Category Archives: Locations

Tripping over History (or Salt Mummies Must Die!)

One of the things about running a game set in the real world, even a slightly alternate version as with Witch Hunter, sometimes you have to trip over something to realize it’s there.

Last week, in the run up to the kickstarter for The Thin Blue Line: A Detroit Police Story, Jason Marker, the writer/publisher, posted a scenario/encounter based around the haunting of the salt mines beneath Detroit.

Now first, holy crap Detroit used to be a salt mine?  Who knew?!

Ok, put your hands down, jackasses.  Doesn’t matter, salt mines beneath a city that won’t exist for a couple centuries doesn’t really help me with my Witch Hunter game.  But hey!  Salt people!  Creepy dehydrating mummies!  I can work with that.  I just need a different location.

So, one google search later and PRESTO!  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you…the Wiedliczka Salt Mines of Southern Poland.

You want some details?  Of course you do!

  • Built in the 13th century, these mines produced table salt until 2007!
  • It was one of the primary sources of income for the Polish crown until 1772.
  • One of the Royal Salt Mines maintained by the Zupy Krokowskie Salt Mining Company, whose headquarters is a CASTLE in…Wiedliczka!
  • The mines are 1,073 feet deep and 178 (!!!) miles long.
  • The mines contain dozens of statues and chapels carved out of the rock salt by the miners.
  • The mines include a freakin’ underground lake.  How much more can this place scream dungeoncrawl?!?!

But there’s MORE.  A legend and lost treasure built in:

[Princess Kinga] was about to be married to Boleslaw V the Chaste, the Prince of Krakow. As part of her dowry, she asked her father for a lump of salt, since salt was prizeworthy in Poland. Her father, King Bela, took her to a salt mine in Máramaros. She threw her engagement ring from Bolesław in one of the shafts before leaving for Poland. On arriving in Kraków, she asked the miners to dig a deep pit until they come upon a rock. The people found a lump of salt in there and when they split it in two, discovered the princess’s ring. Kinga had thus become the patron saint of salt miners in and around the Polish capital.

Now if this were your bog standard fantasy world, sure you’d probably cook this up in an afternoon.  But this is the real deal!  You can still visit the place!  You can buy souvenirs at the gift shop!  No comment if it is still the bulwark of the Polish economy, though that answer may lie in a joke book from the 70’s.  So yeah, this is a prime example of tripping over something you never knew existed, and would never have even imagined existing if you hadn’t gone looking for it.

As it is, you can find a handy list of world salt mines on wikipedia. But few of these have the same gamer allure of Wiedliczka.

Now.  For those of you who have yawned through this history lesson, here are salt people for Witch Hunter!

Salt People (Lieutenant)

Fear Rating: 3
Hell’s Favor: 2
Pace: 2
Initiative: Reflexes 4d
Melee: 6d Claws (+6 damage)
Ranged: None
Defenses: Avoidance: 3; Discipline: 3; Fortitude: 4
Armor: 2 (flesh infused and hardened by salt)
Health Track: 6/6/6
Talents: Burst of Speed, Disorienting Strike, Night Vision, Slam
Fundamental Power/Price: Burrow/Lair
Additional Powers/Prices:
• Iron Body / Obvious Appearance
• Sap Ability (Toughness) / Weakness (Water)
Suggested Skills:
9d: Command (Intimidation), Endurance
8d: Stealth
6d: Notice
4d: Reflexes

Salt People (Minion)

Threat Rating: 2
Fear Rating: 3
Pace: 2
Special Attacks: Claws (+4/+4) (Dehydrating Touch)
Talents: Burst of Speed, Disorienting Strike, Night Vision
Powers/Prices:
• Burrow / Lair
• Sap Ability (Toughness: Dehydrating Touch) / Weakness (Water)
Skills: Command (Intimidate) +6, Endurance +7, Stealth +5

Description: Salt People stand roughly as tall as a grown man, but have a crouched, hunchbacked posture that makes them appear much shorter. They have thin, twisted limbs, emaciated faces with sunken cheeks, a withered slit for a mouth, and sparkling silver eyes. Their bodies are covered in powdered salt, which they shed with every step, and their thick white skin is completely hairless. Whether salt people are actually the restless spirits of dead miners or some creature native to the mines is unknown.

Dramatics: These creatures move with a slow, shuffling gait most of the time, but are capable of intense bursts of speed over short distances. They can also burrow through the walls of the salt mine, and even through soil, allowing some of them to surface throughout the surrounding community.  When attacking, a Salt Person uses wild punches and powerful body blows to pummel its opponent. In addition to the damage caused by the physical assault, the creature’s touch absorbs the water in a target’s body, causing immediate, debilitating dehydration. Salt People rarely fight to the death, and on those rare occasions where one has been captured or killed, their bodies melt quickly into the Earth, leaving only a salty residue behind. They hate light and loud noises, and usually flee into the darkness or burrow into the sand rather than fight. When cornered, spooked, or if flight is otherwise not an option, a Salt Person attacks quickly and viciously, attempting to overwhelm or kill its target quickly so that it may flee.

Once again, thanks to Jason Marker for the original concept.

A Witch Hunter’s Guide to Frankfurt, part 3

First, I just want to say hey to the folks from the RPGSite who are blowing up my stats today.  Glad to have you aboard!

Second, yes another obligatory mention of the Kickstarter campaign for the 2nd edition Grand Tome of Adversaries for the Witch Hunter RPG.  No, I didn’t write it.  But I do have a serious interest in having a hard cover to match my core rulebook.  It’s full of great stuff for any RPG that deals in monsters, macabre, historical roleplaying and dark fantasy.   Yes, that includes you Lamentations of the Flame Princess crowd.

If you haven’t seen them already, the earlier parts of the Witch Hunter’s Guide to Frankfurt can be found here and here.  Here are some additional pieces that are missing from the original gazetteer:

FIGHTING GUILDS/ACADEMIES

There are two recognized guilds, and one unrecognized, dedicated to combat and sword fighting. (The name of the current guild master is listed in parenthesis.)

Brotherhood of St. Mark (Laurenz Buckholtz): Dating back to the 15th century, this prestigious academy is the oldest recognized sword fighting guild in the Holy Roman Empire.  It is a great honor to be accepted into their ranks.  Best known for their skill in the Zweihander (great sword), its masters also instruct in the use of the fencing sword, quarterstaff, spear and longsword.  An intense rivalry exists between the Brothers of St. Mark and the Federfetcher, and their members are prone to unrestrained clashes in the city streets.
Fighting Traditions: Freifechter Fencing, La Verdadera Destreza (the True Skill)

Federfetcher (Sigrun Katz): Founded in Prague over a century ago, the Federfetcher guild was recognized as an official guild around the turn of the century, much to the protests of the Brotherhood of St. Mark.  While their masters are easily as talented, they lack the pedigree and prestige of their rival.  As such, their ranks are comprised of Frankfurt’s less wealthy and noble.
Fighting Traditions: Freifechter Fencing, La Verdadera Destreza (the True Skill)

Brotherhood of St. Luke (Nils Kalbfleisch): The Brothers of St. Luke have no official sanction in Frankfurt and are despised by both their rival academies.  Their members are viewed as little better than hooligans.  These bravos do their best to live up to that reputation.  But lack of pedigree does not mean lack of skill; the brothers hold their own in a fight.
Fighting Traditions: Acciaio Mantello, La Verdadera Destreza (the True Skill), Devil’s Wager

RENOWNED MAGI OF FRANKFURT

Rudolphe Fassnacht: A proud descendant of Swiss nobility, Rudolphe is lean, erudite and charismatic.  Trained in Spain under the finest tutors of hermeticism, Rudolphe is a staunch catholic and supporter of the Habsburg’s efforts against the Ottomans.  He often consults with the local Catholic priests and Jesuits on matters of the arcane and occult.

Part One of this article is available here.
Part Two of this article is available here.

Welcome to the War against the Adversary! Are you a fan of Witch Hunter? Active on Google+? Then come join the conversation on the Witch Hunter: The Invisible World Google+ Community. It’s new, outnumbered and needs your support!

A Witch Hunter’s Guide to Frankfurt, part 2

First, an obligatory mention that the Kickstarter for the 2nd edition Grand Tome of Adversaries is still going on.  So if you are a fan of the Witch Hunter RPG, the Witch Hunter Revelations campaign, or just swashbuckling horror roleplaying in general, definitely consider supporting it.  It’s packed full of secret societies, scheming villains and masterminds, and horrific creatures.  Paradigm Concepts never skimps on the fluff, making it a worthwhile addition to your reference library regardless of your game of choice.

Now with that out of the way, we turn our eyes back to the 17th Century’s teeming metropolis of commerce, Frankfurt am Main.  If you missed the previous article, here is the gazetteer I wrote up for my own game a few months back.  You’ll notice I didn’t include a formal map of the place.  Well, I’m going to remedy that now.  Here is a map of the Alstadt (Old Town) district of Frankfurt, along with a location key.

Alstadt-Map-Key

Frankfurt am Main (Alstadt) Locations

  1. Römer
  2. Römerberg Plaza
  3. Rententurm (Customs Tower)
  4. The Main Quay
  5. The Old Bridge
  6. St. Bartholomew Cathedral
  7. Old Nikolai Church
  8. Carmelite Monastery
  9. St. Catherine’s Church
  10. Church of Our Lady
  11. Altschul
  12. Jewish Cemetary
  13. St. Leonhard’s Church
  14. Church of the Magi (Sachsenhausen district)

Part One of this article is available here.
Part Three of this article is available here.

Welcome to the War against the Adversary! Are you a fan of Witch Hunter? Active on Google+? Then come join the conversation on the Witch Hunter: The Invisible World Google+ Community. It’s new, outnumbered and needs your support!

A Witch Hunter’s Guide to Frankfurt, Part 1

Imperial Free City of Frankfurt (am Main)

Free City of the Holy Roman Empire
Population:
27,500 (9-10k non-citizens, 3,000 jews)
Government: Oligarchy (Town Council)
Religion: Mixed (Catholic/Protestant w/suburban jewish ghetto)
Districts: Alstadt, Gallows Field, Neuestadt, Sachsenhausen.

GOVERNMENT
The town council is composed of three benches.  The first two benches are occupied by lay judges and the “municipality”, composed of an elite, hereditary patrician class, the so-called town council families. These are significant burgher families who has asserted themselves politically over time.  The third bench was originally occupied by a number of influential guilds.  In 1614, these guilds were stripped of their powers.  The representatives of these guilds were charged with treason and publicly beheaded on the Rossmarkt (Horse Market) in 1616.  Their heads were placed on iron spikes next to the bridge tower and left their as a deterrent.

Whenever a councillor dies or resigns, the election of his or her successor is decided by the council itself.  The common citizen has no direct influence in these elections.

Frankfurt is unique among the Holy Roman Empire as being the only city controlled by an effective Matriarchy.  After the Thirty Years’ War, plague ravaged the city once more.  It claimed the lives of enough of the Town Council that the women of the council found themselves with a slim but effective majority.  Since then, they have leveraged their combined power to force out all but a few of the remaining men from their posts.  This has made it something of a curiosity among the nobility of the Empire.

RELIGION
As of 1548, Frankfurt has been a mixed Catholic/Protestant city, a situation endorsed by treaty and law.  It has become a safe haven for religious refugees, particularly Dutch Protestants fleeing oppression in Spanish-controlled Netherlands.  These refugees make up a fifth of the city’s population and are a considerable factor in its economy.

Catholics
The Catholics of Frankfurt are part of the archbishopric of Mainz. Catholics are excluded from full citizenship and many not hold any government office.

Lutherans
Lutheran citizens and their siblings living within the city walls are part of a uniform Lutheran congregation, while those Lutherans living in neighboring villages in the countryside under city-state rule formed separate entities, administered by the city not by congregational bodies.  The city owns and maintains all Lutheran churches within its walls.

Huguenots
While accepted in the city as refugees, Reformed Protestants from France and the Low Countries were not allowed to legally profess their faith until 1601, when they were permitted to maintain a chapel outside the city walls for their services (but only on the condition that the city council could veto their pastors).  That chapel was burnt to the ground two years later under mysterious circumstances.  Thereafter, Reformers could only attend services abroad in neighboring Bockenheim, in the County of Hanau.

Today, after the Edict of Fontainebleau exiled tens of thousands of Huguenots from France, the city only allows them a brief stay permit before moving on to other states than welcome their immigration.

Jewish
Jewish residents are excluded from citizenship and many not hold any government office.  They are subject to numerous restrictions within the city, revocable staying permits, and higher rates of taxation than other citizens.

CITY DISTRICTS (AND NOTED LOCATIONS)

Alstadt (Old Town): Located on the northern Main river bank, it is completely surrounded by the Innenstadt district.  On the opposite side of the Main is the district of Sachsenhausen.  The Alstadt is the preferential quarter of the city and home to many of the wealthiest and influential citizens.

  • Römer: Located in the Rômerberg, this building serves as the city hall and seat of the regional government.  It lies across the plaza from the St. Nicholas Church.
  • Römerberg Plaza: The main public square of Frankfurt hosts all manner of festivities, importantly those celebrating the coronation of the Holy Roman Emperors.  Large trade fairs draw visitors and merchants from as far as Italy and France.  At the center of the square is the “Fountain of Justice”, where a statue of the goddess, Justitia, holds her scales of justice out towards the Römer.  She is uncharacteristically lacking a blindfold.
  • Rententurm (Customs Tower): The seat of the harbor paymaster, where duties are collected for entering the city’s most important port, the Main Quay.  It is guarded by the Fahrtor, a gate vital to the city’s defenses which closes the Röemerberg off from the Main.
  • The Main Quay: The city’s principal port.
  • The Old Bridge: Links the city proper with the Sachsenhausen on the southern bank of the Main.  Ravaged by age, weather, and floods, the original, ancient bridge was rebuilt at the end of the 14th century and is today considered a feature landmark of the city.  The bridge has two towers at each end and a chapel on the Sachsenhausen side.
  • Neue Kraeme (New Market): the marketplace, heavily trafficked during fair times.  All manners of goods can be found here.  It is lined with boarding houses that house the heavy influx of visiting merchants during these fairs.
  • St. Bartholomew Cathedral: The city’s largest Roman Catholic church.
  • Old Nikolai Church: Dating back to the 13th century, this early gothic church welcomes its congregation with the harmonic tolling of its 47 bells.
  • Carmelite Monastery: A Gothic monastery built in the 13th century. Renowned for its interior wall murals,  painted by Jerg Ratgeb from 1514 to 1517.  They depict the history of the order and the Saints and are the largest wall paintings known to the north of the Alps from that period.  The grounds contain a church, cloisters, dormitories, function buildings and a graveyard.
  • St. Catherine’s Church: The largest Lutheran church in Frankfurt am Main, it is dedicated to the martyred early Christian saint, Catherine of Alexandria.
  • Church of Our Lady: This splendid Gothic church serves as a cloister and a meeting centre of the city’s Catholics.
  • Judengasse (Jews’ Alley): Established over a century ago outside the city walls, the Judengasse is home to some 3,000 jews.  By law, all Jewish citizens must reside here and are required to retire here at nightfall.
    • Altschul:  located on the east side of the Judengasse, the synagogue is the social center of Jews’ Alley.  Here, community leaders are selected and community laws and justice meted out.
    • Jewish Cemetery:  The city’s jews are buried here. The oldest graves in this large cemetery date back to 1270.
  • St. Leonhard’s Church: Located near the Main riverbank, this church was built in the early thirteenth century in honor of St. Leonard and hosts a Catholic congregation.  The interior is decorated with several retables, sculptures and paintings, including the Mary Altar, created by Antwerp masters at the end of the fifteenth century.
  • Church of the Magi: This Lutheran parish lies along the Main.

Gallows Field:  The expanse west of the city walls, this rests in the shadow of four watch towers.

Neustadt (New Town): The city walls were expanded to accommodate this new district in the 14th century.  This “New Town” stretches north and east around the Alstadt district.  It is naturally bordered by the Main.  Originally devoted to gardens and agriculture, there are still numerous undeveloped areas and many gardens.  It is home mainly to immigrants and refugees.

Sachsenhausen: Located on the southern bank of the Main River, this district was founded as the city’s bridgehead in the 12th century.  It is linked to the city proper by the “Old Bridge.” The main boulevard is lined with inns, taverns and cider houses.  A sizable portion of this district is set aside for tanneries and slaughterhouses.

St. Justin’s Church: West of Frankfurt, this church stands at the east of the old part of the town Höchst, looking over the Main river.  Dating back to the 9th century, the church is a monastery for the Hospital Brothers of St. Anthony.

TRADE FAIRS AND FESTIVALS

Trade fairs are an essential part of life in Frankfurt. With its imperial privileges, the city has become known a bustling market for goods of the world. Unfortunately, the Thirty Years’ War has taken a toll on Frankfurt’s commerce.  And while these trade fairs are still held by the city, they are a pale shadow of their former grandeur.  Today the city competes ferociously with the city of Leipzig for trade.  This rivalry even threatens Frankfurt’s prestigious book fair.

Frankfurt hosts three major annual trade fairs:

  • The Autumn Fair dates back to the 11th Century.  It’s endorsement by Emperor Frederick II in 1240 made it the first recognized trade fair in the world.
  • The Spring Fair received its privilege from Emperor Louis IV in 1330.
  • Frankfurt Book Fair: Frankfurt is the birthplace of movable type and the century of book printing in Europe.  It’s October book fair the largest of its kind.

Shrovetide Karneval: A celebration that marks the beginning of Lent, it is marked by many parades, processions and revelers from all walks of life.  Masquerades and private balls are commonplace as well.  During the night time hours, citizens are not permitted to walk the streets masked.

CLIMATE
Thanks in part to the wide Main river, Frankfurt is blessed with mild weather.  Summers are hot and sunny, if humid with seasonal periods of rainfall.  Winters are similarly mild, with light snowfall common in January.  The cold wind blowing off the river gives definite chill to the air.

GEOGRAPHY
Main (River): This river flows deep into the states of the Holy Roman Empire, beginning near the city of Kulmbach.  It is navigable from the city of Bamberg all the way to its mouth on the Rhine, at Mainz.  West of Frankfurt, it is joined by the Nidder.  It is widely traveled with all manner of boats and barges, moving trade up and down the river.  Narrow on many of the upper reaches, navigation with larger vessels and push convoys demands a skilled navigator.

Odenwald (Forest): South of the Main, the Odenwald stretches out into the central uplands.  These thinly settled woods are widely believed to be the primordial hunting grounds of some powerful entity, perhaps even Wotan (Odin of Norse mythology) himself.  Folklore says that when Charlemagne came to these parts, he struck a bargain with this entity for the right to rule.  Regardless of the truth, the people of this region give the woods (and those dwelling within it) a healthy amount of respect.

  • Fauna: beavers, boar, deer (fallow and red), foxes, lynxes, martens, otters, and wolves

Taunus (Mountains): Older than the alps, this rolling expanse of low, smooth rounded peaks, covered in forest, lies north of the city walls.  The stone here has a slight greenish hue.  Isolated ruins dating back to Roman times still dot the landscape. Some believe the natural hot springs that bubble up from below these mountains have healing properties.  Others suspect something much more sinister.

  • Bad Schwalbach: Approx. 40 miles from Frankfurt, this small village hosts visiting aristocrats and those desperate to immerse themselves in its fabled healing waters.  A few enterprising merchants have begun selling the stuff by bucket or barrel in the markets of Frankfurt.
  • Grosser Feldberg: Approx. 15 miles from Frankfurt, the highest mountain in the Taunus, rising 2,880 feet above sea level.  The summit is devoid of forestation.

WITCH HUNTERS IN FRANKFURT
The following Orders of Solomon are active in Frankfurt.

Crusaders Inviolate (Chaperhouse)
Evert Meinhardt (Abbott)
Since the French recalled their forces to Strasbourg in the summer, the Crusaders have been busy reclaiming stockpiles of relics and other artefacts from its safe houses in the western border of the Empire.  A large contingent of crusaders were dispatched to Mainz only a month ago, though Abbott Meinhardt has kept their assignment to himself.
Current Host: 5 Sergeants, 1 Crusader 

Fellowship of the Ashen Cross (Chapterhouse)
Waldemar Sommer (Prior)
Since the invasion of the Palatinate by the forces of the Sun King, the chapter house has hosted a trio of witch hunters known as the Sentinels.  These witch hunters constantly watch the Black Forest for signs of unrest and devilry.  They have been brought from their regular vigil in Worms to the Frankfurt chapter house for their own safety.
Current Host: 4 Fellows, 3 Friars, “the Sentinels”

Lightbringers (Chapterhouse)
The chapter house doubles as a bookstore and cafe.  The stacks hide a number of hidden safe rooms where members can meet in secret to discuss new ideas and concepts.

Stalkers of the Unseen Hunt (Lodge)
A lodge kept by the Stalkers of the Unseen Hunt lies south of Sachsenhausen in the Odenwald.  The Stalkers are very closed mouthed regarding the folklore of these woods.
Current Host: Around 6 members at any given time.


Part Two of this article is available here.
Part Three of this article is available here.

Welcome to the War against the Adversary! Are you a fan of Witch Hunter? Active on Google+? Then come join the conversation on the Witch Hunter: The Invisible World Google+ Community. It’s new, outnumbered and needs your support!