Sunday, 28 July 2013

Keep it mundane to keep the horror

Horror is an interesting thing. It relies on our perception of the world. It relies on what we consider normal, what we consider sacred, and what we consider so mysterious and frightening.

If we consider a setting like the World of Darkness, set in modern times, we have an enormous assumptions as players, because the setting is our world. We know that in the game world the laws of physics work in expected ways, and that we can easily sympathize with characters, since they are humans, just like us. We can understand how our human character feel when they are hurt, feel love, feel pain, and witness horrific, though mundane tragedies. We can sympathize with the sense of loss, hate, and fear. And all of these things are rooted in our understanding of the world. And our world is mundane.

The Joker: It’s the schemers that put you where you are. You were a schemer, you had plans, and uh, look where that got you. I just did what I do best. I took your plan and I turned it on itself. Look what I did, to this city with a few drums of gas and a couple of bullets. Hm? You know what, you know what I noticed? Nobody panics when things go according to plan. Even if the plan is horrifying. If tomorrow I tell the press that like a gang banger, will get shot, or a truckload of soldiers will be blown up, nobody panics, because it’s all, part of the plan. But when I say that one, little old mayor will die, well then everyone loses their minds!

Horror of course does exist in our own mundane world. Terrible accidents occur, which shatter our sense of safety, be it within our own home, our country, the mode of transport we use. Of course, the events may not be directly effecting us, but if the events are so extreme, so unexpected, that we experience the horror of what has happened. Contrast that to expected events, such as soldiers dying in war, or criminals being shot by police, though tragic, we don't fee the horror, since such things are part of life - bad things happen in those sorts of situations.

Horror of course is different to terror. From wikipedia;

Terror is an emotion that a person gets when they are in an immediate fear. There is a feeling of revulsion that is absent in terror. Terror is provoked by danger and menace, as when someone suddenly find their self in a jungle in front of a tiger. Terror is the feeling that is experienced by people confronted with terrorists, robbers and murderers. Terror activates the sympathetic nervous system and prepares the body for a fight-or-flight response response.

On the other hand, horror evokes a feeling of disgust and is more disturbing and psychological in nature. With a feeling of horror, a person may have nausea or a revulsion, as one might feel when they see something bizarre and horrifying, such as worms inside wounds of an organism, facing a deadly animal and their phobia, and even the supernatural.

Definitively speaking, terror would bring panic, an overwhelming feeling of fear and anxiety to the person (bomb threats, death threat, being held hostage, and, enduring natural disasters and terrorism). Whilst horror gives a person an overwhelming and rather painful feeling caused by something frightfully shocking, terrifying, or revolting (corpses, zombies, grotesque images).

So of course we can experience terror from mundane sources and what can be normal events. But horror is more rooted in our world view being shattered and causes us to reject this revelation or situation.
Mundane horror can of course be due to people, who we expect to be able to sympathize with, performing bizarre and gruesome acts. A perfect example of this are bizarre serial killers, who take to mutilating their victims in strange ways, cannibalism, and other foul acts.

So of course the supernatural is related to horror, and is perhaps even more powerful through the horror it induces. Finding a person dead, perhaps near some train tracks, is shocking. But in the normal world we may well reason that it was the result of a terrible accident. Or at worst a mortal killer left the body. However, if there is some sign of the inhuman, the impossible, such as organs having been removed without any sign of entry or exit from the body, the body being impossibly drained of blood, then we have a sense of horror. All the normal expectations of reality have been broken. What should be impossible has invaded our world, and  desecrated it. We are faced with inhuman entities and powers, some which are foul mockeries of ourselves, and some which are so strange and alien, that they cannot be reasoned with and so we are repulsed by and wish to be as far away from. Vampires are a mockery of humans, and also represent some of our worst crimes, such as blood drinking and the violation of our bodies and self control. Werewolves are a violation of the barrier between nature and ourselves and perhaps our own sanity. The list continues.

But in the case of World of Darkness games we are often playing characters that are supernatural in nature. This means we, as Storytellers, should ensure that we reinforce what is considered mundane for the characters, and how what they do in horrific for the mortal world. As a vampire, over time, feeding becomes a normal event. The horror of drinking blood is replaced with a degree of acceptance. We understand that there others just like us, and that they too feed on blood. We begin to accept that there are many strange powers at our disposal, and we come to accept the weird things vampires can be capable of. But there is still horror. We can maintain a sense of horror in the vampiric condition by comparing our player characters to other vampires. Some vampires have learnt some truly vile powers that cause foul afflictions and monstrous transformations. If we are playing mages, then some mages can be shown to be so full of hubris that they are willing do violate the laws of reality, and desecrate souls and humans, to get what they want. Some changelings are so unhinged, and disconnected from reality, we can reveal through their dreams, that when they are chewing the fat from a babies leg, they think they are eating a sumptuous leg of lamb.
This sense of horror then relies on establishing what is normal, what is not normal for your character but may still be normal for the rest of their society, and then what is possible for one of their kind but which is rare and extreme and unknown.

Horror for supernatural player characters can also be portrayed in another manner that shows how even though are no longer human, they still retain a semblance of their humanity, or a sense of morality, or what is acceptable for their world. A vampire, who feeds on humans, but tries not to kill, keeps to the masquerade, and tends to use rather normal powers (normal meaning that he is not transmogrifying people, or turning into liquid shadow, or summoning the dead, or creating balefire) may find the acts committed by mortals to be horrific. A vampire may have specific habits, killing only certain people, reasoning when doing so is acceptable, but also knowing that it should not get out of hand. All the while this same vampire may watch from a far, and keep safe, his mortal family, be they direct members, or just the current generation of the family. So when presented by the seemingly random, bizarre and vile murders of a serial killer, the vampire player has a sense of horror - this horror being that even humans are capable of worse acts than even his vampire character, a character that is considered a monster. The horror of ones own existence, even when it has become the norm, can be reinforce once more by having the horror of it being revealed by a sympathetic mortal character - the player character is finally reminded of a portion of his humanity and in turn how far he has fallen from it.

Horror for supernatural player characters can also come from other supernatural sources. The trick here is to ensure that the players divorce themselves about what they know about the setting. You may or may not be running a World of Darkness setting where all other supernatural creatures are exactly portrayed as they are within their own game. Your vampire game may have magic using mortals. But are there the Traditions and the Technocracy? Are Werewolves creatures innately tied to the Umbra. Players knowledgeable about the setting my make use of this out of character knowledge and so assume certain things. This can mean that what should be a horrific event, instead becomes something mundane as the player says 'Oh it's the work of changelings'. If this happens, the horror of the scene can be shattered. This is where it is important for the Storyteller to 'own their game'. Make it your own. Don't follow the metaplot. Change up what things are considered myth, rumour, fact. It will help you retain your sense of mystery and what is considered strange and unusual, things that are essential to create an atmosphere of horror. If this means stopping players reading books, do it. If they need to know stuff from a book, copy paste or write some bridge notes. In a setting like CWoD this is perhaps more of an issue as players may have bought into the setting, and so read a lot about it as they have followed the metaplot story. But even CWoD, just like NWoD, with a bit of work, can be remixed to re-establish the mystery and otherworldliness of entities and events, and the horror of these things.

The other important thing to remember is that familiarity breeds normality. So if your players are constantly fighting antagonists that are using a plethora of strange powers, and this is every story and every session, the impact of the weirdness of these powers and of vampires is dulled. Instead use horrific powers sparingly, try to build the tension until the full shock of these things can have the most impact, perhaps by luring the group into a false sense of security.

When it comes to running horror games in non-modern settings, we have to be consider once more what is mundane in our setting. In World of Darkness we have many of these options, such as either historical settings, such as Dark Ages, or Noir, or Victorian. But in World of Darkness: Mirrors we are also shown ways that the World of Darkness can be used applied to more fantastical, near future, or space opera settings. When considering any of these settings it changes what is considered normal, possible and supernatural. In scifi settings technology often means that certain events can be explained, or mimic supernatural powers. But I think often the biggest challenge is running settings that fall into 'fantasy'.

Fantasy settings are varied and diverse, ranging from high to low, gritty and dark, or all gleaming towers. There could be elves, orcs, magic, gods, demons and more. And this can make it difficult to portray horror. If magic is commonplace, the horror of such things as the undead, is reduced, because while the undead are still fearsome enemies, it is easy for characters to reason that the creatures they are facing are the result of magic, and so can easily be thwarted with magic. And so there is a need for establishing what is mundane magic, and what is not. If magic is a rare thing, and all the strange creatures have been banished to the darkest parts of the forests, then characters will have grown up with certain assumptions. Talk of gods, dragons and other beasts will be considered myth and folklore. The result is that while magic is a part of the world, it makes its presence and actions either miraculous, or in the case of horror, unnatural and otherworldly. Again, familiarity breeds normality, and in turn it means that all manner of terrifying, and rightly horrific creatures, are treated with a degree of contempt, as they can easily be dealt with by the party 'priest/wizard'.

One of the best things we can do in such fantasy setting then to reinforce the horror, is to reinforce the similarities between our world and the setting, so that when the horror occurs, we can envision ourselves in the scenario. The other important thing to also focus on, is that no matter the reason for the horror, be it magic or science or the supernatural, we should never forget that these creatures and magics and items represent a perversion of something more fundamental than even the basics of the setting - the soul. If we are reminded of this, and how many powers, magics, and creatures, represent the way that the soul has been damaged, twisted, coerced and destroyed. And this is what horror is ultimately about - how external threats present a danger to our very sense of being. 

Saturday, 27 July 2013

[actual play] Iron Kingdoms - Adamantine Will

Episode 2 : Witchfire - The Longest Night - Part 4
Hurst looked at the wax, and Brother Eckert already could see that someone had been practicing necromancy here. The troupe left the dank cavern and the murky bone pit. There were only a few chambers left, which were of no consequence, and really further proved how foul the acts of the Orgoth were. But one chamber was important. The tomb. The seals upon the door had been broken, and from with there was no sound.
Gregore kicked open the door and his lantern illuminated the chamber, casting ghastly shadows over the hewn stone walls. Within were 4 stone coffins, and stood like statues were five mouldering thralls. The figures were clad in the old armour of the human kingdoms that predated the coming of the Orgoth. The bore rusting great weapons and the silently turned to face the intruders. A dry rasping sound escaping their mouths, an impossible thing, but of course so was their animation. Gregore, seeing the threat stormed forward and rained a series of blows upon the closest thrall, his great weapon cleaving bone and armour. Hurst moved, clearing a firing line for Darcey, and rolled a grenade into the the throng of undead, filling the room with the smell of sulphur as two skeletons were immolated, yet still they shambled forward. Darcey leveled her rifle and fired, the sound of the gun shot echoing through the chamber like thunder, and her shot shattered the skull of one of the burning dead. Eckert made the sign of Morrow, and unleashed from has holy staff a series of blinding bolts of blessed light, that pounded into the dead, and causing a further one of the flaming dead to collapse.
The remaining dead rushed forward and surrounded Gregore, swinging their great swords in carving arcs. Gregore ducked and rolled and corroded steel bit into the stone floor and his armour. Blood seeped out from under his armour and his arm felt numb. But he grit his teeth and brought his own blade down on one of the dead, but could not land a killing blow. Hurst had no safe way to shoot his pistol, let alone use another grenade, and so he paused, waiting for his chance. Both Eckert and Darcey charged into the fray, bringing their great staff and mace down upon the dead, splintering bone and reducing the dead to a heap of bones. Seeing his chance Hurst rushed forward, drawing his dagger, and with a swift cut served the skull from the body of the last thrall.
With the thralls no more, they looked about the chamber. Within each of the stone coffins were wooden coffins. Chains would ave bound them, but the coffins had been broken open, and the corpses were gone. At the base of each of the stone coffins were brass plaques, recording the date of their execution, their crime, and their names. Of course one corpse and coffin was missing. Lexaria Ciannor. About each coffin was a circle of red dust, sigils of some form, and numerous burnt candles lined the magic circles. Discarded there was a ball of thick black yarn and a thick needle. It was clear that whoever the woman in white was, she had come and stitched the heads of the dead back on and animated the dead.
With more questions than answers the troupe left the tomb, bidding the Gobber tribe goodbye, and assuring them that the undead had been dealt with. The Gobbers were only half interested, as they were part way through making a stew.
The party of witch hunters rode back to Corvis, and through the misty streets. Snow was gently falling, given the City of Ghost a certain fairytale look. Revellers paraded in masks and watch fire breathers and jugglers,as it was now just 2 nights until the Longest Night festival.
Returning to the cathedral the party went to speak with Father Dumas. In the warm of the vicarage they explained what they had found. Of most concern was that they believed that Lexaria herself had risen and was the one perpetrating these crimes. Father Dumas assured them that such a thing was impossible. He would not tell them where the tomb of his sister was, but that he knew she had not risen. Darcey asked it there was anything unusual about the events of the execution, for Darcey had already learnt much of the event from Alexia. She knew that when the final witch, Lexaria, was killed, the executioner was sent realing from the stage by some unknown force. Father Dumas explained that he never knew the identity of the man, but that the blade used was unusual, and that perhaps it was of Orgoth design, but again refused to tell them where it lay, fearing it was now cursed.
Given what they did and didn't know, Hurst headed to the library to perform some research, while also watching Father Dumas, wanting to learn where the body of Lexaria lay. They knew that Magistrate Borloch was not to be trusted, but that they had to be delicate in addressing is corruption. Darcey headed off to speak to Alexia once more. Knocking on the door she found the girl, who appeared distracted. She explained she was about to leave to watch another performance with friends, and that she had been making a mask for the festival. She again asked that Darcey not tell her uncle. Darcey looked at Alexia's fingers and saw the red wax under her finger nails and staining them. Darcey bid the girl goodbye, and sort somewhere nearby to hide and from where she could then watch and follow her.
Half an hour later Alexia left, wearing a large black cape, with the hood drawn to conceal her face. She also carried a large black satchel with her. Darcey followed the girl, and she was led through the city, down winding alleyways, until Darcey found a deadend, and Alexia gone. She looked around There were no doorways for her to have gone through, and no way she could have scale the walls. But there were footprint inthe snow, leading and apparently going through the wall.
Darcey fetched, and returned with Brother Eckert and Gregore, and together they were able to force a secret door open. Gregore raised his lantern and guided them down the slippery stone tunnel, and under foot water was running. The tunnel turned and led down and to a iron grate, and beyond was a larger tunnel. Water rushed down as a frantic pace, and they followed the narrow path along the waterway. They came to a rotting plank and found where the waterway led. Before them was a large sink, and the water spiralled downwards, more than able to sucking a man down to his death. Gregore edged along the plank, holding the end of Darcey's rope. Darcey, as she was the lightest, went next, holding the rope while Eckert held the other end. This allowed Darcey to put more of her weight into the rope and allow the plank to endure longer. She grimaced when Gregore suggested 'ladies first' as if it was for her own safety, rather than practicality. She pounded him on the arm once she reached the other side, knowing that in a fair fight she was more than able to taking the knight on. Eckert was the last to follow.
They continued along the waterway, and reached a door. From beyond it they heard no sound, the rushing water obscuring almost their own whispers. They edged the door open and moved in. They found the room was large and was obviously occupied. There were drapes on the walls, and in one of the far corners a crate that acted as a makeshift table. Upon it were books and about it cushions. In the nearest corner there was a magic circle, just like the one they had found in the Orgoth tomb. From the furthermost door on the left Alexia appeared. She was about to shut the door but stopped. Before Eckert or Darcey had the chance to talk and reason with the young woman, Gregore grinned. 'Catch!' He made to hurl his lantern at her, but Alexia was far quicker. She muttered something in Telgesh, and luminous purple runes spiralled about her left had as she pointed at them. A cloud of burning, choking ash erupted about them, and obscured their sight. 'Stop them!' Alexia shouted, and she ran.
Gregore ran forward and could not see where Alexia had gone, and where she was standing, now two thralls were instead, having come from the chamber.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Stoke the Fire - Iron Kingdoms RPG

So those of you that have been following my blog will know I have been running Iron Kingdoms for about 7 sessions so far, and I am on the second story of the chronicle, which is the first part of the Witchfire trilogy. So I thought I would begin with an overview of the group of character in my chronicle right now and how and why they are what they are.

To begin lets examine the scope of the game. I decided before hand that the group would be a sanctioned group of witch hunters and investigators working for the Order of Illumination. I am also the type of GM that would rather set out restrictions on character types first and then only push those boundaries when I am given good reasoning by players. This prevents special snow flakes, and reinforces a group template and guides them in how their characters should have synergy, and prevents too much player character antagonism from the outset.

Given this guideline within which to create characters, it means I can do enough forward planning without working from complete scratch while leaving enough room for player creativity. The great thing about these group templates for parties of characters, known as adventuring companies, is that there are bonuses for the party if they adhere to the concept. So in my case, I have modified the Intrepid Investigators example, by allowing Knight rather than Mechanik, to create a Church Sanctioned Investigator party. I think the real strength of these companies is that they enforce a degree of unity, and also push players to take less combat focused careers. This also means that there is a drive for diversity given that you have certain criteria to fulfill. If all the players go for all combat based careers, you will soon end up with characters that are all very similar. The other thing is that you are perhaps less likely to have some of the more extreme combos of skills, abilities, and archetype benefits, leading to game breaking, or at least over the top, play from the players.

So given the above what characters did my players create.

We have the priest of the group, who is an ex-military captain and chaplain, Brother Eckert, who's innate magical ability blossomed into life during war with the Menites. He has a illegitimate child that he keeps little contact with, and sends money back home to his mother. He is of course a priest and so a capable ghost hunter, as well as a well seasoned fighter. Within the group he serves as perhaps the 2nd combat hitter of the group, but also the group buffer (he can increase ARM) plus he is the team healer, and also leader in all fights against ghosts and undead. He of course has a big staff, and will more than likely become the group 'jack marshal in time and be given a church consecrated warjack.

Next we have the Llaelese aristocrat, ex-nun turned bounty hunter for the church, Darcey de Dimiani. She hails from Voxsauny and is the daughter of an Earl. She of course was very boyish in some respects, and favoured by her father, who taught he to fight and hunt. She was sent to a nunnery in preparation for her wedding, but the church recognized her skills and so she joined the Order of Illumination. Her career combos makes her the combat all rounder. A good marksman with pistols, and has a heavy rifle. She also makes use of maces as she is trained to kill the undead. Her heritage and nobility means she is also an influential person to have when dealing with heresy in the ranks of nobles. In cases where she must be subtle she relies on her unarmed combat skills and wields a spring loaded hidden blade. She also follows a code of silence, and so will not speak to men on first meeting them, unless there is a matter of urgency.

Then there is the exiled knight turned duelist, Gregore. Her once was part of a Morrown order of knights, before being expelled for dubious reasons, and then for a time worked for the Cygnaran spy network. He of course was offered work within the Church to remove his sins, and to redeem the honour of his family. He fulfills the tank of the group. Brandishing a great sword, heavy plate armour, and being a more than capable fighter who can easily face down trolls on his own. He of course is more than able to move into to support the others, especially when they are in a grave situation in a fight. combined with the priest, he becomes the formidable shield wall of the team.

Finally with have Beck Hurst, alchemist investigator. He still searches for the killer of his parents, who were respected mechanicks themselves. He learned enough of their trade, and that through try to find their killer, that he was taken in by the university of Corvis and trained formally. After his graduation he was then employed by the church, first as alchemist, and then as investigator, doctor, alchemist and expert on the sciences. He of course is more of a support character in a fight, using a variety of grenades (which supplement or stand in for those abilities of the priest), or other chemical to aid them. He of course is an investigator, and so is skilled in forgeries, alchemy, forensics interrogation and law. He also acts as the battle plan booster, allowing the team to have the drop on their enemies. He is also somewhat stealthy.

As you can see, the team has a wide range of careers, capable of interacting in roleplay scenarios as various levels of society, with a wide range of knowledge based skills, and also an equally wide range of combat skills and fighting styles, meaning that the team can easily adapt to various situations.

So what groupings of characters have you had for your games of Iron Kingdoms? How do they work together? Is there enough diversity? Are they all combat munchkins?

Steam and Steel - A Journey into the Iron Kingdoms

So it's about time I started blogging about Iron Kingdoms and my hints and tips for running the game. This of course is also an exercise to get me back into thinking about topics that might be relevant to World of Darkness games.

The Iron Kingdoms is quite an interesting setting. The human nations are on the cusp of a massive industrial revolution, and their main technology is a fusion of steam power and magic. Magic is a thing in the setting, but is not very common. So this magi tech, or mechanika, is what makes magic a resource for the masses. Of course, compared to other fantasy settings, magic is not a wonder tool. It does certain things very well (especially for war), but it does not bring people back to life, or easily do things for which there is a mundane solution (lock picking for example). This is a purposeful design element of the setting so that magic users cannot steal the thunder of mundane characters like thieves, investigators, and doctors.

Iron Kingdoms visually and plot wise also feels like something that is somewhere between the late Renaissance, and Napoleonic eras, with wars with black powder muskets, trenches, and of course canons. This is all pumped up with the warmachines, Steam jacks, the magical automata that rumble into battle.

Iron Kingdoms also gives us a few remixes of classic fantasy tropes. So for instance Elves do exist and live in the woods, but they are not the oldest race and so that changes their relationship with humans, and also human sorcerers. Orcs are not in the game, but we have Ogrun (ogres of a sort) and Trollkin (trolls but more human like). We have Gobbers (goblins) too. And along with dwarves, it means that there are plenty of of things to play.

But given the differences between the Human kingdoms in the setting, and the career system, there are plenty of options that make a group of players, just being all Humans, diverse enough without players resorting to playing other things and acting like special snowflakes. Of course the game is built upon the same rules as the wargames, Warmachine and Hordes, and so it is easy for the game to played with a combat heavy focus and with player characters that have career choices that make them very good at combat. This of course can make characters, no matter their career choices, very similar. But given the fact that there are plenty of more social/intellectual careers, players can easily play a group with a diverse set of skills and abilities. For example my current group is a Aristocrat/Bounty Hunter, a Duelist/Knight, a Investigator/Alchemist, and a Military Captain/Priest of Morrow. Just in that selection we have characters with particular social leanings, investigative skills, knowledges on the occult and religious, and we have a range of different combat skills (a marksman, a swordsman, a grenadier, and a magic user).

So what is the plan in these blog posts?

I plan on covering a variety of topics, like when and when not to bother using mini based combat, plotting and pacing, roleplay heavy scenes, how to run horror based stories, how to run investigative stories, how to run political stories, what a good selection of models for gaming might include, mini painting and pictures, and of course suggestions from you for topics to cover here and in future podcasts.

Have fun, and play like you got a pair! (of magelock pistols!)

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Everything is a ripoff!

So as you may or may not know, Privateer Press is right now running a kickstarter for their computer game version of Warmachine, Warmachine Tactics. It's doing really well. It's funded, and pushed through many a stretch goal.

Now of course this has meant that this game has got the attention of many computer game blogs/magazines. And what has really impress (I mean annoyed) me is how many people have jumped on it and said, 'This is a blatant Warhammer 40K rip-off'.

It seems just as space marines are apparently (not) Games Workshop's creation,  it also means that any wargame that has 'War' in the name, and has an army with a blue scheme, and robot like things, then they must be ripping off GW.

What astounds me is the short term memory of the denizens of the internet, how IPs can be decried as rip-offs when compared to IPs that are in fact the true rip-off, it just happened that the latter go a game/got a movie first.

What also is frankly more annoying is that the very people writing these 'revelations', are doing so via a medium that would in fact in a matter of a few minutes make them more informed about what they are writing about.

It is as if writing about something on the internet make you more correct than a person who has taken the time to use the internet to become more informed on the matter.

Oh and of course there is nothing new under the sun!

Friday, 5 July 2013

[actual play] Iron Kingdoms - Adamantine Will

Episode 2 : Witchfire - The Longest Night - Part 3

Darcey drew her pistol and fired, splintered the brick of the chimney stack as the sniper ducked for cover. Gregore pushed Darcey to cover as the assassin fired back, the shot hitting the wooden crates behind them. Darcey fired again, giving cover Gregore, who had stormed over to the building and leapt up onto the wagon and lower roof nearby. Again the sniper fired, trading shots with Darcey. The sniper turned ready to fire at Gregore just as Darcey placed a well aimed shot in his chest. Gregore clambered up and face the man, kicking aside his gun. He had no fight left in him, and so Gregore bound him lowered him from the roof.

At the cathedral Gregore and Darcey had slung the assassin in the cells reserved for the Order of Illumination. Priests had tended to the man's wounds, and they were soon joined by Brother Eckert and Investigator Hurst. Gregore, Hurst and Eckert went into the cell to question the man. Gregore tried to do a softly softly approach, but the killer just laughed, finding little intimidating. Hurst, masked by his alchemist garb, set his bag on the table, and with some theatrics, mixed up a variety of frothing, bubbling agents. Nothing that could harm a man, but that obviously made the hired gun sweat in fear.

The man had had enough, he answered Hurst's questions as best as he could. He told them the person who had hired them had just given them a note and the money, with the promise of more later. The person had been masked, and all the killer could recall was the pocket watch he had. Hurst recognised the description as being that of a watch given to Corvis University lecturers after 5 years of service. The gold coins paid to the killer were also similar to what Hurst had recovered before. They all bore the wrong date, 604 AR, rather than 602 AR.

The next morning Hurst melted down the weirdly corroded, apparent forged, coins. But he found their chemical composition matched that expected for the gold alloy used by Cygnar for their coins. Gregore, wanting further confirmation took one of the coins to one of the major banks in the city, where the coin was treated as a forgery, a rather imperfect one.

Darcey went to visit the vicarage of Father Dumas, hoping to find Alexia, hoping that the young girl can tell her more about the death of her mother. Alexia invited Darcey in, and together they sat next to the warm fire and talked. Alexia explain that as far as she was concerned her mother was a good woman, and that she had been unjustly killed. Alexia seemed to harbour some distrust of those in power, especially the Magistrate Borloch. She admitted that her mother may have been a witch, but that she was not a bad person. Darcey seemed convinced, but noted that Alexia was somehow tired looking.

The troupe gathered together their things and rode out of the city and north east, to the tomb of the coven. The journey was 2 hours through misty, swampy, and heavily wooded ground. They eventually came upon the old Orgoth scouting post, and they gingerly moved closer. They found that the heavy granite doors to the tomb were shattered. The doors were engraved, and Eckert could make out the symbol of the Orgoth Empire - the leering face on a field of stars - and the etched warding runes. The group lit their lanterns and headed in. The cleared each chamber, checking for signs of recent activity. There was clearly something going on in the tomb, as there were relatively fresh fire pits. The eventually found what had been the mess hall for the station. In the dank room again there were signs of occupation. There were gnawed bones and scraps of metal and cloth. The fire place had also seen some use.

They had come to a crossroad, and so Darcey set up a position from which she could fire, while the others investigated the narrow passageway through the rock. They found a number of rooms, but as Gregore and Eckert headed onwards, Hurst took a different route. Eckert looked back and called for Hurst, but he could just make out the light from his lantern. Eckert of course had invoked the blessings of Morrow and could see in the dark - runes of power were glittering across his eyes. Gregore found another three chambers, and so investigated the one ahead of him. He found a rocky chamber, and within a Gobber skeleton. It was less than a week old. Eckert came to examine it, using his staff to poke at the body, which then disturbed the strange carnivorous fungus that reached down with tendrils and lifted the corpse up. Eckert and Gregore backed away, now paranoid about what may lie in wait on the ceiling of the tomb.

Gregore and Eckert headed back down the passage way and checked the chamber they had passed, and found what must of been the forge. Here they found footprints on the muddy floor, which were certainly the prints made by the feet of Gobbers. Darcey had come to find them here, and together then went looking for Hurst.

Hurst had discovered a large cavern, in which was a pool, a sandy shoreline, a boat, and crystal clear water. Hurst could see that the flor dropped away dramatically, and that in the sand there were gold coins and a dagger. He could also make out the form of a squid lying in wait. Hurst however was greedy. In the boat he found more signs of recent activity, and a long pole with a wicker basket at the end. With this he could scoop out the coins and dagger. He punted out onto the water with the boat and started to dredge the sandy pool floor. He got a few coins out, noting their age and that they had been minted during the Orgoth occupation. He desperately tried to get the dagger, but it fell out of the basket. The others then arrived in the chamber to watch what Hurst was doing, somewhat dumbfounded by the entire act. Hurst scooped up the dagger once more, and just as he plucked it out of the basket, the squid violently attacked. The water bubbled, and the huge tentacles grappled the boat, seeking to throw Hurst into the water. Darcey fire off a shot with her rifle, as Brother Eckert invoked the power of Morrow, sending shimmering beams at the beast. Injured, it slinked off into the dark of the pool.

Hurst made it back to shore, and showed them his loot. Darcey saw the whole act as some sort of fools errand, tossing one coin back into the pool, hoping to placate the dark forces at work. Hurst was more pleased with his haul, and found the dagger was of Orgoth make, a black steel with copper inlaid. Gregore insisted they go back to deal with the fungus, and is a moment of exasperation Eckert smacked both me about the head, reminding them they had the work of the church to do.

As they made their way back down the winding route thought the rock, they could hear voices up head. A gibbering - Gobbers. Eckert called for silence, and so with the route clear, Hurst went ahead finding that the Gobbers had gone into the mess hall. There were 6 in all, and they were arguing, while one was trying to light a fire. The group burst in on the Gobbers, reasoning that surprise would hopefully stop any fight. The Gobbers coward under tables, as the group demanded to know what had happened. The leader of the Gobbers went on to explain that they had only come here as it was dry and safe, and they had their own way in. They had fled wen the main door had been torn apart by the 'girl girl with the dead things'. That was a day ago. The Gobber, hoping he had saved his skin and that of his gang, then asked for 10 gold crowns. They gave him 7 and said that they would go look at the tombs. The Gobbers mentioned that they had never ventured in there. They feared it.

The group moved on, passing one room where they found another goblin. The small fellow seemed shocked as he looked up from his fire, with Gregore simply saying sorry and shutting the door.

The group found that the passageway once more forked. They took the winding passage to their left and found another chamber with a pool and shackles on the wall. It was a torture chamber, and in the pool were the slimey, half decayed remains of humans the Orgoth had tortured a thousand years ago. Hurst then noted that there was fresh red candle wax on the floor...