The characters for this session
Fennec, L2 wizard, as:
Sabian (wolf mask) Indecisive, lonely, cruel
Mathias (iron mask) Gullible, mean-spirited, defensive
Cauleigh, L3 warrior, as:
Kethe (crow mask) Jealous, foolish, determined
Ursula (lion mask) Friendly, manipulative, cunning
Jotunn, L5 warrior, as:
Jost (horned mask) Melancholic, absolute, grim
Demut (medusa mask) Fearful, impulsive, distractible
Crompton, L2 rogue, as:
Josef (3-faced mask) Focused, proud, disdainful
Ilse (no mask) Fiery, decisive, hopeful against odds
As you can see this is not a normal session! Our heroes have set out across the Mead Wood leaving ponies in the care of their host Connie the Hobb patriarch of Meadtown. They stick to their initial determination: to trek deep into the wood, and locate the haunted ruined mansion that (they guess) will certainly lure Alintar. By so doing, they hope to eliminate the gap between hunted and pursuers, a gap of at least nine days.
And now the weather becomes stormy and lightning bids them seek shelter – but not under lofty trees! In the nick of time Jotunn realises they are on the verge of a waterway, and Cauleigh catches the outline of a building. Can this be their destination?
This is a full adventure module, run pretty much out of the wrapping except I’ve woven my own plot inside it, named Bride of the Black Manse, by Harley Stroh of DCC (www.goodman-games.com). If you intend to run BBM as GM, you may get some value from reading about my pacing and decisions. If you are a prospective player, you are about to ruin your fun by reading how my players coped with the module.
The GM hands around handout B, showing the mansion, and to the background mutters of ‘Dark Heresy!’ asks for two LK SRs and on the basis of those (and certain other secret stuff) assigns two personas apiece.
Throwing themselves into the spirit of the moment
As the four Dwarves stomp up to the ruinous moat-house over the mire – once perhaps a mere or moat – they feel nostalgic, as though they had seen something of the sort before…
A strange, ruinous old servant welcomes them, speaking to them as though to lords and ladies fresh returned from the hunt. And sure enough a fresh-killed stag lies wounds still a-steam just behind them. Kethe strides decidedly towards the manor house:
“Have the servants bring it in, and fetch me mulled wine!”
Nine bells sound out: the hour is late.
The Dwarves fend off the horrid suitor
Somewhat impelled by Kethe’s sanguine impulse the others also straggle on, though Sabian hangs back at first and Demut timidly hesitates.
“URSULA! URSULA! URSULA!”
The call comes horrid on the sleeting rain as Kethe bustles over the slick stone bridge towards the main doors, Ursula Jost and Josef close behind. A blackened troll-like being hauls itself on ropy arms up over the stone parapet. Five man-size but equally befouled creatures clamber up after their master.
The fight is swift, fierce and decisive. Kethe and Ursula speed away to safety, Jost nimbly leaps around the fiend’s reach and cuts back at its tendon, Josef slices it asunder with his vorpalled rune-axe, and Ilse skewers one of the hench-things with a silver-headed arrow. As the large fiend slumps and falls back into black mere the four remaining hench-things are swiftly dealt with.
Enter the Illuminated Hall
Impatiently studying the door Kethe glances over the ill-omened relief then back to where Mathias has slipped in the slime and fallen into the mire. Ursula seems to be paying more attention to the accident, and her voice mingles with scattered others:
“Oh the gods know… someone will have to jump in… no tie a rope on first… hold the end you fool… up he comes… what have you found – Whoah! – Have a care – easy does it… a coffer?”
Jost scrambles back up as Josef hauls, and barely glancing at Mathias retching up black water sternly tells Josef not to open the coffer, especially since a humming, scratching vibration comes from it. By this time Kethe’s impatience has boiled over:
“Open for your mistress damn you! Wretches… mulled wine!”
And so saying Kethe surges in past the opening doors, and glares around for traces of the roaring fire the seneschal croaked about. Not a trace! But it all does seem familiar, somehow…
Gaze on the tapestries of House Liis
The others join Kethe and Ilse in gazing at, then fondling, ruined tapestries. The GM hands round handout C. Most find one that somehow strikes a chord. The lofty foyer presents a once-gracious double stair to the upper floor, and double doors to the two ground-level wings. The center-piece tapestry is far from ruined and suggests an infernal wedding…
Josef and Jost agree to flip the coffer upside down so its weight holds the lid safe – though it is locked, to be sure – and leaving her chosen tapestry of a black-gowned, red-haired beauty Kethe strides athletically to the right-wing doors and thrusts them open. A ruined chapel, three altars thrown down at the fair dais, greets her lantern light.
Discover secrets in the ruined Oratory
Righting an altar rewards Kethe with a curious red-globe-in-a-clear-globe, found amid other more mundane trash. Jost and Josef, clearly electing themselves the muscle, right the heavier and find two more. Ursula, scrounging near the curious shallow dry pool in the dais, seizes a broad rusty iron ring and finds it fixed. Heaving up on it more determinedly reveals damp-slick but broad stone steps descending into a moldy smelling vault.
But standing well to the rear cynical Sabian has realized that in a chapel there ought to be a choir loft, and points it out.
Loft a Hand of Glory
Brushing the tattered but concealing black wall hanging aside Kethe shines her lantern over the stair up. A curious alcove, about elbow height, includes a sharp lever-like instrument, a brazier and a bowl full of congealed wax. Kethe strides up:
“Servants! A roaring fire! And where the hell is my mulled wine?!”
The blue phantasm of a woman kneels on the loft floor: one of her arms is severed and lies beside her: with the other she is futilely trying to spark flame onto tinder with flint and steel. Grotesquely, the severed arm is coated with wax. The phantasm glares round at Kethe hopelessly:
“Help! They’re coming! Can’t you hear?”
As the others begin to join her, Kethe impulsively unlocks the lantern’s eye and exposes the naked flame towards the phantasm. As three angelic lads emerge through the wall the phantasm seizes her arm, and lights its fingers…
And the three lads, even as they open their mouths as though to sing, dissipate back into nothingness. With a look of gratitude mingled with pity the blue phantasm also fades… the Hand of Glory (as know-it-all Sabian names it) remains, though not appearing entirely real. The boyish mage Mathias sweeps it up.
Wade the flooded ossuary
The undercroft stair is broad, but at least half the gracious lords and ladies are cautious. Jost, Josef, Kethe with her lantern, then timid Demut and Mathias in the middle, then the others make their way down.
The vault is flooded and the black unwholesomeness suggests the mere or slough has penetrated here. (At this point, ten bells sound. Ilse excuses herself. She has flint, tinder and the coals from the brazier, and intends to go light a decent fire.) Sabian moves forward and reluctantly probes with his staff:
“Only about three feet”
But his staff encounters an object, and fishing around finds bones, first of horse, then of man. Then dozens of skeletons haul themselves, dripping out of the black, and rank themselves around the pillars of the vault. All point off to the party’s right.
Solve the sealed circle
Since they are sodden, there is little to be lost by wading. Sturdy boot resist the muck. But ‘three feet’ seems to come right up to Kethe’s chin, and poor Demut has to tiptoe along with nose in air. But she reaches an exit arch and higher ground and soon, she and her straggling relatives are gazing on a pit in the center of a pentagrammatical arrangement: candles that suddenly flare to life as they enter. And one of the taller men, Josef, thinks he can see a glowing gem that is the source of violet light that seems to glow up out of the pit…
The candles have formed a flexible but impenetrable shield. Old, dried blood stains are identified by Jost. The candles cannot be extinguished. As they test and probe, Mathias grows more shrill and scornful, though devilish voices can also be heard:
“We shall know our masters by their actions”
Ursula stoops her head near Kethe’s ear:
“You know dear, he is a most irritating young man…”
Before Mathias can do more than try to defend himself Kethe’s dagger slashes. Just like his tapestry Mathias dies bleeding from both wrists!
Wrest the Soul Stone from the infinite
“By their actions we know them” come the devilish voices again and Kethe is given access to the inner circle. Those outside the circle see Lady Kethe in her red-haired glory. It is an easy scramble down to a floating dark, faceted gem and she clutches it out of the air, tucks it to her (surprisingly unfeminine) bosom and emerges dictatorially triumphant, or one may say, more so.
Take up an heirloom mask
In the flooded vault the skeletons sink back, allowing exeunt but two masked phantasms remain. Sabian refrains from attempting to use the Hand and they step forward:
“Save us – Save yourselves”
And remove each their mask, revealing bloody skulls infested with worms. And fade, leaving the masks still visible in the mire. One of them appeals to Josef and wet or no he slaps it on. It is 3-faced, one laughs, one screams, one is inscrutable. Josef seems well-pleased with the result.
Behold the ghostly revelry
With nothing more to be dealt with or learned in this wing, the six remaining lords and ladies squelch back into the foyer, now a-bustle with shades of cavaliers, ladies, jesters and servants. Some call out welcome to Josef. But they are ethereal and pass clean through the flesh-and-blood visitors. Kethe has other things on her mind: a change of clothing, and that roaring fire!
“Damn this nonsense! I’m sure the master chamber is upstairs!”
There’s a horrid crash as she wrenches the master doors open and tons of rock and dirt spill out onto the balcony. Kethe avoids certain death, then possible drowning, as the balcony collapses onto the main foyer and that floor collapses into the flooded vault.
Seize the swarm-guarded mask
The attention of the others on Kethe, Ursula takes the chance to right the coffer and wrench it open. Demut stands nearby and springs back as a flood of crawling biting insects covers Ursula! Then stomping on some, spitting and snorting others, Ursula emerges from the swarm and clutches a Lion mask triumphant! Like Josef, she seems well-pleased with the result once she dons it.
Fail to resist veiled ladies in the bower
And since the mezzzanine is a wreck that leaves the left doors. This time the battered Kethe is not right at the forefront. Jost and Josef thrust – literally – through the revelry and along a broad hallway, and along left again to a richly furnished boudoir, complete with feather bed and massive wardrobe. Three temptingly-curved but veiled ladies-in-waiting rise from the immense bed and bid the lords disrobe.
Avoid the flying heads!
As Demut Kethe and Sabian enter the women cry delightedly and pick up ornate rosewood boxes, bringing them to those three. Each has a severed head, each with its unique mask. Each head flies up out of the box and attempts to strike at the neck. As the three ladies lunge forward the surprised targets realize they have no head under that veil!
Demut and Kethe adroitly smash attackers back and dodge the head, Josef aids Sabian with an Alakascram and flung dagger that splits his attacking head apart, and one of the women is down. As the lords and ladies ready their wits for the next round, eleven bells toll and the session ends.
This was a swift session, cut short because of earlier travel commitments of two of our group. I hit the ‘nine bells’ kickoff after a half-hour of earlier pre-module stuff which I felt I needed to (a) give the characters the depth of terrain they had traveled and (b) make sure they really did want to go with their original plan. Ten bells and eleven bells are supposed to sound at real-time hour intervals and I missed ten bells by a margin. If you run this, set your phone alarm.
I took quite some time to write characters on yellow stickies for the players, decided by LK SRs and two other factors which are secret. If I hadn’t been traveling I would have prepped those as ready handouts. You should definitely do that. The original handout, with all possible characters, is not optimal. I’m not clear in my mind that Harley Stroh intends players to see which mask each character is “supposed” to have but the handout names them so that’s what I went with. The three-phrase characterization for each is excellent, very DCC and very playable. My players got right into it.
As you can see if you read the detail, players really picked up on every cue and made no mistakes; though the collapsing balcony is not a given it is impossible to avoid if the door needs to be opened. I did write one prompt type note to Ursula, over the Soul Stone, though I’m sure they would have tried blood sacrifice eventually.
It was also a stellar dice-rolling evening for Jotunn’s player, with most SRs being DARO. Cauleigh’s player could only sigh in envy, but as ‘she’ (Kethe/Ursula) got a lot of screen time has no reason to complain.
My instructions were to use the stats of the player character, for both personas. Magic items were assigned on the basis of which of the two personas made first use. Spells known work for both, though since both magic users lost a persona that’s academic.
Conversion from d20 was easy as far as damage and level go – just double everything but with single die, convert to d6+n. For example a DC15 becomes 30=L3. DC23 becomes 46=L6 with -1 penalty. A d5 becomes rnd(10)=d6+4. So far, rough conversions to MR using hp have been fine. DCC is also T&T friendly since it uses personality (=CHR) and luck (=LK). Refl SV become SPD unless DEX seems more appropriate. Fort SV become CON SR. Will SV become CHR, the doom of Dwarves.
There’s one more session in the BBM adventure, including some GM explainy, and hopefully dealing with the aftermath. Stay tuned!