Monday, July 22, 2019

A Single, Small Cut - How I Run It

               This is less of a review and more of a “How do you use that?” I have run this Lamentations ofthe Flame Princess (LotFP) A Single, Small Cut by Michael Curtis somewhere between 20 – 30 times. As I have mentioned in other articles, I run a college tabletop club, and used this adventure to introduce dozen of young people too OSR style gaming, and RPGs in general. I usually run the scenario in a very particular way, and it acts to funnel the characters to the story. I run this solely as a horror one-shot, though one game’s outcome would have been an excellent start to a campaign. I do think that this is a great scenario for the one shot, or a Con Game. This encounter is quite deadly and could completely derail a campaign, so beware on that front. The vast majority of my games running this module end with the entire party dying, which is perfect for a horror one-shot. The rest of the article assumes that you are familiar with the A Single,Small Cut adventure. If you are not, buy it for $2 because it is worth it.

Great art on the cover and throughout the book.

                The first thing that I do is use a set of pre-generated characters that I found on the internet for the background of the story. I am not sure how I found these, and they are LotFP characters, from the Witch:The Road to Lindisfarne story game. I had played Witch in the past in its regular format, and was surprised to see these characters morphed into LotFP format. Having pre-generated characters is a huge plus in running one-shots because it speeds up the game and allows people to jump right into the action.

Another great game, but very different from LotFP.

                For setting, as with typical LotFP, I set the game right after the Second Crusade. This crusade in general was a mess, and the people returning home most likely did not feel good about the endeavor. This group of characters is on their way back to Sir Hayden’s lands in the northern parts of England. Brother Armond is Sir Hayden’s family personal confessor, Ham is a guide and general servant to the group, Berrick is Sir Hayden’s young, idealistic squire, and finally “Sir” Thorne is a mercenary who is being paid to get the group back to the north. While traveling back to the north, one of the party members takes ill to the point that they need to convalesce and can no longer travel. If you are short a player, don’t allow someone to pick Sir Hayden, and make it him. If you have a full set of players, I usually make it Baron Wharton. It then become his land they are traveling towards, Brother Armond is his confessor, and Sir Hayden is his loyal knight.
                Lucky for the group, Brother Armond was a novitiate from this area of Southern England and knows of a town, with a church (St. Gothard’s) that is very close. Once they get to the small town, everyone keeps the doors locked, and the streets are empty. I usually explain this as thousands of crusaders are coming home, and some are not so gentle with the townsfolk when they come through. They now have a healthy fear of outsiders, but the church stands out in the middle of the poor village. Brother Armond knows the parish priest, I usually call him Father Andrews, who was a jolly rotund man with a large appetite. This ties Brother Armond to the church, and when “Father Clement” says that the priest is away, some suspicion can start brewing.

"Father Clement" as played by Steve Buscemi

                Speaking of “Father Clement” I trying and play him as straight as possible, but have him have a lack of language, so to speak. Instead of calling it an altar, he will refer to it as a table or other faux pas. A smart player one time started talking to the “Father” in Latin, and insulting him, the “Father” just nodded and smiled, and gave himself away. I also always have “Father Clement” demand that weapons are left in the Narthex, because “weapons do not belong in a house of God”, or something of that sort. Most D&D parties are very wary of disarming, so this is when I bring in the ill party member and have them start moaning, even coughing up blood. This puts a slight ticking clock, and pressures them to comply. Usually I end up with a few players that will disarm, and a few that will “wait outside”, which is just as good. At some point someone conversing with “Father Clement” will notice the titular Single, Small Cut and this is generally about the time that I spring their trap. “Father Clement” shows his true colors as Clement the Strangler, and the four bandits in the Choir Loft start raining crossbow shots down on the party. At this point my games have varied quite a bit depending on several factors. I often have half the party in the Nave, unarmed and the other half outside of milling around the Narthex. Most of the time, someone runs upstairs, and I have the two bandits that are reloading attempt to stop them at the door. Many times people in the Nave look for makeshift weapons and attempt to keep Clement at bay. All of this builds towards the 4th and 6th rounds.
                The 4th round comes and I interrupt the action to emphasize the men bursting from the crypts. I usually describe them as wearing the same clothes as the bandits to let them know they are not just random townsfolk. I also emphasize that they see their comrades fighting the party, and do not care they are just booking it for the door. I am telegraphing heavily that something truly awful is about to happen. The 5th round combat is still ensuing, but a do mention that an odor of rot is starting to manifest all around. The 6th round I have The Corrector of Sins not just enter the scene, but burst onto the scene. It flings the altar almost out a window, it cracks the ground as it pulls itself up, and I try and describe its elephantine-like horror.

A close approximation from the movies. 

                If the party tries to directly engage this thing, odds are that is going to be the end for the party. Their best plan is to use missile weapons. I do have a temporary truce between all parties and the crossbowmen attack the beast. For the next two rounds, they will help before running or if Clement is killed, they will run immediately. I have yet to have a party not kill the beast, but often they are beat up and most likely lost someone. I will often have the ill member of the party, be it Sir Hayden or Baron Wharton, see the beast from their stretcher, and rise up to do battle in one final glorious charge. He is usually ripped into several pieces, but this lets the party know the threat is real. Once the Corrector of Sins is dead, I have it fall into its component pieces.
                At this point they should run, but I have yet to have a party not want to go and explore the crypts below. I am often running low on time so I hand wave the tactical approach and narrate the journey down into the crypts. Once they reach the ritual room, I add all sorts of flavor for a circumstance of “You should not touch this!” I talk about how there are demonic images, the room smells of sulfur, and there is a general bad vibe in the room. I contrast that with the size, beauty, and worth of the “gem”. Eventually curiosity wins the day and someone grabs the “gem” and the clapper goes off. It is often the end of the time slot so I narrate how the bodies reform, this time even larger due to the other dead from the fight, and the Corrector of Souls starts to come back down the stairs. Then the screen fades to black. A good horror ending, if I do say so myself. I have only one time had someone cautiously pick up the “gem” with a cloth, make the saving throw, then stuff the cloth in the bell to prevent it from sounding. I was shocked, but it was great. They realized in general what this was, and decided they needed to take the bell to a major city so that church officials come examine it. Once they got back upstairs they realized that the town assumed they murdered everyone in the chapel, and began to burn the church down, another ending I was happy with at the time.

Thanks Tony

                As I said earlier, this is a great little module, and it has the perfect pacing for a singular event. I could see this as a springboard to a bigger campaign, if they live. As with the above paragraph they could try and get the bell to someone in authority, and then begin a quest to find the other items that are out there in the world. The actual background for this little module that sadly most players never get to hear, is quality material. You could add these items to any OSR game and they would fit right in. I think I have prattled on long enough, so pick this up if you haven’t and give it a go the next time you are in a lurch to run a quick game.