20 Port Town Encounters

Port towns are a hotbed of activity, most of which is centred around the sea since that’s where most people make their livelihood.

Below is a D20 table of random encounters that can be used to inject some life into the coastal towns and villages in your campaign.

Please note: Each of these would benefit from a bit of elaboration by the GM, nor do they apply specific game mechanics.

No.Description
1There is a cursing and swearing as a man unloading a boat drops a crate of fish and it spills all over the docks.
2A group of children are sat at the waters edge throwing stones, they've seen everything that has occurred in the area during the day and might be persuaded to part with the information.
3A smuggler runs through the dock area, leaping over crates and upending barrels as he tries to flee from the pursuing town guard.
4A battered ship limps into harbour, it is barely afloat and shows signs of having been attacked. Anyone speaking to the crew find out that their vessel was set upon by a pirate vessel flying the banner of a red skeletal hand.
5A bumper crops of fish have recently been hauled in, forcing down prices.
6High winds have roused the sea into a crashing frenzy of waves that lash the harbour, most locals have retreated to the safety of their homes or a tavern to wait for it to blow over, giving the dock area an eerie deserted feel.
7A local peddler is attempted to sell a seal-skin that he claims was taken from a Selkie, a creature that looks like a large seal but can become human by removing it's seal-skin coat.
8A ship's captain has a cargo if wine barrels that he needs loading, he's looking for some cheap labour willing to do the job in a hurry.
9The sound of a cannon rings out as a local sea-fortress marks the hour.
10A group of local folk are busily throwing wreathes of flowers into the sea, mourning the deaths of a boat of their kin lost in a recent storm.
11Due to a recent rise in smuggling there is a higher concentration of guards than normal in the port, causing great annoyance to the merchants as every consignment is being stopped and searched.
12A ship's Captain chases a bedraggled man clutching a red stone off his ship, the man attempts to bargain with the Captain claiming that he desperately needs passage, but it is to no avail.
13A small fleet of ships is gathering in the harbour, planning to go and hunt the dread pirate Robert Rawbones.
14An agitator loudly protests the recent rise in import taxes, a crowd is gathering around him and it wouldn't take much for this scene to turn into a riot.
15An old, mutilated sailor sits by the dockside staring wistfully out at the sea, for a few pennies he'll tell a story from his extensive store of old naval tales.
16A group of young sailors enjoying some shore-leave stand clapping one of their fellows as he plays a medley of popular sea shanties on his harmonica.
17A crowd of people are working on the shore to carve up and cart away the body of a large whale that washed up recently, scars along it's side attest to a terrible sea battle.
18A merchant stands beside a small stall that claims contains the body of a mermaid. For a small fee, passers by are allowed into the stall to view the shrivelled, preserved body of a creature resembling a combination of small monkey and fish.
19A group of merchants have arrived from a foreign land bringing unusual foods and trinkets with them, they unroll their wares from carpets at the dockside, to the astonishment of the locals.
20A fist-fight erupts between two groups of inebriated sailors, if nothing occurs to prevent it, after a few minutes the town guard turn up and break up the fight, dragging the worst offenders away to the town drunk-tank.

How like the Midderlands is Rose of Westhaven?

As I’ve mentioned in my main campaign page, our Rose of Westhaven campaign is heavily influenced by Monkey Blood Design’s Midderlands OSR campaign setting and bestiary, I wanted to jot down some notes about how far that inspiration goes.

Campaign Genesis

The Rose of Westhaven first started germinating as a campaign idea after I picked up a copy of Lamentations of the Flame Princess, the OSR game written by James Raggi. I’d steered clear of it previously because–every time I saw people talking about the game–they had either one or two reactions, it was either “Ewww, no, it’s obscene and weird” or people going “Yeah, it’s so metal and extreme, wooooo!”

The reality–as if often the case–was somewhere between the two, yes LotFP does have some artwork that’s risqué and a lot of the supplements tend to really ramp up the gruesomeness or the weird horror vibe (which I don’t mind TBH), but the actual corebook itself is a well written and tidy OSR game. Without getting into the system details, LotFP posits a fairly brutal version of old-school D&D with a streamlined skill system and a slightly darker background, more akin to the old WFRP than more traditional D&D. As someone who started roleplaying with Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay I found this style very appealing, the game also contains optional rules for blackpowder firearms, with many of the supplements being set in worlds that have a more renaissance vibe to them than the traditional pseudo-medieval worlds used in a lot of OSR games.

I’m a big fan of this book, so it didn’t take me long to start looking around for a group of players and thinking about what sort of campaign I would run with it, I’m lucky enough to have a group of people who were enthusiastic to give it a shot.

Creating the Campaign

Originally when I sat down, I had loads of ideas racing through my head so I grabbed my trusty notebook and jotted down a few things I definitely wanted to be in the world that I was designing:

  • A slightly later time-period than normal.
  • Black powder firearms.
  • Some sort of large-scale conflict as a backdrop.
  • A conflict between modern and ancient religions.
  • A rationale for dungeon-crawling.
  • A world with ancient mythology.
  • The Mythos.

After taking a short while to look at this list and mull it over I decided that–whilst not impossible–creating all of this stuff from scratch was going to be a massive investment of time for a game whose lifespan was (at the time of creation) uncertain, I’ve seen lots of games where the GM has spent ages creating a world and the campaign itself never really gets of the ground or folds. Of course you can always recycle stuff and use it in other games, but I also didn’t want to have to be making loads of stuff up entirely on the fly.

Familiar Ground

I often find that–if I want to create a campaign but not make it up whole-cloth–taking inspiration from a film, a book series or the real-world can be a great shortcut. You just file the serial numbers off it, and it can serve as a great source of inspiration, and if you do have to make up something you can refer back to your source material for guidance. I decided to go for using a fantasy version of Great Britain and Ireland, since this gives me a wealth of folklore to draw on and is also quite familiar to myself, originally I decided to start the players on the coast (since I’d been reading Alas for the Awful Sea) near a small made-up village near the coat of Wales (originally referred to as Fada Siar in our campaign).

Research & Decisions

It was about this time that I started considering what sort of time period I wanted to run it in, since I’d already decided that I wanted to run the game in a slightly later time period than the standard medieval and wanted a background conflict, I started looking at the English Civil Wars and the Tudor Period. I decided to take inspiration from both of them, creating a setting torn apart by a conflict between staunch Royalists and freedom-loving Parliamentarians. Previously the countries had been ruled by a strong royal dynasty, but a leader amongst the common(er) folk had arisen and was leading a rebellion against the old ways.

I grabbed a number of books from local shops at this point and watched a number of BBC documentaries to supplement my historical knowledge (since I’m no history buff), and found that I was enjoying reading about history far more knowing I was going to be using the information to inspire a project rather than simply reciting them at school or similar.

Further Inspiration

Whilst creating the campaign I had noticed the kickstarter for Monkey Blood Design’s Midderlands campaign, I originally backed it because it was set in a fantasy version of the Midlands in England, which is where I live. When I received the book I was blown away by it (as you can no doubt tell from my review) and was surprised by just how neatly the material in the Midderlands book dovetailed with the game that we’d already established. I decided to start overtly using information and ideas from the Midderlands book in my campaign, after letting my players know I then started to move some of the campaign information (which had originally been in a PDF for the players) to this website (you can see it by clicking on the Rose of Westhaven link).

Potential Issues

One of the potential issues with importing a lot of the Midderlands wholesale is that my characters began far to the south of the area that has been detailed thus far in the Midderlands book. Luckily Monkey Blood Design are releasing a second book for this setting soon (as of time of writing) that is going to expand the setting to cover the rest of Britain and Ireland, Glynn Seal was kind enough to send me a low-resolution copy of the map that will be in the second book so I have a vague idea what sort of stuff is going to be covered. However, if my players decide they want to go somewhere before I get my hands on the book then I’m just going to have to create a version of the area myself (taking inspiration from the real-life source material) and then either ignore or reconcile the “official” version when I get my hands on that sweet, sweet second book.

TBH although I’ve called this a potential issue, it’s not really much of a problem. A lot of our campaign was made up wholesale and then fitted around the stuff that I wanted to incorporate from the Midderlands campaign setting, for example my use of the Old Ones from the Cthulhu Mythos as pagan gods worshipped by some of the Fade Siar tribes. In-fact the name of the Welsh analogue in our campaign is a good example, when I originally created the setting I called it Fada Siar, meaning Far Land in the Elven tongue (I used a celtic online translator or something similar for this), but in the Midderlands campaign book it is called Oldenwale. It wasn’t difficult to say that Fada Siar is the Elven name for the country and that Oldenwale is the more commonly used human name. I’m pretty sure that if I continue taking inspiration from the real-world (as the writers of Midderlands obviously do) then I should be able to flex my setting to incorporate other stuff; however, if we do come across bits in the new book that can’t be used as they are then I’ll go with what we’ve already established in the campaign.

My players are already making noises about heading to the nearby Hexenmoor which–looking at the map and similarities of the name–would appear to be based largely on Exmoor (presumably with a magical twist), it’s pretty easy to find some of that areas folklore and customs online so if they get there before I’ve got the book then I’ll take inspiration from this and see where we end up. I’ve already warned them about a devilish beast that is believed to prowl the area.

 

A few things I’ve learnt about LOTFP low-level dungeon crawling

As you may or may not be aware, I’m currently running a Lamentations of the Flame Princess campaign called Rose of Westhaven, the aim of the campaign was to get me some more experience at running OSR and also to do a game where old-school dungeon-crawling was a big part of it. Currently we’ve had a few sessions to establish a bit about the world background (you can find out more here in the player handout if you’re interested) and a couple of sessions ago the discovery of a corrupted and partially ruined Elven Temple lead to the characters encountering their first larger dungeon.

I’ve had great fun running the game, my players seem to be enjoying it and I’ve already learnt the following about low-level dungeon-crawling in LOTFP:

  • Low-level characters are extremely fragile, if even a basic human antagonist gets a lucky hit in during combat then someone is going down.
  • Healing is extremely hard to come by necessitating a lot of resting.
  • The importance of the Cleric cannot be overstated, that single cure light wounds spell can allow the party to continue for far longer than they otherwise might.
  • Having a 10′ pole to check for traps, along with lanterns and ample supplies of oil is an absolute necessity.
  • As a GM tracking how many turns the characters lanterns are going to be burning for (and knocking a turn off about every minute when they’re not in combat rounds) is actually perversely enjoyable.
  • Having people track rations and stuff like is far more important in a dungeon environment where the players can’t just pop into town and re-supply.

Random Things: Embarrassing Adventurer Antics

10 Embarrassing Adventurer Antics

It’s a familiar scene, your adventurers have just rolled into town after mostly surviving a terrible dungeon. Songs will be sung, ale quaffed and fallen comrades lamented. Often these scenes are handled off-screen, but potentially this is missing out a source of fun/adventure–after all–think about how much trouble rowdy celebrants get into in the real-world and that’s without the powers of adventurers.

Below is a D10 table of potentially embarrassing antics that your hungover PC could wake up to find out they were involved in.

No.Description
1Someone has defaced the statue of a local dignitary, inventively using mud and dung to give them a large beard and moustache.
2Several barrels of ale were stolen from a local tavern, they were found a couple of streets away drained of their contents.
3The son/daughter of a local noble claims to have been visited in their budoir by a dashing young adventurer.
4A pig was dressed in a stolen nobles wig and released into the main street, leading to much chaos and hilarity.
5The town/city guard are currently looking for an adventurer (matching one of the PC's description) who assaulted one of their officers after they tried to arrest then for urinating into a public fountain.
6Authorities are looking for a person responsible for menacing a nearby halfling settlement, the inebriating person rampaged through the settlement claiming to be a giant.
7The Thieves Guild have placed a bounty on the head of one of the PCs after they drunkenly interfered with the operations of one of their operatives, leading to the operatives arrest by the guard.
8The PC is wanted for questionning concerning damage to a local tavern when a bar brawl got out of control.
9The PC wakes up a in a farmer's barn wearing a jester's hat with a sat full of live frogs lying next to them.
10A person matching the description of one of the PCs was heard proclaiming the short-comings of a local person of influence, whilst drinking ale and playing a drum in the town square.

Is OSR combat deadlier than 5E?

I’ve been running my Rose of Westhaven LOTFP campaign for a little while now, we’re running every other week (schedules allowing) and have just wrapped up session 4 (as of the time of writing this blog).

Prior to running this campaign my experience of playing OSR style games was minimal and my experience with running it was non-existent, although I’ve been a fan of the idea of OSR for a while and have been steadily accumulating games such as White Star, ASSH 2E, LOTFP and the like, so I’m by no means an expert. Given that I’m still finding my way around the whole OSR deal–although my players seem to be enjoying it at the moment–and having come more from a background of highly cinematic games such as Fate, one thing that I have noticed is that the combat in OSR games seems to be extremely deadly. Continue reading “Is OSR combat deadlier than 5E?”

October 2017 Blog Carnival – Superstitions

I’ve not written anything on the Blog Carnival for a while, I finally put pen to paper (well fingers to keyboard but you get the idea) when I read a post on Of Dice and Dragons talking about superstitions in RPG campaign worlds. In the post a challenge was thrown down to write about a superstition in our own campaign world. I’ve just started up my Rose of Westhaven, Lamentations of the Flame Princess campaign set in a fantasy world roughly based on Civil War/Tudor England. Lamentations has three non-human races by default: Dwarves, Elves and Halflings, to create a slightly more phobic and close-minded atmosphere I wanted to make these races a little more eerie and inhuman.

The race where this is most obvious at the moment (because a player rolled one as a character) is the Elves, they have bluish skin and bleed a clear liquid that smells like elder-flowers.

When it comes to the Elves in my setting there are a few superstitions that may or may not be true:

Continue reading “October 2017 Blog Carnival – Superstitions”

Herbs in LOTFP: Part 1

Following on from my recent post on Herbalism in LOTFP–where I took inspiration from the RPG Maelstrom that has an excellent section on using herbs–I decided to start translating some of these herbs into a format that I can use in my ongoing Lamentations of the Flame Princess campaign.

Continue reading “Herbs in LOTFP: Part 1”

OSR: Herbalism in LOTFP

I’m a great believer in taking inspiration for background, systems and just about anything really from pretty much anywhere I can get my hands on it, whether we’re talking about writing fiction or preparing RPG sessions. Recently I acquired a copy the Maelstrom RPG, published in it’s current version by Arion Games. I purchase it mainly because I remember reading a review of it in an ancient–and now defunct–UK RPG magazine called Arcane, and because it’s set in a period similar to that I’m running my Lamentations of Flame Princess campaign The Rose of Westhaven in.

There’s also a fairly nifty appendix in the book that deal with herbalism and lists the various herbs that are available in the Maelstrom game-world. I’m going for a fairly low-magic/monster-light vibe with my campaign, choosing instead to focus on human evils and shifting alliances. The idea of searching for herbs and preparing them–instead of relying on magic constantly–sounded great for the game. So I put my thinking cap on and started thinking about how I could use them in LOTFP, some of my ideas are listed below.

Key

Name: The name of the herb.

Availability: The season that the herb is available in. When someone wishes to locate the herb–assuming they are in appropriate environs–they must make a bushcraft roll, however, the roll may not be higher than that listed in the herbs availability, regardless of the characters skill level.

Preparation Time: The amount of time the herbalist must spend preparing the herbs before they can be used.

Cost in SP: How much in silver pieces the herb costs, the first amount is for unprepared herbs, the second is for herbs that have already been prepared.

Uses: How much doses each successful bushcraft roll garners.

Effectiveness: When the herbalist attempts to use/apply the herb, they must make a successful bushcraft roll, they may not roll higher than the number listed here regardless of their ability.

Effect: What the herb does.

 

Sample Herbs

Name Availability Preparation Time Cost in SP Uses Effectiveness Effect
All-heale Autumn (4 in 6) 2 weeks 2/10 7 4 in 6 Subject heals at double normal rate.
Bishop's Weed Summer (2 in 6) 3 weeks 3/6 3 2 in 6 Cures subject of the plague.
Deadly Nightshade Summer (4 in 6) 1 week 4/8 4 5 in 6 Causes to person to fall into a deep sleep for 24 hours. However, if the poisoner rolls a 1 for the herbs effectiveness then they have used too much, the victim gets a save vs poison or they die. Those who survive will be tormented by maddening visions for the rest of their days.
English Galingale Spring and Summer (2 in 6) 1 week 1/2 5 2 in 6 Enlivens the sense by increasing the flow of blood. A person who has Galingale successfully applied to them counts as having one additional pip in Search for the next 24 hours, additional doses have no further effect.

Rose of Westhaven: Session One Write-up

Date: Primaday, 9th of Moon Month. 1490 AU

A few nights after a terrible storm has lashed the nearby coastline, four people–wearing wet weather gear–arrive at the foot of the ancient lighthouse known as the Beacon, situated a couple of miles to the west of Porthcrawl village:

  • Edwin Locke: a man who has recently returned from fighting in the war between the Royalists and Parliamentarians, he remains silent concerning which side he fought for and his eyes have the haunted look of a man who has seen too much death.
  • Maarku: one of the strange, pale-skinned elves from Fada Siar, Maarku settled in the village of Porthcrawl some time ago and–despite some initial resistance–has earned some grudging respect due his ability as a carpenter.
  • William: to all appearances a normal young boy, however sometimes a shadow falls across his face or he speaks in a voice old beyond his years.
  • Sasha: sister to William, a young flame-haired woman dressed in the garb of a highwayman.

The wrinkled old lighthouse-keeper, Thackeray West tells the four that he has invited them to the Beacon because he saw a Royalist ship get wrecked on the treacherous rocks around Windy Bay during the great storm a few nights previous. With his in-depth knowledge of the local currents, Thackeray believes that much of the cargo from the vessel will have been swept into the sea caves that pock-mark the nearby cliffside. No longer a young man and unable to reach the caves himself, Thackeray volunteers to reveal a concealed smugglers passage down to the caves, in return for 20% of any salvage that the four can recover. After thinking for a few moments–and sharing a drink with the eccentric old man–the four guests agree to his deal and are giving the directions to the smugglers pass.

Creeping down the pass, the four individuals find themselves block on one side by a huge rock-face whilst on the other there is a 100 foot drop down to the crashing surf below, Edwin spots some detritus from the ship that has washed up against the face of the cliff far below. For a moment they contemplate using their rope to get down to the wreckage, but decide to press onto the caves, Thackeray’s warning echoing in their ears:

“You should be fine as long as you don’t delay, when the evening tide comes in those caves will be flooded, I wouldn’t want to be in there when that happened.”

As they reach the end of the smugglers pass and the entrance to the caves is revealed, Maarku’s keen sense of smell picks up the scent of tobacco in the air. Williams sneaks to the mouth of the pass and peers out, a guard wearing mustard and black colour clothes in the Royalist style is sat on a broken crate, smoking a pipe and occasionally shouting to companions of his that remain out of sight further in the caves. Unfortunately William dislodges some stone made loose by the sea air and it crashes down, alerting the guard who begins advancing on their position with a pistol drawn.

Edwin initially tries to speak to the Royalist, soldier-to-soldier but–when it becomes clear that he isn’t getting anywhere–he draws his arquebus and fires. Unfortunately the dampness has seeped into his powder and there is just a short puff of smoke. Whilst the guard is shouting to raise the alarm, the four are able to finish him off, William–seemingly lost to a strange bloodlust–continues to stab the guard long after the Royalist has breathed his last.

During the confusion Maarku has snuck further into the cave system, wading through the waist deep water and sees two Royalists attempting to dislodge a large, coffin-shaped box wrapped in chains from where it has become wedged between two rocky outcroppings, they are arguing with each other and mention the name Lord Rothschild. One of them leaves to find out what has happened to their lookout and is set upon by Maarku’s three companions, whilst the other spots the elf and moves to engage him. He is accompanied by his Captain who had been lurking–previously unseen–behind a rocky protruberance. Maarku attempts to fend them both off but is severely injured. It looks for a moment as though he is going to fall when Edwin–having helped finish off the guard nearest to him–grabs one of the Royalist’s pistols and neatly blows a hole in the Captain’s head.

Moving to investigate the coffin-shaped box, Maarku realises something inside is attempted to get out and he notes–with mounting concern–a number of holy symbols fastened to the box. Before he can fully warn his companions the box bursts open and a shambling corpses wearing the tatters of a monks robe climbs out, swinging it’s bony claws at the elf. Recovering from his bloodlust, William hurls a pot of lantern oil at the advancing corpse, which is ignited by a pistol shot from Edwin, causing the flailing creature to burst into flames. Seemingly unconcerned by the burning of its flesh, the creature cuts Maarku down and turns to advance on the others, hurling itself at Edwin, luckily he is able to fend it off for long enough that the fire finishes it off. Edwin drags Maarkus unconscious body out of the water to prevent him from drowning.

Exploring further they discover a great mess of debris and salvage from the wrecked vessel at the far end of the cave, William also finds a thin crack that appears to lead out of the cave and plunge further down into the depths but elects not to explore it at this time. Amongst the other salvage, they find a small wooden box with brass fixtures, when opened, it contains the partially ruined remnants of the a ships log, it talks about a weapon taken in far Kalam on the orders of Duke Rothschild that they hope to use against the Parliamentarians. The log refers to the weapon as an abomination and speaks of meeting people near Porthcrawl so that it can be offloaded and taken to the Sage Salazar.

They also find:

  • 50 silver pieces
  • 3 barrels of wine
  • a silver mirror
  • 5 pouches of tobacco
  • a spyglass

Gathering up all their new found wealth they return to the Beacon–carrying the injured and unconscious Maarku–where they give Thackeray a share of the silver, a barrel of wine and one of the pouches of tobacco.