Wolves ep.1 – The Curse of Langmere

So, the players from around the world managed to get a time when we were all available (and awake!), and managed to give a try of this game “Wolves of God”. I had rolled on a few of the random tables by Kevin Crawford which inspired a (hopefully) interesting scenario.

The party, according to Feorrehad – By Luka Rejec

So during the prior week we setup a discord and rolled up some characters as per Kevin’s rules. I was surprised at how flavourful all the characters came out, just by the gentle guidance of the limited backgrounds and classes. The players came up with the following.

Cunach – a man pulled from the bogs by the Dru – Taught the old ways and sent to save the English from the new God.
Feorrehad – a famous hero’s son whose holdings were destroyed and now seeks new lands
Oswyn – a wanderer who follows Saint Wulfred to learn of this new God
Reginleif – thrall woman who hears the call of the old Gods and seeks monsters to slay.
Wulfred – a priest of mighty faith who brings wisdom to the heathens.

In Game

PCs present: Cunach(Galdorman 2) Feorrehad(Warrior 2) Oswyn(Warrior 2) Reginleif(Adventurer 2) Wulfred(Saint 2)

King Aethalstan is wroth with his son, Wulfric. The young man shames himself with women and strong drink, and his actions have caused insult and injury to many in Sussex, leaving the King to repay those so troubled. Edling Wulfric has fled to the distant hamlet of Langmere for the last month and no word of his actions have returned. The good priest Wulfred and his companions have sworn to bring back the young Edling and present him to the King for his justice.

The sworn companions come to the hamlet of Langmere at the height of summer, but the lands were of ill-aspect. The grain hangs limp and rotted on the stalk. The cows are haggard, and the smell of sickness fills the air. They ask for news from the thralls in the fields, and are regaled with tales of a plague on the land and a beast stalking the Weald. When asked for news of Wulfric, the thrall barely contains his contempt – yes the edling feasted with Ealdorman Gilmund. Before he left, Wulfred prayed for good fortune and blessed the fields. Oswyn secretly shared a handsign of the old Gods, which the thrall returned.

In Langmere Ealdorman Gilmund met the companions. Bearing weapons and supported by his fyrdmen he appeared angered by the intrusion, but he had been a sworn companion of Ealdorman Howland and so greeted his son Feorrehad with open arms. The Companions broke bread and talked long into the night. They were told of the terrible curse that had fallen on the lands this summer – plants wilting and grain rotting, sour milk and stale bread. Gilmund had already spent much of his wealth trading for food to store for the coming winter. He believed the cause was the witch Aelfrun who dwelt across the lake – a spiteful old hag who hated all good Christians. The companions heard these woes, but needed news of Edling Wulfric. He had arrived a good month ago with his own sworn companions, feasted for days in this very hall, then headed north into the forest to chase rumours of gold in the mines of Irenhirst. Gilmund heard no more since the departure, and had no time to seek answers as a terrible beast now prowled the Weald and took the hunters of Langmere..

Only one hunter had survived this beast, and the companions went to visit. The man had been maimed – his arm torn off – and now lamented his fate. His hut was ill-kept and the smelt of old-ale and night-soil. Brother Wulfred bravely entered and tried to persuade the man to speak. With the gift of a crucifix from the holy city and the promise that God would send no test that a faithful man could not meet, Wulfric raised the man Beowine back up, and he pledged himself to Wulfric. Beowine told them of the journey north with the Edling and his men, of resting amongst the halls of Irenhirst and celebrating the coming fortune of gold, and being ambushed in the night by a great beast – it’s hide unscathed by sword or spear, it’s breath scalding the skin of warriors, and eating all who stood against it. Beowine hung his head in shame at his fearful abandonment of the Edling. But his survival granted him the chance to lead these new Companions to defeat the beast.

Brother Wulfred, Feorrehad and Oswyn paid a visit to Sister Ingwyn. With some sly questioning they learnt that Gilmund had raised the church to protect against the haunted island of Rynelaw – the ancient barrow raised in the center of the lake. Ever since Sister Ingwyn had come to Langmere the locals had lost their nightly fear of the dead haunting the island, but Ingwyn and Gilmund had gained the emnity of the local healer and wise woman Aelfrun – who they named as a witch and drove out of Langmere. The Sister loudly blamed the witch for the curse across their lands.

Meanwhile, Reginleif and Cunach both saw signs of the curse over the land. Together they collected various plants strong with power, and Cunach planted various staves on the borders of the farmlands – they felt the curse fleeing their efforts and as their sleepless night progressed they felt the curse lift from Langmere.

Brother Wulfred called the people of the hamlet to join him in worship of the Good Lord – he prayed for them and led them through the holy rites, reminding them of the armor of their faith and their safety in the arms of the Lord… The next morning the good folk of Langmere rejoiced in the first restful night for weeks, and the smell of freshly baked bread and sweet water. The curse had been lifted, and all loudly proclaimed that Saint Wulfric had cleansed the land of evil.

Cunach and Reginlief shared a long suffering sigh at the blindness of the “faithful”.

In the morning the Companions and Beowine asked the locals about Aelfrun and were given a bit of a run around. No one wanted to say they knew how to reach the witch… but with some cunning questioning (how do we avoid the witch?) they found that the path around the south of the lake would lead them to certain doom (ie, the witch’s cottage) and so they struck out for a brisk walk along the lake. The entire morning they were uneasy with the sight of the dark isle in the center of the lake, with it’s ring of menhirs poking above the horizon like a crooked crown. They briefly heard some wolves howling, but some screaming and shaking of shields sent them running for the forest.

Heading up the west side of the lake they came to the eaves of the Weald. The path led to a small farmstead – pigs, chickens, and some goats. The steading was weatherworn and in need of repair, and the woman sweeping the yard looked too old to be able to do so. Wulfred immediately accused her of being the witch who cursed the hamlet. She weighed the intruders, spat, and replied “yes, what of it?”. Feorrehad needed to physically pull Wulfred back from the old woman to save him the shame of hitting her. Reginleif immediately jumped in front of the companions and stopped weapons being drawn. “I have spent time among people such as this. I warn you all not to underestimate her! A frail old woman brazenly confronting 4 armed warriors and a priest of God? She is much more than she seems.” Aelfrun burst into laughter. “At least one of you has some sense.” ‘

Feorrehad offered his apologies for the rudeness of their arrival, he offered the wheel of cheese he had carried for many months as recompense for their actions. Aelfrun eyed the rich cheese with greedy eyes and accepted the offering with a grunt. Feorrehad and Wulfred stayed outside and prayed, while the others were invited into the hut. She showed no fear of the companions or their weapons. “Yes, I cursed Langmere. There is a Beastie up in those hills that has a hunger, and I can’t hurt it. So I made the land offer nothing to feed that hunger.” Oswyn frowned “But the families will starve!” “Bah, that bloated leech Gilmund might loose some, but the others are well used to hard years, they will survive a few bare plates better than the jaws of that Beastie.” She stopped to look at Cunach, “at least they would have until you interfered.”
Beowine shook in fear. “No weapons could mark that beast, no matter the strength of the wielder. I saw spears break upon it’s scales and brave warriors eaten. Is this the fate of all in Langmere?” Oswyn went down to his knees and begged, “Please wise one, is there any secrets that you can share to help? How can we overcome this Beast?”

Aelfrun weighed the companions with her gaze – strong arms, stout shields, and fierce eyes. “I know the truth of Rynelaw. I know the story of Arngrim and his brothers who are buried there. They were fierce warriors from the north, sons of Giants. The 12 brothers came to our lands and took what they wanted, killing all who defied them. Angrim held a great sword that guaranteed his victory in every fight. No armor, no shield could withstand its blows. No man could overcome these ravagers. Eventually the Dru of old filled this lake and raised stones to trap the band of brothers and their ill-gotten gains in the otherworld. Take Angrim’s sword, and you can kill the Beastie.”

The Companions left the forest hut and walked back to the hall of Gilmund, deep in thought. The next morning they were carried across the lake by a thankful fisherman and left on the dank shores of Rynelaw. The great menhirs stood black against the dawn’s light as the companions took fearful feet toward the crack leading to the otherworld.

At the Table

That was an experience.

I don’t think I’ve laughed so much at a game. I had to pause a few times to let the pain in my cheeks subside! Everyone was going whole-hog into representing their characters and beliefs of the time – I especially loved the confused descriptions of “god” and the superstitious beliefs of the various people at this time when most of the locals were uneducated and only had a very cursory understanding of Christianity. Every character was earnestly trying to do good as they understood it, but “good” felt very different from any other rpg I’d experienced.

Creating the session. I (once again) have to say I love Kevin Crawford’s work. I decided to roll on the “political conflict” and “natural conflict” to get some inspiration. 5 – Revenge for a crime unsatisfied or wergild, and 5 – Beasts. Sadly there are no tables for towns, but I decided to plant a little church there and so rolled for a couple of tags that would apply to the community: 4&11: Bulwark against evil & Heretical beliefs.

This was enough, along with my love of old sagas, to inspire a little scenario! I think the inspirations are pretty clear

The generic rules flow very easily – 2d6+skill+attribute vs target number – nearly everything involved this, and even reaction rolls for the various npcs matched this. I don’t remember anyone having any issues here. But things got very interesting once “wyrd” got involved. Beowine the maimed hunter was curious. Wulfred’s player was unsure how he could break this character out of their “self destructive funk”, but he had a wyrd of “My gifts win true loyalty”, so he narrated giving up his crucifix, naming it a gift from the holy lands and how it would raise the spirits of this poor Christian. It sounded very cool, and the cost to Wulfric is stepping closer to his own death! But the result was they have a local guide who has faced and survived the beast, and is now their loyal follower! It may not sound like much, but he is a local NPC who will give them information and directions whenever needed. And they learnt the truth about how the Edling and his warriors were ambushed.

It felt very cool in the moment, and lets the other players start to think of how they can use their “wyrd” to narrate outcomes. To me it feels like it guarantees each character some “narrative weight” without too much complication to the rules. A sweet little addition.

The other interesting change was the spells – they are quite different and nearly all fall on the “subtle” end of the magical spectrum. Seeing Wulfred and Cunach team up to lift the curse was rather inspiring to be honest. The galdorman Cunach would have been unable to work “his evil sorceries” with the farmers looking on, and no minor miracle saint Wulfred could call upon would dispel a curse. But together they were able to let the locals “feel” a miracle cast upon them (and were all hidden away from seeing the galdorman), and then wake up to a cleansed land the following day. They both met their criteria for “glory” and are half way to level 3 already!

This leads me to think on how the magics and glories/shames really shape the actions of the players. There is very little that allows the characters to act directly. In almost every case the players had to think of a way to work around a problem – gifts, manipulation, flattery, promises – I really enjoyed this session!

2 thoughts on “Wolves ep.1 – The Curse of Langmere

  1. Lo! Was good fun. I’m wondering if it’s more like Mothership and less like Fifth Edition, where you don’t actually want a balanced up mix of classes, and instead you can just have e.g. nearly all warriors and a saint, because the foci give so much flexibility.

    Also now I want to form a shield wall. I guess a Saint can do that?

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    1. i actually think so. This is a game in which I’d be happy to have all warriors, because as you say the Foci make the differences. Saints are shamed if they bear weapons or wear war-harness. I interpret that as weapons of war (spear, sword) or armor (chain, roman plate)… You can carry knives without trouble, and I reckon a shield might be fine in a pinch.

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