I can't believe it's been a year since I last updated this blog, I've been sadly remiss. I do want to give a report of my experience at Historicon 2023.
It was held again at the Convention Center in downtown Lancaster, and is without doubt, my favorite convention site. The hotel is excellent and the location can't be beat with plenty of great food places within walking distance. This convention there seemed to be an extra energy to it all and it was one of the best I've been to.
I ran two games, both fantasy games set in the Elizabethan era. The first The Mirrors of Mortlake. This is actually the third in a series of convention games I've run in what I call The School of Night setting, basically "Elizabethan Frostgrave." The first, A Dead Man in Deptford, dealt with a search for the lost manuscript of Marlowe's Doctor Faustus that could be used to summon demons. The second was The Creatures of Croatoan, involving the search for the fate of the Lost Colony of Roanoke. Reports on these games can be found here:
The Mirrors of Mortlake is about the looting of the library of Dr. John Dee, as well as a large and well equipped alchemical laboratory. In 1583, Dee along with his associate medium Edward Kelley and their families and servants left for Poland and Bohemia in furtherance of their attempts to communicate with Angels. Shortly thereafter, the estate was looted, purportedly by an angry mob fearful of black magic believed to have been practice there.
The place was brimming with all sorts of magical and monstrous encounters, such as the mutated frog and mushrooms in the above picture, all caused by run-off from the alchemical lab. Solomon Kane, heading the Puritan faction, spent a fair amount of time trying to cut his way out of the frog who had swallowed him whole early in the game.
This is the School of Night faction, a cult-like group founded by Sir Walter Raleigh to study "things which Many Was Not Meant to Know." It was led by Christopher Marlowe, poet, playwright, duelist and spy. They was the villains of the game. but managed to survive and came away with a magical chronometer but not the Black Mirror. and stole the carriage belonging to Mary and Sir Philip Sydney, brother and sister serving the Queen herself in attempting to protect Dee's magical property.
The action in the game was furious and chaotic so I won't attempt to write a narrative of it but some highlights included a massive explosion and fire that destroyed most of the outbuilding of the estate, set into motion by Sweet Robin Poley, a sort of proto-James Bond, working for spymaster Francis Walsingham. At one point in the game, two entire factions were trapped inside a room of the main house by magically created vine which some Welsh brigands attempted to set on fire, only to have Baldrick of the Blackadder faction stop it by relieving himself on the fire. In the end, it was the Irish pirates of Grace O'Malley who made it down into the secret basement below the estate to discover the Black Mirror and convince the Angel guarding it to allow them to take it back to Ireland.
The other game I ran was called The Faerie Queen Embattl'd, a fantasy take on the Spanish Armada. In this world, Mary Queen of Scots escaped the headsman's block by making a bargain with Mephistopheles. Her desire for vengeance became the driving force behind the Armada, which due to a sudden change in the wind caused by Mephistopheles allowed the Spanish to destroy most the English fleet near the Isle of Wight. The Irish soon join the Spanish for their impending invasion. At this darkest moment for the English John Dee returns to lend his magical aid to the embattled Queen. He pierces the veil to Faerie and makes an alliance with Oberon and Titania whose Fae armies join the defense. (I should mention that there is a legend that the storm which destroyed the Spanish Armada was summoned by Dee and this rumor was said to be the inspiration for Shakespeare's The Tempest and its Dee-like wizard Prospero.)
The main English army was in a hastily fortified camp and would be hard pressed through the game.
The English cavalry were led by the impetuous Earl of Essex who also commanded the coastal defenses. These put up a great defense but were ultimately overcome and Essex slain heroically leading a cavalry charge.
It all ended up being settled by a duel (as is provided in the Lion Rampant rules). The two Queens, Elizabeth and Mary of Scots faced off and the vengeful Scottish Queen won the day and slew the heroic Gloriana, thereby becoming Queen of England as well as Scotland. However, at the start of the game, I had give the Spanish commanders secret orders that the Queen of Scots should be eliminated so that King Philip could assert his own claim to the English throne. It was therefore neither an English nor Spanish victory but a Scottish one.
As the actual battle took place in a shallow river mouth, there was a danger each time we moved of running aground. Each of the five ships spent a considerable amount of time immobilized by this but it actually ended up benefiting the pirates. One of our ships that proved more mobile ended up being captured by the much better boarding parties of the two Navy ships. However, that opened up a path for Bonnet's ship and the other pirate ship to make a run for the open sea.
I was caught by one of the Navy ships, boarded and it looked bleak for Bonnet. However, the other pirate ship came to the rescue while the other Navy ship ran aground. We were able to overcome the crew of the boarding Navy ship and then had a clear passage away. The Gentleman Pirate lived to swashbuckle another day!