Tuesday, November 29, 2011


From The Memoirs of The Reverend Kurt von Schilling, Bishop of Holstein

We come now to the end of that strangest of all the adventures my companions and I experienced in our youth. I, who was called Nestor, my friends Hector, Agamemnon and Phoenix, and doctor Plummer were gathered in the monster’s lair awaiting his return. Earlier in the day we had stormed the house and killed his human slave and two of his gypsy retainers, but two gypsies had escaped. We knew not where the vampire lurked or if they had gone to warn him. The time passed very slowly and our nerves were stretched to the limit.

 There were but two hours until dawn when, at last, we heard the front door open slowly. We had dragged the bodies out of sight but the smell of death and gunpowder hung in the air, alerting the monster to the danger. He saw us moving toward the entrance to the foyer and what we saw next defies description. It was Lang, but his face was a mask of horror and his very presence radiated menace. Phoenix and Agamemnon, who had proven themselves fearless on many occasions, were momentarily stunned into inaction by the sight. The doctor, Hector and I fired our pistols at the same instant at point blank range. For a moment, time stood still. The smoke stung my eyes and my head was ringing from the discharge of three pistols in that confined space. My eyes focused on a bit of smoldering wadding that was embedded in Lang’s waistcoat and then the desperate engagement began in earnest.

All three pistol balls had struck the monster and had done fearful damage to his body, and yet he fell on us as if he had felt nothing. He seemed more beast than man as he snarled and snapped at us with his teeth and slashed with his claw-like hands. I was struck down and bloodied by his claws. As I tried to fight back the dizziness and nausea and regain my feet I saw Phoenix and Agamemnon, who must have left the sitting room by the back hallway, come around behind the monster slashing and stabbing furiously with their swords. The wounds I saw them inflict would have killed a normal man instantly, and indeed the monster seemed to be flagging from the accumulated damage to his physical form.
                            The monster was trapped and the battle raged
Taking advantage of the brief respite thus gained, the doctor and Hector drew the wooden crosses from their coats and thrust them forward toward Lang. With a savage backhand stroke the monster knocked both men to the floor, sending their crosses skidding away. He advanced on them hoping to finish them and break through our circle. I pulled myself up on one knee and imposed my own cross between Lang and his intended victims. He stopped, uncertain at first, and then recoiled in fear and confusion. At this Phoenix and Agamemnon renewed their assault. I can’t explain what happened next, except to say that we all saw it. The monster, trapped and assailed on all sides, changed before our eyes into a column of grey mist and slipped through a broken window like water down a drain.

Our party was in no condition to pursue and we wouldn’t have known how to do so in any case. We stayed in the house until dawn binding our wounds and keeping watch in case Lang came back. Thanks to the doctor’s vigilance we were sure we had accounted for all of the monster’s sanctuaries in our town and rendered them useless to him. We did not know if he had established similar places of refuge in Ardoberg or elsewhere, but as the weeks passed and no more attacks occurred we came to understand that we had at least driven him out of this region. The doctor, who was becoming something of an expert on such matters through the knowledge gained from Artorius’ book, believes the vampire made it’s way back to the remote regions of Holstein much weakened and unable to sustain a physical form for years to come.

The doctor returned to the practice of medicine in his little country town. He decided not to make his story public. After all, who would believe it. The town magistrate had disappeared during the troubles, and no one knows to this day what happened to him. Another magistrate was appointed by the authorities in Ardoberg, and he was directed to attribute the battle at Artorius house to a robbery attempt by the gypsies.

My friends and I had many adventures in the years to come, but nothing so bizarre as this affair. Agamemnon eventually returned home to manage the great estate he had inherited. He is a generous, if indiscriminate, patron of the Arts, funding the musical style galant and other innovations that have no future. I think he does it just to irritate me. Phoenix rose through the ranks of the Ardoberg-Holstein army and is now Inhaber of the Ardozollern Kuriasser regiment. Hector could never settle down. Last year an English Colonel told me he had met him while fighting red Indians in a place called Ohio. I eventually joined the priesthood. It had been my faith that had given power to the cross I held to drive the vampire back on that terrible night. My friends, brave hearts all, had never been men of faith, and the cross in their hands was useless against the monster.

As for the vampire, I wish I could say he was never heard from again but it was not to be. It took him years to regain his power but in time his shadow grew in the Holstein border country. But that is a tale for another day.

Note: This was an actual wargame ‘mini campaign’ that Mike and I played using the Chaos in Carpathia rules supplemented by simple campaign rules that we made up between us. The Chaos rules are good at depicting combat between assorted monsters and humans, but we felt something was missing. We wanted the game to ‘feel’ like a Gothic horror movie. The campaign rules simply laid out a set of objectives for the monster and a ‘bar of disbelief’ that had to be crossed before the humans could gather their forces and fight back. The monster’s greatest weapon is the fact that nobody believes in monsters. His goal was to achieve as many objectives as possible while “staying below the radar”. His objectives included establishing alternate sanctuaries, collecting ‘brides’ and routine non lethal feeding. He was also required to rest periodically. Support for the idea that a vampire was afoot waxed and waned according to how aggressively the monster pursued his goals. There were two phases per day, daylight and darkness, and multiple locations where elements of the two factions might be deployed in a given phase. If opposing elements found themselves in the same location we went to the tabletop to fight the encounter with miniatures. The final battle occurred when the vampire returned to his lair from an unsuccessful attempt to collect a second bride. There are opportunities to refine the campaign system but overall it did give us the monster movie feel we were after.  

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Battle is joined

The Diary of Dr. Plummer, October 13th, 1748
I write these few lines now against the chance that I may not see the sun rise tomorrow. My young comrades and I now have no choice but to wait here in the monster’s lair until he returns sometime this night. Our campaign began well enough this morning. Following the plan agreed on last night we approached the first of the two cottages recently purchased by Krebs on behalf of his master. We entered openly as if we belonged there and, as Hector predicted, no one questioned our entry. Indeed, there were no townspeople on the streets at all. Over the last few days a sense of foreboding seems to have slowly come over our town. People seem to have caught the fear gripping nearby Ardoberg, but there is something else, too. I believe that they feel, without knowing why, that something evil, something unnatural, is afoot in our town.

Once inside the cottage we started looking for the coffin and for anything that might work to our advantage in the coming battle. Artorius’ tome suggested these satellite locations were simply bolt holes the vampire might avail himself of if something went wrong, but we didn’t know if the place might be occupied by his gypsy retainers or even poor Hannah who was now one of the undead. As it happened, we found a coffin in the basement, but nothing else. We set about rendering the coffin unusable by the vampire, according to the prescription in the book, by planting a portion of the sacred bread in the soil inside. We then went on to the second cottage and repeated the process without incident.

So far the campaign was proceeding according to plan, but now the atmosphere that had so oppressed the town seemed to take hold of Hector. His demeanor had grown more withdrawn as the day progressed. Our plan had called for us to return to my apartment and wait. By now the monster was aware that I knew what he was. He could not know of my young friends. My hope was he would come himself to dispose of me and we would be ready and waiting. We had rejected the plan of storming his house while it was defended by the gypsies but as we approached the intersection that led to my apartment and away from the monster’s lair Hector strode off the wrong way. We caught him up but he looked at me with barely suppressed rage and snarled “It dies today!”. I appealed to his friends but Agamemnon smiled, shrugged and said “Apparently, It dies today” and then they rushed off to join him.  I had no choice but to follow.

Hector, followed closely by the rest of the party, strode directly up to the front door of Lang’s house, drew his pistol and pounded on the door. Whatever Krebs was, he was no soldier. Without looking to see who was on the other side, he simply opened the door and Hector, without hesitation, shot him in the forehead.  The unprepared gypsies came tumbling out of a side room and were met with the ready blades of Hectors friends as they pressed into the foyer behind him. In less than a minute two of the gypsies lay dead on the floor and the other two ran out the back door. Whatever madness had seized Hector was offset by the arrogance or sloth of Krebs, who failed to keep a proper watch.
                      In a moment the defenders were overwhelmed
When I had recovered my composure I prepared my friends for the work before us. As it was now late afternoon there was an excellent chance that the vampire was resting in the house. His coffin, and perhaps another for Hannah, was most likely in the basement. At this time of day he was at his most vulnerable. Taking a pair of lanterns from the kitchen we quickly made our way into the basement. There we found two coffins, one a grand affair and the other a rough built box such as a common man might be buried in. We surrounded the fine coffin, myself with stake and mallet at the ready and the others with weapons drawn. Nestor opened the lid and I made to strike but the coffin was empty! We quickly searched the dark corners of the basement but found nothing. We then denied the monster sanctuary in the great coffin by placing a goodly portion of the sacred bread into the soil therein.

There remained the second coffin. This must be the resting place of the unfortunate Hannah. We surrounded it as we had the other and carefully opened the lid. I was sure she would be in the coffin, and I thought I was prepared. She opened her eyes and I froze. She was a beautiful young lady, unnaturally so now that I reflect on it, and she spoke with a voice like tinkling glass. “Oh, Hector, don’t let them hurt me!” Poor Hector was shaken to his core and turned to appeal to his friends. Agamemnon grasped him by his shoulders and looked into his eyes while Nestor shouted at me “Now, Doctor! Strike!”. In a moment the deed was done. While Agamemnon and Phoenix walked Hector toward the stairs Phoenix stayed behind and helped me to take off the head and place the sacred bread in the coffin.

Agamemnon found brandy for Hector and stayed with him to steady his nerves while the rest of us searched every corner of the house. The monster was certainly away working evil somewhere. The sun is going down and we are resolved to remain here and await his return.  

Thursday, November 24, 2011

What have we gotten ourselves into?

Journal of Phoenix, October 12th 1748
Well, that’s it then. We are in league with a madman. Agamemnon agrees with me but Nestor, the would be Papist priest, accepts the doctor’s wild story and poor Hector, shaken by Hannah’s death, continues to insist her murderer transformed himself into a large wolf before his eyes when he pursued him on the road that night.

After dinner the doctor (an excellent cook, by the way) gathered us in the sitting room and placed a musty old book on the table. He told us that the man Lang is, without a doubt, a vampire! Nestor is a brave man and my sworn comrade but he is from Holstein, and a Catholic to boot so, of course, he had no trouble accepting the doctor’s fairytale. When Agamemnon suggested that vampires were created by mothers to frighten naughty children Nestor was offended and assured him that such creatures had been known to plague certain districts in Holstein within living memory. The doctor, referring to the book, then proceeded to educate us on the ways of a vampire, his strengths and weaknesses, and how we might go about destroying him.

According to our host the vampire possesses great physical strength. It can transform itself into many forms; a large wolf, or bat, or even a cloud of mist. The monster has these powers only between the hours of dusk and dawn. In the light of day the vampire is much like any other man, and so can be killed more easily. For that reason a vampire will often rest during daylight hours and hunt at night. If it rests in it’s native soil the monster’s powers are renewed that much more efficiently. Apparently,  to destroy the thing, one must drive a wooden stake through it’s heart and cut off it’s head. The vampire, quoth our good doctor, feeds on human blood. If he takes blood from a victim without killing then the victim will recover. Sometimes a vampire will take a mate by draining so much blood that the victim dies. That victim will then rise as a vampire bound to the one who inflicted the fatal wound.

The doctor believes that poor Hannah has become a vampire, and the bride of Lang. At this, Hector was furious and swore a terrible vengeance on the monster. As Agamemnon, Nestor, Hector and I took an oath when first we met to share everything, we now stood and swore together to kill Lang, be he monster or man.  Hector was for storming Lang’s house this very night but the doctor persuaded us that only a careful plan would ensure success against such an evil power.
The four young men swear an oath to destroy the monster
Furnishings by Mike
The doctor proceeded to lay out his plan. The man Krebs is, the doctor believes, not a vampire but rather his human slave. According to the book it is common for a vampire to keep a human in thrall to guard him during daylight hours and carry out any necessary interactions with humans. The doctor says the vampires greatest guarantee of security is that civilized people in the modern world don’t believe vampires exist. Then there is the matter of the gypsies. They live outside the pale of law and society and have been known, according to Nestor, to serve creatures like Lang for gold. Krebs has four of them living in Lang’s house.

Rather than strike directly at the vampire’s lair, Doctor Plummer proposes to first raid two other houses in the town. One was purchased by Krebs several days ago and a second this very day. In both cases the gypsies were seen moving a coffin into the house. The doctor believes these are alternate resting places for the monster and he believes we need to deprive it of those sanctuaries. We discussed waiting until dark to break into those properties by stealth but Hector suggested the safest way to break into an empty house is to enter by the front door in broad daylight as if one belonged there. He assures us he can disable a door lock as quickly as if he had a key. I wonder how he knows such things?
                                              Krebs and the gypsies hide another coffin
Finally, the doctor opened a chest and laid out the arsenal he had been amassing for the coming battle. Of course, we all had our own swords. In addition to these he issued each of us a pistol, a blossom of garlic, two wooden stakes and a wooden cross. He also showed us a small silver box that contained a quantity of the sacred bread used by Catholics in their services. This last was provided by Captain Boehm, who obtained it from the pastor of the only Catholic church in Ardoberg.  

So! Tonight we sleep and take it in turns to watch and tomorrow let this strange business begin.   

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The plot thickens

Ardoberg Enquirer broadsheet
October 11th, 1748
Hannah Ruedel, A young woman of good family was murdered in her father’s home last night. A gentleman who had been courting the young lady came to Herr Ruedel’s home to call on her, and was being given the right about by her father due to the lateness of the hour when they heard a faint cry coming from her bedroom. They rushed to her aid only to find her lying on the floor. The window was open and they saw a black cloaked figure moving rapidly away down the road to Heckel. The young man went off in pursuit of the assailant leaving the father to care for his stricken daughter. Alas, the young woman was dead. The cause of death appears to be blood loss, but there was no blood to be found anywhere near the body. The assassin escaped capture in the darkness.

From : Captain Boehm, Commander of the Ardoberg City Watch       October 12th , 1748
To: Herr Von Strutz, Burgermeister of Ardoberg
Regarding: The recent murder
The initial investigation report and the Certificate of Death you have already seen. I am writing now to make you aware of information perhaps best left out of the official report.

 First, the family of the murdered girl laid her out in their home in the customary way in preparation for the funeral. Sometime during the night her body was taken from the home. We don’t know who did it or why. The family has asked that this new outrage not be made public.

That same day an old friend of mine, Doctor Plummer from the town of Heckel, visited me and asked for my help and advice on a death that he claims was a murder in his town. Plummer has always been a sensible man, but he was beside himself claiming that his friend was murdered by a relative, and that there is something uncanny about the killer.

If not for the recent events in Ardoberg I might think the good doctor was losing his mind. As things stand, I think the situation in Heckel bears looking into. The magistrate of that town would never tolerate me sending any of my people to investigate. You know of the ill will he bears me. I do, however, have another option. There are four young men sitting in my jail right now for disturbing the peace. This is not their first taste of my hospitality. They are typical of the young pups that come to our fair city seeking fame and fortune, but I must say I have grown fond of this particular group. They remind me of you and I and our circle of ruffians when we were their age. One of them was courting the young lady who was murdered and, in fact, pursued the assassin that evening. Last night they were going from tavern to tavern trying to turn up information on the killer when a brawl broke out. Not much different from last weekend when they were in the taverns for no particular reason and a brawl broke out.

I shall release these young men on the condition that they place themselves at the disposal of Doctor Plummer. They can assist him in his investigation and protect him, for I fear he is in great danger. If nothing else, it will at least get them out of Ardoberg for a week or two, which will afford us a little peace.
The recently deceased Hannan Ruedel leaves her home to join her master
 - Really cool house by Mike Covell
Diary of Dr. Plummer, October 12th, 1748
This morning four young men presented themselves to me with a letter of introduction from my friend, Captain Boehm. It seems they are to assist me in the matter of Herr Lang, but to do so without revealing any connection with the authorities in Ardoberg. Boehm has charged them with keeping me safe so they will be staying here in my apartment. Close quarters indeed, and they have already eaten every speck of food in the place, but I confess their presence makes me feel hopeful for the first time since this tragic affair began. This afternoon we will lay in supplies for a long campaign and this evening I will acquaint my young comrades with the terrible secrets revealed to me by Artorius’ book. If they are still here in the morning, we will begin our work.   

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Dark Shadows

The Diary of Dr. Plummer, October 3rd, 1748
How is it that a child might be born into the most adverse circumstances and grow to be a virtuous man while another, given every advantage becomes a wastrel? So it was with the man Krebs. Son of a respectable family, he wasted every opportunity through drink and low company. When, in time, he inherited his father’s estate, he soon squandered it all and found himself without a home or any means of support.

 Today I attended the inquest on the death of my friend Artorius, and was surprised to see Krebs there in the role of factor representing the man Lang. I expected the Magistrate to charge Lang with the murder of Artorius and clap him in irons, but no such thing! The death was ruled an accident and the Magistrate certified a will, presented by Krebs, declaring Lang his sole heir. The Magistrate has always been an honest and fair man, but this decision makes no sense. He seemed not himself during the hearing, but somehow distracted.

Ardoberg Enquirer broadsheet
October 4th, 1748
Last night a young woman of undistinguished family was attacked on Burgstrasse in the Oldtown district outside a boardinghouse for unskilled laborers. Before the assailant could harm her a group of men returning to the house from their work chased him off. The woman described the man as tall and thin and very strong. She said she was rendered helpless by his gaze and could not move or cry out.

Ardoberg Enquirer broadsheet
October 5th, 1748
Last night an attack on a young woman in the Oldtown district took place, the second in two days. The woman was discovered at dawn, faint and pale, on her doorstep. Her description of the assailant matches that of the man in the previous night’s incident. She remembered little else about the attack except that she seemed unable to run or call for help. The victim seems unharmed, save for two small puncture wounds on her neck, which might have been caused by one of the rats that infest the Oldtown district. 

The Diary of Dr. Plummer, October 5th, 1748

From my rooms on the second floor of the Kramerhaus I have a clear view of the front of the home of poor Artorius, now occupied by Lang. Recent events have made sleep difficult for me. I was sitting at the window about an hour before dawn, gazing at the play of the moonlight on the streets of our little town when I saw a dark shape moving toward the front door of Artorius’ house. As the shape moved from shadow to a moonlit patch I saw it was the man Lang, dressed and cloaked in black. There was no mistaking him, but somehow he had grown younger! The gray hair and stooped frame of an old man gone! What sorcery is this! I am no coward, I think, but my heart froze when he turned his head, looked directly at me, and a malevolent smile spread across his face.   

Diary of Dr. Plummer, October 8th, 1748

I am obsessed with the strange goings on at Artorius’ house. I spend whatever time I can steal from my practice watching the comings and goings there. Krebs is living in the house now and, I am told, has recently purchased a small cottage on the edge of town on behalf of his master, Lang. There is a gypsy camp in the forest between Heckel and Ardoberg and today four of the men from that camp entered Artorius’ house with Krebs. Later, Krebs and the gypsies loaded what looked like a coffin onto a hired wagon and brought it to the cottage. Something very wrong is happening here, I can feel it! I am a man of science, and not given to superstitious fancy, but I feel the man Lang is somehow outside the realm of science. Tonight I return to the book Artorius gave me before he died. Perhaps I shall find a clue there.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A tragic death

Diary entry of Dr Plummer, October 1st, 1748
Artorius was a fool, an eccentric. Artorius was my friend, and I will miss him. The authorities say his death was accidental, a fall down the stairs in his home, but I doubt it. His troubles began when he met his cousin, Lang. Artorius had always believed he was the last of his line, an ancient and noble house that had its roots in the remote hills of the Holstein border country. An amateur antiqitarian, he showed me a geneological chart that he had painstakingly constructed that traced his family back to Attila. I remember the day he showed me the letter from his long lost relative that contained proof that they were indeed of the same blood. I curse the day that Lang came to our town of Heckel for an extended visit that he and Artorius might get to know one another.
The country town of Heckel, two miles south of Ardoberg

At first my friend was delighted with this discovery of a living link to his family's past. I met the man once and was very uncomfortable in his presence. Lang is tall and thin, with dark, piercing eyes and a cruel face. His hair is gray and he seems to be quite old. He and the amiable Artorius made a strange pair indeed. When the weather was fair it was my custom to meet Artorius in the old churchyard, where we would sit on the benches and talk the afternoon away. Having not seen him at our meeting place for a week after the arrival of Lang, I was beginning to feel concerned and, I confess, a little offended. Finally, yesterday in the late afternoon I saw my friend sitting on the bench at our accustomed time. I walked over and greeted him, but when he looked up I was shocked at his appearance. He looked as if he had aged ten years in a week, his shoulders were stooped and his eyes were haunted. I tried to engage him, to understand what had happened to put him in such a state, but he seemed unwilling to discuss the matter. His responses to my attempts at conversation were vague and disjointed. As the sun sunk low he looked up at me with tears in his eyes. He handed me a bundle wrapped up in cloth and tied with a string, and then he shuffled away.

This morning they told me Artorius was dead. The bundle he gave me yesterday was a most curious book. I was up reading it most of the night. It is quite old, written in archaic German, and appears to be a sort of manual describing how to combat the evil creatures that populate the fairytales that we tell to our children. Just the sort of arcane lore my friend delighted in, but what did he mean by giving it to me?  

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Elector has completed his rebuilding of the Ardoberg-Holstein cavalry. The original Spencer Smith regiments, sadly out of scale with the rest of the army, have taken service with another prince and have been replaced with new plastic regiments from Perry Miniatures and Wargames Factory.
Here are the three most recent regiments, one British and two Ardoberg-Holstein, Wargames Factory dragoons all.

This is the parade on the Marchfeld celebrating the addition of five new regiments of horse to the Elector's service. To the left the new regiments pass in review, two Perry Curriasser regiments followed by two Wargames Factory Dragoon regiments and one Perry Hussar regiment bringing up the rear. The four metal regiments of the Elector's cavalry look on from the right.

 Meanwhile, in the Scottish Highlands, the new Wargames Factory British Dragoon regiment joins the King's forces trying to pacify those clans who are loyal to Red Dougie MacArdo. And good luck with that.