Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Lower Bailey Gate

The gate is at the upper left.

B & F are wide lanes, cobblestones but mostly dirt paths.

G is the pasture.

This is on the edge of town, where the houses are widely spaced apart; in the town proper, the roads would not be five hexes wide (more like two).

With party placement:

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Arnsberg: Gravedigging and Vigils

September 10, 1650, Wednesday late afternoon
Weather: pleasant with sunny conditions and a light breeze

The conditions are as fine as you could wish for in September.  It may very well be the last truly warm day in the year; the afternoon is so warm that it's uncomfortable to wear too much clothing.  It spat rain for a bit in the morning, but the overcast skies before noon have cleared up and there isn't a cloud in the sky.

Not that the gravediggers are happy.  They've been hard at work all day laying bodies into the prepared ground.  The Bishop has had a stable removed and the ground prepared, and stone cutters have been busy since Tuesday cutting and chiseling stones as best they can.  The more complex work, they say, will be done after - for now the names are being roughed out.

The town has been busy making candles, dressing the buildings in black, washing themselves and praying.  Word has come down that in respect for the dead no one should laugh, no one should participate in any games or drink, and that even speaking unnecessarily should be viewed as an act of disrespect.  Most people in the town are adhering to this; those who are not cannot be found to be seen disobeying.

Ahmet, Melchior and crew make their way out to the Font to discover the tomb and the ground around has been caved in.  There's about 40 feet of collapsed stone, mostly limestone, but the top of the stairs can be seen.  The mining skills of both players comes into use; there's a small place where the air from the cavern inside can be marginally detected; with the help of 10 or 20 sappers, plus rope and equipment, a passage might be cleared by Friday afternoon.  In the meantime, the blocks are too large for the party to move, and no way inside is evident.

The graves have been undisturbed.  There's no emanation of evil that Melchior can detect, which would suggest the two ghouls were the only ones likely to rise here.

What have I forgotten?  Ah, the vigil is to begin at sundown, when the lower castle will be opened up to the visitors.  They will be allowed inside the Lower Bailey with a bare minimum of clothing; there are to be no weapons, and no food or drink - the vigil is to be a fast lasting the whole night.  The guards will be examining those who enter, but its not expected that this will be problematic, as most do not intend to wear heavy clothing or even cloaks.

Here's an image:  not the best, but I'll probably improve it over the next few weeks.  This should suffice to get a 3-D picture of the place.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Return to Arnsberg, Two Days Before the Vigil

September 9, 1650, Tuesday, Evening
Weather: cool, with low clouds and a high wind,

The party will be happy to know it did not rain today.  However, the temperature never improved above being cool (50s F, 10-15 C), despite the sky clearing during the early afternoon.  With all the wet on the ground, the ride was just nasty and unpleasant, and you all arrive in Arnsberg chilled to the bone.  The high wind, blustering and 30 mph, isn't helping a bit.

Things have changed somewhat.  Posters have been plastered throughout the town that there is to be a service for the victims of the mine disaster on Thursday the 11th, which is to include a candlelight vigil that is to last all night until Friday morning.

The Inn is not quite full, and there is space in the common room - which is quite full of peasants from the countryside.  They are quite unhappy, and not disposed to conversation OR strangers.  In recognition of the disaster, the Barmistress has opened all the private rooms to common traffic, so that every room has quite a number in it.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Soest the Broken

September 8, 1650, Evening
Weather:  pleasant, with an intermittent drizzle and a gentle breeze

For Ahmet and Lukas, the rain does not diminish.  With winter coming on, the weather is just miserable in the mountains.  For Andrej and Melchior, climbing up to Soest, the mist in the mountains worsens as they pass Hesse, turn at the little Inn on the road and make their way to their destination.

The drizzle in the morning is steady, and intermittent throughout the rest of the day.  The night again was brisk.  There are unmistakable signs of winter coming:  the trees have turned to gold and red, the fields (which the party from Munster sees) are all stubble now, though in a number of places farmers are planting winter potatoes (these were transported from the New World by the druids some five hundred years ago, so they are quite normal to people).

Soest is surrounded by woodland and dumpy hills.  It is quite a large town, with well over 600 buildings and sits on a round, flat plain.  The walls are enormous, with many bastions - but these are shattered and show fire and destruction in many places.  Soest was damaged and ruined by the German War, and there are no signs of reconstruction here (the picture would be old).  Unlike other places you've seen, there is no reconstruction here.  In fact, ruined seige engines, as tall as forty feet, lay wrecked and abandoned.  There are piles of stone at the sides of the road next to broken and destroyed mangonels; rotted timbers; and piles of animal bones next to the town fields.  Grass and grain stubble show that the fields have been planted around these hazards, rather than efforts taken to remove them.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Way to Soest

Sunday, September 7, 1650
Weather:  Brisk temperatures and an intermittent storm, with a high wind

You cannot help but wonder if you should be travelling upon this, or any road today.  The weather is slightly warmer than chilly ('brisk' would be in the 40s), but after last night's steady storm, the drizzle that lasted until morning, the storm that is just relenting as the party in Arnsberg gets themselves packed - the sky still threatening above - the road is unimaginably sloppy and unpleasant.  The road bound for Hamme is no better, which the party can see as both roads fork from west of town.  The blustering wind blows from the North-Northeast, directly against the party.

Worse (and this is presuming the party goes ahead anyway, tramping along with their horses rather than daring to ride and breaking a horse's leg), after the morning has passed with one last brief storm that breaks the wind at last (it settles to a still, light air), the party passes three staggered wagonfulls of dead men bound south for Arnsberg, some ten minutes apart, driven by sullen, unhappy drivers.  The third wagon passes, making nearly sixty dead bodies in all.

Sunday Breakfast

Sunday, September 7, 1650
Weather: chilly temperatures and low clouds, with a fresh breeze

The wind has shifted to the Northeast, and the early morning hours reflect a nasty chilliness which, if it were to be measured, would show on a thermometer to be in the high 30s (F) or about 4 (C).  Melchior shivers near the main entrance, and is in any case awoken before the dawn, and hustled to a bench by the fire in the kitchen, where he's fed a warm broth for breakfast.

This hustling occurs as the house is entered.  The first that Andrej hears about it is as he is shaken awake by Emmanuel.  "Master, Master, the Mistress of the house is here."  The Mistress is, of course, Serafina.  She enters the front of the house with four guardsmen and her maids in waiting, and is little more than glimpsed at by Melchior before she ascends the staircase to the second floor.

She is, at present, in the doorway of Andrej's room.  She is smiling, as Andrej awakes tightly bound in his blankets.  "It is amazing to me that you do not snore, father.  Is that a trait among half-orcs?"

Serafina won't wait for an answer to that.  "I see you've collected another fellow to add to the cause," she says.  "He seems a fair fellow, something of a looker, but his choice to sleep in the front hall baffled me and my entourage.  Does he not know that only a great fool would consider storming a noble palace without order?  The blood that descends afterwards is enough deterrent.  My new husband wishes to do the same, now, and he has obtained the permission of the Archbishop of Mainz to do so - and the Archbishop has the Emperor's ear.  So rouse yourself, come downstairs.  I have come with instructions.  Eberhardt has sent your friends to Soest, and you shall need to go find them.  I shall go downstairs now and see how your new friend is faring with breakfast."

Serafina will indeed find Melchior in the kitchen.  Melchior, you are somewhat struck by her; she is a most unusual woman.  She shows no fear of you, though you're a stranger.  She shows no resentment nor disturbance to find you, a stranger, in her house.  In fact, she is somewhat amused by it.  "We have become a wayfarer's inn, Mags," she says.

The cook, bustling about and ignoring Melchior, replies, "Yes Ma'am.  But they're good lookin' types, with strong backs."

"Strong indeed," smirks Serafina.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Lukas & Melchior's Cards



A few comments about the cards in general.

It's been difficult online to express how the cards are used.  There is a tendency to view them as a kind of 'weapon,' or magic spell.  I want to persuade Jack to take off his armor.  It seems natural to use my persuasion card, tell him to take off his armor, roll a successful die and boom-bada-bing!  Off the armor goes, right?

Wrong.  People do not interact that way.  Magic interacts that way, but conversation does not.  While I was testing this, among about thirty people, this was inherently understood.  I must ascribe that to my many statements in person where I made clear you couldn't simply shout at people to do ridiculous things and have them obeyed.  Offline, people 'got it,' jumped in and talked quite normally, as though to actual people, and the cards worked beautifully.  Better than I expected, actually.

So there had to be something about explaining this in person that got the message across, which I can't seem to manage online.

I want to throw out a reminder.  I gave up on these.  I decided that although I could make them work, in the long run they didn't add that much to my campaign.  I decided it was going to be a losing venture regarding trying to sell them, and wouldn't be worth the production cost.  I am really, really glad about this.  Watching and reading some of the feedback I've gotten, I'm certain I have dodged a bullet.

Basically, the disconnect appears to be: what can the cards do for me, if they do not allow me to manipulate NPCs?

To which my only answer can be, if you insist on manipulating everyone to the nth degree all the time, by drawing out your persuade card and using it on the bartender for a free drink, and on the stable keeper for free provender for your horse, and on the merchant for 20% off goods, and so on and so forth ... all of this is going to slowly and steadily build up one hell of a lot of resentment for your character.  Why?  Because unlike magic, persuasion as a conversational style does not work quite so well when people have had time to think about what you've said.  Again, why?  Because, sorry to say, the players do NOT exist in a vacuum.

Let's take the case of the bartender.  After you've gotten your free drink, and jested him into having a generally good attitude about your presence, and after you've walked out and been on your way, what then?  Why, the bartender tells his wife all about you.  She finds out about you not paying your way, and she isn't influenced by your wonderful persuasion.  She's furious.  And she yells at the bartender, using her persuasion, and now he's pissed.  Then the bartender's wife talks to the stable keeper's wife, and they talk to the merchant's wife, and next thing you know everyone in town knows what a smooth-talking CHEAP rat bastard you are.  Hope you're heading out of town soon.

Yes, players don't think this way.  They don't because worlds aren't built this way.  Worlds are built like clapboard fronts, and if you act like a cheap rat bastard, the only people who notice are those you're affecting this minute.  There are no after effects.  Ever.

Yet when I say this, now I have players afraid to use their persuasion cards ... oh no, there'll be reprecusions I can't dream of and then I'm fucked.

Everyday you try to persuade people of things, and you're not fucked when you succeed.  Why?

Because you know in your mind, your actual, real mind, that there are potential reprecussions to everything we do.  And we're careful.  Sure, we make a suggestion here or there, but when we want something, we look at it instinctively from the other guy's point of view.  We don't ask for free liquor.  We 'suggest' that since we've bought four already, perhaps the guy might make the fifth one free.  We don't stupidly push everyone around with our talking skills.  We approach things with the idea that both parties should walk away from this happy.

If you pull the cards out like a sword, someone will start swining back sooner or later.

If, on the other hand, you see the cards as a 'sale' or a 'con' or a negotiation, everyone can walk away happy.  Even if they lose.

My failing with these things is that I never set out a set of negative modifiers that would automatically destroy attempts to get stuff the NPC was never going to give you.  Why?  The reason should be obvious.  Just exactly on what do you base this group of modifiers?

So I took it from an all or nothing point of view.  If you asked for something the NPC wasn't going to give, period, the cards would fail, period.  You had to word your proposal in a manner that would at least stand a reasonable chance of success, or no dice.  Literally.  I'd say no, and you wouldn't roll the dice.

I didn't see this as fundamentally different from having to have a roleplaying-based conflict approach where there were NO rules ... but I was wrong.  As soon as I introduced rules, a certain segment of the population immediately attempted to cheat those rules.  No matter how that fucked with logic or practicality.  I put a sword in their hands, and by GOD they were going to use it, exactly like some dumb ass 3e skill or magic power.  I wave my fucking hands and the bartender signs his bar over to me!  Look, I rolled an 11!

Yep.  Dodged one bullet.

Friday, February 17, 2012

A Dark and Stormy Night in Arnsberg

Saturday, September 6, 1650, evening
Weather: balmy temperatures and a steady storm, with a high wind.

In answer to Lukas' question, the bar mistress remarks that you can't expect farmers to come out in a night like this.  The party is the only regular denizens of the inn at present, all others having left town that morning and no new guests having arrived.  Arnsberg is not that large a town, and it is off the main trade routes.

The storm is such that you probably would not wish to be on the road right now.  It has not relented in hours, according to the bar mistress, and doesn't look like its going to relent.

However, after having had a meal, and warmed by the fire, and discussed quietly your plans, there is a banging knock on the Inn door (the bar mistress locked it to strengthen the door against the wind).

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Carolina's Tale

Saturday, September 6, 1650, evening
Weather: balmy temperatures and sunny conditions, with a light air.

With the evening sun setting, the weather is fabulous for the time of year.  Carolina lies in a bed beneath a window, which Fatima has opened for her, and the odor of the cut fields and the turning leaves settles in the still air.  Carolina looks much better than she did in the dungeon, but her skin is loose and there is discoloring about her eyes.  Fatima has a damp cloth pressed to Carolina's forehead, to reduce her sweating.

Carolina will tell Andrej and Melchior a terrible tale.  She tells of how her family in Pomerania were slaughtered; how she was sold into slavery and shipped in a wood-and-iron box across Germany, bound and gagged.  She tells how she was fed on sewer water and maggoty bread, not because there was no better, but because it pleased her captors to torment her thus.  She tells of how she was stripped and branded and ultimately presented to the Bishop in a house she knew not where, and how the Bishop and his followers raped her repeatedly.  She tells of how she was put in a dungeon with other women, and how she heard their screams at night as each had their turn over the many months Carolina was imprisoned.  She tells of how she was brought again to be the personal toy of the Bishop on this last trip.  She tells of how she had surrendered her own life, and had tried to murder the Bishop with a butter knife ... and how the Bishop gleefully decided to leave her chained in the dungeon to die.

The details are horrible, and difficult to hear.  Fatima cannot bear to stay for much of it, and takes her leave ... only to return again and stiffly hear the rest as she tends Carolina.

At the end, Carolina confesses her sins to Andrej; how she did not treat her brother as well as she should; how she lusted after the boy who tended the machinery at the mill; and how she was not as respectful to her mother as she should have been (Andrej would be required to give her penance, but a single Hail Mary would be enough).

Finally, Carolina tells Melchior and Andrej that fear of discovery drove the Bishop to Arnsberg.  At Arnsberg he intends there to gather forces to help the French attack from Alsace into Julich and the Rhineland.  He is raising money through his Bankers in Munich and Venice to give to the French, and to help them accomplish and invasion that will destroy the Houses of Nassau and Luxembourg.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Munster Cathedral Dungeons

Saturday, September 6, 1650, midday
Weather: pleasant temperatures and clear conditions, with a moderate breeze

As Andrej descends the stairs, he takes note that there has been some recent disturbance.  Past the point of his first descent, he finds that the rock shows that perhaps three or four persons, with no signs of having been armored, have descended and climbed this stairwell in the last week.  This seems surprising, for it suggests that no one who labors beneath - a jailer, say - comes out of the dungeons on a regular, daily basis.

The circular staircase turns until it faces the west, some 22 feet below the floor of the nave.  The wall of the roof is cut right from natural stone; the floor and walls have been constructed of mortar and flagstone.

There are three stairwells from this point, all descending from a small circular chamber about 8 feet in diameter.  One to the north, one to the south and one to the west.  The human-made marks on in the dust show the passage to the west was entered.  There's been some disturbance in the dust of the other two passages, but made by someone with odd, narrow feet - perhaps seven inches long, and two inches wide, curved in an inward-turning semicircle.  Not human feet at all, not even those of a child.  There are quite a number of these steps, indicating something has passed into all 'three dungeons' perhaps twenty times in the last three months (judging by the dust).

The stairs in all three wells go down a long way; the candle shows the first fifteen feet or so, but beyond that it is blackness.

The Font's Secret Passage

Saturday, September 6, 1650, early afternoon
Weather: with pleasant temperatures and a brief drizzle, with a fresh breeze (18-24 m.p.h.)

The drizzle has begun to break up some, and the wind 'freshened,' as the party descends into the tomb stairwell.  The sound of dripping water becomes evident immediately as you brush aside the caltrops from your path.  The stairs descend some twenty feet before dwindling into a set of small, natural rock ledges, which are part of a natural cave.  Nine-toes, having lit the torch, now tries to hold it high so as to diminish the shadow cast by Ahmet's bulky frame, which blots out much immediately in front of the fighter.  Meanwhile, the great drops of water fall from the ceiling like fattened rain.

The tunnel is narrow, but six feet wide, but with a roughed out flattened surface, somewhat muddy.  It is evident to Ahmet's eyes (upon taking the torch himself, so he can see his own feet) that there has been a great deal of traffic through here lately.  The mud (mixed with clay) shows things have been dragged through it; it shows the footsteps of armed men (humans), and of someone with small, bare feet (too small to be human, but wide and with nubby toes).

Then, as the tunnel widens into a natural cave formation, some twenty-feet wide with an seven foot high roof - dripping everywhere, and pools formed in every shallow place amid the mud and hundreds of stumpy stalagmites (the stalactites are but a few inches long) - Ahmet catches sight of footprints that appear to have been made by a large dog ... with two inch claws.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Morning in Arnsberg

Saturday, September 6, 1650, morning

Weather: with cool temperatures and a steady drizzle, with a moderate breeze.
You wake to find the day is not particular pleasant.  You walk yourselves across town, taking note that Arnsberg appears to run some distance along a valley with a small stream (not large enough to appear on the map on your right), with low hills on either side.  The castle would be on the east hill, and the Arsbergerwald upon the far side of said hill.  You thus walk up the valley, circle around the edge of town and come to a large pasture ... the "backyard" that Thomas the groom spoke of.
You can see a brook running through the edge of the pasture, along the inside of the fence upon which you're standing on, and a stone wall on the other side, running up the hill from the bottomland to where it meets the castle, about 300 feet above you.  The pic is a bit dim.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Wedding in Munster

Saturday, September 6, 1650, midday
Weather: pleasant temperatures and clear conditions, with a moderate breeze

Once again, the morning proved to be quite brisk, and Andrej found himself a bit chilled in the huge stone edifice of the church.  He woke, found himself served a hot broth for breakfast, with boiled potatoes and leeks, with milk heated until it was scalding for warm.  He found that by wrapping his hands around the stoneware vessel holding the milk, he was quite resusitated from a long and frigid night, short on sleep.

Soon the cathedral is again a hive of activities.  The carpentry completed, a host of decorators set about as the sun rises setting cushions upon seats, hanging banners and tapestries and cloths, sprinkling drifts of flowers upon the floors and hanging woven garlands, stringing hundreds of yards of unseasonal poppies, crocuses, edelweiss and peonies overhead, grown especially for the ceremony by a flock of druids, mages and their apprentices.  A small cluster of men set about spellcasting unusual, living motifs upon the stone surfaces - these are illusionists, and they leave behind them long enduring phantasms of saints observing from on high, sheep chewing contentedly on outstretched lawns, odd and beautiful congregations of unicorns and lions laying next to one another in comfort and luxuriant embrace ... and more blooming flowers, with two great blooming cherry trees with embracing limbs draping high over the altar.

In time, Andrej finds himself going through the ritual of being dressed, as the guests are allowed into the church, separately grouped.  A great drape has been extended across the width of the church nearer to the nave than the principle door, so that at least three quarters of those present will not be able to see the ceremony, but only hear it.  Both groom and bride will walk up the long aisle, so these people will see both enter, and will not see them again until the ceremony is completed.  And as such, it is they who are let in first, to watch the parade of nobles and landholders who will come after them, coming up the aisle in their turn before the bride and groom.

The church warms as the gathering grows, literally in their thousands, and a low mumble transcends through all the rooms and vaults of the church, even to the point that Andrej can feel the thrumming through his very feet.  As pound after pound of vestment is weighed upon his shoulder, he is reminded of tales about purgatory, where the prideful are forced to walk for a long age in lead cloaks, until such a time as their souls may be burned clean.   He is dressed, and wigged, and dusted with perfume and with powder, and blessed by the Prefect who was meant to perform the ceremony, and blessed by the Prior whose title declares him the stand-in for the Patriarch of the Church, who cannot be here because he is fighting wars in Courland, and sprinkled with holy water and fed three holy wafers and three long sips of wine from the communion chalice, gold and encrusted with a hundred blue turquoise and a three dozen minute diamonds.  The prefect asks for the seventh time if Andrej understands the ceremony - showing his doubt of Andrej's ability to carry this forth, and giving hint of being ready to step in should Andrej fail - and upon receiving it steps back with a bow and allows matters to proceed unabated.

At last, the cathedral guests are ready, and the groom is ready, and Andrej makes his approach to the altar, where he will stand awaiting for the groom, and then the bride, to march towards him.

The curtain is parted so that Andrej can see Eberhardt come from the far right corner and begin the long, hundred-and-fifty foot halting march down the length of the church, stepping first with the right, then bringing his left to match it, and stepping forth with the right again.  He is adorned in an ermine cloak and rich yellow velvet jacket, with a black pearl-encrusted doublet and skirt.  He looks completely comfortable, the great white feather upon his enormous beret keeping time with his feet, his arms ready and strong at his sides, as though breasting a great storm but unperturbed by it.  A steady rain of comments upon his person and position sprinkles from the guests nearest to Andrej.  Eberhardt takes no notice, and does not even look at Andrej until the very last moment, when he gives the very least hint of a smile.

There are a hundred musicians, and a great trumpet of music sends a wave of standing guests through the whole of the cathedral, as the great doors open and let the sun in, and from the far left walks Serafina.  She is completely covered, naturally, but her dress and veil are a dazzling brilliant white, catching the sunlight then eclipsing it as she crosses in front of the door.  Eberhardt turns to look as the music changes and she begins her way up the aisle, a cloud of wondrous white linen and silk flowing outwards from her delicate, comparatively tiny self, evident only in the narrow waist she presents as she paces her way forward.  The crowd first expresses suprise, and then is inordinately hushed, so that the music plays clear and unchallenged throughout her sojourn ... and Andrej himself cannot help but feel a pain in his own heart to look at her.

He recovers, however, as Serafina moves to stand next to Eberhardt, and he manages the first matters of the ceremony with little trouble; the guests are seated, the greeting is given, the assembly invited to repent of their sins, and the Gloria is sung.

Andrej speaks the Opening Prayer, and the First Reading is given from the Song of Solomon.  The choir of a hundred and fifty rise to sing the responsorial psalm, and the second reading follows, as from Corinthians as specified.  The assembly stands for the Gospel, which then Andrej reads.

Then this is followed by the Homily, which Andrej proceeds to give ...

Reaching Arnsberg at night.

Friday, September 5, Night
Weather:  pleasant temperatures and clear conditions, with a moderate breeze

The overcast weather breaks up as you reach Arnsberg, somewhat gloomy as night comes.  In the moonlight, you can make out the town, and upon the hill you recognize the image that Eberhardt had open upon his table.

It will cost you each 3 s.p. to enter into the walls, if you so wish.  To the right of the town, you will see a small cluster of houses outside the walls, where likely you might find an Inn (use the prices on the Munster table - they will not be substantially different).