1625 was a plague year in Norwich. History tells us that it was an outbreak of the Black Death. History is wrong.
So sayeth the blurb of Forgive Us, by +Kelvin Green. Forgive Us is, again to quote the book, “A chronicle of the Events surrounding the mysterious disappearance of the notorious criminal gang known as the Tenebrous Hand. And other stories.”. The book itself is primarily a Lamentations of the Flame Princess adventure, aimed at level 4 characters, that sees your party delving into a criminal stronghold to investigate. As the party explores, things get creepy and unsettling before culminating in a horrible climax that will see a disastrous plague spreading across Norwich. In addition, there are two light overviews of adventures at the end of the book that look to be quite delightful. This review (as opposed to a direct session report) will cover the main story however.
I offered this at the local gaming club, +MK RPG, but a quiet night saw only three players take up arms in Norwich:
- +Scott Dorward as “Berk”, the magic-user.
- +Matthew Sanderson as “Betty”, the specialist.
- Elena as “Boo”, the fighter.
The three of them were from a low-key gang who had been sent to investigate the stronghold belonging to the most feared group in Norwich, the Tenebrous Hand. The Hand had been off the radar for a few weeks now so it warranted a look-in – there may be a ton of goods ripe for picking! The compound itself consisted of a city block made up of several businesses, a couple of houses, a warehouse, and a pub.
A Quick Overview
The group started out with sensible intentions. They wanted to scope out the area rather than just barge in. Boo ended up terrorising an elderly tailor who refused to part any useful information but got very uncomfortable when Boo asked about the compound across the road. Betty noted however that, while it was odd that all the buildings were locked up, all the windows on the compound had secure bars across them unlike the other buildings around the area.
Returning in the early hours of the morning, Betty managed to get onto the roof and noted that there was a courtyard in the centre of the compound that currently contained several starved yet ferocious looking dogs (amidst the remains of several remains of dogs). She then began to meticulously remove tiles from each roof, peer inside to get a rough idea of what was inside, before returning and updating the other two. It all seemed quiet with the exception of the butchers – something was moving around in there, amongst a foetid rotten stench, and it sounded big.
To handle the dogs Boo broke into another butchers further down the road, stole several legs of meat, returned to the compound and lobbed them over the gate. The dogs immediately chowed down, and while they gratefully feasted, Berk scaled the fence and sniped them all with his bow and arrow.
They then began to work their way through the buildings. The first person they came across was the gentleman that features on the book cover; half mutated, throat slit, with “Forgive Us” scrawled on the wall behind his body. This nearly resulted in the group deciding to pack it in right there but curiosity (which turned to greed later) got the better of them.
The warehouse played host to the next grisly discovery; entering into the darkness after breaking down the doors, they could hear a slow thump from the rafters. Casting the light up they saw a young man hanging by his neck, bashing slowly off the beams. They carried on their search, refusing to consider the butchers due to Betty’s intel however.
They found several keys through their scavenging, a crazy man in the bar (Berk tried using ESP to read his mind but it was shattered, the closest they could get is that the man really didn’t want anyone going down into the cellar), and an intricate religious looking casket which they promptly smashed when they couldn’t open it.
Exploring the potters, they found the stair case down into the cellars and the large door that screamed “Open me for goodies”. They used the various keys they found (after Betty fell down a pit but they managed to get her back out safely) but the door still refused to open. Berk had an idea that it might be magical so they decided to rest up so he could prepare Knock for use.
Before attempting the door again, they tried exploring the butchers. Well, Boo did; Berk boarded himself up in the potters and Betty took to high ground. Boo got very lucky however and managed to escape into the bar and get the door shut behind her after she learned that it wasn’t a big friendly dog trapped inside. The party then took to vantage points and picked off the creature with their bow and arrows.
Returning once more to the door, they used Knock to gain access to the vault that turned out to be filled with untold riches. Rather than risk entering however they used a Floating Disc spell to try and transport some goods out, successfully getting a large amethyst stone… before a large group of mutated thieves began swarming out.
They tried burning the place down as they fled but this only took care of a few. They had unleashed a disease upon Norwich but, in the words of Berk, “Fuck Norwich.”.
I really enjoyed running Forgive Us. Its a simple to pick up dungeon crawl that takes minimal prep to get going, has a lot of mystery to keep things entertaining, and its got a likely ending that will invariably leave the player’s quite amused – unleashing a plague on Norwich.
The background involves the Tenebrous Hand stealing a casket from a sinister cabal called “Brotherhood of Pus”. When they got back to their hideout they opened the casket, unleashing a monstrous plague which turned its victims into weird tentacle-waving eye-popping monster things. Turns out the casket is dedicated to the goddess of disease Bubonica.
The book is laid out very clear and to the point. Each building in the compound is viewable on a one-page spread so during the game you aren’t having to thumb between pages to make sure you aren’t missing anything. There’s not huge screeds of information to memorise either, the player characters are entering the compound with little to no information which subsequently of course means there is very little for you to have to pass on. The maps themselves are also neatly done, with supporting artwork giving a very charming feel to the adventure.
The absence of any real treasure above ground works nicely. The characters knew this was the stronghold for the most successful band of criminals in Norwich, they had to have loot somewhere! Coupled with the ravings of the mad man in the bar telling them not to go in the cellar, the temptation is strong without having to force the players down.
The setting as a whole is a good mystery and typically just as player’s begin to feel comfortable you have some horribly unsettling scene unfold. Things tend to move along at a good pace, with the low number of spooky encounters causing players to be far more cautious.
I did find one problem during preparation which in turn reared its head during play and that concerns how the players get past the door that seals the vault. To unlock this door you need a master key, a special key, and a magic word. There is only one mention of the word and its not in context so it seems impossible for players to a) realise that the door is being held shut with magic, b) realise that it needs a spoken word to open and c) determine what that word could be.
I messaged the author +Kelvin Green to double check I wasn’t missing anything. The word in question is the name of the gang leader’s partner; a player can learn the name of the partner by finding a letter on the body of the gang leader in one of the houses but there’s quite a logic leap involved to assume thats what would be used to open a door in the cellars. Kelvin however hadn’t had this as an issue during his play-tests with players instead getting it quite quickly.
I think when I next run Forgive Us I’ll find a way to give a few more clues, perhaps a diary entry covering the door being magically sealed and how it should be opened in vague descriptions. Maybe even replace the word and instead it requires the gang leader’s hand on the door, pressed into a hand shaped indent or something. Just any way to give the players a heads up; I resorted to having the magic-user making an intelligence roll to guess the door was likely being locked with magic though at that point the magic-user had decided to use Knock. If the party didn’t include a magic-user I’m not sure how things would have panned out.
If I had more players, I would have been tempted to try starting off in two groups with one group being the band of crooks and the other being a band of constables, sent in to investigate. It’d be interesting to see how that dynamic would play out, though potentially it’d derail the entire adventure.
Overall verdict though is that it’s a great LotFP adventure which brings to play a lot of weirdness. One of the players in my game had never played LotFP before and remarked several times that she wouldn’t be sleeping that night which I think is a fairly good testament to the adventure. If your players favour combat over exploration however then they’ll likely be bored as the combat encounters that exist above ground are rare and fairly easy for sensible players while the final encounter should likely be deemed impossible if the players try to stand their ground. The only logical solution would be to escape, lock the door, and never ever speak of it again.
You can buy Forgive Us from DriveThruRPG or in print from the LotFP store. Even if you don’t have any plans to run a LotFP game soon you should consider this for the charming artwork alone, theres something very appealing about its clean drawings.