(Session Report 01)
My very first session in Dunnsmouth ended last sunday. My favorite quote from one of my players from that evening was: „I am afraid of (rolling) dice now“. But let´s start at the beginning…
I was able to gather three friends of mine (all of them experienced roleplayers) for a Sunday afternoon and evening, and they were willing to join me in my first ever Lamentations of the Flame Princess session. At first I handed out some empty character sheets and explained the basic rules to them (nothing about magic). Afterwards, I repeated the initial situation of the adventure once more before I gave them pre-created characters and let them „draft“ those (without talking about the characters among another). This was the group that came out of this:
The centerpiece of the group is Jasper (“Specialist”), a rather simple (i.e. simpleton) shepherd who became a poacher during a harsh winter. He was a boyhood friend to Angus, and Angus and Japser are both drinking buddies of Cormagh.
Angus himself is a soldier who had lately lost his position in the personal guard of a local lord (who could not effort to hold all of his men after they had killed a few peasants to many while they crushed an uprising in a village).
Cormagh, is a dwarf who had left the Dwarven Realm (which replaces Scotland in my personal game world) to work as a craftsman, but was thrown out by his master after a very vicious brawl with some fellow craftsmen.
They had heard of a bounty that had been placed onto the heads of the last four members of a group of bandits called the Brownfox brigands (the Witch-Daughter Shelly-Ann Webster, Martin O´Brian, Tommy Felkham und a guy only known as Edward). Those four were able to flee, and the King´s men believed that they headed south from their hideout, over the mountains and into a swamp area near the coast. There, the only known center of population is a small community named Dunnsmouth, which was believed by some to have been eradicated a generation ago by the plague. But seamen from a merchant vessel that travels along the coast insisted that they were sometimes met by fishers from Dunnsmouth, out at the sea, who traded salted fish for metal tools. For a bounty of 200 sp for each of the cutthroats, the band of three was willing to take their chances.
The rules were explained quickly, to choose the characters took a little longer and a little more time was spend semi in-character as the three began to make plans and to acquire weapons and gear (they had not much starting equipment, but some starting money instead). Their very first hard decision was if they would try to bring the four back alive or if they would try to kill them (the bounty was “dead or alive”). There was a discussion about transporting prisoners vs. transporting rotting corpses, at the end they spend money on shackles but agreed to decide on the spot what they should do. All the while, I had some medieval sound loop running to set the scene for my fictional harbor town of Spillswick, in which the characters started in.
As they were ready they called it a night and went to the docks with the rising sun on the next morning, as the captain of the cog Madlein had told them to. At the docks, they met a mad beggar, and as they passed by they heard him ramble about one thing or another while he argued with a seagull. One word he barked caught their attention: Dunnsmouth. It was Jasper who approached him friendly to ask what he knew about Dunnsmouth, but the madmen hushed him with a look of urgency on his face… before he strolled away. Non the wiser, the three embarked onto the cog to begin their journey.
The day on sea was uneventful, but even so the ship never lost sight of the shore both Angus and Jasper became seasick. As they reached their destination all they were able to see was a thick bank of fog before the coast. A row boat was readied for them, but the captain of the Madlein gave them one last warning: he told them about legends, of an old evil that had been hiding in the nearby mountains and that Dunnsmouth itself was of ill-repute, that the people there were rumored to be both inbreed and mad. They then headed out into the fog and were set ashore at a small pier, and the two sailors who brought them there hurried to get back. The fog was so thick that they might have never found the pier if it would not have been for a lantern that had been placed there, and the time they had spend in the fog upon entering the wall-like bank had been disquieting to them. (I had switched to some scary background music for the narration of that event, it had worked out quite well).
As they were about to start their journey, four massive black dogs charged out of the mist and stopped a step away from them while they barked and snarled threateningly. The three decided to hold still and not to make a move. A moment later, they heard a raspy, hoarse voice calling out to the dogs and a spindly old man came out of the fog. He was bald, crooked and staggered forward while he leaned onto an boathook. The dogs obeyed to his orders immediately and came to his side, still watching the characters warily.
The unfriendly old guy who later introduced himself as Reginald Dunlop demanded to know who they were, where the PC came from (a fact that he forgot repeatedly during the conversation, only to ask again and again), and what their business in Dunnsmouth would be. The characters introduced themselves nicely and put up with the insults he spewed forth (“SPILLSWICK! Pah! Hav´been there, only two kind of people liv´there: those who have lice and those who have syphilis. Now, to which doya belong?!”). They showed him their “Wanted!” poster and asked if he has seen any strangers. Reginal, half blind as he is, had to shuffle all the way to the lamp to take a long look, but denied that any of these would be in Dunnsmouth. As he gave the poster back, Jasper noted that he had been holding it upside down. They bought some dried, salted fish from him and some of his booze (that they had no barter goods with them but paid with coin earned them even more disapproval from Reginald). In the end, they were able to learn that Dunnsmouth was largely flooded and nearly devoured by the swamp by now, and the direction to the Church from the old man (and thereby to the home of Samuel Dunlop and Obediah Duncaster, and to the ruin of the old guesthouse). In addition, Reginal had let it slip that Samuel was a relative of his and that “the stupid ninny” was searching for some treasure he believed to be in the swamp, and that “he´s ain´t just not right anymore since his sista died”.
[GM-Note: the module stated that Reginald was deaf as well, but I forgot about that]
Jasper, Cormagh and Angus guessed that they had about two hours left till the sun would go down and decided it would be in their best interest to reach the church by then. “If push comes to shove, we strike up a camp on the cemetery!”, Cormagh said, and they all already considered that to be the second best place to stay! So, they packed up after haggling with Reginald over the rent for his skiff (20sp as a dead pledge, an sp a day as a payment). While they came past what must have been the home of Samuel Dunlop (a two story brick house in the middle of what seemed to be a flooded field) and that of Obediah (an assortment of small tree houses that looked like a home as well) they did not made contact with any of them, but went straight to the church instead. After a while they reached a large lake that seemed to have swallowed what might have used to be the center of Dunnsmouth: a number of ruins stuck out of the black-brown water, some of them only partially flooded, others had crumbled and sunken in. The mist seemed to swallow any sound there. At first, Jasper was reluctant to cross and would rather have moved around it, but the delay worried him: none of the three wanted to be outside in the swamps after dark. This was the first moment that they noted that the light was still as it was as they had reached the pier. So, they crossed it and checked one of the ruins that still was in a better state while doing so (after all, they were searching for some fugitive cutthroats), but as they recognized that a badger was inhabiting the ruin they decided to leave it be (if the fugitives would be there, so they reasoned, the badger would have not).
After they crossed the large lake, they came past the ruins of an old guesthouse (the front door was unhinged, the former stable had turned into a pile of rotten wood and the middle of the roof had collapsed) but decided to move on: after they listened quietly for a while and heard no sounds and had seen no light, they assumed that the fugitives would not be there. Once they came near the hill the church had been erected on, they needed to pull their skiff like a sledge. As the church finally became visible through the fog (that has thinned a little after they were away from the coast), they developed a bad feeling about this: the church garden had not been tended to for a very long time, and strange piles of reed where found left and right. They already had been told by old Reginald that Father Ivanopolus seemed to be out of his mind, but the actual signs of neglect fueled their unease.
It was Angus who leaned against the heavy church doors to push them open, and before he knew what happened he was struck down by a number of bricks that fell down upon him from above, leaving him with a serious head wound and a damaged shoulder. The inside of the church was dimly lit by a number of candles that somebody had lighted on the altar and by what little light fell in through the stained glass window behind the pulpit. The priest seemed to learn against his pulpit and a couple of people were sitting on different pews in the dark, but there was no sound and nobody even moved. Jasper was readying bow and arrow while Cormagh helped up Angus as a door left of the altar was kicked open and a massive silhouette moved through it. The only detail the three were able to glimpse in the candle light were the blades of the two-headed battle ax, which shimmered briefly as the unknown figure raised it. The very next moment, the stranger stormed towards the PC: first in silence and then with a war cry.
A battle ensued and the dice were completely against the PC. I have -never- seen a group of characters collectively rolling five “1” in a row when it came to damage. In the end, they barely made it and and Angus killed the huge, grizzled looking attacker with a slash over the throat. Badly wounded himself, both from the trap and an ax blow to his his side, he towered over his opponent, only to spit HIS blood into his face. Then, he sat down onto a pew and did his level best not to collapse himself.