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.

VR: Peasant Competency Levels

One of the unfortunate things about filming video responses for my Youtube channel is that I tend to do them in an off-the-cuff manner, this is great for getting an unscripted and spontaneous feel to the video, however it does mean that on occasions I tend to forget things and only think about them after I’ve just spent an hour or so editing the video.

The same thing happened recently when I filmed a video response to the following video OSR Gatekeepers: I do not fear death by Your Humble Gamesmaster:

I filmed what I believed to be a fairly comprehensive response to the video in question, you can see my video here:

It was only after the upload had finished that I thought ‘Oh sh*t I forgot to mention the bit about peasant power levels in the video’ – now I’m not going to go back and record the whole thing again to cram that part in so I thought that I’d write a brief blog about it here instead.

The Humble Gamesmaster makes the point that peasants or commoners are often seen as being particularly weak in OSR style games, particularly when in funnel play or in comparison to characters who actually have levels in a more normal PC class (fighter, thief, mage, etc); this is a very valid point, I do have a few issues with it though. After thinking about it for some time, I realised that my main issue was based on an assumptions that I’d made about D&D and OSR style games:

  • Adventurers spend a lot of their “off-screen” time practicing their skills.

I’d always imagined that the fighter spent a lot of their off-screen time practicing combat whilst the thief was out engaging in nefarious activities, the mage was obsessively studying spells and the bard was playing their lute or whatever it is that they do when they’re not annoying the rest of the party and trying to grab some abilities from pretty much every other class.

The Humble Gamesmaster makes the point that peasants or commoners in a standard pseudo-medieval D&D world wouldn’t be weak, they would lead hard lives working the land, I certainly think that’s true, however, I’ve always seen the difference between commoners and PC classed characters in D&D as being akin to the difference between a fitness fanatic and a trained soldier in real life, sure the fitness fanatic might be fit and in reasonably good health, however they don’t exist in the constant state of readiness that the soldier does, knowing that s/he could be shipped out at any moment to face danger and death.

So let me know what you think, are commoners weak in your world or do they have some untapped wellspring of inner strength?

Only 3 days remaining to back Midderlands, an OSR sandbox setting

I have two great RPG loves in my life, one of these is the Fate RPG by Evil Hat Productions and the other is OSR gaming, something about the basic nature of OSR rules supplements really speaks to my style of gaming, I have numerous systems such as Basic Fantasy, Swords & Wizardry (core, White Box and complete), Lamentations of the Flame Princess and a few others. If you keep up with my social media then you’ll know that recently I back Midderlands, an OSR sandbox and mini-bestiary book set in a twisted version of the Midlands in the UK in the late middle-ages, as someone who actually lives in the real-world Midlands–and as a lover of OSR stuff–needless to say I was intrigued.

The book is designed principally for Swords & Wizardry, but should work with any OSR style game, personally I was thinking of breaking out my Lamentations of the Flame Princess book and running it using that; from the small amount of preview material I’ve seen the setting has elements that reminded me both of some of Lovecraft’s iconic odd settings (Innsmouth anyone?) and also cult game Fallen London, which has it’s own skewed take on urban Britain.

As of the time of writing the project needs another two and a half thousand pound (GBP) to reach it’s funding goal, with only three days remaining, personally I’m hoping to spread the love a bit and get some other people on board since I think this looks like an excellent book and deserves a chance to be published. So if you’re looking to scratch that weird OSR itch or you wants to take a journey through the odd places of a middle-England that never was, get yourself over to the kickstarter page and sign up now.

Star Hex

Star Hex

 

Given my recent love affair with James M Spahn’s White Star–you can see my video review of it here–I’m thinking of running some OSR style sci-fi when when Dungeon World campaign wraps up in a few weeks or so; I’ve been looking at the concept of hex crawls and have even taken a few ideas from them to use in my ongoing FFG Star Wars campaign and the methodology seems to work well in a sci-fi genre. Given that so many sci-fi franchises have effectively been reskinning fantasy races to use as aliens for a long time, I thought it might be interesting to do the reverse and run a science-fiction setting where the fantasy analogues were embraced openly.

I’m not talking about a Spelljammer-esque fantasy in space style game but a science-fantasy game (ala Star Wars) that takes direct inspiration from fantasy races and ideas to use in the setting.

Sliding Towards Simplicity

Disclaimer: When I’m talking about crunchy, rules-heavy or simulationist games in this post, I’m not implying they’re bad–hell, play what you want–but they’re just not for me.

As you might gather from the disclaimer above, I’ve never really been a fan of simulationist games or ones that have vast tomes of increasing complex rules, TBH I’m surprised that I like FFG’s Star Wars so much given the number of specialisations, bonuses and other stuff that is in there, but I suppose preference is a fickle beast. Since sometime last year–probably even before that–I’ve been noticing that my preferences have been moving towards simpler and simpler RPGs. Whether you want to call them RPGs or Storytelling games is an argument for another time, I’m going to stick to using RPGs in this blog entry.

If you’ve seen any of my stuff online you’ll know I’m a big fan of the Fate and Dungeon World games, both of these have–in my opinion–a nice clear central mechanic that pretty much everything else in the rest of the game references, and for a long time I thought that was the big lure of these games for me, but I’ve also started taking an interest in OSR products.

Continue reading “Sliding Towards Simplicity”