The Road to Netherford

Written By: Stephen Dove - Mar• 03•14

This time, I continue with the Cantorbridge Tales; a medieval fantasy adventure written primarily for Dragon Warriors, but which can also be used with any game. For the first part of Cantorbridge Tales, or for background information on Vindashire where the tales are set; see the appropriate widgets in the sidebar. I have now created new categories so that you can find all posts relating to this series easily,.

Note also that I have expanded the section on Lord Aldred’s Men from last time; so you might want to re-read that before going any further.

Aftermath

When the battle is done, the dead, if any,  must be sewn into shrouds; if Teresa is present and still alive, she will do it with a hard-eyed, practiced ease. Else Odo may lend his skills, for he has lived through a time of pestilence and was once forced to do this office all too frequently for his fellow villagers in Igham.

The NPCs’ reactions to the dead are an opportunity to set an atmosphere and tone for this game. Death in this age was treated with a mixture of reverence and fear; in medieval times, people feared that ‘the dead would walk’ if they died violently or were buried in unhallowed ground. This thought would be uppermost in everyone’s minds after such a battle. The GM can signal this through how he plays his NPCs, and should have them discuss with the PCs how best to ensure that any dead ‘lie quietly till morn’s first light’. Gervase will suggest that the corpses be weighted down with stones and will also place rude crosses he fashions over them to keep evil at bay. In addition,  Teresa or Odo will go and find some rowan wood to burn, for it was popularly believed that this wood had the power to repel Fey in these days. It is details like this that set apart a game like Dragon Warriors from games based on pulp fantasy, like Dungeons and Dragons.

Any NPCs of fragile mind, such as Alice, will be weeping with fear and must be comforted. Etienne will also be struggling if alive, because he was filled with fear during the battle, and even though he stood his ground he thinks he has besmirched the De Toyne name. This may take some time to become apparent and could be a conversation for the cart tomorrow.

Now is also the time for one of the NPCs to notice that all who fought in the battle cast no shadow. Alice, if present, will scream ‘you are all taken!’ and run off into the forest and must be pursued. Odo will now begin weeping if he lived, feeling that ‘this is all my fault!’

If Teresa, Etienne or Gervase fought, they too are affected by the curse; the latter pair will fall to their knees in fear and pray for deliverance. Teresa will just grimace in disgust and return to cleaning her weapons, ever practical. She may even sneer at anyone who is overcome, to ‘stop mewling like a kitten’ for she has had to harden her heart since the fall of her order.

The ice from the dead wolves soon melts; and where it touches the ground, strange unearthly flowers bloom and open just as the day dawns. Anyone harvesting the flowers can easily make two healing potions (1d8 HP) just by pouring hot water over the blooms and steeping them for an hour to make a decoction. However, anyone taking even a sip is subject to the Fey curse if they weren’t before.

Morning and Master

Next morning,  if Odo is dead and anyone checks his body, it has turned to dust; the shroud sags as if the body inside has somehow crumbled. If the shroud is opened, a swarm of bees bursts out.

Gervase’s Master, Phillip Carpenter; a rotund, florid-faced and jolly looking fellow, arrives three hours after dawn on a cart. He will be incensed and overwrought if Gervase is dead, and will demand that all the PCs accompany him to Netherford to ‘make just report to the Crowner’. If Gervase is alive, he will believe any story that Gervase agrees to, no matter how unlikely and eldritch it seems, for he trusts the boy completely and knows he is not the ‘sort to take any passing fancies into his head’. He will also load up any bodies onto his cart, and take them to Netherford.

Odo, if alive,  will shy away from the horse pulling the cart and will not get on. He says he prefers to walk. If someone insists and he gets on, then the horse will go mad and will bolt and charge off down the road. Roll 1d6; after this number of rounds, the cart will crash and everyone on the cart will take 1d8 damage. The PCs have this many rounds to gain control; they must make a Strength check against a difficulty of 17 to control the horse. Afterwards, if still alive, then Odo will warn the PCs that ‘this will happen to you at the last; all living things shall scorn you!’

Nutley to Netherford

nutley_netherford

As part of the ‘Road-Sandbox‘ every road between two settlements must have an encounter table; that way, if the PCs return this way, we have something to give the road some character. Here is the table for Nutley to Netherford; roll 1d6 once:

1)  A tame, performing bear is walking along the road with its owner; heading for Martinmas or one of the other minor fayres (if at another time of year). It suddenly breaks free and attacks the party for no apparent reason. If any of the PCs are still fey-cursed then this should be played up as if the bear was spooked by their presence.

Bear: Attack: 17,   Claws: (d8, 5) , AF 1 (for thick fur),  Defence: 7, Movement:  10m (25m),  Magical Defence: 3, Evasion: 4, Health Points: 20  Stealth: 10, Perception: 6,  Notes:  Critical hits count as bear-hugs, doing 10 damage (ignores armour).

2) A group of lepers in stained cowls and cloaks ring a bell as they pass by on their way to the Cathedral, asking for alms. If no one gives them alms, then the leader throws back his cowl, revealing his hideous, puckered face and the other 4 lepers seize hold of any horses the party might have, and use fear of their disease to extort money. If the PCs speak very disrespectfully to the lepers then they may attack. If the PCs are kind and respectful, then they gain allies who my help them in the future, even if they don’t give them money. Since they are already ‘dead’ the lepers have little fear of the law or of God and might be willing to do things ordinary folk would fear to be involved in; for instance, they know the charcoal burners, some of the secrets of the Hamewood outlaws and even the certain Gloamings in the Hamewoods.

Lepers:  Attack; 12, Defence; 5, Club; (d3, 3), AF 1 (thick robes), Movement (6m; cannot run), Magical Defence; 3, Evasion; 2, Health Points; 5, Stealth; 11, Perception; 6.

3) In sight of the City, a group of drunken students who were shut outside because of curfew last night, rudely accosts the party and intimates that they would like some ale or wine if the PCs have any. They mean no harm but are very drunk and will try and intimidate Master Carpenter or Gervase if present, possibly becoming violent, since there is much enmity between ‘town and gown’ at present. However, they will run off after one of them is knocked down or seriously injured. After the encounter, Master Carpenter will confide that the students are so unruly because ‘they know the Church courts will just give them a penance and that they’ll not be justly punished. And the Watch cannot touch them, being under the Bishop’s protection.’

If the PCs attack or beat them, they can expect to be attacked in retribution later in the town. If the PCs are firm but fair, then they might gain an ally in the shape of the leader of the students; Marcus Tyler, whose Father is a Knight in the service of Lord Westring.

Students:  Attack; 12, Defence; 5, Dagger; (d4, 3), AF 0, Movement (10m; 20m), Magical Defence; 3, Evasion; 4, Health Points; 7, Stealth; 12, Perception; 6.

4) An Averer targets the PCs; these children cover themselves in pigs’ blood from the shambles (the area of Netherford where the slaughterhouses are located) and then stagger about in front of strangers or pilgrims and pretend to faint. Once the party stop and help them, they use the distraction to pickpocket or swindle them.

Averer:  Attack; 9, Defence; 4, Dagger; (d4, 3), AF 0, Movement (10m; 20m), Magical Defence; 3, Evasion; 5, Health Points; 4, Stealth; 18, Perception; 9.  The averer can pickpocket as an assassin.

5) A pardoner (Hugh Gaffney) with an escort of the Bishop’s soldiers and a Varni prisoner in tow, accosts the party and tries to get them to buy indulgences for their sins. Pardoners were officially sanctioned by the Church in medieval times and sold pieces of paper with prayers on, that supposedly could lessen a sinner’s time in purgatory. Pardoners were universally reviled as they were often very avaricious.

Gaffney presses the party to buy indulgences and tortures his Varni prisoner in front of them, as an implicit threat. Varni are a religious and ethnic group expelled from Albion twenty years before. Many chose to convert to the True Faith; in fact hiding their real religion and meeting in secret. They are now hunted by the church and burned as heretics.

If the PCs fail to buy indulgences or are rude, they invite consequences, and may even have to fight the Bishop’s soldiers. There are 4 of them and they have stats as second rank Knights. If that happens, the PCs  may be arrested once they enter Netherford, though the Sheriff might help them, as he is no friend of the Bishop’s.

6) At a roadside gibbet, a pilgrim (Stephen Corbett) struggles against a mob as they try to lynch him. A girl was found raped nearby and the mob grabbed the first stranger they saw who even vaguely fitted the description of the rapist. The PCs can either witness this act of mob justice or intervene. If they intervene, the mob will attack them until they subdue the mob leader, and father of the girl (Anselm Coppley). In fact Elaine Coppley  was raped by a Pardoner named Hugh Gaffney, who uses his position in the Church as a cloak for every kind of vile act. She is too terrified to tell the truth, having been threatened by Gaffney if she speaks out against him.

If they rescue Master Corbett, he is in their debt and offers them his horse in payment for their good deed. The beast is stabled at one of the Inns in the City. Corbett is a pilgrim and Reeve of Scardic, and so is quite a wealthy man, though his clothes belie this fact. He is a morose and sad man, who is on a pilgrimage hoping that the Saints will lift the grief from his soul, after the recent death of his wife in childbirth.

Mob (10):  Attack; 11, Defence; 5, Clubs; (d3 3), AF 0, Movement (10m; 20m), Magical Defence; 3, Evasion; 4, Health Points; 8, Stealth; 11, Perception; 6.

The mob will not kill the PCs; if the mob win the fight they will beat the PC senseless and then hang Corbett, before dispersing. In this case, the PCs will be speaking to the Crowner about these events and may have to bear witness against Master Coppley.

Next time; The Gates of Netherford!

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