How To Use the Lastlands

The Lastlands now include 5 works:

  • Witchburner (2018) – a system-neutral social adventure (digital, EF physical);
  • Longwinter (2020) – a system-neutral setting and modular escape adventure (digital bundle, EF physical);
  • Well-Gourded Village (2020) – a system-neutral small, tongue-in-cheek adventure (digital);
  • Holy Mountain Shaker (2021) – a large OSE point-crawl delve (dtrpg, physical TBP);
  • Let Us In (2021) – a small system-neutral horror adventure (digital, EF physical).

It’s time to present them all together and have a look at how to use them together.

Meta-Summary

These works aren’t set in the same place, but they could be, and players can stitch them together since they share similar themes.

  • All the locations are peripheral to the grander world. Towns and villages affected by events in the Cities—whatever those are.
  • They use magic-as-technology, with autogolems (self-driving wagons), crystal vidys (telecommunication systems), pistol wands (firearms), and so forth.
  • They loosely mix events and experiences inspired by Central European history between 1713 and 1973. Periods of peace punctured by cataclysmic revolutions and apocalyptic wars. In between, the upheavals of massive social change.
  • There is a looming sense of a big, scary powerful world of Gods and Emperors out there that can do what they want. There is a local memory of spirits and plots.
  • Finally, the whole of the Lastlands explores humanity at a small, local scale. What makes a community and a person? What happens on the peripheries of human civilization? Who are the real monsters anyway?

Longwinter: A Setting

The two books of Longwinter are the only part of the Lastlands metasetting designed as a coherent, complete space and time for adventures. The other works don’t have to be set in the Barony of Brezim, the fictional canton presented in Longwinter, but they can be. Or they can be an adjacent town or province directly accessible by a road through the mountains.

The Visitor’s Book presents a (partial, biased) overview of the setting. It is a reference for all the players—whether their characters are outsiders visiting the Lastlands or natives. None of the players is meant to memorize all the local rituals, deities, locations, or NPCs. They are given as resources to pilfer and use as required.

The Referee’s Book has two main parts. The first part breaks down the main factions and how they might react under diverse circumstances. Further, it details about 100 days, from the end of Autumn (conveniently right after the events of Witchburner), till the onset of the deep freeze. These two parts of the book are designed to give the TC (referee) an easy way to generate the background of the setting, creating a sense of life and vitality.

The second part of the Referee’s Book, the escape, is a set of 54 locations, events, and NPCs tied to a card deck. It can be used in two ways:

To run an abstract survival-escape through a [mythical] winter world, divorced from the mundane geography of Brezim before Winterwhite’s Curse.

Alternatively, they are set pieces, ideas, and NPCs to use as seeds for adventures, challenges, opportunities, and threats.

Let’s be clear: Longwinter is not an adventure. It is a sandbox setting.

It provides a backdrop, factions, and a running clock to disaster. But, the why and what of how the heroes arrived is open to the table. Ideally, the TC will collaborate with the other players to set up the first session with the seed of a backstory. An easy option is to use one of the other Lastlands adventures, existing modules the TC has lying around, or a few dungeons from Dyson Logos. If they just want to run the scary, later part of the Escape, they can just start there. They can even use it as a backdrop for Do Not Let Us Die In The Dark Night Of This Cold Winter. It fits the theme.

Witchburner: A Claustrophobic Social Adventure

Witchburner is a Kobayashi Maru of an adventure. It doesn’t give an easy or simple answer. Indeed, the best answer for most tables is to cut their losses and leave (or go full Solomon and cut the Gordian knot).

It is also a micro-setting. It presents a small town through a cast of very detailed NPCs.

Together with Longwinter, it can bring the players’ characters into the setting as witch-finders. It can be transplanted to one of the existing towns in Brezim, or appended to one end or another. Originally, when I ran it, it was a fourth town at the southern end of Brezim. To avoid repetition, I left it out in the Longwinter books.

The TC can also hand out the NPCs as contacts for the heroes and skip the witch altogether.

Witchburner’s calendar also expands the time and space of events for the setting to 130 days or so, which should be enough for any old-school referee who wants to maintain accurate time records and have a meaningful campaign.

Holy Mountain Shaker: Bang Under The Mountain

The adventure I wrote for OSE dives deeper (heh) into the themes of the Lastlands. The layered history in the tunnels and caves beneath the mountains forms a point-crawl dungeon delve. The adventure is designed with a swiftly ticking clock and works quite nicely as a 2-3 session miniseries game.

It can also be slotted directly into the Longwinter setting. Again, the town of Plish can be added at the end of a road. Alternatively, the TC can do as I did when I ran (and imagined) HMS and set it in the Brezim town of Rudvey.

Without the ticking clock (and the earthquakes), the massive dungeon of HMS becomes a natural focus for old-school style tomb robbers and dungeon explorers. Again, the TC can elaborate points of interest with additional maps and dungeons, and expand on the creatures within the tunnels. For surface factions, the folk of Longwinter and Witchburner will provide sufficient colour and stress.

Looting this dungeon also provides an interesting segue for the Longwinter survival challenge: a party driven by greed to empty out a megadungeon finds itself beset by snows and terror.

Well-Gourded Village: A Chuckle on the Side

This is a small one-shot written to fit the Halloween pumpkin theme. It’s cute and shows the type of single-session adventures a party can undertake in a setting like Longwinter.

Let Us In: Proper Horror on the Side

This adventure is the most loosely connected to Longwinter and Brezim. Its setting, a mansion near a lonely town, can be fit at the end of a road leading to one of the Brezim towns, or an additional town. The post-humans in this module can fit well with the Old Architects of Longwinter.

It may be the easiest way to launch a Longwinter game. The players start off in the house, then the survivors explore what happened. And then the winter comes for one and all.

Comes with a few bonus pre-generated pdf character cards.

Not As Written

Of course, a referee doesn’t need all these works for a fun game. They work together in the same way that different lego sets can work together: the parts will interlock, the themes will fit, but you don’t need all the sets to have a good time. And if one wants, they can certainly mix the town and pirate and space sets. Sure.

Inspirations

The Lastlands are also inspired by my own experience of growing up in—by turns—central, southern, eastern, and south-eastern Europe. All without changing address, just by seeing how different people for different reasons [re]categorized my native land [Heimat]. There is also the mirror-view of the same place from other cities, countries, and continents.

A place is not a place; it is a kaleidoscope of visions of a place.

There are also some movies and books. This isn’t an attempt at a complete list:

  1. Alamut – Bartol (1938)
  2. Andrei Rublev – Tarkovsky (1966)
  3. Arizona Dream (1993)
  4. Astérix chez les Helvètes (Asterix in Switzerland) – Goscinny and Uderzo (1970)
  5. The Book of Skulls – Robert Silverberg (1972)
  6. Bronenosets Potyomkin (Battleship Potemkin) – Eisenstein (1925)
  7. Un Chien Andalou (An Andalusian Dog) – Buñuel (1929)
  8. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
  9. The Day of the Jackal (1973)
  10. Deliverance (1972)
  11. Na Drini ćuprija (The Bridge on the Drina) – Andrić (1945)
  12. L’Étranger (The Stranger) – Camus (1942)
  13. A Farewell to Arms – Hemingway (1929)
  14. Hazarski rečnik‎ (Dictionary of the Khazars: A Lexicon Novel) – Pavić (1984)
  15. Jenseits von Gut und Böse (Beyond Good and Evil) – Nietzche (1886)
  16. The King in Yellow – Chambers (1895)
  17. La montaña sagrada (The Holy Mountain) – Jodorowsky (1973)
  18. Metropolis – Lang (1927)
  19. Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories (2009-2019)
  20. Nesnesitelná lehkost bytí (The Unbearable Lightness of Being) – Kundera (1984)
  21. Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror) – Murnau (1922)
  22. Ogniem i mieczem (With Fire and Sword) – Sienkiewicz (1884)
  23. Pinball, 1973 – Haruki Murakami (1980)
  24. Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma (Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom) – Pasolini (1975)
  25. Le Sceptre d’Ottokar (King Ottokar’s Sceptre) – Hergé (1939)
  26. Das Schloß (The Castle) – Kafka (1926)
  27. Twin Peaks (1990-91)
  28. Waiting For Godot – Beckett (1953)
  29. Where Did You Sleep Last Night – Nirvana (1993)
  30. The Wicker Man (1973)

Apologia

I planned to write this post in time for the Exalted Funeral Lastlands Halloween Bundle, but time had its evil way and all the leaves turned brown and the sky went grey and I was a bit too late.
Still, I trust this piece will still meet you in good time.
—L.


Winterwhite
The mountains are big.
The human is small.

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Where bait-and-switch adventures are always written.

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