#TTRPG – Wightchester Preview – Firearms

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Firearms

The fourteenth century was the time in which gunpowder weapons first saw widespread use in Europe, beginning with cannon and simple explosives. By the seventeenth century things had progressed a considerable way from those early, dangerous weapons.

The matchlock was the oldest form of firearm still in use during this period. Prior to the matchlock weapons were fired by directly applying a match or burning taper to a powder-strewn hole atop a cannon or hand cannon – somewhat awkward and necessiting one-handed aiming of a rather cumbersome weapon. The matchlock held a burning taper or match within a mechanism which, when the trigger was pulled, touched it to a flash-pan of priming powder which would, in turn, ignite the charge. Matchlocks were susceptible to the weather, spilled powder from the flashpan, misfires and other issues but remained in use, in the form of muskets, right through the English Civil War and its aftermath.

The wheellock was a development from the matchlock, using a spring-loaded wheel, scraping against a fragment of pyrite (or similar material) to generate sparks, which would then ignite priming powder, and in turn the main charge of the firearm. The wheellock was rapidly replaced by the snaplock, snaphaunce, doglock, and finally the flintlock, all of which used flint and steel – and sometimes primer powder – to ignite the main charge.

The final evolution of this firing mechanism, and one that would be used for two whole centuries before being discarded, was the true flintlock, first developed in 1610 and used by the elite forces of the New Model Army, typically in the form of carbines and other cavalry use firearms, due to the relative simplicity and reliability of such a gun (many were water resistant and weren’t at risk of spilling their primer powder).

Because of the slowness of reloading weapons, even the more efficient flintlock, a number of innovations were made to compensate. Weapons with multiple barrels were constructed, which could be fired one shot after another, all at once, or even in a rapid volley, one shot after another. Barrels could be clustered together to fire a devastating volley, spread out to shoot in a broad spread or mixed with close-combat weapons such as hammers, axes, swords and knives. Some even had revolving barrels, able to fire multiple shots and even of having their revolving drum swapped in and out – an early version of a magazine. Some gunfighters would wear multiple, holstered pistols, drawing and discarding (or sheathing) the pistols as they were expended and reloading them all before the next battle…

#TTRPG – Wightchester Preview – The Early Modern Period

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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.

Military Tactics

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.

Religious Upheaval

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.

Political Upheaval

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.

Baptists

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…

#TTRPG – Wightchester Preview – Introduction

Winchester Cathedral

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Wightchester was once ‘Whitchester’. ‘Whit’ meaning ‘white’ and ‘chester’ from the Roman ‘castrum’, meaning ‘fort’. The place was once known, then, as ‘white-fort’ or ‘white castle’, the ‘white’ of its name coming from the chalk downland upon which it was built.

The town grew up around the Roman fort, with its walls being reinforced, expanded and rebuilt in the years following the retreat of the Romans and the descent into the Dark Ages. The Romans were not the first to settle in the area, though their villas and evidence of their presence remain everywhere in the city and the surrounding area – for those who know how to see.

In prehistoric times the large number of flints and the proximity to water led to several ‘mines’ being dug to extract the flint, with these unnatural caverns being re-used as burial chambers, which are occasionally stumbled upon by farmers and amateur archeologists.

These early, neolithic, structures and tribal hunting grounds eventually developed into the fortified settlements, burial mounds and standing stones that can still be seen dotting the landscape, and on from that the development of hill forts during Britain’s iron age. The remnants of these bygone ages are still turned up from time to time, usually in the form of imperishable stone arrowheads.

When the Romans came, the site of Whitchester was the site of a moderately sized set of standing stones, subsidiary to the not-too-distant Stonehenge, and a sizeable hill fort that was part of a network of defences belonging to the Belgae tribe. The Romans invaded, destroyed the temples as a demonstration of their power – using fire and water – and built their own garrison atop the hill fort of ‘Gwynbryn’ (White Hill). By the third century this fortress gained a true, stone wall and sprawled over more than one-hundred acres of land.

In medieval times the city shrank, but remained something of an urban centre, despite the decline. In the ancient chronicles it was known as ‘Caergwyn’ or ‘Gwyncaestre’ the second of which would eventually be corrupted into the form ‘Whitchester’. It was during this time (beginning in 685) that the Cathedral began to be built, though this construction was disrupted by both the Norman invasion of 1066 and the great importance being given to other Cathedrals. As such, Whitchester Cathedral ended up being constructed piecemeal, giving it a schizophrenic appearance, and wasn’t finished until 1527…

#RPG – Wightchester Preview 2 on Patreon and Subscribestar

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.

Patrons and Subscribestars get access to such exclusive previews and material, and access to me for questions and help with their games – or anything else I can help with.

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.

#RPG – Grimdark: Deadly, Nasty Rules for the World’s Most Ubiquitous RPG RELEASED!

BUY IT HERE!

(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?

BUY IT HERE!

#RPG – Grimdark Playtest Open!

If you’d like to playtest my Grimdark rules for 5e, the rules that are intended for use with Wightchester, please get in touch.

grim@post-mort.com

There’s a few things I’d like you to do with it, including running a little mini-scenario, generating a character and converting a monster. Deadline is mid July (17th)

Those who complete the full playtest will get a PDF of their choice, free, from the Postmortem Studios collection.

Grimdark: The Missing Material

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Due to a busted laptop I wasn’t able to finish D&D Month last month, the theme of which was ‘Grimdark’. To make up for that I present the missing material to all and sundry, free of the Patreon ‘paywall’ I had put up. These entries are not adjusted for the proposed ‘Grimdark’ rules, so that they’re more immediately usable to people who play 5e D&D.

Rat_SwarmCarrion-Fat Rat Swarm

A squeaking, hissing tide of rats grown sleek and huge and fat on the flesh of the dead. They have a taste for it now, and scramble over each other in their eagerness to feast – on you.

Large Beast, Unaligned
Armour Class 12
Hit Points 63 (14d8)
Speed 40 ftStr 14 (+2), Dex 15 (+2), Con 11 (+0), Int 2 (-4), Wis 10 (+0), Cha 3 (-4)Senses: Darkvision 60 ft, Passive Perception 10
Challenge 1/2 (100 xp)
Damage Resistances: Bludgeoning, piercing, slashingCondition Immunities: Charmed, frightened, paralysed, petrified, prone, restrained, stunned
Keen Smell: The Rat Swarm has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on smell.
Swarm: The swarm can occupy another creature’s space and vice versa, the swarm can move through any opening large enough for a Small creature. The swarm can’t regain hit-points or gain temporary hit points.
Bite: Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 0 ft, targets in the swarm’s space take one attack each, Hit: 15 (2d8+6 piercing damage), or 11 (1d8+6) if at half hit-points or lower.

markus-neidel-rattenkonigRat King

A twisted little knot of seven rats, bound together by their knotted tail, a fierce and defiant intelligence radiating from their beady red eyes.

Small Beast, Unaligned
Armour Class 14
Hit Points 32 (7d6+7) When reduced to half their starting hit points, the Rat King dissolves and is replaced with three ordinary rats.Speed 20 ft
Str 5 (-3) Dex 14 (+2) Con 12 (+1) Int 5 (-3) Wis 13 (+1) Cha 7 (-2)
Senses: Darkvision 60 ft, Passive Perception 11
Challenge 1 (200 xp)
Keen Smell: The Rat Swarm has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on smell.
Telepathy: Rat Kings can communicate telepathically to any intelligent being within their line of sight without the need to share language. They can communicate with and observe other rats telepathically within a mile radius.
Intelligence: Rat Kings are about as intelligent as the moderately retarded. They have an IQ of 40-50, can understand language and perform tool-using and work tasks but struggle with more abstract or detailed thought.
Rat Control: The Rat King provides advantage to any and all rats within its line of sight during combat, including swarms. Rats and rat swarms are capable of (low level) human-intelligence actions and tool use when directed by the Rat King.
Bite: Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft, Hit: 2 (1d6-3 piercing damage).
Psychic Attack: +3 1d10+1 damage, Wisdom Save vs DC 13 or stunned for one round. The Rat King can make one physical and one psychic attack each turn.

guillem-iborra-bosc3

Hunter’s Mimic

Your arrow sings through the air and flies true. The elk lows, arrow crimson with blood, jutting from its neck. It topples and you approach, knife in hand to cut the arrow free. Then it erupts, a mass of tentacles, teeth, hooks and guts. A gibbering horror of gnashing ribs and palpitating organs, lashing itself to you and pulling you into its jaws.

Medium Monstrosity (shapechanger), neutral
Armour Class 10
Hit Points: 58 (9d8+18)
Speed: 40 ft in disguise, 0 ft when ’emerged’.
Str 17 (+3), Dex 12 (+1), Con 15 (+2), Int 5 (-3), Wis 13 (+1), Cha 8 (-1)
Skills: Stealth +5
Damage Immunities: Piercing
Condition Immunities: Prone
Senses: Blindsense 60 ft, Passive Perception 11
Challenge 2 (450 xp)
Shapechanger: The Hunter’s Mimic can use its action to transform its appearance into that of a deer or similar prey animal, or can freely assume its monstrous form without using an action. It reverts to its monstrous form if it dies.
Clutching: The Hunter’s Mimic clings on to anything that touches it with myriad tendrils and rasping teeth. A Huge or smaller creature clutched by the Hunter’s Mimic is also grappled by it (escape DC 13). Ability checks to escape this grapple have disadvantage.
False Appearance: While Hunter’s Mimic retains its animal form it is indistinguishable from that animal.
Grappler: The Hunter’s Mimic has advantage on attack rolls against any creature it has grappled.
So Many Teeth: Melee weapon attack, +5 to hit, reach 10 ft, one target, Hit: 8 (1d10+3 piercing damage, plus 4 (1d8) slashing damage.

min-nguen-min-castle

Baseline Zombie

A shambling creature, raised by an unnatural plague to seek the flesh of the living.

Medium Undead, neutral
Armour Class 8
Hit Points 22 (3d8+9)
Speed 20 ft
Str 13 (+1), Dex 6 (-2), Con 16 (+3), Int 3 (-4), Wis 6 (-2), Cha 5 (-3)
Saving Throws: Wis +0
Damage Resistances: All damage types save those that specifically target undead.
Damage Immunities: Poison
Condition Immunities: Poisoned
Senses: Darkvision 60 ft, Passive Perception 8
Languages: –
Challenge ¼ (50 xp)
Headshot: A player can aim for the head, incurring a -5 penalty to their attack roll, but the damage is not reduced by the zombie’s damage resistance.
Grab: Melee Weapon attack, +3 to hit, reach 5 ft, one target, hit 1 bludgeoning damage and grappled (escape DC 14).
Bite: Melee weapon attack on grappled target with advanntage, +3 to hit, reach – grappled target, hit 2d6+1 slashing damage and a chance of infection, Constitution save DC 13.

Zombie Plague

When someone is bitten by an infectious zombie they must make a DC 13 Constitution save or contract the disease. The DC increases by +1 for each individual bite they take during an encounter – so keep track. Each hour the infected individual must make a DC 13 Constitution save (unmodified) or suffer a level of Exhaustion, starting from level 1 as the disease takes hold. Each failure advances the Exhaustion level by 1, each success reduces it by one. If it is reduced to zero then the disease is shaken off. If it gets to 6 then the infected person dies, and rises in 2d12 turns as a new zombie. If a character severs their bitten limb, the DC is reduced to 10.

The following are templates you can add to the zombies in order to customise them. Each one applied raises the Challenge level one level (¼ becomes ½, ½ becomes 1, 1 becomes 2 and so on). Every two increases, raise the zombies hit dice by 1.

Fast Zombie

Move +10 ft
AC +1

Attacks +1 to hit

Rotten Zombie

The zombie gains the following effect:
Squishy Guts: Each time the zombie is struck, anyone within 5 ft of it must make a Dexterity Save against a DC of 13 or suffer 1d4 acid damage and a chance of infection equal to a bite.

Dry Zombie

Increase the Zombie’s hit dice by one and its AC by 2.

Fungal Zombie

The zombie is symbiotically intermingled with a fungus or mould, its fruiting bodies erupting from the rotting flesh. Choose a fungus and give the zombie one of its special effects (EG Shriek, from Shrieker fungus).

If you cannot choose a generically mouldy corpse gains 1 hit dice and a secondary poison attack from its bites and grapples. DC 13 from a bite, 10 from a grapple, or suffer the poisoned condition – though this will pass with an hour or so’s rest.

Skeletal Zombie

+5 ft Move
+2 AC
+1 Attack

Fat Zombie

+1 Hit Dice and +4 HP per Hit Die (instead of +3).

Reduce all incoming damage by 1, after applying damage resistance.

Intelligent Zombie

Increase the Zombies Intelligence by +1. It can now use simple weapons in a haphazard fashion, instead of grappling – if it so chooses. Also increase the Zombie’s perception rolls by +1 – including Passive Perception.

Virulent Zombie

Increase the DC of the Zombie’s plague by +4

Grimdark – Possessed Armour

lynton-levengood-dread-champions-of-the-order-of-the-blackened-sun-x1600
A suit of animated armour, possessed by an evil ghost. The faint and shadowy form of the wearer can be made out, between the joints and interwoven with the armour itself which takes on a darker hue – like aged iron.
Medium Undead, Lawful Evil
AC 18 (Natural Armour)
HP 33 (6d8+6) [Grimdark HP 8
Heroism (Villainy) 2
Speed 25 ft.
Str 14+2, Dex 11+0, Con -. Int 11+0. Wis 11+0. Cha 11+0.
To read this full article, please donate $1 a month on my Patreon to get articles like this, access to me and discounts on apparel and PDFs of RPGs. You can get many of the same perks (but fewer) by following me on Minds.com and donating 1 token a month.

Grimdark – Madness

 

dawid-jurek-poster13

As a reminder, back towards the beginning of these articles I talked about creating a ‘sanity’ system of mental stress for adventurers. Here’s a quick recap:

I would also like to bring in a second system for handling mental health, somewhat taken from Call of Cthulhu’s Sanity Points or stress in Darkest Dungeon. Stress will do as a placeholder term, perhaps to be replaced by stoicism or something later. Your Stress would be determined by your class in much the same way as Hit Dice, modified either by Intelligence or Wisdom. You would gain stress from suffering conditions. Off the top of my head:

  • Blinded: 1d4
  • Taking damage from a critical hit: 1
  • Death Saves (Each): 1d4
  • Permanent Injury: 1d6
  • Charmed: 1d6 when the Charm wears off.
  • Deafened: 3
  • Frightened: 1d6
  • Grappled: 0
  • Incapacitated: 2
  • Paralysed: 1d6
  • Petrified: 1d8
  • Poisoned:1d6
  • Prone: 0
  • Restrained: 0
  • Stunned: 1
  • (Diseased):1d6…

To read this full article, please donate $1 a month on my Patreon to get articles like this, access to me and discounts on apparel and PDFs of RPGs. You can get many of the same perks (but fewer) by following me on Minds.com and donating 1 token a month.

Grimdark – Magic Items & Treasure

magdalena-radziej-waz2

In a low magic setting, actual magic items should be exceedingly rare and relatively powerful. Scrolls are going to be essentially non-existent. Potions are going to be rare and of very limited effect – almost as likely to be poison as they are to be anything else. When it comes to weapons and armour, about the best you can probably hope for is that you have something that has been blessed. There may, also, be dark gifts from the demonic realms – black iron daggers, talismans and so forth, but all fairly low key in effect. There may also be leftover pagan artefacts, such as the great Celtic legendary items (Spear of the Sun, Sword of the Moon, Cauldron of Plenty, Stone of the Earth) or things like elf-shot or swords like Excalibur. There may also be a very rare handful of genuine saintly artefacts, even a splinter from the ‘true cross’ which might have genuine supernatural power.

For the most part though, the majority of supposedly magical artefacts are going to turn out to be nonsense, their legends brought about by charlatans and exploited as a means to part pilgrims from their money or to encourage them to visit a particular Church or Cathedral…

To read this full article, please donate $1 a month on my Patreon to get articles like this, access to me and discounts on apparel and PDFs of RPGs. You can get many of the same perks (but fewer) by following me on Minds.com and donating 1 token a month.