Sunday, April 12, 2020

God's Chosen Bastards, session #2 - "Forgive Us"

Summary: Second and last session report for God’s Chosen Bastards storyline. Great module stained by a bad session, but still turning out good for what I needed it for. Review of the "Forgive Us" module included, so spoilers abound, and a hint at what the next post will most likely be about.

Start of the session

Hum, Father and Bogdana are at it again. We essentially kicked the session off with a kind of recap/interlude/intro mix, going through what happened in the last session and then a short review of some of their actions prior to "Forgive Us".

In case you read the previous session report, you’ll remember that Hum and Bogdana rode off into the sunset while Father was left behind in the wretched cornfield. The break down of their following actions was, as follows:

- Father: essentially left all alone for a couple of days, he spent most of his time in prayer. At some point, he noticed that the blasphemous book “Malleus Deus”, although thrown in the fire, remains unscathed. He takes the book and throws it into a bag, then ties it up with a rope and prays upon it, trying to cleanse it as much as he can.

- Hum: once in Valjevo (the actual city in medieval Serbia, not the castle from Forgotten Realms), decides to hire a Magic User in order to save Father from the house. The idea was to simply have someone cast “Fly”, thus the priest can escape with all the mandatory Moses-esque(?) theatrics.

- Bogdana: while Hum departed to save their companion, she has stayed in Valjevo to meet Kurt MacReady, leader of the local Tenebrous Hand guild, interested in buying the stolen figurine from the group. They sign an oath-contract, Kurt pays 1000sp up front and takes the figurine, the deal being that an appraiser will be summoned to put proper value on it, something that both sides should witness.

Eventually, Hum and Father come back to Valjevo, regrouping with Bogdana. The trio spends a few days hanging out around town, waiting for Kurt to call back. The call never comes and over night the Tenebrous Hand complex is seemingly dead from the outside, with barred windows and a blue flag waving from the rooftop. Something bad was happening with the guild and their own investment was tangled in it, so they decide to investigate.
Forgive us 

The group decides to kick off their investigation by circling around the entire complex held by the Tenebrous Hand. Indeed, the place seemed dead and eerie. Without any kind of specific sign, they first decide to try and enter the big warehouse in the east section of the complex, simply because the blue flag was actually waving on top of it. No luck, as the huge double doors were locked and there were too many people on the street to try and break in. This proved to be especially difficult, seeing as how, for some reason, they decided to investigate the entire affair during broad daylight.

Step two, they go around the corner and knock on the door of the house on Cow Hill. Same problem, the doors are locked. Father gets hungry and starts eating a sausage. A bit stupefied, they all hang in front of the house for some time, until the various street strolling townsfolk disperse and they grab a good moment to break into the house.

Nothing aside of stale food and a bad smell greets them inside. Hum notices that the smell is coming from upstairs for the most part, so he decides to investigate, followed by Bogdana. Father stays downstairs, pecking at the leftover, still not stale bread.

On the first floor of the house, they find three rooms, one of which is closed. Suspiciously, the closed room is the source of the bad smell. A few tinkering rolls later, the door is unlocked, revealing a rather gruesome suicide scene of their contact and gang leader Kurt. Shaking off the sight of Kurt’s rearranged facial features, they read his suicide letter and contemplate about what happened here. The realization that such a powerful man has killed himself in order to prevent “something” from being unleashed has extremely unnerved Father, who instantly felt weak, sweaty and shaking. He left the room and the house for that matter, in order to calm himself down. Hum and Bogdana decide to investigate the other rooms, finding a secret door apparently leading to the Inn. The specialist goes down to fetch the priest, making sure he's feeling better now.

After a rather shallow investigation of the upper floor of the tavern, they end up downstairs on the ground floor where they encounter the crazed William Hyde. The poor sod was hiding behind the inn counter when accidentally Hum stumbles upon him. He asks him a few questions about what the hell is going on here, but doesn’t get any kind of a proper reply, the man apparently traumatized by something coming out of or inhabiting the cellar.

In the meantime, Father is utterly disturbed by everything happening around here, even more so due to the fact that the “leader” of the group is acting rather unmoved by it all. The priest removes himself from the scene in the inn, instead going upstairs into one of the guest rooms to pray.

Downstairs, Bogdana tries to go to the backroom leading to the cellar, a move which provokes a jolted action from the insane Hyde (I see what you did there with the name), instantly attacking her in an effort to stop her from going further. His attack misses and the man stumbles, Hum taking the chance to quickly kill the bastard with a strong, precise hit across the spine. The victim fell to the ground and died, as Bogdana remained grounded in place from slight shock at the speed and unexpected brutality. She needed a few moments to gather herself.

"Praying Hands" by Albrecht Dürer
Meanwhile, upstairs the priest was begging God for an answer, wondering why he is being punished so. For reasons that could only be attributed to the divine, in Father’s eyes at least, the image of the figurine they’ve stolen and brought here was burned into his mind. It was a mistake to come here with it and now death and damnation is spreading as a result. In his vision, Father was about to crack open the figurine, yet he was stopped by the sound of his companions entering the room.

The priest immediately explained his vision to the others, yet wasn’t met with much understanding from the leader. Hum instead remained interested in getting back at least some of the amount of wealth he set out to find in this city, now not really caring for neither the statue, nor the suffering that befell this place.

For whatever reason, it has been decided to head down to the cellar. Father first insisted that they all join hands in prayer, casting “Bless” upon the fighter in the process. After these few serene moments, they descended below.

The full horror of whatever menace was unleashed on the guild has been revealed to them once they reached the underground. Que some extreme vomiting from both Hum and Bogdana when they saw the place of the guild’s last stand. Father “decided” to swallow the bile and puke rushing to his mouth, as he would much rather fancy being stoic in front of his flock during these difficult times.

Once stabilized, the group discovered the door to the vault and it seemed obvious to them that something is locked there and cannot get out, yet. Mentally, they were at a crossroads: figure out how to forever lock this place, burn it down or take a peek inside. Hum eventually decided to take a peek and steal whatever they can, but not before they prepare the rest of the place for burning.

And so it was. They entered and grabbed some loot, a treasure map, a spell scroll and a pouch full of magical powder. It is then that Father noticed “something” moving in the shadows of the deeper ends of the vault. Bogdana didn’t pay much attention to the priest screaming to get the hell out of here and instead reached towards the table yet again to grab a key she noticed. A mutant man-thing lunged towards her across the table, slamming down with full force with its tentacle-like arm, luckily missing the rogue by mere inches.

The party rushed towards the exit, witnessing many of the mutant creatures crawling out of the shadows, eager to feast. Luckily they managed to dodge them and close the door quickly enough and then proceed to light the flames they previously prepared in the cellar and the inn.

As they went out of the house through which they first entered, the fire and smoke still didn’t reach the outside world. They stayed across the street, waiting to see the flames lick the building, until it all finally collapses on whatever unknown hell they unleashed upon the world. May God have mercy on their souls...
Post-session Game Master musings

About the group:
It may or may not look it from the report above, but this session was just… bad. Mostly as a result of a certain player’s behavior completely unrelated to what was happening at the table, yet affecting the state of play and the course of the story. Regardless, for the purposes of the rest of this review and just to stay objective towards the module, I will not be talking about these issues here. All I will say is that I was left rather depressed and furious after the game, something that I plan to address in a separate post. Until then, lets move along, but I do want to give props to dude playing Father, a consistently good player and person.

About the module:
“Forgive Us” is a book containing an exceptional amount of content in only 46 pages. In it you get one entire adventure, one other mini story/setting and a short story/hook of sorts.

The titular adventure is actually quite hard to describe because it can be a lot of things, mostly depending on how your players decide to approach and tackle it. It has a strong “classic” dungeon crawl vibe, but with a great horror twist. Yet at the same time, it can very well be a heist story and/or a creepy murder investigation. Or simply a full blown “zombie” infestation and an intro to the apocalypse in your world.

I think this is the beauty of this module, that even though it is contained in a single location, it can have a whole host of impact on the rest of your setting. And I don’t think only in the sense of the infection spreading outside, but also by introducing this kind of thief guild, their presumed power and influence via the many cool items in their possession. Through the session, my players got a sense that these were some really bad and powerful people, and the fact that such figures decided to commit suicide to prevent “something” getting outside gave a special kind of weight on the thing they were facing. Which also in turn made them think about the kind of influence they exerted on the local Knez and his principality, stuff completely outside this module. I don’t think a lot of other modules have this kind of effect, both on the players and the game world.

Similarly, the module oozes theme and atmosphere, the Carpenteresque horror and eeriness superbly done. Ominous clues, disturbing scenes, weird pieces of the puzzle that make you pause and scratch your head, wondering if these things are simply red herrings or something far more sinister. Loved every bit of it!

There is a negative side to the book however. I had immense trouble arranging my notes for it. “Forgive Us” is rich with maps for each building, but aside of the general layout of the rooms they don’t provide information about what is actually encountered inside, nor do they show the ambiance, aside of the occasional black goo or blood stain. I would actually love it if the maps had more symbols on them, similarly to how they have secret doors labeled, but then also for bodies, mutants, keys (this!) or whatever.

I’m actually not sure if maps are the problem or just the text layout/formatting. Next to each map you’d have a small wall of text which you need to skim through in order to find what was happening in a given room, which can be quite troublesome when you’re actually running the game. A few bolded keywords or something similar would greatly help the readability of the adventure. I opted for drawing out keywords and important details in a Google Document, a thing that I would definitely not be able to run the game without.

You can grab "Forgive Us" on DriveThruRPG here.

Lessons learned and final thoughts:
In all honesty, I hate experiences like this because they are bittersweet. The module itself is fantastic and I was thrilled to run it, but due to player related issues the experience was bad. Previously I said that I would run the same modules again because they were fun, this time I’ll say I’d run this again because our game didn’t do it proper justice. This module can offer so much more than what was covered in this session report and I would warmly suggest to anyone to pick this adventure up. It has a ton of content and could be used in any campaign in a multitude of different ways. Give it a try and don’t let its modest size fool you!

The personal lesson for me is to just take it slow. Read a module once and then sit down again to digest it and prepare properly, without assuming that one or two casual reads can make you fully prepared for a game. Some modules might require more work than others, but the "investment" obviously pays off. Preparation and lengthy musing is part of our storytelling craft, isn’t it?

Oh and, yeah, stop running games for assholes.
"The Burning of the Town Hall in Amsterdam" by Jan de Baen


  1. Thank you for the actual play + review. I will have a closer look and run this too soon because I'm in need of a good Thieves-guild related quest with a town surrounding it, Forgive Us is precisely what I'm looking for.

    It is said to read of the difficulties with your player. I wish you the best in resolving the conflict. At the end of the day it's all fun and games, isn't it?

    1. Hey! No problem, thanks so much for reading and for leaving a comment!

      I think part of what makes "Forgive Us" so great is that you might come to it needing one thing, but then staying and using it more because of a multitude of other things. A bunch of awesome content inside.

      This has been a somewhat difficult player for a very long time now, but I sadly looked away from those issues previously because I tended to have rather small RPG player circles. I still do, but I'm more and more open to the idea of running games online. Doesn't seem like this particular player will be changing their mind, so I think the wisest thing is to just back off. So fun and games will continue, only elsewhere heh.