For a while I was thinking of fiddling through my own little homebrew collections of rules in an attempt to emulate better thinkers and better designers—Pearce Shea, Logan Knight, Gus L, Matteo Diaz, all those names—because I personally disliked playing Fourth Edition. These were unsuccessful.
Then I ran some games, played some games, fiddled through five different variations on the same nightmare, ghost-filled, Edwardian ruinscape that also wanted to be a comprehensive setting while being uncertain enough so I could put in monsters and skill systems and fashion styles. I think for a time a renamed the cardinal directions, which was a mistake.
Then I started playing Lamentations and Call of Cthulhu and Fifth Edition, which was better.
Here's a 'wash up half-naked on the beach' situation, without a map.
As LOTFP unless specified.
You washed up on a horrible coast. Area is like two miles longwise.
Be a human. Fish-people and bird-people are also humans.
-You are indebted to The Devil for your soul, and must convince ten worthy souls to be exchanged for your one.
-You know that your incredibly valuable birthright was lost on a ship that traveled this isolated coast.
-You intend to rendezvous with your teacher, a sorcerer of minor name but great promise, and unlock an unsettling secret related to the Moon None Can See.
-You must find the person who has stolen your identity, and reclaim your name by any means.
-You have been charged with ringing the leaden bell at the highest point to prevent the Ship Of The Dead from surfacing in three days.
-You seek to unfix the buried giant that holds this cursed place in an undetermined state.
-Your younger sibling went missing around this area, you want them to conceal a secret but first you have to find them and make sure no-one knows already.
THINGS YOU CAN FIND
A set of scales, 100 feet of hemp rope, a woolen coat, a beetle sigil in brass, leather armor, a crimson dress, a chalice, a swamp horse mount who is massive and terribly strong, a light crossbow with a case of ten bolts, a trusty sword, a handwritten note with a single spell on it, a steel shield, a spiked dagger, 28 silver coins of various provenance, a penchant for fine Venusian wine attached to a lantern, an unwavering sense of professionalism attached to an old watch, an opium habit attached to a robe lined with drugs.
1- A swampy coast, flooded, marshy ground. Trees half or mostly sunken into the tides and very high foliage cover, roots poking out of gritty mud, moss on every trunk. Solid ground is limited, clinging to the wider trees. Humid, moist, rainy, stink of salt and rot. Sounds of whirring gnats, curious or scared fish, the outer ocean.
2- A camp, just on the edge of swamp and solid land. It’s sodden and abandoned, but there is dry tinder in the tent.
3- Hamlet of Sump and its associated Fort built on top of a hill leading over the sea. Thirteen homes and a few connected warehouses, linked with rope bridges. Everything is bleached planks stood up on tree-trunk piles, long buildings with steep shingled roofs. Barnacles, creepers, and slime everywhere. Full of humans and fish-people.
-Has a Cleric who leads the congregation and is assumed leader in times of need, a really skilled clothier, a tinker, and a sometimes functional radio tower.
4- The Fort, highest point, its tower visible for miles. Owned and ruled by Nil-Ynath. Has a group of loving cultists operating in the supposedly sealed basement, who have captured a sorcerer.
5- A shipwreck of notable size and age, old red-metal sunken into the swamp. A former pleasure-cruiser of some repute, known for its ghostlights and profitable gambling that went too far out into the swamps and became stuck.
6- A library owned by Nil-Ynath in dim secret. Diesel powered in good times and peat powered in bad, it is full of tomes on sleep and dream-eating. The fishman is paying people and using sleep-depriving masks on them to extract dreamstuff for his consumption and manipulation. All old brickwork and bronze fittings, gargoyles snarling down on visitors.
7- Northern section of the coast, beyond the hill that Sump sits on. Dim and isolated.
NPCS AND ENCOUNTERS
1- Nil-Ynath, fishman owner of the Fort of Sump, walking back from his secreted library to the hamlet. Carries a wire case of beer bottles that he will offer freely and generously. Wealthy for the area, this shows through his standout fashions and aforementioned generosity.
A fishman noble, who is insistently generous. He is tall and toothy, motivated by addiction.
2- Nero Cacrinolas, tiny bald child wrapped in too-large clothing and carrying a candelabra done in chased silver. Not actually a child, but rather a sorcerer and scholar in disguise after being exiled from his lab in the Library. Legitimately despises Nil-Ynath because of this but is too afraid to actually go into Sump.
Nero - Dextrous, intelligent scholar Magic-User.
[HP 18, AC 11, Candelabra (1D3), Knuckledusters (1D4)]
Spells - Knock, Invisibility, Change Self, Sleep, Web.
3- Five cultists in heavy robes and hoods, carrying baskets, hooks, spears, and crowbars to collect on the newest shipwreck. Dour-faced, damp from the rain, unlikely to reveal that they are cultists in the first place but will trade for a little food.
4- Twelve huge crows, large as dogs. Hungry but unable to fly, eyes like milky unseeing constellations scattered across their faces and necks, feathers filthy and flaking off as their flesh becomes covered in calluses and skin tags. They have teeth. They are chasing a bloodied courier. One of them will be The Fuckbird.
D12 Crow Things - Very dextrous mutated scavengers.
[HD1+2, AC 11, claws 1D4]
Tactics - Screech (Call more Crows), Lunge (Con save or catch disease)
5- Bha’Yhach, Cleric of The Unbound Worm in Sump. Has a lateral lisp. Patient but does not wholly trust Nil-Ynath. Fish-person in a matrilineal line of Clerics, is very virtuous by the standards of that faith, and leads a small congregation of a dozen in choir every night. Is the first person the hamlet will turn to in times of trouble or violence.
Bha’Yhach - Tough, very wise fish-person Cleric.
[HP 21, AC 14, Silver flensing knife (1D4+2)]
Spells - Purify/Putrefy Food and Drink, Silence, Cure Light Wounds.
6- Three couriers, masked like empty-eyed birds, arguing over directions. They are Bird People and all have incredibly important letters to deliver, they’re requesting help. But none of them seem to know where the road is.
7- Bleary fungoid beings with bulbous heads and too-long arms with ten fingers to a hand. Slightly burnt and sodden from a crash into the ocean, becoming increasingly oxygen-drunk since their filtration machines were lost. They carry laser pistols and manipulate the vocal cords of others to articulate language.