Saturday 30 April 2022

2 Klarmont - Lore and Order

 Broneslav's discoveries caused uproar and Goodwife Thanato's house was soon packed with Watchmen, several of whom were sent into the cellar to investigate the tunnels.

Broneslav and his captive were taken to the Watchhouse to be questioned. Seated on a rough wooden chair behind a rough wooden table, Broneslav felt nervous, like he was the criminal here. He knew his family connections would prevent any miscarriage of justice, but it still felt more nervewracking than his first serious sword fight.

However, it turned out not to be that bad. The Watch had a priest of the Church of Karameikos present who vouched for Broneslav's version of events after communing with the gods. With that done, the Watch asked Broneslav to accompany a Tribune of the Watch to the scene of the crime, there to relate what he had seen and show how events had occurred. Two priests accompanied the Tribune, presumably to bear witness.

The Tribune

The Tribune led them to a house near Goodwife Thanato's. It was clearly the home of a well-to-do merchant or similar. Upon hearing that this was a the home of Fortunato Vorloi, Broneslav immediately recognised the name and guessed that the woman in the cellar was probably his daughter Lucia. More importantly, she was also the niece of Baron Vorloi. That did not clear up what was going on here, but it at least showed that there might be political motivation behind it. The involvement of the The Veiled Society, which he had previously been unaware of, suggested some kind of underground power struggle in progress.

As they entered Vorloi's house, they saw signs of struggle. Furniture was turned over and scattered on the floor. A search of the house found the entrance to the cellar in the kitchen. A signet ring lay on the floor near the cellar entrance, near a short length of bloodstained rope. Examining the ring, Broneslav noted that it was a Torenescu signet ring. He struggled to comprehend that any in his family could have acted in this extreme fashion. Even the vain Stephanos, whose advances Lucia had recently spurned, did not strike him as a man to resort to physical violence like this. His revenge would be more political.

The young warrior pondered for a moment. It seemed that no one had seen him pick up the ring, so he could hide it if he wished. His conscience got the better of him.

"I found this ring near the trapdoor," he announced as he handed it to the Tribune, who also took charge of the rope. The Tribune gave Broneslav a funny look. Was she not used to people being honest?

Further searching of the house found a bloody dagger. The Tribune spotted some red hairs dried in the blood. Bloodstains on the floor were intermingled with another brownish liquid.

"Interesting," mused Broneslav, "The man I captured has red hair. And, look here! The bloodstains have been smeared and rubbed away a bit. It looks like the victim tried to write something in her own blood ... BAD ... BAO ... RAD ... RAO? Hmm, hard to see what it is meant to say. No doubt all will become clear in due time."

"We have the information we need from here. I shall return the evidence to the Watchhouse," declared the Tribune, "Don't leave town, Torenescu. This ring suggests one of your kith or kin was involved, though we have cleared you personally, and we shall need to speak to you again."

The Tribune ushered Broneslav out of the house and locked the door behind her. Broneslav stood on the street and considered his options. Should he go late to his appointment, or dared he take time to investigate further first?

Saturday 23 April 2022

2 Klarmont - Mud, glorious mud

 Broneslav considered his options and decided to explore further before delivering his prisoner to the Watch. The man's companion could be waiting upstairs to kill him as he climbed through the trapdoor. Moreover, the Watch would be all over this place once he reported the body, so he would not be able to explore further. Better then to explore further and find an alternative exit where he could backtrack to the house and perhaps surprise the other murderer.

Broneslav pushed the man ahead of him into the tunnel.

"Try to run," he declared, "and it will be the last thing you ever do."

He was relying on the man's bound hands and a measure of fear to keep the man slow and in order. That and the small tunnel should make life easier.

The winding tunnel opened out once more into a rather larger chamber filled with ankle-deep mud. The roof was shored up with beams and planks but mud still seeped between the gaps and dripped on those in the chamber. Three half naked, wretched looking men were shoveling while three armoured Hobgoblins kept guard. Suddenly, one of the men saw Broneslav and his captive. He dropped his shovel and waded across the chamber as fast as he could.

"Help us! Please help us!"

The foul guards immediately drew their weapons and charged. Broneslav quickly unslung his shield and kicked his captive into the middle of the room as the Hobgoblins neared him. His sword sliced through the air and in three swift strokes he had killed all three Hobgoblins, their lifeblood staining the mud red.

The prisoners fell to their knees in the mud.

"Thank you, thank you. We have been kept digging here against our will for ages. We have not seen the sun since we were captured! Will you help us to safety?"

Broneslav gave the men the Hobgoblins' swords and instructed them to guard his prisoner as he led the way back to the surface.

The group made their back to Goodwife Thanato's cellar where Broneslav directed them all up into the old woman's house.

"I have found the cause of the noises you heard, Goodwife Thanato," he announced, "It was not ghosts but evil-doers whose purposes I am unclear about. This man is one of them. He and his accomplice were set to bury a young woman under a house north of yours. Be so good as to call the Watch while I guard this man and learn what I can of these others whom I rescued."

The old woman scuttled off after the Watch and returned shortly with two Watchmen in tow. Broneslav explained his errand into the cellar, and the events he had borne witness to. He told of the body in the cellar and how he had found his captive burying it. Throughout all this, the captive was much less voluble and threatening, but there was still a calculating look in his eyes. Perhaps these Watchmen had not been bribed, but it seemed certain that others would have been. The man was maybe waiting for one of these.

Upon hearing Broneslav's tale, the Watchmen agreed that one of them should fetch a superior officer. There was much to investigate here. One of the Watchmen left and ordered Broneslav to wait until the officer had returned.

Keeping his lunchtime appointment in mind, Broneslav asked that a message be sent to his father and to Theosius the craftsman about what was going on. It seemed unlikely that he would make the appointment yet, now that the Watch was involved.

Saturday 16 April 2022

2 Klarmont - Under the floors

 With nothing to indicate which direction he should choose, Broneslav headed north. The passage was very low, barely four feet high, so he wound up crouching and crawling along it. As he progressed, the odour of ordure became stronger and stronger. It was enough to turn a person's stomach. He soon found the cause. Down a small side passage, the floor of a cistern had collapsed and the small room at the end of the passage was now a stinking mass of rotting, runny sewage.

Broneslav backed up quickly and continued northwards. At a Y-junction in the passage, he turned left, but then had to back up again when he reached a dead end. The passage to the right led to another junction. He could either climb down the ladder there to a passage heading south or continue north. He headed north once more. Ahead, he could see light filtering through gaps in the crates stacked against the exit from the passage. He stopped at the entrance and tried to peer through the gaps. He could hear the sound of digging and voices.

"Come on. I think this is deep enough. Let's get it buried and go." A man's voice.

Another man, "No, I want to make it a bit deeper. Nobody must ever find this but us."

The digging noises continued.

"Well," thought Broneslav, "That sounds shady as the depths of Limbo."

With that thought, he leapt into action. Thrusting powerfully through the crates that blocked the passage, he charged into the room. The cellar he was now in was lit by a lantern and filled with cured meats hanging from the ceiling as well as crates and sacks along the walls. As well as the tunnel he had entered by, there was another tunnel leading out of the cellar to the north-east.

Two hooded men stood with shovels in hand and a suspiciously corpse-like bundle beside them. Broneslav punched one of the men in the face, knocking him backwards. The other man sprang for the ladder to the trapdoor above and scuttled up it like the hounds of Hel were chasing him. His companion followed. Broneslav leapt after him. He grabbed the man's leg and pulled hard. The man lost his grip on the ladder and fell heavily to the floor. He did not move after that.

Climbing the ladder with the other man possibly waiting at the top seemed risky, so Broneslav chose to investigate this cellar. He checked the man first and found that he was merely unconscious. This hooded stranger would have a large lump on his head when he awoke. His nose was also bloody where Broneslav had punched him. Seeing that he was still alive, Broneslav hogtied the man and turned to the bundle the two men were burying. It contained the corpse of a young woman. Fresh. This boded ill.

A groan caught his attention. The man he had captured was coming to. Broneslav squatted next to the hogtied man.

"Who is this and what are you up to?"

The man spat blood and looked him in the eye, "You'd better let me go, or it will go the worse for you."

"Yeah, I don't think so."

"Seriously, kid, let me go or the Veiled Society will give you a good seeing to. Your pappa may have bought you the fancy kit, but you ain't nothing compared to us."

"Really, you think I'm afraid of a bunch of lurkers in the shadow who murder young women?"

"I'm warning you, kid!"

"Fine," Broneslav concluded, "Maybe if you won't talk to me, you'll talk to the authorities instead."

The man continued to threaten him, but Broneslav paid no heed. His only concern was whether he should finish checking out these tunnels or take the man to the authorities immediately.

Saturday 9 April 2022

2 Klarmont - A task

 The next day, a letter was delivered to Broneslav's house.

"Son, there is a letter for you from Aleksandar Torenescu," announced his father as if Broneslav had not seen the messenger arrive and announce just this same thing. The look on his father's face was one of pride. It had never been likely that his own son would come to the notice of the leader of the Torenescu clan. And certainly not at such a young age!

The letter, written by a functionary and not the great man himself, commended Broneslav for his actions the day before and offered him some employment with the clan. He was to report to a local craftsman and woodworker called Theosius this day. Theosius would have tasks for him that would benefit all of them. The appointment was fixed for lunchtime.

"Looks like I have some work to do here, father," Broneslav told him and handed the letter over for his father to read.

At the same time as he did that, there was a commotion at the door. An elderly lady was frantically trying to get past the door guard and yelling something about ghosts in her cellar. The guards were holding her back but she was clearly in a terrible state. Recognising her as one of the family's clients, a poor old woman called Goodwife Thanato, who had previously worked for Broneslav's family in some function or another that he could not remember, Broneslav went to find out what was going on. Dealing with the family's clients was the sort of job that usually fell to the youngest adult, so he was making a virtue of necessity by actively looking into this, and he might earn credit with the family for doing so instead of waiting to be told to do it.

"Sir, there are ghosts in my cellar. Please do something. I fear for my life!" She cried when she saw him.

Musing that it would be a poor thing if the family left its clients to fend for themselves with the lack of resources they all had, Broneslav reassured the woman that he would investigate. He asked her to wait while he gathered what he might need for the job. With any luck, it would be just rats and he could employ a ratcatcher to sort them out, but recent experience had taught him that things were not always that simple.

As they walked back to her hovel, Goodwife Thanato explained between sobs that she had heard voices from her cellar. They were muffled but distinctly human or humanoid.

"I fear they are demons wishing to take me to their infernal lairs, good sir."

When they arrived, Broneslav promptly climbed down the rickety ladder into Goodwife Thanato's cellar. Removing the cover from his shield, he was able to see clearly by its light. He was standing in a dirt cellar. It was dry and smelled earthy, funnily enough. A rat, disturbed by his entrance, scuttled to the south-west corner and disappeared from sight behind one of the many sacks piled along the walls.

There was no way the rat's scuttling and sqeaking could sound human, so he began a thorough check of the cellar. His sharp eyes quickly noticed that two areas of the cellar showed unusual wear. Although the hard-packed floor did not yield signs of footprints, the dust and dirt had been disturbed in an odd pattern in the north-west corner and towards the centre of the south side. Pulling sacks away from the wall at these points revealed small passages leading away into the dark. These were no rat runs. So, there really was a mystery to solve here. The question was, which direction should he try first?

Sunday 3 April 2022

Restarting your game collection?

 I was over on BGG in my lunch break the other day and saw a thread about restarting your gaming collection. It caught my interest, because I often think about rationalising my collection with a view to playing what I already own more rather than spreading my gaming time thinly around . So, the premise is that you have lost all of your games in some catastrophic event. What do you get to replace them?

There is a lot of leeway on the original thread. No mention of being constrained by a budget or anything like that. I assume you would have to only aim for games that are actually available, but there's nothing wrong with dreaming either. What would you go for?

For myself, I am going to assume that the insurance paid up, which allows me to dream a bit bigger, but I would also be buying with a view to playing fewer games more often. My criteria for choosing the games would be based on the following:

  • What am I likely to get the most use out of?
  • What do I find myself getting down off the shelf and wanting to play even if I don't at that point?
  • What do I find myself pottering with most, sorting counters or looking for storage solutions?
  • Am I sufficiently nostalgic for this game to buy it?

That's a fairly broad group of criteria and there may well be other considerations. Looking at my peripatetic lifestyle, portability ought to be a consideration too, but I'm not going to think too hard about that. This is mostly about what springs gazelle-like to mind. I'm sure that long pondering would result in me remembering games that I once played and really enjoyed and might like to get, but this is about choosing games in the moment.

The first criterion points to games that can be played solo and with other people. I spend far too much of my time alone or in gaming deserts, so solo is essential, but I have always been more of a social gamer. That said, solo is also important because the types of games I want to buy tend not to be the ones that people around me want to play.

The second criterion points to hex-and-counter wargames for the most part. I enjoy Euro games, but I always wind up getting the hex-and-counter games down to paw over. This leads me to the third criterion where I find myself sorting counters and trying to organise my hex-and-counter games more than my Euro games. It also suggests that games with expansions and supplements should be part of whatever list I make.

The fourth criterion leads me to RPGs for the most part. I rarely get nostalgic for boardgames, perhaps because I still play them, but I do pine for the halcyon days of Basic D&D and Classic Traveller, hence my ongoing, but often intermittent, Scarlet Heroes solo game. I think the only boardgame I get nostalgic about is Terrible Swift Sword, a monster game of the Battle of Gettysburg 1863. I remember with fondness attempting to play this game to completion both solo and with a friend. These attempts never succeeded for a variety of reasons related to bad luck, accidents with the gaming table, and, in one case, a rogue sparrow.

With all that in mind, what would I get and why?

Scarlet Heroes

I would absolutely get another copy of Scarlet Heroes. It's the best fantasy RPG I know. It combines a modern streamlined design with old school nostalgia and is fully compatible with the old D&D modules. It is also designed for solo play, either completely alone or one player and one DM. For these reasons it would be top of my list for restarting my gaming collection. I would supplement this purchase with the PoD versions of the Basic and Expert D&D scenarios, and the accompanying Gazetteers. All of these would sit nicely on my shelf, can be played solo as I am showing with the adventures of Broneslav Torenescu, and could provide entertainment should I find someone else wanting to play.

Classic Traveller and 15mm Sci-Fi Gaming

I love Classic Traveller, and my first thought was that it would be second on my list. However, I do wonder if I would be willing to collect it all over again. From the perspective of starting all over again, I feel like there would be too much to do, because my Traveller gaming and my 15mm sci-fi gaming are both closely linked. I frequently use Traveller as inspiration for figure games or seek to set games in the CT universe.

This brings me to 15mm sci-fi gaming. I have a lot of painted figures for 15mm sci-fi and probably as many unpainted ones. I am just not sure that I could be bothered painting them all over again. Maybe if money were no object, I could get someone else to paint them all over again though. Of all the things I game, 15mm sci-fi is the most tempting to buy back into in this thought experiment. And there are a lot of different rules to play it with, so it could provide a huge amount of variety.

Advanced Squad Leader

ASL has been a part of my life for 30 years. I've done tournaments, played a lot against friends and played a lot solo. It's a game system that has so much to offer that it ought to be a no-brainer buying back into it. And yet, I sometimes think I should just sell up my ASL stuff. I rarely get to play it these days and all the players seem to be concentrated in places that I never work. The fact that I don't use it at the moment is the primary reason I would not buy back into it. Still, if I lost it all and had the means to buy back in, I probably would, assuming that the modules I want were available. Having it there would mean that I had the potential to play again. That seems important to me. I just have to hope that the carers in the nursing home will be willing to move the counters and tell me what is on them when I am in my dotage and finally have the time to play.

Interestingly, I have seen my focus change in recent years. I am more interested in playing on the historical maps and playing the Eastern Front campaigns. So, there is a good chance I would buy back into the game but at a reduced scale. That would mean buying:

  • ASL Rules
  • ASL Journal digital download
  • Beyond Valor
  • Red Factories
  • Valor of the Guards
  • Solitaire ASL
  • ASL map bundle

That lot would give me about 50-60 geomorphic maps, a set of historical packs with campaigns and maps, and the facility to play a wide variety of Eastern Front solo campaigns. That is more than enough gaming potential for one lifetime. An alternative focus would see me adding the Axis Minors and Festung Budapest modules to that set, or heading west to 1940 with the UK and Commonwealth, French and Allied Minors so I could do France 1940 and Norway 1940. In terms of compactness though, the Eastern Front is simpler and you don't wind up with any excess counters.

Anything else?

I'm struggling to think of anything else that I would automatically buy back into. My gaming has always been steered a lot by what my opponents want to play when I have someone to play against. My philosophy is generally that it is better to play than not, and that means accommodating others. My poor, long-suffering opponent, Steve, has been drawn into more than a few fads by me and vice versa, but that is not always the case. So, if I were to start anything new, it would probably be inspired by contact with others, although there are a couple of rules/periods that I am more likely to choose to work on alone: Command Decision: Test of Battle with the Benghazi Handicap sourcebook for the Western Desert, and anything Viking-related spring rapidly to mind. I also quite like the idea of a Swedish-themed Seven Years War or Great Northern War imagi-nation so maybe I could use this imaginary opportunity to work on those.

The other driver for my gaming is games that can be played solo, preferably with a collaborative option so I have the option of playing with others. If they are compact and easy to take on my travels, so much the better. In my current circumstances, I think that largely precludes figure games, especially because I don't think I could be bothered painting the figures all over again. I seem to enjoy painting less and less as the years go by! So, that leaves me looking for solo and collaborative board wargames for the most part. There are a lot around these days, which means I could look around to see what takes my fancy and buy those.

And you?

If you have got this far in my ramblings, what would you buy into in this thought experiment?

Saturday 2 April 2022

1 Klarmont - The Festival of Lucor

Although this next adventure takes place in Specularum, the capital of Karameikos, I have not yet made a map of my own for it. It's on the list! Details about Specularum can be found online fairly easily. Threshold Magazine has an issue dedicated to the city, and the Vaults of Pandius have various pages describing it. There is also a map of the city on the Vaults of Pandius. Feel free to read this narrative in conjunction with these sources, which largely conform to the background I am trying to stick to, although my game will differ in detail because Broneslav is not necessarily a reliable narrator.

Broneslav had enjoyed the chance to relax for a while, even if he did have to get involved with the family business for part of it, and he was looking forward to the Festival of Lucor. It took place every year on the official first day of summer. It promised to be a good one this year for the weather was especially good and omens suggested that there would be a bumper harvest.

Broneslav Torenescu, Aged 16

When he emerged from his house, the festival was in full swing already. Music played, acrobats, mimes, and other artistes performed. People were talking excitedly and wandering around in their best clothes. Those who had the money bought sweetmeats from market stalls, while other more impecunious types snaffled them where they could. These latter suffered the blows and buffets of outrageous fortune when caught, while the stallholders from whom they pilfered cursed them. The smells of sewage, grilled meats, spiced breads, sweat, wine and beer all mingled into one glorious odour that informed Broneslav's nose that he was home. He wandered the city and drank in the sights and smells.

As he sampled a spiced bun from a nearby stall, Broneslav noticed the crowd in the street pushing back to the buildings on either side. The noises faded and were replaced by bells and chanting. Statues carried by several people swayed above the heads of the crowd. Priests of Traladara followed behind, carrying a sedan chair on their shoulders.

"The procession is coming," came from the throats of many bystanders. The excitement was palpable. Here came the statue of Lucor that would be floated out to sea. Broneslav knew that it was a distant relative of his who would lead the Procession this year, Lady Magda. That must be her in the sedan chair.

Suddenly everything went quiet as the procession stopped. Three men were arguing in the street ahead of the Procession.

"What?" said a small, plump man to the leading cleric, "You Torenescu scum think you own this street! There's room for all of us and no need for your overbearing ways here."

The lead bearer looked contemptuously at the other man, "Out of the way of the Procession of Lucor, Radu rabble."

A tall, lean man who stood beside the plump man sneered at the bearer and spat on the statue of Lucor, "That old fool? Don't make me laugh!"

The lead bearer struck the tall man with his rod of office and knocked him into the filth of the street. The smaller man tensed and put his hand to his dagger.

At this point, Broneslav intervened. Stepping between the two factions.

"Sirs," he said to the two troublemakers, "I think it best that you make way for the procession. Or would you like to take this discussion outside the city where we can, umm, 'discuss' more freely?"

He moved his hand to the bound sword at his side, and the gaze of the two men followed this movement. They took in the well-used weapon and the coldness in the young man's eyes. Then they thought twice. Even as young as he was, Broneslav looked like more trouble than a pampered temple cleric.

"Hah," sneered the smaller man, "You think you're something, don't you? We'll deal with you later."

The two men scuttled off.

"Thank you, young man," said the lead bearer and the procession carried on its way.

As the sedan chair passed him, Broneslav noticed the Lady Magda appraising him. She nodded in his direction and then disappeared out of sight as the crowd refilled the streets.