Sunday, May 7, 2017

When the Light Goes Out - Lawful Good Gaming



Exploring Darkness for the Greater Good


Politics alert!  Yes, this post is going to touch on some political subjects, so if that kind of stuff turns you off, perhaps its best to skip this entry.  But if the concept sounds even mildly intriguing (and you can put up with a bit of my liberal leanings), I invite you, dear reader, to take a journey with me....  

Several months ago, just after the implementation of that first immigration ban, I found myself in a seemingly endless loop, reading aggravating news story after news story.  I was frustrated with the direction our country seemed to be taking, and felt powerless to do anything.  Along with quite a few of my friends, I made a donation to the ACLU, which made me feel a little better, but I wanted to do more.  

But what could I offer?  

I'm not a politician, or an attorney, or a doctor, or any other profession that could help the current situation directly.  My skills lie in telling stories, taking friends and family on adventures in their minds, and coming up with crazy, gonzo game rules for others to share.  Definitely not directly applicable...

... but indirectly possible?

So I put out a call on Facebook, and through some friends (especially the wonderful +Rich Howard) was able to gather a small army of around likeminded individuals, hellbent on creating an organization that would coordinate, game master, and play in role-playing game events with the goal of raising money to help support progressive organizations.  

We call ourselves Lawful Good Gaming.

This was back in February, and we've already broken several milestones!  


We've even been featured on Gnome Stew in a fantastic article by +Darcy Ross!  


Our model is fairly simple: game masters set up events targeting one of our selected non-profit organizations, with the price of admission being a proof of donation to one of the groups.  To be clear, Lawful Good Gaming doesn't take in any money itself... we just run the games for those willing to give to some fantastic causes.  

When the Light Goes Out

A 3rd Level Adventure for Lamentations of the Flame Princess

For my event last night, I decided to run Lamentations of the Flame Princess.  I discussed this OSR system a few weeks back, but up to this point had never played the game.  Fortunately, most of my players were new to the system as well, although my early trepidation was unnecessary.  Lamentations of the Flame Princess turned out to be a delightfully easy game to run, allowing me to focus on descriptions, character interactions, and story.  

For the adventure, I wanted to explore the universe of one of my favorite new computer roleplaying games: Darkest Dungeon.  I set the adventure up in the Hamlet of the Ancestor's Estate, with the intent of exploring a previously unknown section of the property: The Orchard.  This new, macabre region of the Darkest Dungeon universe is my own design, although it's a pity that I don't have any graphics design or other computer skills.  I'd love to create my own fan-mod to add this into the actual game!  

That said, when it comes to "mods", I used a few to tweak this LotFP/Darkest Dungeon crossover:

  • For character classes and starting equipment I used the archetypes featured in this unofficial PDF that +Ray Slakinski found on Reddit.  
  • I was very careful about tracking lighting, although this didn't seem to be much of an issue, as everyone made sure to purchase lanterns and torches before setting out on the adventure.
  • For Stress, and the application of Afflictions and Virtues (both detailed in the aforementioned unofficial PDF), I came up with the Stress Save.  This saving throw, based on each character's Paralyze save, is adjusted by Wisdom.  During the course of an adventure, whenever something particularly disturbing occurs, each character witnessing the event must make a Stress Save.  The referee keeps track of the failed saving throws, and after failing the third test, they are on the verge of gaining either the Affliction or Virtue.  On their next save, if they fail they gain an Affliction that lasts through the remainder of the adventure.  If they pass they gain a Virtue.  

Adventure Outline


I thought about just doing a play report for this post, but since we had such a good time last night, I thought I'd go out of my way to actually share the adventure notes I used to run the adventure.  That way, players from last night can perpetuate the madness and run this game with their own groups, or if you at home want to join along, you can do so.  Please note, that as with all my adventure outlines I keep things fairly light and loose, with lots of room for GM improvisation.  

I should also note that this adventure should convert easily to just about any other OSR game, whether it be OD&D, Basic Fantasy RPG, Dungeon Crawl Classics, or whatever.  A few tweaks and you're home... at the Estate and the Darkest Dungeon.


Overview:

  • This adventure starts off in the Hamlet of the Ancestor's Estate in the Darkest Dungeon universe.  For those uninitiated with the setting, this Darkest Dungeon Wiki should give you a great feel of the art style, mood, and tone of the setting.
  • GM's should describe the scene, the weather, the atmosphere of the Hamlet.  It's important to note the following:
    • Dismal weather.  There's been a light rain for past several months. 
    • The sky is always dark and cloudy, even at noon.  
    • The roads are sticky with mud and filth, a substance that sticks to everything.  
  • The PC's have been called to meet with Mother Superior Evangeline at the Sanitarium.  
    • Just entering the Sanitarium requires a Stress Save.  It's damned maddening in there!
    • Mother Superior Evangeline, who oversees the Sanitarium, laments over the loss of the last several expeditions into the Darkest Dungeons beneath the estate.  
    • Mother Superior notes that during a recent expedition to a part of the Estate long thought abandoned due to plague, a pair of hunters found a child.  
    • Mother Superior Evangeline introduces the party to Godrick (she doesn't know his name), a young boy of 13 who suffers from both affliction of body and mind. He has radiant red hair, and deep freckles. 
    • His wounds seemed like he had been impaled by sharp objects. One of the Hamlet's hunters, gathering game, found him at the edge of the long forgotten Orchard.
    • Godrick is barely coherent, but cries out for his parents repeatedly. 
  • During this encounter, the Caretaker will appear. 
    • The old man looks at Godrick, and will note that he appears much like a much younger child that he once knew, but he could not remember his name. 
    • Only that his parents, Elzbeth and Johann, watched over the Ancestor's Orchard but had been considered long dead, becoming ill with the last Plague.
    • Because of the risk of plague, the Orchard was barred from exploration.
  • The Caretaker tasks the party with investigating the Orchard, to confirm the death of Elzbeth and Johann, and the condition of that long forgotten part of the Estate. If any ancestral relics survived the fire, they needed to be recovered. 
  • At this point it could be revealed that other excursions, forgotten now, had been sent to the Orchard, but never with any fruit... or survivors. The area was thought to be infected, but how did Godrick survive?
  • If the PC's try to interview or interrogate the child, he will become violent unless calmed in some manner.  
    • Treat Godrick's stats as follows:  HD 1, HP 3, AC 12, Bite 1d3 damage.
    • Godrick's only belongings is a crumpled up bonnet once worn by his mother.

Secret Knowledge:
  • It was seven years ago that the Orchard bore it's last fruit. This part of the Estate was perhaps the "least cursed" of the entire land, but still barely provided any goods to the Hamlet itself. Still, Johann and his loving wife Elzbeth managed the property, cared for the trees, and lived a simple life with their six year old son Godrick.
  • But as the curse of the Estate spread throughout the local area, including the Orchard, this taint affected the plant life of the Orchard... specifically the apples and trees themselves. 
  • Several of the trees, gained consciousness... a dark gift of the malevolent forces at play... and were promised great rewards by these forces of evil and despair. These new tree-folk, the Malus, started to bear poisoned, sickly fruit that created the last plague.  Of course, everyone blamed rats... not apple trees.  Who would blame an apple tree for disease?  
  • The effects of this recent plague were terrible.  Those afflicted would start off with something resembling a cold, but in three days time their blood would thicken up, and turn to a syrupy mixture.  Upon death, the veins and arteries of the afflicted would never decompose or deteriorate.  Instead they remained nearly calcified, and as hard as wire.  
  • Elzbeth and Johann both came to be infected by the plague but not Godrick. Godrick had been allergic to apples, so after his first time eating them as an infant, and a brief brush with death, he was never fed them again.  
  • The boy became feral, living around the Orchard cabin area. He was smart and even though the Malus poisoned or murdered others, he was smart enough to avoid the slower moving tree people... even their undead, root-zombies.  Or so he thought...
  • The Malus had no interest in Godrick.  Just as he was allergic to the apples, the Malus were allergic to him.  The one attempt for the Malus to devour and infect Godrick, left one of the tree creatures slain.  Godrick still bears the scars from that incident.  

The Orchard
  • Entering the Orchard
    • No matter what time the party enters the Orchard, it is dark.  If it's not the weather, it's the canopy of the trees.  
    • The trees themselves are definitely dead, and lack all fruit.  The leaves of the trees are brittle like ancient paper, and come apart into ash in characters' hands.  
    • Very few animals are left... hardly any at all except for insects.  Characters with Bushcraft easily figure this out, and will probably find it disturbing.
  • Starving Wolf Encounter:  While exploring the edge of the Orchard, the party may encounter a small pack of starving wolves.  These emaciated beasts are vicious and without fear.  
    • HD 2, AC 12, Bite 1d6 damage.
  • The Dead End
    • The path to the old cabin in the Orchard will come to a dead end, with a bramble wall blocking the trail.  Strung up throughout the brambles are sticks with old corpses tied to them like scarecrows.  These were created by Godrick to keep anyone from coming closer to his family home.  
    • The bodies are tied to the sticks and brambles by cord made of victim veins.
    • The bodies are those who worked the Orchard and died of the plague.
    • Just seeing this sight will require a Stress Save.
    • The GM is encouraged to have some animals, Root Zombie cats or badgers or rats, hiding in the brambles.  Whether they attack or not (maybe they just appear and then flee) is up to the GM.
  • The Graves
    • If the characters decide to circumnavigate the blocked path, they will eventually come to an old grave site.
    • Here they can find some graves of the family, including one for Elzbeth (dug up), none for Godrick, and none for Johann. Johann dug the grave for his wife and then died. Godrick dug her up several years later to keep her for himself. 
    • Here's another place that can have a Root Zombie attack, and an associated Stress Save. 
    • From the Grave, it's easy to see the Cabin in the distance.
  • "Ant Holes"
    • As the party starts to investigate the area near the cabin, should they search the ground they may notice several holes in the ground.
    • These "Ant Holes" are large, big enough for someone's finger.  
    • Upon closer inspection, the the party may listen and hear movement from within these holes.
    • The Malus use these holes to manipulate Root Zombies, and also to attack with an Impale.  
    • At some point the PC's (if they search hard enough) will discover that they are surrounded by these Ant Holes.  It's up to the GM to decide whether or not to attack the PC's directly, or just leave it as an option for later in the adventure.
    • One potentially creepy scene could be the sight of an animal (dead or Root Zombie) being dragged back towards one of the holes.  Maybe the Malus is done with it, or perhaps it has other plans for that tentacle-like root.  Either way, this should require a Stress Save.
The Cabin Interior
  • When the party approach the cabin they will note that it is a simple structure, with four walls, a door on the southern end, and two windows on the east, west, and northern faces.
  • The cabin appears to have been abandoned for quite some time, at least at distance.  If the party approaches and searches they will notice that there are signs of refuse and debris from someone living here (Godrick.)
    • Searching the eastern wall on the exterior the party will find some common farming implements.
    • Axes, picks, shovels, none of which are in decent condition, but could serve some uses if the party is feeling innovative in dealing with threats.  
  • The house is also surrounded by the Ant Holes.  Dozens of them.  
    • If the party hasn't found any of these yet, they will obviously notice them here.  
    • The party may try to use some kind of item to plug these holes or make it difficult for anything to attack from inside the holes.  Should they do this, they will notice that something clearly attempts to move beneath the ground.  
  • There are two Malus near the house.  Should the party start to interact with the home in any way, they will attack through the Ant Holes.  See the Bestiary for their stats and abilities.
The Cabin Exterior
  • There are three rooms on the inside of the cabin.  
  • Eastern Room
    • Takes up most of half of the house, and is a common room and kitchen.  
    • Four windows are located in this room, two on the northern wall and two on the eastern wall.  There is a fireplace to the southeast and a door leading outside to the south.  
    • A passage to the west leads to a hallway and entrances to a bedroom and a second living area.  
    • The furniture in this room consists of a large table with six wooden chairs.
    • All throughout the Eastern Room are great relics from the Ancestor's family.  At least six wood carvings of busts and game animals, each worth 250 silver pieces.  
    • Hidden in a small corner of this room is a rug that hides a tight, spiral staircase to the basement area.
  • The Northwestern Room
    • This bed chamber has a large straw mattress, and three chests full of clothing, blankets, and other common materials.
    • No one has been sleeping in this room.  Godrick left it pretty much as it was.
    • There is a window to the west in this room.
    • One of the chests has some farming records, descriptions of what had been planted, and the names of all workers in the fields.  Hidden in these records is a note from a doctor, informing Elzbeth and Johann that their son's allergy to the family crop (apples) is most likely incurable.  
  • The Southwestern Room
    • This was a secondary living space, with a fireplace along the northern wall.
    • There is a window to the west in this room.
    • This room is in terrible condition, and it is clear that someone, perhaps a child (Godrick) was sleeping here on a rolled out mat on the floor.  
    • Refuse is everywhere, as well as the bones of animals and shells of insects.
    • Along the southern wall are two propped up, ancient, decaying bodies.  They have been dead for some time, each showing signs of the Plague, with their flesh falling away from their bones, but their veins calcified and protruding.  This is all that remains of Elzbeth and Johann.
    • Godrick had been keeping his parents bodies here to keep him company.  His father was easy to find, but he had to dig up his mother, and clean her up a bit.
    • The sight of these bodies should spark a Stress Save.
    • Except for being creepy, there is no risk of these bodies threatening the party.
    • An especially evil GM could have one of the bodies attached to a Malus however... that would make for a fun "jump scare!"
The Weird of the Cabin
  • While the party is investigating the cabin, several weird things will start to occur.
  • First, the house will be surrounded.
    • Once the party enters the home completely, several Malus move towards the house.  
    • These entities move rather slowly, and will not move when they are within view of any PC's.  But as soon as the party looks outside after searching the area, they will see that four trees are now much closer to the home.
    • If the party leaves someone outside, they will be attacked relentlessly by Root Zombies.  Send two human zombies for every PC on the outside of the building.  
  • Second, the party will start hearing a low thumping sound.
    • It's coming from beneath the floorboards, and is an obvious "heartlike" sound.
    • If the PC's pry up any of the floorboards, or if they find the spiral staircase in the Eastern Room, they will see that the basement is a rather large cavern, almost if it had been excavated.  
    • The drop is a good thirty feet to the bottom (it was originally twelve), and is full of roots, large living veins, and at the center is a massive, eight foot in diameter Heart of the Malus.
    • Obviously this sight should trigger a Stress Save.
  • Basement Wonders
    • If the party tries to travel down into the bowels of the cabin, and the area surrounding the heart, they will find several dozen corpses that had been dragged here by roots over the years.
    • Going through the corpse remains, the party can find all kinds of wondrous gear and equipment.  Perhaps a few arcane potions, magic trinkets, etc.  The GM should feel free to put whatever items they want in this area.  
  • Attacking the Heart of the Malus
    • If the party attacks the Heart, the Malus outside immediately begin to attack.
    • A Malus can attack through each window, so that means 4-6 attacks per round from the outside.
    • The Malus cannot use their blinding attack against party members on the inside.
    • Melee attacks against the heart are treacherous (see below) but so is the climb down.
    • Once the Heart is defeated, the trees die.  This is one great network, with the single infernal heart pumping the sappy lifeblood throughout.  
Returning Home

The Caretaker will consider this excursion successful should the party return with information regarding Elzbeth and Johann, and perhaps any backstory regarding Godrick and how he survived for so long on his own.  The Caretaker will be exceptionally pleased should the party bring back any relics from the home, or if they successfully slay the Heart of the Malus.

As any PC who attacks the Heart is at risk of Plague, this may start a whole new chapter at the Estate.  


Bestiary:


Malus:  These tree-folk are carnivorous Apple Trees, and have exterminated the local population. The Malus can create Darkest Apples, control Root Zombies, and move very slowly. They can also expel a pollen that can blind and hinder their foes. 
  • HD 4-6, HP 20 - 30, AC 15
  • Atk Impale, 1d8 damage
  • Special Atk, Blinding Pollen, Save vs. Breath Weapon or Blind for 1d6 turns
  • Weakness: Fire.  If set aflame it burns for an additional round.  
  • Darkest Apples:  The Apples of the Malus are deep red and can cause the Plague of the Malus.  Those who consume the Darkest Apple must make a Poison Save.  Those who fail the save start to fall ill in 2d6 hours.  At this time they lose 1d6 points of Constitution, and lose another 1d6 points every 24 hours after while their veins harden and calcify.  This process is incredibly painful.
Root Zombie:  Sometimes human, sometimes wolf or bobcat, these are fast moving but tethered to the roots of the Malus. Every Malus has at least one Root Zombie, and several have more.  Those that see a Root Zombie should note that they do not walk or move their arms on their own, rather they are controlled like puppets.  
  • HD 1-3, HP 4 - 12, AC 8
  • Atk Claw or Bite 1d6 damage
  • Special: Undead.  Root zombies can be turned like regular undead, but cannot flee beyond the range of the Malus' roots.  
  • Special: Can only operate within 100 feet of a Malus
Heart of the Malus:  The terrible core of the Malus network at the orchard of Elzbeth and Johann.  This sentient mass of human-like flesh pumps the poison, infected blood to all the Malus in the area through subterranean roots.  
  • HD 8, HP 50, AC 10
  • Atk: None
  • Special: Those who strike the Heart of the Malus with a melee weapon are sprayed with sap and must make a Poison Save.  Should they fail, they are infected with the Plague of Malus, as if they consumed one of the Darkest Apples.  

*     *     *

Our Session


You've read the details on running When the Light Goes Out at your table, but here's some of the details of how it played out for us last night.

Dramatis Personae

  • Delpha the Plague Doctor (Cleric), played by Geoff 
  • Gilfred the Houndmaster (Specialist), played by Juan
  • Jonah the Crusader (Fighter), played by Ray
  • Lincoln the Grave Robber (Specialist), played by Shannon
  • Tenac the Abomination (Fighter), played by Trevor

Action Report

In our play session, the PC's spent a lot of time at the Sanitarium questioning Godrick, and investigating any clues that they could find.  Jonah became overzealous a few times, first ordering his parents (the orderlies Karl and Jan) to restrain the child for examination.  The boy bit Jonah, so the Crusader almost took his hand off in both retribution and to take the bonnet that he was carrying away.  The rest of the party had to calm Jonah down... such an animal!

Anyway, the party followed the clues to the Orchard, fought with some starving wolves, cut their way through the brambles blocking the trail, and encountered the cabin.  Before entering the cabin, the party poured some oil down one of the "Ant Holes" in the ground, and set it aflame.  I ruled that this fire spread all the way to a nearby Malus, and this created the first encounter with one of the tree-demons.  The Malus sent three Root Zombies after the party.  Between Delpha's bottles of flaming oil, Jonah's blade, Tenac's claws, Lincoln's Pick, and Gilfred's crossbow, the battle with the zombies didn't last long.

When Tenac and Jonah attacked the tree itself, however, they were both quickly blinded by pollen.  Eventually the Malus fell to the party's might.  I should note that neither in this combat, nor future combats did Gilfred send his cute hound Panda (short for Pandemonium) into combat.  I think he was afraid the pup would get killed.

It should be noted, that by this point just about everything scared Jonah in some way.  The PC kept failing all of his Stress Saves, so he was starting to get a little mad in the head.  He'd eventually go completely masochistic, and cut himself real bad.  

The party entered the home, and started exploring room by room.  When they found the dead parents of Godrick, they started to put the pieces together on what had happened to the boy.  Then they heard the "wump, wump" of the Heart of the Malus.  After tearing up the floorboards, the party concocted a very intricate plan to destroy the heart:

Drop a ton of crap through a hole in the floor on top of the heart.

Tables, chairs, furniture, buckets, anything that wasn't nailed down got dropped on the heart, thirty feet below.  At this point the Malus that surrounded the house started attacking viciously, so Delpha upped the ante by setting the heart and all that kindling on fire.  Not long after, Jonah jumped down (on top of the straw mattress that had been tossed onto the flames) to go into melee combat, but at this point the heart was destroyed.  

Unfortunately, Jonah couldn't climb back up, and Delpha, Gilfred, and Tenac all succumbed to smoke inhalation.  Choking on the smoke of the flames, but bolstered by the elimination of the Heart and the threat of the Malus, Lincoln dragged his three associates (as well as Panda) outside and into safety.

Sadly, Jonah burned to death.  


The Graveyard

  • Theo, Delpha's Laborer who was impaled by a Malus root
  • Jonah, the Crusader, who jumped on top of the burning Heart of the Malus, and got cooked.
*     *     *

Parting Shots


Just a few final notes, if you managed to read this far.  

First, if you enjoyed this adventure, and happen to play it with your own group, please let me know how it goes!  I'd especially love to read another play report from someone willing to give it a go.

Second, I need to point out that this event helped to raise $115 for the Government Accountability Project!  If this kind of "gamer-activism" sounds like a good idea, please check out Lawful Good Gaming, join our movement, and help us spread the word, coordinate games, and raise funds for some terrific organizations.  

I hope to see you there!