswail/paperback/product-22828699.html) is explicitly set during the English Civil War
  • Forgive Us by Kelvin Green (PDF from DriveThru via my affiliate link) is set in England two decades before the war – easy to update
  • Tales of the Scarecrow by James Raggi IV (PDF from DriveThru via my affiliate link) is easy to drop into any field in England
  • The God that Crawls by James Raggi IV (PDF from DriveThru via my affiliate link) is set in England several decades before the war – easy to update (just watch that you update the page on monarchs and Archbishops of Canterbury if your players actually thumb through these papers in detail)
  • The Tower of the Stargazer by James Raggi IV (PDF from DriveThru via my affiliate link) can be incorporated too. I include it here because my own campaign was heavily influenced by it not because it is necessarily particularly English Civil War themed.

Some of the other LotFP adventures may be “OK” as well, but I am unconvinced about their viability to be set in England in the early 17th century largely for religious grounds. For example, No Salvation for Witches seems to me to require a convent and nuns and is set in England in 1620, but these should be mutually incompatible from an historical perspective. Other modules which are not specifically set in early 17th Century England but which incorporate religious orders have the same issue. You might want to go with these modules anyway in your campaign depending on how much attention you’re paying to those details, or just modify the religious orders to something lower key to suit the Laudian Church of England.

Maps

There are a good number of period maps available for free online which will look good at your table, whether it is virtual like mine, or physical.

My main source of campaign kingdom and regional maps was recommended to me by Barry Blatt: John Speed’s maps (circa 1610)

I also make heavy use of historical city maps from other sources which I mostly retrieved on Google:

  • Maps and views of London and Westminster and surrounds
  • British History Online has lots of floor plans of historic buildings from all around England. This particular example page has the floor plan of Kimbolton Castle (recently looked up when my players decided they wanted to kill the Earl of Manchester)
  • After England Upturn’d your players might want to travel north to Hull to witness the first (albeit abortive) military action of the Civil War.

English Civil War Readings

I’ve used a variety of sources about England in the lead up to and during the Civil War. Wikipedia is great if you know exactly who and what you are looking up, but not so great to get a general sense of events and areas. These are more useful resources to familiarise yourself with the Civil War itself, and with topics like the treatment of magic in Early Modern England:

  • Cavaliers and Roundheads – I have it in paperback. It’s a good overview of the war.
  • Civil War: The Wars of the Three Kingdoms – Another book, bigger and broader and covers Ireland and Scotland too, in case your campaign goes beyond England.
  • BCW Project – probably the best overall layman’s resource I have found online for the Civil War
  • Gaskill, M. (2008). The Pursuit of Reality: Recent Research into the History of Witchcraft. The Historical Journal, 51(4), pp1069–1088. Retrieved from URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20175215
  • Kassell, L. (2006). “All Was This Land Full Fill’d of Faerie,” or Magic and the past in Early Modern England. Journal of the History of Ideas, 67(1), pp107-122. Retrieved from URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3840402

My Own Resources

I’ve already posted some of my own resources developed for my Civil War campaign, which I link to here for convenience:

I have developed some other things too which I am still working on and will post as they are completed.