Dreadloque Season Four
Prelude: 'A Softer Fire, Part 2'
A THW 'And a Bottle of Rum' After Action Report and Flintloque Short Story by Craig Andrews
The second part of the prelude to this years 'season' of Dreadloque.
This week we see how a character starts an investigation in THW's 'And a Bottle of Rum' rules and the short piece of Flintloque fiction based on the adventure.
This is the second of a new series on Orcs in the Webbe following the adventures of a new hero as he makes his name in the world of Dreadloque, Danny O’Hara’s hugely popular piratical take on Flintloque (you can read a short history of Dreadloque at the bottom of this article). Below you’ll find an After Action Report of the next part of my first proper session with Two Hour Wargames' And a Bottle of Rum and its supplement, Free Ports as well as a small piece of prose telling the second part of Dreadloque's Season Four prelude.
If you missed it you can read the first part here.
Gadrin Investigates - Day One - An ‘And a Bottle of Rum’ AAR
And a Bottle of Rum (AaBoR) includes tables to randomly determine the starting time of day for any given encounter or investigation, each day being broken down into morning, daytime and night time. Each hero can only investigate one clue in each day part. There is also a mechanism within the game where the day part can roll on to the next even before you have solved a clue.
I decided my first person of interest should be Torcall MacCullach, the unfortunate Joccian who was the victim of the robbery. A few dice rolls told me he would be in the Docks (luckily where Gadrin currently calls home) in a warehouse.
All THW games feature a clever Potential Enemy Force (PEF) system where counters move on the tabletop and only resolve when you see them. In AaBoR you roll against the activity level of the area you are in (some places are more dangerous than others) and when resolved they could be friendlies, neutrals, enemies, or even your mind playing tricks on you. There are tables to randomly generate the tabletop too, each area of the two distinct towns found in ‘Free Ports’ having their own list of buildings that could show up. As mentioned before, I’m using New Market, the rougher town run by Pirate Captains as my fictional Windy Isles town of Toblerona.
At this point in the investigation you can set up a full 3 foot by 3 foot skirmish table if you wish and move your miniatures over that either avoiding or encountering PEFs in a bid to find your next person of interest or avoid any unnecessary entanglements. This is a cracking way to play and is the main crux of the wargaming part of AaBoR. However in recent THW rulesets Ed suggests using pen and paper (or in my case Roll20, an online virtual tabletop) to record things and only get miniatures on the table when fisticuffs happen. This makes for a very good solitaire roleplaying feel as entire encounters can go by through resolving PEFs, noting down what they are on paper, and having characters talking to each other, an approach which lends itself beautifully to the investigative system. AaBoR and Free Ports Challenges and Opposed Challenges system handles all of these interactions. And for any action/wargaming junkies don’t worry, there’s always the chance of resolving a PEF and discovering enemies as you wander around, in some cases even asking questions can antagonise people into a fight.
So back in Toblerona, Gadrin made his way to the warehouse without incident, only discovering one PEF which turned out to be Gadrin’s mind playing tricks on him. However, whilst on my way there a clever rule involving the Activation rolls meant that it turned from Morning into Daytime so Gadrin lost the chance of solving a clue in the Morning (one clue solved per day part limit).
Upon entering the warehouse Gadrin discovered MacCullach talking with two others, a Goblin Store Clerk (Commoner Social Circle) called Óscar Siqueira (name generators at work again) and an Ogre Servant (Exotic Social Circle) called Ionk Tamás.
It’s good to do this basic generation of NPCs whenever you meet them and keep them all in one document as there’s a chance when you next meet someone from that profession it will be the same person you’ve encountered before. This can provide brilliant and unusual narrative links to your adventures.
As mentioned above AaBoR (not to mention most THW rulesests) include a challenge system that cover almost all eventualities. Using that, Gadrin questioned the Rat making an Opposed Challenge against MacCullach and solved his first clue, which in practice means he’s been given another Person of Interest to follow up.
How do we actually know who commited the theft? Well, that’s another really clever thing about the narrative investigation system. Solving the case involves keeping a tally of points from a table in the rulebook called ‘Who Did It?’ to ascertain who is guilty. Every Person of Interest you speak to could have been the perpetrator, even the victim in the case of a theft! This points based system is great and really does mean you don’t know who to trust. At the end of the investigation, when you have solved all the clues you need, you tally up the points and you’ve identified them. At this point you could try and take them down yourself or even shop them in to the authorities (the Watch or the Militia in AaBoR). The game even includes a trial system called ‘Your Day in Court’ which means they could even get away with it and become a hated enemy of yours who may track you down for revenge, but more on that in future AARs should things go that way.
Gadrin’s next Person of Interest was a Ferach Elf ‘Townsfolk’ (Commoner Social Circle) who frequents a tavern over in a different area of Toblerona (New Market), the East End.
It was two areas away, and whilst moving out of the Docks Gadrin triggered another Day Part advance meaning it was now Night-time and decided to return home. Why? Well, when moving through each area on the town map there is a chance of a Travel Encounter, something to waylay or delay you with different target number based on the time of day – you could find yourself being robbed, getting arrested, meeting a young lady, a confrontation with enemies or even carousing with persuasive friends. I thought it was too risky for Gadrin, still travelling alone, to make the journey across to East Side.
Will Gadrin make his way through the market and get to the East Side safely... Find out next time in Dreadloque: A Softer Fire, Part 3
The Prose - Dreadloque IV, Prelude: A Softer Fire, Part Two
Well, thought Gadrin as he walked away from Captain Glorfindelle’s ‘office’ on High Row. That had been interesting, if a little strange. Glorfindelle had indeed turned out to be a Ferach Elf, as the handwriting on the note had suggested, a bloody posh one at that. Within a few minutes of talking to her he had noted she was extremely well educated and despite her functional leather pirate garb the trappings, notably the way she wore her hair he mused, had what he thought were an imperial style to them. Definitely high born if not from the Ferach Court herself but younger than her position suggested. She hadn’t recognised him meaning she probably had not been at the Elven court during his visits. A shame, Gadrin thought, if the Ferach Elves had more like her they probably wouldn’t be in the mess they are now with the Orcs. Shaking his head, banishing all thoughts of Urop and it’s wars, he turned his thoughts to the matter at hand, the theft.
Glorfindelle had put the advert out as she needed someone who could think before reaching for the cleaver as she had something strange on her hands. As one of the three pirate captains who ran Toblerona, and the only one ashore at the present time, it was up to her to keep the Isles safe. Something had happened which she hadn’t fully understood. A Joccian Rat, one Torcall MacCullach, a simple Sailor as far she was aware, had been found by the Watch wandering the streets half beaten shouting about how everyone was in danger and that he had been robbed. The people who’d questioned him found out little more before he passed out but the vehemence with which he’d been proclaiming his loss and the level of fear in his voice meant the matter had eventually fallen on her desk instead of being dealt with by the Watch themselves, subtlety was not their strong point. Neither, from what Gadrin had heard in the taverns and inns, was the ability to think. So with little but a name Gadrin had accepted the job, if nothing else it beat staring out a window drinking more rum (it was very good rum though).
Gadrin had headed back to the docks, with MacCullach being a Sailor he should be somewhere in the docks during the day. The report Glorfindelle had given him said that when the Rat had woken up he’d claimed to have remembered nothing about the previous night and wanted to get back to work, not really knowing what else to do with him they Watch house had let him go. It hadn’t been hard finding him, all Sailors had to work during the daylight hours, some even at night, otherwise they’d lose their jobs. Work, whilst not scarce on Toblerona, was hard and unforgiving and anyone blacklisted was unlikely to be hired again until a new shipmaster unaware of any prior misdeeds would take them on trust alone and trust was even rarer in the Windy Isles than Court educated Ferach Elves.
A few discrete enquiries at some inns along the waterfront had eventually led Gadrin to the Bredren warehouse in the docks where MacCullach was currently employed. Gadrin had expected to find MacCullach within an hour or two and talk to him before noon. Sadly that wasn’t the case, not sure if it was just the winding streets or the less than helpful people, it had been well past noon when he finally found the Bredren building. It was an older building, a bit rough around the edges but built in the old style with double doors opening onto the water making it a prime choice for ships offloading larger cargos. Gadrin had never been one to rush headlong into things, his younger days in his father’s Dwarven Halls had taught him that, often one could gain very useful information by holding back and watching and listening instead of rushing in like an Orc in a stables. If the Watch’s description was accurate he had definitely found MacCullach, he was looking a little peaky but not too bad. He wasn’t alone, a fact in itself that wasn’t too unusual, sailor’s often worked with others, it was faster and safer however what they didn’t usually do was stand around talking especially not to people you wouldn’t usually find in the docks, let alone an old style warehouse. MacCullach’s conversation was hushed; Gadrin couldn’t quite hear what was being said. He did get a good look at both the other conversationalists though, and what a pair they were. One was barely three foot high, there was no doubt it was a Goblin although Gadrin couldn’t tell if it was a native or one from the ancestral homeland of Al Garvey. He seemed to be a shopkeeper, there was a certain way he spoke and moved his head, oh and there was the full length apron and pencil tucked behind his ear. The other one couldn’t have been more different. He was at least eight foot high, it was an Ogre, an honest to god Hunvarian Ogre. Gadrin hadn’t seen one since he’d left home but that wasn’t the strangest thing, he was dressed, for all the world as a gentlebeing’s valet. An Ogre valet.
Despite waiting a short while it didn’t look like either was going to leave, aware time was ticking by, Gadrin straightened his jacket and walked over. If anyone was surprised by his presence no-one showed it. Odd he thought, such a peculiar trio being approached by a Dwarf in a greatcoat in the middle of the working day and no-one batted an eyelid.
“Torcall MacCullach?” queried Gadrin, aware of the eyes of two bystanders on him.
“Aye.” replied the dark furred Rat. “An' hoo micht ye be?”
“I’m here at the request of Captain Glorfindelle, to ask you a few questions about last night.” Finally Gadrin saw something pass between the assembled group - inquiry, fear - he couldn’t tell, his reading of other races body language wasn’t as good as it was with Elves and Dwarves. He carried on undeterred, “I wanted to know if you remembered anything else, the report the watch took was a bit light,” he opted for brevity, “But you know what they’re like.” He smiled, hoping to put them at ease, it seemed to work.
MacCullach turned to his two companions, “I'll see ye toos later.”
Both mismatched companions left, the Goblin with a touch of his forelock and the Ogre with a simple bow of his head.
With that he turned back to face Gadrin, “I’ll teel ye whit Ah tauld th' watch. Ah don’t remembered whit happened. I’d bin skitin' fur most ay th' nicht, yesterday was payday ye see. I’d gain tae a tavern oan th' docks wi' a crew ay workmates an' we started havin' a guid nicht.”
Gadrin blinked. He thought he’d got the majority of what the Rat was saying although he wasn’t sure. Bloody Joccians. What did skitin mean, drinking most likely, “So there was nothing different? You were just drinking all night with people you always drink with?” he enquired.
“Aye. Next thing ah ken it’s the morn, mah heed is poondin' an' there’s a bludy glaikit member ay th' Captain’s Watch askin' me th' sam questions again an' again. Ah didn’t ken what th' heel he was talkin' aboot, Ah hadn’t bin robbed. Ah even still had mah bunsens pooch, a surprisin' fact in itself given th' usual money grabbin' buggers that th' watch are. An' Ah sure as heel didn’t ken anythin' abit any danger tae myself or th' Windy Isles.”
Bunsens was probably coin, “So nothing of yours had been taken. Hmm.” Gadrin paused, “What about people, anyone strange show up?”
MacCullach seemed to think for a moment, his whiskers twitched and the fur above his eyes furrowed the way eyebrows might on someone less hirsuite. “Now ye mention it. In th' inn we started at, we mit someain Ah hadn’t seen affair. He got chattin' tae our crew but I’m buggered if Ah can min' who he was.”
“What did this stranger look like?”
“Nae a bludy clue. Ah min' 'ee was an Elf.”
“An Elf... I see. Where did you start drinking, what was the name of the inn?”
“Twas th' Portly Sage, ower in East Side.”
A whistle blew and MacCullach looked up, “I’ve got tae gie back tae wark. I’m nae sure there’s anythin' 'at needs lookin' intae ye ken. Naethin' was swatched an' i’m alrecht.”
Gadrin thanked MacCullach, nothing ‘swatched’ indeed, something must have been taken and Gadrin was going to find out what it was.
By the time he got back to a part of the docks he knew the sun was going down, Gadrin hadn’t been in Toblerona long but he knew better than to travel at night to East Side on his own.
And there it is, the second piece of prose based on my adventures using Two Hour Wargames’ And a Bottle of Rum ruleset. I went a bit further afield this time, narratively I mean. As I was writing the prose the overall plot of what exactly is going on in the town was forming in my head. MacCullach at times seemed complicit as hell and other times an innocent bystander who got jobbed by person/persons unknown. I’ve got a few ideas as to what was taken and I know the overall puppet master but I’m going to keep them to myself for the moment and see how the story develops as Gadrin heads over to the Portly Sage.
Apologies to any Scottish readers for the Joccian's speech, I used an online English to Scottish translator to get the right feel :)
An Orcs in the Webbe Original! 'A Softer Fire, Part 2' was written exclusively for Orcs in the Webbe and was first published on the 23rd September 2014.
Dreadloque and its sequels are set in Danny O'Hara's Nineties piratical take on Flintloque - Alternative Armies skirmish wargame set in an alternate Napoleonic war featuring fantasy races - but take place in their own part of that world called The Windy Isles. A place of pirates and treasure, far removed from the smoke hazed battlefields of the Mordredian Wars in Urop.
Danny's first pirate tale, simply called 'Dreadloque', was originally published back in the mid-nineties on his website, Filbanto Stew, and it introduced the location of Windy Isles as a group of Halfling rebels kidnapped an Elven Governor's daughter only to be pursued by the Royule Orc Navie and Elven marines.
It was a firm favourite among Flintloque players and in 2008, exclusively for Orcs in the Webbe, Danny returned to the Windy Isles with the follow up tale, 'Dreadloque II - Dead Dwarf's Chest' which like its predecessor was a huge hit with Flintloque players.
In 2009 Danny let me play in his sandbox and I began work on the third Dreadloque campaign, its third season if you will. I played around with a lot of ideas and eventually 'The Goblin in the Smoke' was born. The prelude, 'Rise of the Baron', moved events on a year and, followed by Act I: 'The Beautiful Daughter', saw fighting on the docks of the pirate toen of Toblerona. Then… nothing happened for quite some time.
In 2012 I finally sat down and penned the next instalment, 'Something Strange in Them There Tydes', a nautical interlude using Wessex Games' Strange Tydes rules featuring a giant Kraken. Shortly after that, encouraged by the excellent feedback, I published the most unusual adventure yet, Act II: 'The Baron's Mansion' which combined Flintloque with the boardgame Cluedo, I kid thee not.
In 2013 I pondered how I could end the somewhat longer than expected Season Three of Dreadloque. Loads of my original ideas from back in 2009 were good but most weren't end of season epic material, all except one. That idea was beaten into shape and the third and final act, 'The Hand of Fate', was published on Orcs in the Webbe as part of its 2013 Advent Calendar.
Now it’s 2014 and Dreadloque continues with the introduction of a new hero, a focus on a new ruleset and who knows perhaps even some painted miniatures...