Monday 24 September 2018

The Gwentshire Chronicles: The Laine Collection

Sometimes, its amazing where you pick up ideas from.

Recently visited the Lynn Museum in Kings Lynn, which proved to be interesting and a gold mine for ideas. The museum had in display a collection of curiosities amassed by the artist and explorer Thomas Baines. The collections features curios from Africa, Australia and even South-East Asia. There was also some stuff on the English Civil War and the Siege of Kings Lynn, another source of ideas which I'll write about in the near future.

The Laine Collection

Officially, the so-called 'Laine Collection' had its genesis in the efforts of Sir Thomas Laine to preserve curios and other artefacts during the English Civil War. Various items were entrusted to Laine by various landowners to safeguard them as Parliamentarian and Royalist forces clashed with one another within the boundaries of the county. Sir Thomas is notable for organizing a wagon train to evacuate the collections during the Siege of Gwentford in 1644, then hid the collection on his estate until after the Restoration. The Collection continued to grow until it was eventually entrusted to the care of the Gwentshire Archaeological and Natural History Society, who later used the Collection for the founding of the 'Gwentford Museum' in 1889. The museum, renamed the Gwentshire County Museum in the early 1900s, still houses the Collection but only has a small part of it on display to the public.

The official story isn't that far off the truth, the Collection was the result of Sir Thomas attempting to safeguard certain artefacts during the English Civil War. It is generally unknown that Sir Thomas had a more secret motivation for doing so; he did it to help the Mist-Bound.

Sir Thomas first became aware of the Mist-Bound in the late 1620s, though at first he thought them to be little more than demons. It was only after an encounter in 1637 that he realised that they were the spiritual guardians of Gwentshire and quickly set about trying to help them however he could. With the outbreak of the English Civil War 1642, Sir Thomas realised that dark forces could use the conflict to strike at the source of the Mist-Bound in hope of critically weakening them. Sir Thomas soon raised a band of men and women to help him acquire artefacts he knew were important to the Mist-Bound so that he could safeguard them, though as a cover he offered protection for the valuables of the local nobility in the area.

The Collection would remain in the care of the Laine family for the next hundred years, though there were attempts by outside forces to destroy it (a fire in the 1760s came close to destroying the whole Collection). Eventually Sit Thomas' descendant, William Laine, would entrust the Collection to the Gwentshire Archaeological and Natural History Society after his son and sole heir was killed during the Crimean War in 1854. The Society set about cataloging the Collection, then decided to use it as the foundation of a museum which opened to the public in 1889. Attempts continued to steal or destroy parts of the Collection, leading the Society to decide to only put a small part of it on public display whilst moving the rest to safe storage. Occasionally, larger parts of the Collection have been put on display as part of some exhibition.

In the present day, the Collection is still housed at the Gwentshire County Museum. An air raid shelter, built during WW2 in the museum's basement, and later refurbished in the 1990s contains the bulk of the Collection. As mentioned previously, a small part is on public display but the items are periodically rotated between being in storage and on display. The museum grants access to the Collection for those who can prove a valid scholarly interest.

Using the Collection

There are a few options for GMs with regards to using the Collection in their games. 

The main option is using the Collection to aid the players, either to fight some supernatural foe or find out key information. The best way of using this is have a player roll Investigation and then add +1 for a success and each raise (to a max of +4) on either a Knowledge (Occult) roll or an attack on a supernatural foe. Other rolls for the bonus include Streetwise or other Knowledge skills, possibly even on Intimidation on certain characters.

Another option is to use the Collection to link campaigns set in different time periods. A 'past' campaign could see the player characters retrieving an item for the Collection and then needing that item in a campaign set years or even decades later. An example could see the characters being part of Sir Thomas' band in the 1640s collecting artefacts against the backdrop of the English Civil War, then having those some items show up in a 1930s era campaign either to stop a big bad or even being stolen by the characters.

Finally the characters could be out to destroy the collection, particularly if they are under the impression that the Mist-Bound are evil beings needing to be defeated. This option could result in the characters releasing a truly evil and powerful being which they'll have to somehow defeat, a task that could've been made more difficult if they have destroyed an item that could have been used to defeat said being.

Monday 17 September 2018

Frozen Skies Session 7: This Is Fine

Last time we joined the crew of the airship Waylander, two of their fellows had ended up in a police cell as the law tried to get the entire crew booked for smuggling. Though the law would be frustrated in its efforts, it does have other tricks up its sleeves. One of the detained crew members has to face a court martial, the other had urgent summons from home to face an equally dreadful matter.

The Not So Long Arm Of The Law

Previously the crew attempted a smuggling run, though a chance encounter with a wrecked cargo ship gave them a bit of legality by amending the ship's cargo manifest. When they arrived to find the police waiting for them, they were able to claim that their cargo had been salvage. The only thing that the police were able to pin onto the crew that was one of them, the medic, was an army deserter. The newest arrival, the mad scientist Reginald Spitsworth, also got locked up as the police doubted that he was the son of a noble...which he also kicked up quite a fuss about.

Reginald was duly released, though the medic Herbert was held until a military provost arrived to escort him to a court-martial at Calharrow. The crew were also asked by the police to pick up a prisoner, a downed sky pirate, from Prospector's Reach and transport him to Gravenburgh. Both Herbert and Reginald got a chewing out by Tag, plus it was agreed to do the prisoner transport job and then take Herbert to his court-martial.

They flew out to pick up the prisoner without any encounters enroute, once in Prospector's Reach they rolled Vigor due to the cold and Sebastian burned through his bennies to avoid getting a level of Fatigue. Likewise, picking up the prisoner went without a hitch...though the characters were perhaps getting a little paranoid at this point with how well things had gone.

Things Never Go Smooth

Deciding to drop the prisoner off in Gravenburgh first, they flew south-east from Prospector's Reach rather than risk getting too close to Broken Spires. Things were going smoothly until a Spades face card was drawn, signifying enemies. Sure enough five aircraft, one 'Hornet' light fighter and four 'Kestral' medium fighters, launched an attack out of the clouds. Two of the Kestrals took on the crew's Blackforge Marauder, though only one of the enemy aircraft managed to do damage and admittedly that was three wounds in a single pass. The Hornet and other two Kestrals went after the crew's Banshee plane, but between them only managed a couple of wounds (the character had the adventure card that negated damage).

The Marauder limped back to the airship, whilst the Banshee plane took on the sky pirates. The Banshee's Siren was put to great effect, I ruled that making the enemy pilot Shaken granted a +2 bonus to Shooting rolls against them. My notoriously bad dice rolling kicked in and the sky pirates only managed to succeed in damaging the controls of the Banshee plane so that it couldn't turn right. The turrets on the Waylander proved their worth, helping to shoot down the enemies. Only two of the enemies managed to bail out, the rest ended up in a twisted metal coffin. Sebastian, in one of the turrets, took out the last sky pirate by doing an impressive 54 damage.


A high Piloting skill coupled with an agile aircraft (ie bonus to Handling), in the case of the Hornet with Evasion 8, didn't prove to be an issue. It was basically like a high Parry, though maneuvers and tricks can help counter this. I seem to be getting a better handle on range modifiers, it required the use of maneuvers by both sides to negate the penalties for shooting. All-in-all, very happy with how air combat is working out.

This week's post is shorter than I'd like, unfortunately I've struggle to get this written due to various factors but I hope I got the key points covered. 

Monday 10 September 2018

Keep The Home Fires Burning

This week we're looking at another of the planned settings for Utherwald Press and, fittingly enough as I have a cold, its Keep The Home Fires Burning.

It'll pretty much be a few ideas I have in mind for the setting, concepts and possible rules. There will also be an insight in how character players interact with the setting along with a couple of adventure hooks.

The Flu

Central to the setting is going to be the Spanish Flu; at least a quarter of the British population was affected and over 50 million people died because of it worldwide (228,000 in Britain alone). Even Prime Minister David Lloyd George contracted it but survived.

The visual signs of the flu is going to be people coughing and sneezing in addition to overcrowded hospitals. Though there is other things such as theaters, dance halls, churches and other public-gathering places being closed in addition to people wearing anti-germ masks. Carts piled with the flu's victims would also be common.

In game terms the flu would be Long-Term Chronic, Majorly Debilitating. Edges and Hindrances could be used to represent immunity (or lack of) to the flu, also considering something like the Fear Levels from Deadlands but adapted for areas of greater or lesser risk of infection. These 'Infection Levels' would determine the penalty on a Vigor roll to contract the flu, the higher the Level the greater the penalty. Hospitals would have the highest, but something like a large park would have a pretty low Infection Level due to lack of people. Anti-germ masks could provide a bonus here.

The Characters

Decided not to go with any references to MI13, instead the characters will be part of a group known as 'Home Office Auxiliaries'. The characters will have been sworn-in as special constables (unless they're already members of the police) to work for the Home Office by investigating and containing the weirdness that is afflicting London in hopes of keeping it under wraps. Though whilst they are likely to face the weird and supernatural, they are just as likely to deal with more mundane affairs.

One task the characters could expect to do is being called to a hospital to investigate why the bodies in its morgue are being disturbed, only to discover a warren of ghouls under the building. On the other end of scale, the characters could have to deal with a criminal gang who have been peddling a false 'vaccine' for the flu.

Monday 3 September 2018

Frozen Skies Session 6: Going Down To Grimsport

The adventures of the airship Waylander and its crew continue.

Combat proved to be surprisingly absent this session, though some critical plot development took place setting things up for other things to occur later on. Highlights include; the introduction of a new player character, visiting a town with an ill-reputation, meeting an NPC who'll become important later on...oh and the characters themselves being arrested.

A Sharp Dressed Inventor

After successfully resolving the Windryder problem at Taran's Bluffs, the crew return to Bowerstead Post. Alex sought out Ardan Gowan, mainly to collect some promised money and to get an update on the job Ardan had mentioned. The job was up for grabs as the pilot, Harris, had done a vanishing act. Tag meanwhile reported in with the company foreman, Dermot Hardwick, and said about some of the things that had happened. In return, Hardwick says theres some toff who claims to be one of 'em fancy inventors and a supposed dab hand with machines. Tag, reluctantly, agrees to have the toff sent over to the airship.

So a posh speaking and well dress gentleman present himself at the airship, introducing himself as 'Reginald Spitsworth the Fourth'. Reginald reveals that he's dabble with Glim Tech and has been amassing knowledge on Ancient devices, though he ends up making himself an unwelcomed guest amongst the crew. Later, some of the crewmen manage to coax him into a game of cards and fleece him for all he was worth. Reginald's wallet also ended up having an adventure of its own.

The crew accepts Ardan's job and fly to the decrepit fishing town of Grimsport, the most derelict and miserable town in all of Alyeska. Shortly after arriving they quickly learn that the locals are extremely unfriendly to strangers, though the two-man Air Police detachment and the store owner are the only friendly faces for miles around. Tag confronts one of the locals who's extremely rude back and the ruckus attracts attention from the other townsfolk, though both sides back down and Tag sends word back to the Waylander that all the airship's guns are to be manned round the clock.

Eventually their contact, a sea captain, sails into port and hands over the goods after a friendly exchange. The crew's job was to then take the goods to Gravenburgh where they would be delivered to another contact. En-route they spied a cargo ship that had floundered on the rocks and abandoned by its crew, so the characters scrambled aboard and took what they could get their hands on. They also took the ship's log, cargo manifest and associated paperwork. Alex amended the cargo manifest to include the goods they were transporting as part of Ardan's job, basically making them look like they were salvage.

They were met by the law when they arrive in Gravenburgh and asked to come back to the station to answer a few questions and to hand over any and all paperwork relating to the airship and cargo. They were asked about one of the towns they'd visited, their deceased crewmate (the ex-Aero-marine George Packer) and their reasons for being in Grimsport. Herbert was revealed to be an army deserter and held pending a response from the army. Reginald was also held as the officers didn't believe he was the son of a Commonwealth noble, though a message was sent to his supposed father.

The rest of the crew (Tag, Alex and Sebastian) were released on bail. Tag was met by a car waiting outside the police station and an invitation. Tag accepted the invitation and was driven to a rather plush house, the owner of which introduced himself as a broker of secrets called Andrei. He'd heard about the crew and basically offered them some work, in addition to his information services. Tag noticed a ticking noise but no clock in the room, though the sound stopped and Andrei revealed a mechanical arm which he pulled out a key for and winded it up. Though Andrei talked about "perception" and "what is truth and what is not".

Tag shared a few choice bits of information, in return Andrei revealed that Harris had 'turned Crown's evidence'.


The session has to be one of the few sessions I've seen where combat hasn't taken place, though it could've still happened depending on the characters' choices in Grimsport and checking for random encounters (they only got one which was Fortune). What should be noted is that they are selling the location of the glimmer rock deposit they found, though they'll approach a number of different interest parties to maximize their profit.

I had to applaud Alex's player for thinking of amending the cargo manifest to help, legally cover their tracks. Originally they were going to do what I'd expected them to do and land outside of the town and offload the goods, though the random chance of the ship wreck gave them an unexpected option and the players were clever enough to exploit it. Though it does mean they'll suffer a minor setback, granted nothing compared to the major issue thats going to arise (depends what's happened to a certain item). This will be on top of Herbert's potential court martial and the response from Reginald's father.

Though curious is that they discussed the idea of returning to Grimsport and turning it into a base of operations.