Gothic Earth Session 6: Into the Swiss Alps



Game night went well! We started with what was to be the finale of the last adventure, but I did shorten it up some, yet it still took a while to complete. I had planned on forcing combat with the German Military, I still had them stop the train, but more as an inconvenience, I still got things pretty hot, but at the last minute I allowed my NPC banker to pay off the Major, and they let the train pass.

I did keep the finale though, seeing how combat right off the get go would effect play later, getting into the mindset of play can be difficult, and I feel that this did actually help. I designed a runaway train scenario, it was foreshadowed by the German Military, they stopped the train because they claimed that it contained archeological finds that were not allowed to leave the country. The PCs knew from last time that The Watchmen were transporting some kind of religious artifact on the train, they were worried that this was what the soldiers were trying to get. One of the players, Sam, the gunfighter decided to sit back in the freight car, figuring that the military would try an American style train robbery, nor did he trust the American cowboys assigned to guard the relic. It was a fatal mistake, the archeological specimens were skeletons, including the bodies of two knights that fought like knights. Their purpose was set, they were going to take over the train, attempt to destroy the relic in the crash, if that didn’t work then they would try and hide the reliquary out in the wilderness where nobody could find it. Sam was in the wrong place, and all by himself.

The runaway train was being driven by 4 regular skeletons, they were pushing coal into the steam engine at an enormous speed, not caring if the thing over-heated and exploded or not; it was maintaining the trains top speed through the territory of 125 mph, the train was also entering the Alps, which is twisty and up hill, pushing the engine even further. I assigned saving throws to be done for the train, every 3 minutes of real time. If a saving throw was failed, the train took a lot of damage, and everyone on top or not in their seat had to make saving throws as well. Destroying the skeletons working the engine would slow the train down depending on how many of them could still shovel coal. The Skeletal Warriors had different tasks, one headed up to the front to defend the weak skeletal labor, and the other went to the back to destroy the emergency breaks on all of the cars.

So, then we add the PCs into the equation, the strongest fighter is alone in the worst possible spot to be, the rest are back in the Royal car lent to them to aid them in getting the dethroned Prussian King out of the country to Switzerland. Sam was unable to stop the skeletons from leaving the freight car, but somehow survived the fight with the skeletal knights, he pursued the warrior heading to the front of the train, while the rest of the party attempted to stop the other from disabling the breaking systems. In the end, Sam lost the fight, but lucked out again (this character is known for always almost dying), the funny thing is that while he is fighting this enemy, he is also rolling up a new character. He does well, but not well enough, he was reduced to a perfect 0hp, which gave the rest of the party 1 turn to get to him. I rolled a saving throw for him from behind the screen,  and learned that when he slid off of the roof of the train, his coat got caught up on something and he is just hanging there, bleeding to death. The party was able to save him, it took them 6 rounds, and Sam was at -4. Death in my games is -10 for fighters.

They decided to separate the train at the freight car, and one of the heroes was physically strong enough to do it. This was a very very dangerous scenario, both of the skeletal warriors were slain, the relic and the Prussian King was saved, and the party won. I deducted XP for the lives of the passengers in the coach car which they sacrificed,  but the number of XP was still really high and they had time to level up since they weren’t going anywhere until help arrived, so I gave it to them. The Prussian spy, and the Irish Explorer both leveled up.

The party was able to figure out what they had saved when they opened the large box in the freight car and found the Reliquary of Saint Sabaldus, the priest (and Watchman) who was riding in class with the Swiss banker  told them that they were secreting this artifact out of Germany and into Switzerland to keep it out of the hands of the military.

In the morning, help arrived in the form of Johnathan Harker, the Reliquary was loaded onto his wagon and everyone finished the journey to Zurich with no troubles. We said goodbye to Bismarck, completing the goal of getting him to safety; they met up with Van Helsing who gave them a proposition. He replaced the silver casket containing the bones of St. Sabaldus with a fake, and asked them if they would accompany him to the remote village of Belalp to properly hide the relic in the medieval church where it would be safer from theft. Once this short task was done, he’d personally see them back to London. They agreed but insisted that he find them better weapons, the creatures that they have been fighting thus far seem to be mostly unaffected by them. He agreed.

In Zurich Sam and Harker took the Reliquary to the Swiss Bank, and transferred the funds earned from saving Bismarck, when he learned that someone, using his name had already opened an account, and much of his fortune had been restored! The question is who did this?

The party also had to plan a way to get the real relic of Sabaldus out of Zurich, and they did a great job! Posing as merchants, they had Harker purchase crates of wine, hid the casket in an empty winecrate, everybody healed up and lived like human beings for a few day then they once again left modern civilization behind as they drove the wagon deep into the Swiss Alps, and three days later, they reached the city of Naters, where Van Helsing sold most of the wine, and then the grewling hike up into the mountain and officially kicking off the new game!

They follow a nice gentle trail up into the alps until they get to the village of Blatten; they do not look forward to the next day, Belalp is straight up the mountain, they are loaded down with supplies, and they need to buy more. They purchase warmer clothing, some mountaineering gear, more food, and spend the night in the Blatten Inn. Spending some time in the inns tavern, they visit with the Blatten locals and discover some facts about the area:

  • The Blatten Mill was forced to shut down.
  • Belalp is secluded as hell, very few of the people ever come down to town, except in winter time when travel is much easier.  
  • The people that live up there are tougher than normal people, seeming to enjoy the severe isolation that would drive most people mad, and adding that no amount of money could convince any of the Blatten locals to go up there.
  • The whole area is dedicated to wood and mines. While the Blatten mill was forced to shut down, the Belalp mine caved in a few years ago and the miners up there are stubbornly working a less productive and much older mine, which they say is haunted.


So, in the morning, the party slowly makes the two day climb through a thick forest, up the steep mountain; following the zig zagging trail lined with flags, until they finally get to town and to their horror, they discover that Belalp isn’t Medieval at all, the Church that they were going to hide the relic in is nothing but a bare-bones cheap church made out of plywood and ran by an old priest that isn’t even civilized enough to not cuss every other word, never the less have a civil conversation with. Van Helsing is upset, he too thought that this would be a short trip and he couldn’t wait to get off of this mountain, but it is evident that this is going to take a while.

The party was very productive up here, they learned that in order to keep the Belalp #3 mine open, the land lord who owned all of this stuff had to hire some Spiritual Specialists out of Bern to run an investigation.
The Landlord is an eccentric Italian of incredible wealth who insists on being called Lord.
Many of the native locals are extreamly big people, typically standing about 7’ tall.

Visiting with the “Lord” they learn that this is an old village, a witch had been burned at the local park or something, and the entire area surrounding the village has remnents of a rich history as Romans and the old Bavarians had settled this area.

The party rented an empty cabin, and paid a local woman to provide housekeeping. The locals were just as interested in them as they were of finding this church and getting the hell out. The sheriff stopped by and introduced himself, trying to figure out the parties business (adventurers exploring historical places), and the local law man was helpful, suggesting a few people that might be able to help them get started, and that was where we ended the game!

As far as prep goes, I developed a system to dictate an unpredictable MR, I have a detailed overland map with a key of major triggers, I also started a player map, as they’ll probably want something to look at as the try to find the areas I’ve hidden around. I used to have two sets of Random Encounters lists, I’d get bored with running combat and just go with non-combat lists, so this time I consolidated the two into one list, with non-combat taking up most of the common entries on the RA list.
 I drew up three original maps for this adventure, the overland map loosely based upon images found on Google maps, a layered dungeon designed to provide multiple adventures in, and a finishing dungeon. I recycled some old village maps from published adventures, and rekeyed them. I’ve got a very large list of NPCs, as well as some mysteries going on. I wanted to strip the game down to its barest essentials, this is pure D&D, it contains mystery, exploration, hack and slash combat, it just doesn’t get any better than this! I’ve got my story in place, and the motives of major NPCs accountable for, all I have to do is describe what the players see, and figure out how my NPCs interact with the party based on their decisions.  I’m very happy with this.

I think that I will try to Draw up the Belalp Village map, and label it better so that it is easier to use. I’d also like to draw up the Mining camp, but that isn’t a have to. Events are set and just waiting for the players to either set them off or foil them. I prefer this kind of game, it basically runs itself instead of me forcing issues. I feel that everything is interactive, it is the players that will make the story happen vs. me doing it, which is nice. I guess it would also be nice to have statblocks for my RA list, but again, that isn’t really a have to . . . the only have to is the Belalp Village map. I also want to get a roll of Gaming Paper, which I found inexpensively at wondertrail.com.

Next game will be delayed, as a friend’s 50th birthday is that day, which is fine as it puts game day on St. Patricks’ Weekend, and it has become a yearly tradition to play that weekend, so I’ve got plenty of time to do whatever I want to do.

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