Bees emerge as blind worms from the flesh of rotting cows. The cockatrice is hatched from the eggs of black hens that have been corrupted by sorcerers. Kittens born in the month of May should be killed immediately since they will surely bring misfortune to the household. The caladarius bird dwells in the palaces of the great and by its gaze reveals whether an invalid will live or die. The Bestiary of Sundry Creatures sets out pre-modern people’s beliefs about many of the creatures that populated their world and their imagination. In addition to providing OSR (and Mork Borg) compatible statistics for these animals, it includes scholarly opinions and rustic folklore about the temperament, behaviour and medicinal and magical qualities of these creatures. GMs can use this material to make their medieval and early modern fantasy worlds richer, weirder and more immersive.
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Whitchester Cathedral dominates the skyline of the city, like a great grey spike, reaching drunkenly into the sky. Up close it seems cyclopean, dizzying in its height. The area around the cathedral is open ground, grass and mud, punctuated by grave markers and sarcophogi of the great and good. This, in turn is bounded by skeletal trees and the attendant buildings that service the grand church, alleys and gates granting access to the profane, from this domain of the sacred.
The Cathedral was where many sought safety and assistance when the city began to fall, overwhelming the otherwise defensible building and causing its downfall. Religious faith was no protection from the dead. What was once the holiest of places is now amongst the unholiest.
Without upkeep and repair it is slowly crumbling, crumbling and flooding as it sinks into the wet ground beneath it under its own weight, but it is also one of the few more open areas in the city, where you can see the enemy from a safe distance.
Encounters: There should always be some wandering dead, scattered throughout the open area of Cathedral Park. Perhaps 2d6 walking dead.
The Cathedral is an enormous slab of a building, built of grey-blue stone, adorned with statuary, crenelations and stained glass. Half of the leaning spire is clad in crumbling scaffold, wood and rope creaking and swaying with each gust of wind. Crows and pigeons perch on the high walls and statues, cooing and croaking as they stare down at you.
The ground here is damp, the floor of the cathedral – and its surrounding paving – a good foot lower than the surrounding soil and covered in puddles of filthy water. Defiant ivy has begun its relentless creep up the walls, with the greenest, brightest shoots beginning to spread across the lower windows and choking the drainage.
The enormous, iron-bound doors of the entrance are partially open, the bar splintered. Saints and bishops stand impasive and powerful, graven in stone while the sound of unearthly moaning echoes out from the nave.
The building is, perhaps, 500 feet long by one-hundred feet wide, with the transepts extending another fifty feet out from the main body of the cathedral. The tower is 150 feet high, with the pointed spire extending another 100 feet into the air above that.
The building is largely constructed of blue-grey limestone, brought from the Southern coast. Much of the exterior wall is filled in with great patchwork constructions of mortar and flint, creating a riot of blues, grey, white and black – when the walls are wet. This provides a great many hand and footholds, though they are shallow, slippery and frequently sharp.
The building is surrounded by paving slabs of the same grey material, creating a walkway around the outside of the entire cathedrals, and between it and the chapter house. Many of these slabs are sinking into the earth and are at wonky angles, the gutters and troughs for draining water are similarly disjointed, creating puddles and soggy earth all year round.
The statuary that adorns the cathedral depicts, primarily, gargoyles and angels. It can be hard to tell which is which, as many of the angels are more accurate depictions of how they are described, than merely winged humans. Many have multiple pairs of wings, multiple faces, many eyes or other manifestations that can look monstrous to those without a proper biblical understanding.
The main door is flanked by the statues of two previous bishops, Bishop Beckyngham and Bishop Tyndall, depicted in their robes and with dour, pious expressions. Above them, wings spread over the top of the door, is a more conventional depiction of an angel, with a halo of radiating spikes – like spear-tips.
The gate is some twelve feet high, split in half. It is made of thick, English oak and bound and studded with iron. The wooden panels have been painted a dark blue, but are encrusted with bloodstains and dented by some great, external pressure. The wooden bar that secures the gate – from the inside – is splintered, again as though sundered by some great external force. If replaced, the door could be secured against the dead.
Sickly, coloured light penetrates the irriguous interior of the cathedral through its stained glass windows that run down either side of the nave. From here you can see almost all the way to the presbytery, past the high altar. A gallery runs around the building, up above the nave and the vertiginous, vaulted roof yawns above you, echoing every sound you make over and over again. Here and there water drips through broken roofing, to echo around the cathedrail. Crows and pigeons flap and sport amongst the arches, blaspheming the house of god with their droppings and raucous cries. Scattered and fallen pews fill the centre of the hall, covered in dried blood and torn shreds of cloth.
The nave is the broad, main hall of the church that runs from the entrance to the transepts and the high altar. Two rows of columns run along either side of the nave, helping to support the upper gallery and its wooden panels. The central area is open to the high arched and vaulted roof above, dizzying in its spiraling patterns and arcs.
There are twenty-two stained glass windows, eleven in the northern wall, eleven in the southern wall, each depicting a scene of martyrdom. Each also has a second, round window above it, admitting more light onto the gallery.
Northern Wall (West to East)
1. The Massacre of the Innocents – Babies and children impaled on spears.
2. John the Baptist – His severed, bloody head, surrounded by a halo.
3. Saint Stephen – Bloodied, with a stone balanced on each shoulder and atop his head.
4. Saint James the Greater – Bloodied, driven through with a sword.
5. Saint James the Just – Bloodied, carrying a club in his hands.
6. Saint Peter – Crucified upside-down.
7. Saint Paul – Decaptitated, holding his own head.
8. Saint Andrew – Crucified on an ‘X’-shaped cross.
9. Saint Matthew – Impaled by spears.
10. Saint Philip – Crucified on a tall cross.
11. Saint Thomas – Bloodied, driven through with a spear.
Southern Wall (West to East)
1. Saint Potninus – Surrounded and torn at by wild beasts.
2. Perpetua and Felicity – A woman and her servant, pierced by swords while a cherub looks on.
3. The Scillitan Martyers – Twelve faces looking up at a bloodied sword.
4. Saint Justin Martyr – Decaptiated, with an axe close by.
5. Saint Polycarp – Burned at the stake.
6. Saint Timothy – Blooded and battered on a pile of stones.
7. Saint Mark – Depicted hanging from a rope.
8. Saint Simon the Zealot – Depicted severed in half at the waist.
9. Saint Barnabas – Being burnt at the stake.
10. Saint Bartholomew – Stripped to the waist and covered in bleeding whip marks.
11. Saint Jude – Bloodied, decapitated, bearing an axe.
Encounters: It is easy for the dead to enter the Cathedral and to mill around inside, but less easy for them to get out – the other entrances and exits being locked and blocked. The dead seem drawn to this place, as though still considering it to be a place of refuge. There should be 2d6 random undead within the area. Note that zombies from other areas of the cathedral will be attracted by noise, and may join in any attack.
- [ ] Beeswax Candles (Long): 1,500 in stores, chests and cupboards, (several hundred in candlesticks and candalabra).
[ ]Beeswax Candles (Votive): 500 (stored near and set in racks to the north and south sides of the nave).
- [ ]Tallow Candles (Beef/Mutton): 500 (cheaper candles, set in candlesticks and sconces in the nave, many nibbled on by mice and rats).
- [ ]Multi-Wick Oil Lamps: 12, hanging from the ceiling, six on each side of the nave.
- [ ]Kegs of Lamp Oil: 24, in stores and chests.
- [ ]Brass Candlesticks: 100.
- [ ]Brass Candalabra: 12, hanging from the ceiling, six on each side of the nave.
- [ ]The Poor Box: 485 copper pieces, 15 silver pieces, 4 gold pieces.
Choir & Presbytery
The benches for the choir stand two deep on the north and south of the junction between the nave and and transepts. Before them are the pews for the great and good, the gentry from before the city fell, closer to the altar, and to God. It is dark here, shielded from the windows, the candles burnt all the way down into rippling overflows that spill onto the floor. Gilt and brass glitters in the patchy light, reflecting off the geometrically carved choir screens. Before the high altar, and to its side, up a short set of stairs is the pulpit, graven in the shape of a boar and picked out in gold, behind both a stone screen, silver and gold on light grey stone, carved with stars, sun and arches.
The choir stands at the junction of the nave and transcept, in the westernmost part of the crossing. This is the area in which the choir sings, and the wealthy elite of the city would attend services. A once-rich rug of mouldering red, lays across the centre of the area, soggy with damp.
Encounters: 2d10 child zombie choirboys, others may have wandered away. 1 zombie priest and 1d4 other random zombies.…
Want some real horror for D&D? Check out Grimdark.
The God Brain
The God Brain squats malevolently in its roiling, vaporous broth. It is covered in sores and lesions, pus dissolving away into its tank while diligent mind flayers tend and sooth and operate – constantly. You feel its attention, like you’re being turned around in your own skin, pass over you and for a moment you hear its echoing madness in the patterns of your own thoughts and mind. The brain is in torment, madness, driven by palpable revenge and an endless thirst for forbidden lore.
Gargantuan Aberration, lawful evil
Armor Class: 11 (The God Brain is surrounded by an AC 22, 72 HP tank of transparent adamantine which is transparent to the God Brain’s powers, but must be broken before the God Brain can be attacked).
Hit Points: (20d12 + 180 – Roll when you encounter the God Brain to determine its current state of health)
Speed: 5 ft., swim 10 ft.
STR 30 (+10) DEX 10 (+0) CON 28 (+9) INT 23 (+6) WIS 18 (+4) CHA 24 (+7)
Saving Throws: Int +10, Wis +9, Cha +12
Skills: Arcana +11, Deception +12, Insight +14, Intimidation +12, Persuasion +12
Senses: Blindsight 480 ft., passive Perception 14
Languages: Understands Common, Deep Speech, and Undercommon but can’t speak, telepathy 5 miles
Overmind: The God Brain, while it sits in its lair, is aware of all its dedicated servants and can sense everything that they can sense and communicate with them in a network. So long as one servant can see or hear something, all can.
Mist Vibrations: To those it controls, its servants and some magical devices, the God Brain appears as a beacon in the mists. A fixed point to which its servants can always guide themselves, despite the confusion of the mists.
Closing the Border: The God Brain can electrify the mists and flood them with psychically active gases, effectively cutting them off and wiping the memories (Wisdom Save DC 18) of any who leave.
Life Support: The God Brain has reserves of spinal fluid it can use to heal itself from damage, and it is tended by mind flayers who can also engage in healing actions. The God Brain has 2d10 doses of spinal fluid, each of which can heal it for 1d12 Hit Points, once per turn as a bonus action. It’s tenders can expend an action to heal its sores and wounds with arcane devices and consoles, healing 1d6 Hit Points for each action (Move, Action, Bonus Action) they expend in tending it.
Creature Sense: The God Brain is aware of the presence of creatures within 20 miles of it that have an Intelligence score of 4 or higher. It knows the distance and direction to each creature, as well as each one’s intelligence score, but can’t sense anything else about it. A creature protected by a mind blank spell, a nondetection spell, or similar magic can’t be perceived in this manner.
Innate Spellcasting (Psionics): The God Brain’s innate spellcasting ability is Intelligence (spell save DC 19, spell attack +11). It can innately cast the following spells, requiring no components:
At will: detect thoughts, levitate, augury, blindness/deafness, enthrall, suggestion, zone of truth, comand.
4/day each: dominate monster, antipathy/sympathy, feeblemind, mind blank, forcecage, mirage arcane, project image, mass suggestion
Legendary Resistance (3/Day): If the God Brain fails a saving throw, it can choose to succeed instead.
Damage Vulnerability: The God Brain is vulnerable to poison damage.
Infirmity: The God Brain has disadvantage on Constitution Saves.
Magic Resistance: The God Brain has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.
Telepathic Hub: The God Brain can use its telepathy to initiate and maintain telepathic conversations with up to forty creatures at a time. The God Brain can let those creatures telepathically hear each other while connected in this way.
Tentacle: Melee Weapon Attack: +9 to hit, reach 30 ft., one target. Hit: (16d8 + 10) bludgeoning damage. If the target is a Huge or smaller creature, it is grappled (escape DC 23) and takes (4d8 + 5) psychic damage at the start of each of its turns until the grapple ends. The God Brain can have up to four targets grappled at a time.
Mind Blast (Recharge 5–6): The God Brain magically emits psychic energy. Creatures of the God Brain’s choice within 240 feet of it must succeed on a DC 18 Intelligence saving throw or take 32 (20d10 + 5) psychic damage and be stunned for 1 minute. A target can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success.
Psychic Link: The God Brain targets one incapacitated creature it can perceive with its Creature Sense trait and establishes a psychic link with that creature. Until the psychic link ends, the God Brain can perceive everything the target senses. The target becomes aware that something is linked to its mind once it is no longer incapacitated, and the God Brain can terminate the link at any time (no action required). The target can use an action on its turn to attempt to break the psychic link, doing so with a successful DC 18 Charisma saving throw. On a successful save, the target takes (12d6) psychic damage. The psychic link also ends if the target and the God Brain are more than 5 miles apart, with no consequences to the target. The God Brain can form psychic links with up to ten creatures at a time.
Sense Thoughts: The God Brain targets a creature with which it has a psychic link. The God Brain gains insight into the target’s reasoning, its emotional state, and thoughts that loom large in its mind (including things the target worries about, loves, or hates). The God Brain can also make a Charisma (Deception) check with advantage to deceive the target’s mind into thinking it believes one idea or feels a particular emotion. The target contests this attempt with a Wisdom (Insight) check. If the God Brain succeeds, the mind believes the deception for 1 hour or until evidence of the lie is presented to the target.
The God Brain can take 3 legendary actions, choosing from the options below. Only one legendary action can be used at a time and only at the end of another creature’s turn. The God Brain regains spent legendary actions at the start of its turn.
Tentacle: The God Brain makes a tentacle attack.
Break Concentration: The God Brain targets a creature within 120 feet of it with which it has a psychic link. The God Brain breaks the creature’s concentration on a spell it has cast. The creature also takes 4d4 psychic damage per level of the spell.
Psychic Pulse: The God Brain targets a creature within 480 feet of it with which it has a psychic link. Enemies of the God Brain within 10 feet of that creature take (12d6) psychic damage.
Sever Psychic Link: The God Brain targets a creature within 480 feet of it with which it has a psychic link. The God Brain ends the link, causing the creature to have disadvantage on all ability checks, attack rolls, and saving throws until the end of the creature’s next turn.
When fighting inside its lair, the God Brain can use lair actions. On initiative count 20 (losing initiative ties), the God Brain can take one lair action to cause one of the following effects; the God Brain can’t use the same lair action two rounds in a row:
The God Brain casts wall of force.
The God Brain targets up to four friendly creature it can sense within 480 feet of it. The target has a flash of inspiration and gains advantage on one attack roll, ability check, or saving throw it makes before the end of its next turn. If the target doesn’t or can’t use this benefit in that time, the inspiration is lost.
The God Brain targets one creature it can sense within 480 feet of it and anchors it by sheer force of will. The target must succeed on a DC 18 Charisma saving throw or be unable to leave its current space. It can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success.
The territory within 20 miles of the God Brain is altered by the creature’s psionic presence, which creates one or more of the following effects:
Creatures within 20 miles of an God Brain feel as if they are being followed, even when they are not.
The God Brain can overhear any telepathic conversation happening within 20 miles of it. The creature that initiated the telepathic conversation makes a DC 18 Wisdom (Insight) check when telepathic contact is first established. If the check succeeds, the creature is aware that something is eavesdropping on the conversation. The nature of the eavesdropper isn’t revealed, and the God Brain can’t participate in the telepathic conversation unless it has formed a psychic link with the creature that initiated it.
Any creature with which the God Brain has formed a psychic link hears faint, incomprehensible whispers in the deepest recesses of its mind. This psychic detritus consists of the God Brain stray thoughts commingled with those of other creatures to which it is linked.
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Through the iron bars of the prison cart, across the rolling acres of downland and the rounded hills, Wightchester hoves into view. Is it your imagination, or does the sky look a little darker over that blighted city? It squats behind its walls, dowdy and stained with flocks of crows constantly circling. Even from this distance you think you can hear the hungry dead within, a constant, low cacophony of mindless moaning. From outside only the rooftops and the tallest buildings are visible. Above them all rises the square-block-and-spike spire of the Cathedral, ragged with crow’s nests, a holy signpost to the most unholy of places.
Even beyond the walls its presence can be felt. The cart rattles through abandoned farmhouses and villages, only a few occupied by fearful looking peasants, eking out a living where no other will dare. Around and around the city is circled by hedgerows and ditches, by wooden spikes and tangles of dry, dead brambles.
Guards file out of their barracks to gawp at the passing prisoners, fresh meat for the butcher’s block.
Outside the Walls
Wightchester sits within the South Downs, atop a part of the River Itchen, north of Cheesefoot Head. The Itchen was once a clean river, fed by chalk aquifers, where wild watercress would grow and trout would swim in great number. After flowing through Wightchester the water is now unclean, carrying disease to many and occasionally even raising the dead from their graves downstream, if they are buried too close to the water. Farmland watered from this source does not grow well, often producing twisted fruit, ergot-riddled grain, rot and sourness.
Wightchester itself lays across a very slight valley, carved by the river, but the downland all around is low, gently rolling and you can see a long way on a clear day, at least as far as the nearest hills. Much of the land around Wightchester is abandoned, dilapidated villages with rotting thatch, copses of trees reclaiming the ground, half-wild pigs, ponies, cows and sheep roaming the downs. Only a few bother to still work the land here, fearful of the dead as they are. The villages, already emptied by war and plague, now only host the stubborn, the radical, the insane and outlaws.
The walls of Wightchester are not considered sufficient to contain the threat, and so various earthworks and protections have been erected around the city. A great bank and ditch – in the old style – bone white from the chalky soil and only just beginning to be colonised by weeds and brambles. A barren circle of salted earth, salt thought – by some – to be proof against demons and witchcraft. Great fences of sharpened staves, blunting in the weather, but appearing scary enough. A great spiny hedge of blackthorn has also been planted, both as protection and to hide the rest of the defences from passing travellers. Here and there are also great crucifixes, raised by the religious, thought to help contain and control the devilry that reigns in the city.
A single path winds through each and every part of the defences, studded with several gatehouses of wood and stone, each one guarded by a handful of men, the final gate being that of the city itself.
Two garrisons stand to defend England from the foulness within the city. One has been built up in an old farmhouse, the other in a vacated manorhouse – where the Captain Safe-On-High Travers commands from. A whole company is stationed here, though not of the best men. Wightchester has become a dumping ground for the insubordinate and the untrusted, duty here is a punishment – hence the Puritan captain.
The soldiers here number a hundred, fifty billeted at the farmhouse, fifty at the manor…
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Crimes and Misdemeanours
Everyone or almost everyone, who passes through the prison gates of Wightchester is guilty of a crime. If not guilty of a crime, they are either thought to be guilty or have volunteered to enter the city.
For those who are criminals, or wrongly accused, there must be a crime for which they have been sentenced. The following table provides a proportionally weighted set of possibilities for that crime. The player may choose from the list or roll randomly, and it is the random roll that I recommend.
Of course, if you roll randomly for both the crime and whether you are guilty or not, you may find that your character is guilty of some thoroughly repugnant or horrendous crime. You can always play your character as having fundamentally changed or as seeking reform and redemption, but better roleplaying opportunities come from rolling with the punches. This is especially true in such a ‘Grimdark’ setting.
These crimes are culled from The Bloody Code and the reasons for transportation to the colonies. As such, some are apocryphal to the period, but then there wasn’t a city full of undead in our real history.
Keep in mind that being consigned to Wightchester, or transported, was seen as merciful compared to being hung, beheaded or subjected to other forms of execution. In England, beheading or hanging (and sometimes gibbeting) were the main methods of execution, with beheadings not ending until the mid-1700s. Burning at the stake was primarily reserved for women guilty of treason and ‘unnatural crimes’ and continued into the late 1700s. Given the supernatural pretexts of the setting of Wightchester, burning – and other horrible forms of execution – are likely to be relatively prevalent.
Guilty or Innocent? – Roll 1d10
Crime – Roll 1d100
1-80: Thieving (Roll 1d12)
1-2: Burglary: Breaking and entering a premises, likely causing damage, and making off with goods of any value, or even failing in the attempt to burgle.
3: Demanding Money with Menaces: Extorting people for money by making threats or offering ‘protection’.
4: Fraud: Pretending to be something you are not to gain sympathy, regard or money. This might include pretending to be a pensioner or war veteran, selling phoney cures or masquerading as a priest or similar person ‘of station’.
5: Highway Robbery: Stand and deliver! You hide your face and rob people on the road, often at gunpoint.
6: Looting: This might include scavenging from shipwrecks (though wrecking is apocryphal) or making off with goods during a riot.
7-8: Pickpocketing: A shilling in 1667 is equivalent to about £6 today, and that would be enough to send you to the gallows or the colonies if you were caught.
9-10: Poaching: There is common land upon which you are allowed to hunt, graze your animals and so on, there is also the land that is privately owned, or owned by the Crown. So much as take a single rabbit on land, you’re not permitted access to, and you could be killed or transported.
11-12: Other Theft: Shoplifting and other forms of theft were punishable by death or transportation if they amounted to three shillings or more (£18-20 in today’s money).
The Early Modern Period
The Early Modern period runs from around 1500 CE through to around 1800 CE. It encompasses a period of great change, the earliest aspects of industrialisation, the widespread use of gunpowder and the advent of genuine science as a discipline. Wightchester is set in 1667, the year after the ‘Annus Mirablis’, a time after The Restoration and The English Civil War, a year after the last major gasp of the Black Death, a time that was already one of upheaval, even without the interference of the supernatural.
Our timeline combines these real events with our fictional city, and the powers of the supernatural alongside the ever-advancing capabilities of science.
As we are concerned with England, we are primarily concerned with the advances in tactics that came about during The Civil War. A large part of what won the war for Parliament was Cromwell’s creation of The New Model Army and these innovations would last beyond Cromwell and the Commonwealth, and would spread beyond England.
The New Model Army was a professional, full-time military. It was not connected to any single, particular area and was expected to travel anywhere in England, Ireland, Wales or Scotland. Its leadership was based upon merit, not station, and lords and nobles were banned from being officers within it. It was recruited from military veterans, and filled out with conscripts who shared certain political or religious points of view, allowing them to unify in common cause. Without loyalty to Crown or to Parliament the New Model Army was unfettered, but also free – as it happened – to prop up Cromwell’s dictatorship.
Standard gear and centralised planning meant that the New Model Army was (relatively) well paid, equipped and fed. Especially when compared to the patchwork levy deployed by the Royalists. At the same time a common man, who was brave and clever, could advance in the ranks, while amateurs of ‘good breeding’ were often removed from positions of leadership. The rough, common, and frequently drunken, nature of the army had the added bonus of scandalising the nobility.
The New Model Army made extensive use of elite horse troops, with regiments of horse acting with extreme discipline and dragoons armed with flintlock carbines at the very cutting edge of the technology of the time. This cavalry could move fast, reload at speed and was able to hold their nerve far more stongly than the royalists.
This cavalry was supported by massed ranks of pikemen and matchlock-armed soldiers, who could unleash devastating volleys of fire.
The footsoldiers were, in turn, supported by artillery.
Beyond their elite and technologically advanced regiments of horse and their common cause and professionalism, the main advantage of the New Model Army was in its logistics. Provisioning and pay was seen as paramount, and on extended campaigns each man carried seven days of rations and one sixth of a six-man tent (six men forming a ‘file’).
This professional, disciplined military would dictate the shape of the small, professional, meritocratic nature of the British military, though the leadership would be replaced by ‘donkeys’ in the intervening years up to the first world war.
In England in this period, and before, religious upheaval was more the norm than the exception. The Church of England emerged in the same period Protestantism was rapidly expanding and, perhaps, made England more receptive to reformation and democratisation of faith.
Part of the reason for the English Civil War was the perception of Charles the First as being a ‘papist’ and revulsion and hatred for Catholicism ran rampant. Catholics were blamed for the Great Fire of London, Jews were subjected to abuse and pogroms and anything more exotic was simply misunderstood or dismissed as heresy.
The gilded nature of the Catholic Church and the dissolute nature of the monarchy in the time of Charles the First led to a serious backlash. Wealth was looted, radical protestants formed the core of the proto-socialist revolutionary movements and during the Commonwealth era dancing, theatre and other forms of ungodly behaviour were banned under the aegis of puritanical religion.
With The Restoration came a backlash to the backlash, a riot of colour, noise and celebration. Many who had fought in the Civil War were still dour and disapproving, many of them leaving to form their own, more godly communities in the New World.
It was a time of cults, heresies, the wedding of political and spiritual concerns and of terrible religious hatred. What witchcraft and heresy went on in the shadows must have been truly extreme, given what went on in public.
Ever since the arrival of The Black Death, Europe was subjected to political upheaval. Lords were forced to allow serfs to travel and settle, craftsmen were able to demand more in exchange for their services and more power was devolved. Not to the people, of course, but to lesser nobility and aldermen from amongst the expanding middle class. The horrendous truth was that the mass death of their fellows was of great benefit to the survivors.
This trend continued with each return of the plague, the rise in literacy and education, the democratisation of religion and the ever-expanding middle class, finding its ultimate expression – at the time – in the proto-socialist, agrarian movements and religious cults that arose. Some of these persist, even today, in radical and puritanical sects of protestantism.
This would, perhaps, culminate in the French Revolution, but in our period the greatest expression, and the greatest disappointment, was the rise of Cromwell and the Parliamentarians. Cromwell successfully united various radical groups under his banner, and those who supported Parliament over the Crown.
Combining this unified movement against privilege and domination, Cromwell – like so many revolutionaries – failed to live up to his promise or the radical demands of many of his followers. Instead Cromwell would set himself up as a dictator and would attempt to create a new dynasty by installing his son as his successor. That did not go well, resulting in The Restoration and the ascent of Charles the Second to leadership of Britain.
As with the much earlier Magna Carta, while the King returned to the throne, royal and noble power was never as strong again, setting the stage for the constitutional monarchy system that rules the UK even today, with the Queen reduced to a purely ceremonial role.
Even so, in the period that Wightchester is set, many disaffected radicals remain, along with religious and political communes.
The Baptists were a radical religious movement at the time. Today we associate them with established, fundamentalist churches – primarily in the United States – but at this time they are mostly still to be found within Britain. The Baptists began from a seed of Puritan separatists from Holland. Their beliefs were primarily centred around the practice of baptism, and the idea of a general and universal possibility of redemption stemming from faith, rather than works.
Despite their fellow radicalism, the Baptists were soon divided between Calvinist (Particular) and non-Calvinist (General) factions. Both expanded rapidly through a period of religious liberation in the 1640s, finding many new members amongst artisans, farmers and in the New Model Army. Both were virulently anti-tithing and against education.
The Particular Baptists hove to Calvinist predestination, and were absorbed in a desire to be respectable and well-regarded, whereas the General Baptists were more strongly evangelical and anti-clerical. The Baptists – both wings – ended up being more moderate and cooperating with Parliament, but this moderacy did not save them from repercussions in the post-Cromwell world…
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The EroTech Gazetteer series expands on the world from the Tabletopless streams on Plexstorm. A – sometimes tongue-in-cheek – D&D setting of magical technology and stultifying order, where rebellion and sexuality go hand in hand.
In this issue you will find out more about the mysterious city of Vimana, learn the lore of the Khatsi (and how to play them) as well as facing a bevy of monsters, many of which have a bit of a naughty streak to them.
Check out our games almost every Wednesday, at midnight UK time, over on Plexstorm.
The nauga are a rotund, waddling creatures about the size of a bear, with pointed ears, wide saucer-eyes and pointed, twitching, cat-like ears atop their heads. Their tongue constantly lolls out of their terrible jaws, tasting the air like a snake, hunting for berries, fruit, mushrooms and carrion. Dark brown in colour, and with a bald, leathery hide, the nauga is found in temperate, deciduous forests, sheltered by mountains where the high humidity helps keep their hides flexible and hydrated. In winter they hibernate, but it is not the deepest of sleeps and if roused they can be frenziedly hungry.
This foolish looking creature is almost extinct, having been hunted relentlessly for its hide, which serves especially well for making armour and waterskins.
Uncommon, Mundane item
Leather or hide armour made with naugahyde has +1 AC and confers resistance to cold and water effect magic. It is not considered a magical item and does not need to be attuned.
Large monstrosity, unaligned
Armor Class: 14 (natural armor)
Hit Points 66 (7d10 + 28)
Speed 40 ft.
STR 18 (+4) DEX 12 (+1) CON 18 (+4) INT 4 (-3) WIS 12 (+1) CHA 7 (-2)
Skills: Perception +3
Senses: Darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 13
Languages: Understand Common
Challenge: 3 (700 XP)
Keen Sight and Smell: The nauga has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight or smell.
Resistances: Cold (and wet, damage from the impact of water spells or effects is halved).
Multiattack: The nauga makes two attacks: one with its jaws and one with its constricting arms.
Jaws: Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: 10 (1d10 + 4) piercing damage.
Arms: Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: (1d8 + 4) bludgeoning damage. The target is grappled (escape dc 14) Until this grapple ends, the creature is restrained, and the nauga can’t constrict another target.
The second (very rough) preview of Wightchester is up, in the form of some important and relevant information about the radical political and religious forces at work in England in the 1660s. That period being the (approximate) setting and time period for the book.
Think of it as a ‘bluffer’s guide’ to the Levellers, Diggers, Ranters, Fifth Monarchists, Quakers, Baptists and others at work during the English Civil War and its aftermath.
Plus you get to help and support a struggling game designer, writer, videographer and all around lovely chap – me! Hard times have meant some of my larger patrons have had to cancel their support, so I’d really appreciate even a dollar a month to take the rough edges off.
Nobody wants me to start an Onlyfans, trust me.
(Hardcopy will be available soon, technically you can buy it now at Lulu, but I’m waiting on a quality check).
Many fantasy games, if not all of them, follow the lead given by Dungeons & Dragons, and rapidly become superheroic parodies of themselves. This has been especially true of the newer editions, since AD&D Second Edition. It’s great, but it’s not for everyone.
At least not all of the time.
There are many kinds of fantasy, and Dungeons & Dragons’ increasingly sanitised, fluffy, generic, high-escapist fantasy – dripping in magical weapons and character invulnerability, isn’t necessarily what people want.
A Grimdark game is in part made from difficulty. In this context, that has to come from encouraging the players to play tactically and carefully. To do everything they can to swing advantage in their favour.
It’s also as much about encouraging players to deal with difficult and horrifying role-playing and decisionmaking consequences, all with less resources and power than they might be used to. It also encourages them, when necessary, to run away.
We need to take that, lustrous, heroic, ‘fantasy-Portland’ edge off 5th Edition’s default rules-set, to amp up the difficulty and make people play more carefully. At the same time, we don’t want to just turn it into an unfair meatgrinder.
So why not a game designer, literally known as ‘Grim’, to do it?