Friday, December 29, 2017

We Three Kings

This is a one-shot Christmas-appropriate adventure for Lamentations of the Flame Princess or whatever you want. I ran it for my Skype LotFP group, which consists of high school friends who are usually spread out across the country. But, thanks to holiday magic, they were all at my dining room table on Tuesday night.

It is Christmas Eve, 1567. Mary, Queen of Scots has abdicated the throne and fled south to England, leaving her one-year-old son James to inherit Scotland. In my game, the players are traveling to Edinburgh, hoping that the uncertain political climate means available work for ne'er-do-wells.

An evening snowfall finds the players marching through a pine forest, whiting out the deep green-blue  of the trees and blanketing the mossy undergrowth. Just as further travel becomes impossible, they emerge to find a sorry castle against the horizon. At least it's shelter.

The swinging orange of the porter's lamp and the baying of hounds greet the players, who are ushered in to be welcomed to Dunsinane Castle by lanky, tall Una and round Conall, the daughter and son of the lord. They are under the impression the party is here to pay its respects to the new king of Scotland, which is odd since the king is supposed to be some baby in Edinburgh.

It turns out they mean their father, Caspar of Clan Macbeth. Caspar is an old man on the verge of death, bedridden at the head of a long and empty banquet table in the castle's drafty hall. He will explain that Mary's late abdication is the final straw for "Banquo's line," finally proving how unfit that family is to govern. It is finally time for clan Macbeth to reclaim the throne they took, rightfully, by bold action, centuries ago.

If the players press for details, it's Macbeth, of course. The Macbeth of the play is Caspar's multiple-great uncle, and this is now all that remains of the family. They're not in any state to be reclaiming a country, either: no money or arms to speak of, no allies, dilapidated castle.

There are basically two ways the adventure can go from here: working with or against the Macbeths. If the players seem especially sympathetic, they may be asked to help with their desperate plan. If not, the family will be cagey and send the players to bed. Their plan is to descend into Dunsinane's older, haunted depths, grapple with the ghosts of the past, and search out the Weird Sisters who favored their ancestor so long ago. Perhaps they will do the same for Caspar.

The entrance to the older part of the castle is shut behind a huge portrait of Macbeth in the great hall,  the sky storm-wracked on one side of him and sunny and blue on the other. To enter, one must speak Macbeth's first line of the play: "So foul and fair a day I have not seen." Hint this as you wish. If you have a copy of the play, you can introduce it as Macbeth's journal, or just print out certain passages.

Once inside, this is the lay of the land:

1. A narrow staircase descending, with the stonework and masonry gradually transitioning to an older style.

2. A large, colonnaded hall, haunted by the pale, iridescent ghost of Banquo. If the players choose not to help the Macbeths, Una and Conall will already be negotiating with, fighting, or attempting to avoid this ghost. If the players do choose to help, Una and Conall may accompany them into the depths or may be too cowardly. Your choice.

Ghost of Banquo: 4 HD, AC 14, carries a torch (d6 + burns d4 more rounds for d4 damage per round)

Muttering when the players approach:
"Thou hast it now: king, Cawdor, Glamis, all, as the weird women promised, and, I fear, thou play'dst most foully for't..."

If attacked:
"There will be rain to-night..." - It begins to rain a black oil in the hall, which may be set alight by his torch.

3. A ghostly executioner with a finely made sword, lopping off the heads of a long line of perceived threats to Macbeth's throne.

4. The heads roll from the executioner's sword into this room, to the door of the king's chambers, where they lament their fate and warn of intruders.

5. Macbeth's court, attended by ghostly courtiers and soldiers, chanting, "All hail Macbeth, Macbeth all hail." Will claw at anyone not of Macbeth's line. Fine tapestries abound.

6. A rotting feast attended by headless lords. Fine silverware.

7. The ghost of Lady Macbeth, cradled in death's arms.

Ghost of Lady Macbeth: 6 HD, AC 16

Muttering when the players approach:
"To bed, to bed! There's knocking at the gate: come, come, come, come, give me your hand. What's done cannot be undone.--To bed, to bed, to bed!"

If attacked:
"Come to my woman's breasts, and take my milk for gall, you murdering ministers..." - Green bile spews from her mouth as an attack, d12 damage.

"Yet here's a spot..." - The players bleed from a new orifice each round, -1 HP per round until Lady Macbeth is dispatched. No save.

"Who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him..." - A tidal wave of blood crashes against the players. Save or cower in fear.

8. The ghost of Macbeth, pacing his richly-appointed king's chambers.

Ghost of Macbeth: 7 HD, AC 18, carries a greatsword (d10)

Muttering when the players approach:
"To be thus is nothing; but to be safely thus.--Our fears in Banquo stick deep; and in his royalty of nature reigns that which would be fear'd: 'tis much he dares..."

If attacked:
"Is this a dagger which I see before me?" - Daggers appear before each player, menacing to attack (d4). a Successful attack by the player (against Macbeth's AC) is enough to bat them away.

"O, full of scorpions is my mind..." - Dozens of scorpions crawl from the shadows, attempting to sting the players (d4 damage + save vs. poison). Fire is most effective in dealing with them.

"Birnam Wood be come to Dunsinane..." - Tree roots grow from cracks in the floor to wrap around the players' ankles. Save or immobilized.

9. An old, worn door to an even more ancient place:

1. The walls here are rough-hewn and cavelike, carved with swirly Celtic runes. Goat skulls and animal bones warn away intruders. The way branches into three passages.

2. Chamber of the first weird sister.

Doileag: 4 HD, AC 13. Beguiling and naked with medusan hair. Save or charmed. Her hair can coil and choke the life from you (grapple, d8 per turn)

3. Chamber of the second weird sister.

Sidheag: 4 HD, AC 13. Wizened crone. Her skeletal cats (1 HD, AC 14, d6) fight for her.

4. Chamber of the third weird sister.

Mordag: 4 HD, AC 13. A goth chick with a big old bastard sword (d8). Save or lose the motivation to continue living.

Note: all three sisters may cast spells as a 6th level Magic User, if desired.

5. The summoning circle, drawn in chalk, blood, and ash. All three chambers lead here. The sisters are attempting to commune with Melchior, King and Queen of the Air. Offerings of gold, frankincense, and myrrh surround a book of demon-summoning. Melchior has the power to grant Caspar Macbeth's wish, though at a terrible price. May also grant the players wishes, though again at terrible prices.

Melchior, King and Queen of the Air:

If summoned by three sisters: 9 HD, AC 17, talons (2 x d10 + save vs. poison)
If summoned by two sisters: 6 HD, AC 15, talons (2 x d10)
If summoned by one sister: 3 HD, AC 13, talons (2 x d6)
If summoned by the players: as the LotFP Summon spell

When summoned:
How did you dare
To trade and traffic with Macbeth
In riddles and affairs of death;
And I, the mistress of your charms,
The close contriver of all harms,
Was never call'd to bear my part,
Or show the glory of our art?