Sunday, 28 December 2014

A Red & Pleasant Land: Playing Cards & Suits

Central European cards
When people think about a deck of playing cards, they usually think of the following four suits: Spades (♠), Hearts (), Diamonds (), and Clubs (♣).

In A Red & Pleasant Land, Zak S. has obviously used the four aforementioned suits, what with the Alice in Wonderland connection. The four suits feature prominently in Chapter III, Beasts & People, because of the various Orders named after the suits in the employ of the Heart Queen.

However, given the prevalent Mitteleuropean milieu of the setting, I think it would have been nice to introduce Central European suits, and also to expand upon their possible use with the game. This is what I am going to attempt here.

First, a word about playing cards— They were introduced from Mamluk Egypt to Europe via Italy in the 14th century. Italian playing cards (used to this day) have retained the original Mamluk suits of swords, cups, coins, and staves. In the mid-15th century, in Central Europe, these suits became leaves, hearts, bells, and acorns. At the end of the 15th century, the French derived the presently-known suits from the Central European ones.

Playing cards have, since the very beginning, piqued the interest of occultists and diviners, who have devised all manners of correspondences between the suits and various elements of European life, e.g.:

 Suit   Social Class   Season   Element   Divination 
 Leaves   Burghers   Autumn   Air   Hope 
 Hearts   Clergy   Spring   Water   Love 
 Bells   Nobility   Summer   Earth   Money 
 Acorns   Peasants   Winter   Fire   Trouble 
You will notice that Acorns correspond to both 'winter' and 'fire'... So much for consistency!

Another difference between French playing cards and Central European decks is in the area of face cards. Whereas French cards sport the well-known Jack, Queen, and King, Central European cards have three male face cards per suit: Unter (a lower-class knave), Ober (an upper-class knave), and König (King). Aces are also slightly different, as each ace in a Central European deck depicts one of the seasons of the year.

Bells, Acorns, and Leaves cards.

So how would the use of Central European cards impact A Red & Pleasant Land?

First of all, both French and Central European cards use Hearts as one of the suits, so at least there wouldn't be any change in this respect, and the Heart Queen would remain the Heart Queen (but see below).

The orders would be modified as follows:
✠ The Order of Clubs (soldiers) becomes the Order of Acorns
✠ The Order of Diamonds (courtiers) becomes the Order of Bells
✠ The Order of Spades (commoners) becomes the Order of Leaves

Another impact would be a reduced number in monarchs: instead of six decapitated lords, 3 kings and 3 queens, there are only three– the three Kings of Bells, Acorns, and Leaves.

As for Hearts, instead of having a timid king and a queen, the use of Central European playing cards would imply:
✠ The Queen of Hearts, female counterpart to the King of Hearts (works as the Heart Queen described in A Red & Pleasant Land) except that she's naturally the top ruler of Hearts
✠ The Ober of Hearts — use the King of Hearts described in the book in his role as the general of the Hearts' army
✠ The Unter of Hearts — use the Knave of Hearts as described in the book

Should you be able to get hold of a Central European deck of cards, you could use them along with the 'correspondences' table above to ad-lib the effects of spells (via the elements or the divination column), to randomly generate NPCs, etc. You may also add the following (even though I prefer not to use demi-humans in a faux European setting):
 Suit   Class   Race 
 Leaves   Magic-User   Elf 
 Hearts   Cleric   Human 
 Bells   Fighter   Dwarf 
 Acorns   Specialist  Halfling 

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

A Red & Pleasant Land: The Alice – A New Character Class

I am crap at writing reviews, so instead of writing a review of the marvellous Lamentations of the Flame Princess sandbox supplement titled A Red & Pleasant Land, I will be posting a blog entry for each of its chapters. That will be my way of writing a review of sorts, by showcasing how inspiring reading the book has been to me.

Chapter II of A Red & Pleasant Land is entirely devoted to the description of a new LotFP character class called The Alice. Now instead of merely paraphrasing this chapter (because that's pretty much all you can do with a technical piece such as a new character class), I'll be repurposing The Alice character class for the Monsters & Magic role-playing game, along the lines of what David Rollins has done for D&D 5e.

The Alice
a new character class for Monsters & Magic

Prime Attribute: Dexterity
Physical Hit Points: D4
Mental Hit Points: D10
Starting Money: 3D4×10

As explained in A Red & Pleasant Land, whereas your average adventurer sets out looking for adventure, in the case of Alices, it is actually adventure that seeks them. The Alice is a mysterious magnet for odd occurrences, perplexing phenomena, and extraordinary endeavours.

Alices are human, and from a civilised background.

Alice Traits
Light Armour
Simple 1-Handed Weapons
Tool of the Trade: Choose one particular Game or Musical Instrument
Luck Manipulation (as described in Aperita Arcana)
Read and Write
Exasperation, per the text in A Red & Pleasant Land, but use the Effect Engine instead of rolling the dice, i.e.:
  • Difficulty: whatever is causing the exasperation, or a GM-set value (p37 of M&M)
  • Minor effect, subtract 5 and read the resulting number on the Exasperation table on p31 of A Red & Pleasant Land
  • Major effect, subtract 10 and read the resulting number on the Exasperation table, allow for some leeway
  • Extreme effect, let the Alice choose the number on the Exasperation table

Alice Advancements
Each time the Alice levels up, instead of letting the player choose the advancement, have them roll 1D100:

 1D100 Roll   Results 
 01-20   The Alice may choose one of the Monk traits on p17 of M&M as an Advancement 
 21-70   The Alice may choose one of the Thief traits on p22 of M&M as an Advancement 
 71-74   per the text of the Alice D100 Level Up Table on p32-33 of A Red & Pleasant Land 
 75   The Alice gets Recognise Faction or Function of Any Voivodjan Aristocrat as an Advancement 
 76-79   per the text of the Alice D100 Level Up Table 
 80   The Alice may replace STR with CHA in a combat roll 
 81   The Alice gets Identify Drugs & Plants as an Advancement 
 82   The Alice gets Lie Convincingly as an Advancement 
 83   per the text of the Alice D100 Level Up Table 
 84   The Alice gets Voivodjan Etiquette as an Advancement 
 85-87   per the text of the Alice D100 Level Up Table 
 88   The Alice gets an extra language as an Advancement 
 89   The Alice gets Artistic Forgery as an Advancement 
 90   The Alice gets Appraise Treasure as an Advancement 
 91-93   The Alice may replace STR with DEX in a combat roll 
 94   per the text of the Alice D100 Level Up Table 
 95   The Alice gets Dodge Missiles as an Advancement 
 96   The Alice gets the Stalwart Defence stance (p42 of M&M) as an Advancement 
 97-98   The Alice gets Sylvan Sympathy as an Advancement 
 99-00   The Alice gets Utterly Blasé as an Advancement 

As a bonus, I am adding a further sub-class of the Alice, the Goose-boy, devised by yours truly, and inspired by Lúdas Matyi, the Hungarian epic poem written by Mihály Fazekas.

The Goose-Boy
a new Alice sub-class for Monsters & Magic

Secondary Attribute:Wisdom
Starting Money: 5D6

The Goose-boy is the commoner counterpart to the Alice. The Goose-boy starts as a young peasant boy who leads a quiet life but who is severely wronged by some upper-class NPC, and who sets out on an adventure to settle a score with the NPC.

The Goose-boy is a human from the sticks. The player must choose the reason the PC has become a Goose-boy; possible reasons are:
  • stolen property
  • someone forcibly married his sweetheart
  • killed relative

Goose-boy Traits
Light Armour and Shield
1-Handed Weapons
Country Bumpkin: Choose one particularly lowly profession such as goose boy, pig herder, etc.
Luck Manipulation
Disguise (p23 of M&M)

Goose-boy Advancements
As the Alice above, except:
75 Sense Orb Loc - the Goose-boy may detect the hidden human settlements of Voivodja
84 Exhort the Commoners - the Goose-boy may stir up trouble against the aristocracy
88 Thieves' Cant - the Goose-boy has learnt the secret language of lowlifes
89 Impersonate Trade - the Goose-boy may pass off as a trader or an artisan
90 Rigmarole - the Goose-boy may fast-talk his way pretty much anywhere

If you are using my 13C setting, Goose-boys are agents of the Trickster.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

13th Age in Csachticz − Detailed Icons, No.3: The Dracul

The Dracul is the name given to the Diabolist in 13C. The surname 'Dracul' stems from the Order of the Dragon, founded in 1408 by the then-Emperor Sigismund (1368–1437) and his wife of ill-repute, Queen Barbara (1392–1451). The scope of the Order of the Dragon is to defend True Faith against the Empire of the Crescent Moon. However, contrary to other similarly-purposed orders, whose foundation lies in religious vows and selflessness, the Order of the Dragon is firmly based upon personal oaths of loyalty and ruthlessness.

The first Dracul, or head of the Order of the Dragon, was Hermann II of Cilli, the father of Queen Barbara. After his death in 1435, the headship was passed on to Vlad II of Herdsland, henceforth known as Vlad Dracul. There were rumours of Queen Barbara and Vlad Dracul dabbling in forbidden magicks and being lovers. Whatever the truth, she certainly put her immense wealth and her political clout behind Vlad Dracul, who rose from being a secondary baron of the Empire of the One Faith to becoming its foremost champion in the south-east. After the Queen's demise, apparently caused by a necromantic ceremony gone awry — she was reportedly trying to become a lich —, Vlad Dracul resumed her dark experiments. He has seldom since been seen in broad daylight, and has always fought his battles against the Empire of the Crescent Moon during the night. These night attacks have terrified the Sultan's troops, especially since the Dracul is known to impale any prisoners taken during these battles.


The Dracul is seldom to be seen, except when leading his unsavoury host into battle. Rumour has it that he spends the rest of his time in his foreboding fortified tower at Argisch, deep in the most inaccessible part of the Oriental Range.


It is common knowledge that the present Dracul, Vlad Dracul, has been around for... something like 200 years, which is obviously very wrong. Since he's made few public appearances in the last 150 years or so, little is known about the means by which he's managed to extend his lifespan to such an incredible amount of years. Some say he has a huge laboratory where he brews life-extending potions; some others that he's transformed into a lich, using the forbidden necromantic lore accumulated by his erstwhile mentor (and lover) Queen Barbara; some others that he's become a vampire, and that his many war prisoners are his lifeblood.

His fortress~tower at Argisch, in an ever dark and stormy part of the Oriental Range, with barely any access road, certainly doesn't invite enquiries.

The few survivors from the notorious night attacks of the Dracul speak of a huge unholy horde of undead riding skeletal horses into battle, but these reports are dismissed as the ravings of disturbed madmen.


The Dracul is a fanatical opponent of the Empire of the Crescent Moon. For him, the end always justifies the means, so he's always looking for spies, assassins, and like lowlifes to further his diabolical deeds. However, anybody associating with the Dracul may find themselves shunned by normal adventurers should news of such an association leak out.


The Dracul is a villainous icon without any ally. Not that he thinks he needs any.


The Sultan is the Dracul's obsessive enemy, and obviously the Sultan also considers the Dracul as one of his foremost enemies north of the Empire of the Crescent Moon. The Superintendent and the Warlord, who do not agree with the way the Dracul fights against the Empire of the Crescent Moon, are known to have hired holy men and monastic knights to try and root out this evil from the Oriental Range. None of these agents are known to have ever returned.


The Dracul as such is quite a recent Icon compared with the others. However, he draws upon an ancient tradition of necromancy, forbidden lore, and cruelty that has been present in this part of Europe for centuries.


The Dracul is obsessed with defeating the Empire of the Crescent Moon, which keeps him busy. Should he turn his eyes towards his erstwhile co-religionists he might corrupt the Fair Kingdom and, beyond it, the Empire of the One Faith!

A Red & Pleasant Land: The Land of Unreason – Geography

Still reading A Red & Pleasant Land, at last now in dead tree format. The setting vividly brought to life in the book, the Land of Unreason, is described by Zak S. as being a mix of Transylvania and Wonderland (page 14):

the world in this book is a sort of alternate-universe Transylvania underneath your “real” Transylvania, reachable through mirrors

A close inspection of the map, however, reveals a land far larger than Transylvania, with Cachtice in the north-western corner, Zombor in the south-west, and Castle Poenari in the south-eastern corner. The north-eastern part of the map is more difficult to identify with any real-world place names, but the shape of the rivers and of the mountains suggests Ruthenia.

As a result, given these geographical limits, the Land of Unreason corresponds quite exactly to the historical Kingdom of Hungary, i.e., the model behind my very own “Fair Kingdom”.

The Land of Unreason used to be a unitary kingdom, the Once Palace. After the demise of the latter, it became a war-torn land, with the two main powers being the Heart Queen, based in the north-west, and the Red King in the south-east. This again somehow reflects the disunity of the Fair Kingdom, torn between the Empire of the One Faith, the Empire of the Crescent Moon, and the independent-minded nobles of Transylvania, who try to keep their distances from both empires.

Should you want to run a mash-up of my Fair Kingdom setting, with its icons, and the Land of Unreason, you could expand on the notion of Twins presented on page 16 of A Red & Pleasant Land. The Fair Kingdom is the geographical twin of the Land of Unreason (and vice-versa). Everybody has a twin in the other land (and vice-versa). The Heart Queen is the Twin of the Blood Countess. The Red King is Vlad Dracul's Twin.

Monday, 15 December 2014

LotFP Adventure Seed

I have several gaming blogs so as to keep my blog entries separated and dedicated to a given genre whenever I feel like posting. This present blog is dedicated to my early modern weird fantasy posts, but I'll briefly mention the Giannirator, my bookshelf-based random adventure generator, from my gaming blog dedicated to Sword & Sorcery.

I have noticed that, whenever I use the Giannirator, most results are geared towards Glorantha, which is actually not a surprise considering that the bulk of my gaming library is composed of RuneQuest/HeroQuest/Glorantha publications. So, in order to showcase a more diverse use of the Giannirator, I'll use my gaming PDFs, which are much more diverse in scope than my dead tree bookshelves.

NPC1 (from PDF One)
1D20 --> 18. Folder No.18.
1D6 --> 3. Start counting from the beginning.
1D30 --> 11. Eleventh PDF from the beginning: D6 Fantasy Locations.
1D6 --> 1. Start counting from the beginning.
1D100 --> 43. Worthington the Priest.

Location1 (from PDF Two)
1D20 --> 7. Folder No.7.
1D6 --> 3. Start counting from the beginning.
1D30 --> 15. 15th PDF from the beginning: A Mighty Fortress.
1D6 --> 3. Start counting from the beginning.
1D100 --> 75. the Scheldt Estuary.

Action (from Table One)
1D20 --> 19. Conquer / Invade / Raid / Pillage / Plunder.

Person/Object (from PDF Three)
1D20 --> 13. Folder No.13.
1D6 --> 4. Start counting from the end.
1D30 --> 23. 23rd PDF from the end: Night Witches.
1D6 --> 1. Start counting from the beginning.
1D100 --> 57. Forbidden Love.

Motivation (from Table Two)
1D20 --> 11. Selflessness.

NPC2 (from PDF Four)
1D20 --> 10. Folder No.10.
1D6 --> 5. Start counting from the end.
1D30 --> 8. Eighth PDF from the end: 13th Age Errata.
1D6 --> 2. Start counting from the beginning.
1D4 --> 4. Putrid Zombie.

Location2 (from PDF Five)
1D20 --> 14. Folder No.14.
1D6 --> 4. Start counting from the end.
1D30 --> 10. Tenth PDF from the end: The God That Crawls.
1D6 --> 2. Start counting from the beginning.
1D100 --> 26. a large "null space" of pure darkness.

Element (from PDF Six)
1D20 --> 5. Folder No.5.
1D6 --> 2. Start counting from the beginning.
1D30 --> 14. 14th PDF from the beginning: D&D 5e Player's Basic Rules.
1D6 --> 6. Start counting from the end.
1D100 --> 36. the Schools of Magic.

Result: Worthington the Priest asks the PCs to go to the Scheldt Estuary to Conquer / Invade / Raid / Pillage / Plunder a Forbidden Love. Motivated by their Selflessness, the PCs will end up confronting a Putrid Zombie in a large "null space" of pure darkness. During the course of the adventure, the Schools of Magic will feature prominently.

This really looks like a nice Lamentations of the Flame Princess scenario seed. So: Worthington the Priest, before settling down as a clergyman, used to be a chaplain in England's Royal Navy during the Anglo-Spanish War (1585–1604). He even saw action at the Naval battle of Gravelines, in 1588, which saw the defeat of the Spanish Armada by the English. Worthington, however, was stranded in Flanders and started a romance with a local Protestant woman, before being repatriated to England. Five years on, Worthington still thinks of his beautiful Flemish lover, and has asked the PCs to go and find her and, if possible, to bring her back to England. The PCs, being incredibly selfless, won't even ask for a reward.
Somehow, the PCs should learn that the woman is now the wife of a prosperous burgher and lives in the fortified Dutch city of Bergen op Zoom. The city is besieged by the Catholics, and the PCs will somehow have to benefit from magical help to get through the besiegers, and into the city. Unbeknownst to them, the husband of the woman is a necromancer and he has a portal in his cellar to the Negative Energy Plane.
The PCs will talk to the woman, she will agree to following them, but the necromancer will discover her plans and lock her in the cellar. The PCs will have to confront the necromancer and his putrid zombie, who keeps regenerating because of its closeness to the Negative Energy Plane.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

A Red & Pleasant Land (Very First Impressions)

the Blood Countess, Zak-style
James Raggi has made available his latest batch of LotFP books for purchase on his web-site at last, and I have thus ordered A Red & Pleasant Land, the new version of Death Frost Doom, and No Salvation for Witches. I am particularly curious about the former since it is set in a fantasy version of Central Europe. Or should I write, in a Zak S.-ised version of Central Europe.

Lo and behold! One of the major NPCs is the Blood Countess herself. I won't add anything so as not to spoil the surprise for those who are going to play in A Red & Pleasant Land, but other tidbits similar to what has been appearing in my blog also appear in Zak's book, like her castle at Csachticz (spelled Cachtice in the book).

The art (obviously) is superb... More when I have time to read through the book.