Sunday, 30 June 2013

Skyship Islands 6

  • Alice plays Amarylis, a female Centaur barbarian with a warhammer and an attitude.
  • +Andrew is playing Inigo Yonez, a male Dwarven archaeologist.
  • +Melysa is playing Annona, a female Jungle Elf shaman.
  • Michael plays Engrin, a quiet male Human rogue armed with a crossbow.
  • I'm playing Zanne, the female Human captain of a small skyship. 

Having portaged our boat around the waterfall, we split up - Annona and the leopard head into the jungle to ambush the gar-ogress, while the rest of us pole the boat upstream. The ogress spots the boat and wades after us, but Annona magically tangles her in the vines surrounding the stream. Amarylis leaps onto the bank, almost capsizing the boat as she does so. With his new bow, Engrin puts an arrow through the ogress' leg! I steady the boat and prevent it from drifting back downstream. The ogress breaks free and limps to the bank, pulling a large bottle from a leather bag. Before she can drink from it, she is dropped by one of Annona's arrows. 

The bottle is full of healing potion, and she's armed with a great-axe and a brace of throwing axes. Amarylis takes some of the throwing axes.

Further upstream, some of the party hear a cataract ahead, and also the sound of two gar-ogres - presumably the ogress' boys - engaged in loud conversation. Apparently they have lost a fight against a band of goblins, and are worried how their mother will react. We secure the boat around a bend in the stream, and set up an ambush at the edges of the shallow pool that lies at the bottom of the cataract. As the already-injured ogres splash down into the pool, they are met by a volley of missiles. Amarylis and I rush along the bank to engage them, but they both fall before we can get there.

Like their mother, these ogres are armed with axes and a potion, except that half of their potion had been used already.

Pressing on through the jungle for another few hours, we eventually reach the entrance to the ruins. Engrin and I check the passageway, and discover it has a pressure-pad mechanism to reset all of the traps within the complex. We decide to bypass it, hoping for easy access past any traps that have been already set off, and also hoping not to find any areas that are impassable unless the trap is reset...

Pressing into the gloomy ruins we encounter several set-off traps, with blades and barbs protruding from the walls. They seem to have been deliberately activated and left, with trails showing where goblins have moved around them. As we get deeper into the complex, we hear the sound of a goblin warband marching down the hall! We retreat a little and take cover in some side-corridors, and the group of a dozen or so goblins pass us by.

According to the crude map we'd recovered from one of the journal fragments, we are finally nearing our destination - the location of the final fragment, which will reveal to us the location of the fabled Fountain of Youth and a fabulous treasure!

Only one thing stands in our way - a long hallway, lined with pressure-pad activated dart traps. Without an easy way to block all the darts, I begin tapping out a safe path using my staff to test the paving stones...

>>> To be continued!

Future Born to Pain in the Stars 1.1.2

It's taken me a while to write up this post, partly because I wait for +David to write up his summary first. Then, I copy and paste that, and edit it down a bit, and then go through and flesh out my character's role. I've found both when running and playing Cortex Plus Drama that the session tends to require a lot of energy, and so I usually don't feel much like writing about it until a day or two afterwards anyway.

As last time, I'll be writing from my character's point of view - Ambassador Kaaradan'Bo'Maar of the B'Daan Empire. To provide a complete picture, the exploits of other characters are presented in indented paragraphs.

A shot of the Space Station from a distance, with the vast asteroid belt glinting in the darkness behind it. The camera follows a small Fo shuttle moving to dock with the station.
In his quarters, Ambassador Lokshma of the Erodo is being advised on this evening's Valon Festival. He receives a message, asking him to meet with his nephew PocMahl.

Station Chief of Security Marcus McGerrit wakes up in the sewer tunnels, and discovers he’s been out of action for a while. Security officers find him as he’s reading a congratulatory message from the Valon Representative, H'Ssan Gurahl, for preventing the theft of the cargo.

Future Born to Pain in the Stars

Starring (in alphabetical order):
  • +Jason Dettman as Lokshma of the Erodo (Fo) - Ambassador, The Union
  • Craig Judd as Kaaradan'Bo'Maar (B'Daani Atmaa) - Ambassador, B'Daan Empire
  • +Dev Lox  as Marcus McGerrit (Human Cyborg) - Station Chief of Security
  • Robyn Miessler-Kubanek as Juliet Sanchez (Human) - Station Captain

Created and Directed by +David Miessler-Kubanek 

Season 1, Episode 1: Feast for the Soul, Part 2

Chief McGerrit and Captain Julia Sanchez discuss what’s been going on. There are many security matters requiring attention.
Lokshma meets with his nephew, PocMahl, to talk about things. PocMahl is determined to bring General Kaaradan to justice for war crimes. He has proof, and a witness aboard his shuttle. Lokshma convinces his nephew to hold off on seeing the Captain for the time being. PocMahl is angry but consents.
McGerrit follows up on his long list of things to do, including investigating the issues surrounding the foiled theft of Valon cargo, and the mishaps involving Hashaa. McGerrit also assigns Lt. Vosh, his second, to take point on the Council Chambers where the Valon Festival is taking place.
PocMahl and Lokshma go to the shuttle to meet the witness, The B’Daani Colonel Kordash claims to have been one of the soldiers who fired upon the surrendered Fo army and CAW observer forces on Aegis 7. They talk a little, then Lokshma has his nephew go to the cockpit so he can speak with the Colonel alone.
McGerrit learns that Ambassador Daniel Van Schultz went to visit the Fo-an attacker in the brig - the prisoner who recently escaped. McGerrit reviews the video footage, but the audio is mostly static. He manages to clean it up enough to learn that Van Schultz plotted with the prisoner to attack Ambassador Kaaradan during the Festival. He manages to recapture the Fo-an, who was trying to find a spot to hide near the Council Chambers.

I assigned two of my security detachment to stand guard outside my chambers, while the other two are to accompany me at all times. I have also deputised one to handle my secretarial duties while Hashaa is in Medbay.

McGerrit reports to Captain Sanchez and the Captain orders the Chief to Medbay to get checked over.

Having reasoned that a larger and more diverse entourage would offer greater security while at the same time demonstrating the might and glory of the Empire. I went to the Council Chambers, where the Valon were preparing for their festival, and communicated my requirements to their representative, H'Ssan Gurahl. He offered to provide me with four of his best hunters, and I found this agreeable.

Lokshma goes to Command & Control to speak with Captain Sanchez. They talk about the Fo-an attack on Ambassador Kaaradan, and about PocMahl's accusation.

I received a visit from Security Chief McGerrit. He enquired about my new security forces, so I explained where I had found Station security lacking and had taken matters upon myself. He seemed uncertain and disoriented, and left, apparently satisfied by my explanations.

Shortly after McGerrit left, the promised Valon hunters arrived. I stationed two outside, and two inside. One of them displayed awe at being in my presence, and at being allowed in the quarters of a B'Daani Atmaa. I was pleased by his zeal, but warned him not to touch anything.

Chief McGerrit eventually makes it to Medbay, but not before having a minor relapse from his exposure to the drug. Dr. Dierdre Sandaval checks him over, gets him on an IV drip, and tells him not to work tonight.

Later in the afternoon, I also received a visit from Jason Delores, cultural aide to the CAW. He and I have been discussing many cultural issues since my arrival on the station, and I invited him in for tea. He showed some distaste at one of the fertility rituals the Valon required guests to perform, but I impressed upon him my opinion that one must show respect and consideration to the lesser species. Every creature has its own place in the order of things.He also asked about Hashaa, and mentioned that his presence in Medbay was giving other factions the chance to study B'Daani biology. This did not overly concern me, as I am sure many Issh were captured and examined during the War, as were Humans and Fo on our part.

Ambassador Lokshma visits the recaptured Fo-an prisoner. Lokshma learns that the prisoner, Valesh, is a fanatic of the Shining Path who is determined to kill Ambassador Kaaradan to destroy the darkness in this part of the galaxy. Lokshma uses his mysticism to convince Valesh to follow him as a new avatar of the Shining One.
Dr. Sandaval calls Captain Sanchez to say that the Chief is unfit for duty. Meanwhile, McGerrit sneaks out into the hallway. Having confirmed the incense-drug's harmful effects, the Captain orders engineers to work on the Council Chambers' environmental systems. The Captain fails to find out if the incense-drug is the sort normally used by the Valon.
The Captain then went to the Council Chambers and spoke with Valon representative Gurahl about the incense problem. Gurahl admitted that they could not get the proper incense in time for the Festival and had ordered an alternative from InTech. Captain Sanchez said that she would look for a safer alternative in time for the Festival, which did not comfort Gurahl.
Captain Sanchez learns that McGerrit has left Medbay, and with Lt. Vosh, finds him passed out in his quarters. Sanchez gives him a firm talking to as a friend.
Ambassador Lokshma contemplates what to do next.


>>> To be continued

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Future Born to Pain in the Stars 1.1.1

I finally have an opportunity to play a Smallville-style game using Cortex Plus Dramatic Roleplaying+David Miessler-Kubanek is running a sci-fi game reminiscent of Babylon 5. After fighting a great War to a standstill, three powerful factions have come together on board a neutral space station to try and find their way to a shared future.

We spent a few weeks on collaborative world-building before starting character creation. There are many different aliens and factions, so I'll also put together an introductory post at some point...

Since I'm a player not a GM, I'm mostly blogging this from my character's point of view. However, due to the complex political nature of the game, and because it's run with "open secrets," I'm including a basic outline of the events in which I'm not directly involved. The outlines are indented, while my own character's narrative is written as usual. If any of the other players writes up their perspective, I'll include links.

The show opens with a shot of the Space Station from a distance, with the red sun blazing behind it. Some ships pass as the camera slowly zooms in alongside the station's bulk and follows its curve around to the loading dock. 
One of Security Chief Marcus McGerrit's subordinates, Lt. Vosh, wants to open and inspect a suspicious crate that's arrived for the Valon "Ambassador," but the Chief overrules him. McGerrit examines the crate externally; he gets a strange cinnamon scent from it. The Ambassador is notified of its arrival.
Captain Sanchez receives a hail from a Union vessel. Lt. PocMahl requests an audience to discuss placing Ambassador Kaaradan'Bo'Maar under house arrest for alleged war crimes!

Future Born to Pain in the Stars

Starring (in alphabetical order):

  • +Lloyd Gyan as Daniel Van Schultz - (Human) - Ambassador, CAW
  • Craig Judd (me!) as Kaaradan'Bo'Maar (B'Daani Atmaa) - Ambassador, B'Daan Empire
  • +Steve Moore as Li-uax of Chaqua - Reathis - Refugee Leader
  • +Dev Lox  as Marcus McGerrit (Human Cyborg) - Station Chief of Security
  • Robyn Miessler-Kubanek as Juliet Sanchez (Human) - Station Captain
Created and Directed by +David Miessler-Kubanek 

Season 1, Episode 1: Feast for the Soul, Part 1

Daniel Van Schultz talks with his aide, Jason Delores, about the evening's Valon Festival of Rebirth - the need to wear only natural fibers, the need to bring a gift of personal value and to give a speech about it. Van Schultz seems to intently consider what to bring.
Li-uax learns of the Valon shipment through the Reathis information network, and a heist is planned.

Here begins the personal log of Kaaradan'Bo'Maar. I am an Atmaa, one of the ruling caste of the B'Daani people. It is my privilged position to represent the Empire as Ambassador on this space station, where so many conflicting species have come together to discuss peace and the future.

During the War I was a General, a rank I still hold. It was my task to expand Imperial holdings and bring other civilisations under our sway, for the Atmaa are born to rule and it is our duty to guide the lesser species. I directed our forces mainly on the Union battlefront, where I began to realise that the creatures we were fighting may be different than those we had faced in the past. I have come to this Station, in part to find out more about these species so recently encountered, and in part to ensure the bounty of the Empire.

This day, I awoke refreshed and in good spirits. My valet Hashaa informed me of a Valon festival taking place this evening. As the Valon are vassals of the Empire, it is my duty to attend. I left the details and preparations in Hashaa's hands.

Hashaa is an Issh; both Issh and Atmaa belong to the B'Daani species, but it is the role of the Issh to serve. They appear somewhat physically leaner than the Atmaa, but are just as capable in their own areas of expertise.

As Hashaa departed my quarters to attend to preparations, I saw a Fo-an standing in the hallway glaring at me. As one of the Union species we fought during the War, the Fo hold no love for the B'Daani. Rather than being drawn into a confrontation, I simply shut the door.

McGerrit is visited by the Valon Ambassador, H'Ssan Gurahl, and two aides. McGerrit insists on escorting the cargo. Gurahl only agrees on the condition that he first inspect the crate in a private room. McGerrit and the aides remain outside, and McGerrit opts not to use surveillance to spy on Gurahl.
Having watched from the access tunnels, the Reathis set off an alarm, forcing the Ambassador to leave the room and return to his quarters. In his absence, Li-uax breaks into the crate, exposing himself and other Reathis to the alien spice within. Before they can make off with much of the contents, McGerrit determines that it was a false alarm and gets permission from the aides to open the door. Li-uax is forced to flee without covering his tracks.
When McGerrit opens the door a pungent odour hits him in the face. The two aides kneel, wafting it into their faces and praying. McGerrit sees that the container has been broken into, but is then overwhelmed by the substance and leaves to recover.
Lt. PacMahl of the Red Star Legion tells Captain Sanchez he's the only surviving witness of the slaughter on Aegis 7. He says then-General Kaaradan'Bo'Maar ordered the extermination of all the surrendered troops, along with a detachment of of CAW peacekeepers. PacMahl asks the Captain to arrest Kaaradan at once so justice can prevail, but Sanchez points out the Ambassador's diplomatic immunity. She also makes it clear that this station is designed for peace and that she will not tolerate threats to that mission, or to the Ambassador's person while aboard. PacMahl seems relieved to hear that the Ambassador is on the Station. Sanchez organises for one of her aides to take an official statement from PacMahl at some point so a proper investigation can be made. 
After the foiled heist, Li-uax meets with the Anzi criminal leader Lisse Jeh Tsko to discuss the Valon drug and its intended use at the Festival. Tsko wants to find out more about the substance by testing it on someone, and Li-uax convinces Tsko that he is better-equipped to handle that task than the Reathis.
Van Schultz meets PacMahl in the Station's Temple after receiving a message about his son Roland. They speak uneasily about the past. PacMahl wants to pass on Roland's will, but Van Schultz doesn't seem interested and starts to leave. PacMahl calls out that hir relationship with Roland was a love across the stars. Van Schultz replies that he feels the same way about his dead son.

I have taken to walking about the station each day to make the Empire's presence felt, and also to show my willingness to engage in the forthcoming negotiations. Today as I was in the market area, I heard a guttural yell from behind me. I turned to see the Fo-an from earlier, now holding a dagger and moving towards me. I grabbed an implement from a nearby stall to knock the dagger aside. Hashaa leapt to my aid, suffering a cut while wrestling the Fo-an to the ground at my feet.

The Station's Captain arrived before her security forces did. To her credit she had the Fo-an taken into custody, although I had to berate her for allowing such an attack to occur in the first place. She offered to have her security forces escort Hashaa and I to Medbay. I agreed, on the proviso that she accompany us herself so as not to give the impression that my Issh was under suspicion or arrest.

On the way, I told the Captain that I intended to bring a small squad of Imperial troops onto the Station to act as my personal security detachment, as I'd obviously overestimated the spirit of peace and understanding that the Station was built on. She attempted to overrule my intentions, offering instead a Human security force. I expressed my reluctance to be attended by armed security officers from a species we had recently been at war with, and also noted that lax station security so far did nothing to boost my confidence. She once more publically overruled me, claiming that my request was unreasonable and suggesting that she had final say on the matter.

I rounded on this mere bureaucratic functionary, warning her not to question my authority or position. After I asked if she wanted to be responsible for the withdrawal of the B'Daani delegation, she stormed off.

Unfortunately Hashaa's condition had deteriorated during our argument, and we rushed him to Medbay for proper treatment.

Captain Sanchez goes to the Botanical Garden to cool off, and finds Van Schultz there. They talk things over, and the Captain feels a little better.
In the Station's slum, Li-uax and Tsko watch as their test subject - the B'Daani manservant, Hashaa - is subjected to the Valon drug. He is reacting badly, and Tsko is not sure if he'll survive or suffer brain damage. Li-uax calls a halt to the test before it goes too far, and rushes Hashaa through the access tunnels, returning him to Medbay just before Ambassador Kaaradan arrives.
Van Schultz meets with the arrested Fo in his cell to discuss options, which include making a second attempt on Ambassador Kaaradan's life during the Valon Festival. Before leaving, Van Schultz slips the prisoner a micro-cutter to aid in his escape.

A few hours later I returned to the Medbay to check on my Issh's progress. Once again my confidence in Station security was shaken, as I discovered Hashaa was in worse condition than when I left him! It was obvious that he'd been given some sort of detrimental drug while in Medbay's care. I immediately summoned the head of Medbay, Dr. Dierdre Sandaval, who had just come out of surgery. She confirmed that Hashaa had been exposed to an unknown chemical, but she would require some time to analyse it. She also advised he would have to rest for a couple of days, leaving me without my valet.

This was the final straw. I would not allow the safety of this diplomatic mission to be compromised by slipshod Station security. I immediately summoned a detachment of Issh troops from my  Destroyer to provide proper security. In accordance with the Station crew requests, and respecting the peaceful nature of this endeavour, I agreed that they would be armed only with nonlethal weapons - stun batons, and polymer guns which fire rounds designed to adhere to and immobilise the target.


I have returned to my quarters in preparation for the Festival. I have stationed two soldiers outside my suite. I consider the gift chosen by Hashaa with my approval for the Valon festival - a painting, showing the B'Daani and Valon fighting as a united force against the Union during the War. It is obvious that not everyone has put aside the past, and I must maintain vigilance for my own safety and the safety of this mission. I send off a report to my homeworld, Baddra, and request additional resources.

Van Schultz is getting ready for the Valon Festival, a box in hand. He asks his bodyguard to find out why PakMahl is alive and his son is not, then bar him from this station; and as for the Fo-an in the cell - ensure he almost succeeds, then kill him. 
Li-uax decides he cannot trust the criminal Lisse Jeh Tsko. The Valon are to blame for stirring things up. He's trying to wash off the drug, and washing and washing and washing...
Captain Sanchez learns that the B'Daani have brought a contingent of troops aboard. She considers co-opting the new troops to help with security matters.


>>> Episode 1.1.2

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Savage Devonport 2

The group enjoyed the first session so much, plus they'd invested a lot of time and effort in character creation, so we decided to extend the game. I let people re-jig their characters a bit if they wanted, or even change them entirely. Novim's Skills got shuffled, Typhus chose some different spells, and Invghost was replaced by a completely new Dwarf.
  • +Annette plays Snowfall, a Human Paladin whose family owns an apothecary in Stormhaven.
  • James plays Angus Arrowbeard, a Dwarven Archer/Rogue from a hold to the North.
  • Michael plays Novim, an Elf Ranger who has sworn fealty to the local Lord.
  • Sasha plays Kae Swiftfoot, a Monk/Rogue who owns a corn farm North of Stormhaven.
  • Shane plays Typhus, a Wizard who seeks to make his fortune.

A week or two after dealing with the necromancer, Kae is awoken by his guard rabbit. He sees shadows moving through the corn, and heads out into the fields with a torch. He comes face to face with an orc, and tries to scare the brute away - they end up fighting. Two other orcs attempt to join their comrade, but the Dwarven archer Angus Arrowbeard has been tracking them since they came through the Last Pass, and manages to take one out with an arrow he never saw coming. After a brief skirmish, the orcs are defeated. Angus and Kae introduce each other, and Angus explains that the orcs have attacked the Dwarven city of Targan's Forge. He'd been following a group who struck out South and headed through the Last Pass.

The pair travel to Stormhaven in the middle of the night, finding everyone else still at the Green Dragon inn. Angus tells his tale about the orcish army, and the group decides it's in the best interests of the realm for them to head North and investigate what's going on beyond the Last Pass.

*          *          *

As they travel past Kobold Hill, Snowfall spots an orc sentry atop one of the half-ruined towers, and also notices that kobolds have returned. The group attempts a stealth approach from the road, but the bald hillside doesn't offer much in the way of cover and the sentries spot them. The group attempts a frontal assault, and the orcs shove the kobolds out front to bear the brunt of the attack. Meanwhile, extra orcish archers appear on the two mostly-intact towers, and several emerge from the towers wielding swords. They are followed into the fray by a tough war-boss wearing better armour than the rest.

In a long slog, the heroes finally manage to defeat all of the kobolds and some of the orcs. However, the withering fire from the archers on the towers takes its toll, with Typhus and Angus in particular suffering serious injuries. Snowfall falls back to heal the wounded, but unfortunately Kae is still on the front line and quickly becomes surrounded and overwhelmed. The group has little choice but to withdraw and regroup, vowing to return and liberate the captured Kae. They withdraw to Swiftfoot Farm, and spend the night recovering their health and magical power.

*          *          *

The party returns to Kobold Hill the next morning for a dawn assault. Now that there are fewer orcs, the place is not as well defended - one archer on top of each of the two standing towers, plus four orcs and their chief inside one of the towers, along with the captive Kae. 

The group launches a multi-pronged assault. Angus sneaks up one of the towers and stealth-kills the lone orc archer atop it, then goes on to use the roof to shoot at other orcs as they come into view. Novim takes cover in one of the shattered towers, and takes pot-shots as various orcs emerge from the tower they're using as their base. Snowfall and Typhus conduct a frontal assault on the tower door, although Snowfall is forced to duck against the base of the tower to avoid arrow-fire from above. Typhus uses the Staff of Skulls to raise some of the dead orcs to attack their leader. While engaged with the zombies, the orc commander also suffers concentrated missile fire, and finally succumbs to Snowfall's blade! As the orcs abandon their guard duty to join the fray, the heavily-wounded Kae finally manages to slip his bonds. By the time he joins the fight, however, only a couple of orcs are still standing. Kae claims the leader's giant battle-axe.

The last surviving orcish archer surrenders, so the group captures and questions him. After discussing whether to let him go (suggested by Angus) or slit his throat (Typhus' suggestion), they decide on Novim's advice to instead return him to town so he can face justice. With that done, they head off once more towards the Last Pass.

After passing through the narrow gap between the mountains, the party finds themselves in a dry country. Yellowed grasses cover the hillsides, and a scraggly forest can be seen in the distance. In front of them lies the farming village of Dryfield. 

The place seems deserted, although they can see that many feet have passed through recently. The mournful plucking of a lute is the only sound they hear, so they head towards it and meet the young bard, Timpany. She tells them that the villagers are all working the fields. She came into town yesterday, some time after a large group of orcs raided the village and sent groups off in various directions. The orcs apparently came from the Witherwood, which jibes with Angus' information. Timpany tells them that this is an ancient land filled with ruins, and sings a song of the fall of the Elves of Witherwood. The group decides to head into the forest to explore Elven ruins and perhaps find the source of the orcs.

The woods are dry, with twisted and gnarled trees clawing at the sky. The party spots and manages to avoid several orc patrols, and eventually discovers an old Elven shrine, now occupied by half a dozen orcs. The heroes move in and fight them, using cover and ambush. The orcs fall after a brief skirmish, and the party discovers they were guarding a large amount of food and other supplies. The day is getting late, so they decide to set up camp in the shrine.

This session went for five or six hours, and we got quite a bit done! The first fight took a long time to resolve, and taught all of us a lesson about tactics in Savage Worlds. I probably threw in a few too many orcs, plus a frontal assault in the open while being harassed by missile fire, plus discovering the death-spiral of wound penalties... well, it could have gone better. In fact, the regroup went much more smoothly, in large part due to effective tactics and positioning.

I did get some feedback from this session - James requested some puzzles and things to solve, which I agree would help take the focus off combat a little. I also felt that I'm not giving out very good treasure. I was going to write up a series of magical item tables, but then I discovered that the Fantasy Companion already has a most awesomely comprehensive set, which saves me a lot of work! It doesn't have anything in the way of tricks and traps though, so I've also purchased a couple of "10 Fantasy Traps" booklets to start me off.

Travelling to interesting places, meeting unique characters, fighting monsters, solving puzzles, finding treasures... I think if I can flesh the game out to cover all of that, then I'll feel like I'm providing a much more substantial gaming experience!

>>> Session 3

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

AW: Spring Hill the Second

I was hoping to start a casual Wednesday game of Apocalypse World at a local gaming venue, recruiting from the people wandering in for the $5 Special evening, but not many people showed up so we didn't get any extra players. I finally posted a recruitment notice in the local RPG Facebook group, so maybe there will be some interest next week. John and I played for about an hour, but I hadn't prepped any Fronts in-depth as I was hoping we'd have some new players to help flesh out the world while introducing their characters.
  • John plays Uncle Mike, a Hardholder  He's a man with a mix of casual and junta wear, an aristocratic face, commanding eyes, and a wiry body.

Well, it looks like Uncle has managed to get the holding into some semblance of order. His various efforts to relieve the hold's population-pressure reduced the issues of hunger and disease until they became mere background concerns. The disease is still affecting people, but it's not spreading as fast or killing as many of the weak. Fewer mouths to feed means the food goes further; in addition, his newly-formed juvie-gang returned from the hills with fresh meat, although they lost a couple of members to aggressive carnivores. The one problem that still hasn't been resolved is the tribute payment owing to Bad Stump.

John actually rolled an 11 on Wealth, and didn't have to pick any bad conditions at all. However, since the tribute hadn't been paid, and it saps the hold's surplus, he opted to leave it unpaid in return for extra barter.

He also got an advance, and picked Daredevil from the Driver playbook, giving him (and his gang, if they're with him) +1 armour if he recklessly charges into a dangerous situation. A great modus operandi for a Hardholder!

A couple days later, the lookouts spot a huge dust-cloud heading down the road. Fifty or more bikers from Bad Stump form a loose circle around Spring Hill, spaced apart in the fields. Uncle sets up his negotiation table at the front gates, but they're having none of it, and wait for him. He comes out by himself to speak with the four bikers parked in a group on the road. Their leader asks about Gnarly and his men, but Uncle disavows any knowledge of them.

The leader sends two of his guys up to the gates with Uncle to collect the tribute. They also demand a late payment fee, which Uncle pays out of his own pocket. He also learns from them that the emissaries he sent to the West were found by Bad Stump raiders and killed or enslaved. Satisfied with the payment, but not entirely believing that Uncle doesn't know about Gnarly, the bikers saddle up and ride off again.

Uncle spends the rest of the day reallocating his human resources. He sends the juvies out again, this time to protect a work detail harvesting lumber from the woods. He also gets some of his skilled craftsmen to make a survey for a quarry in the side of the hill, to start making plans for a granary, and to consider turning more of the land downstream into farmland. 

That evening Uncle visits his secretary, Miss Annabel, who's still suffering from the disease. She's not doing well, although Doc's doing everything he can. As Uncle comforts her, he hears the click of a gun being cocked behind him. He turns to see one of the Bad Stump bikers in the window, having climbed up the outside of the building, pointing a sawn-off rifle at him. Uncle offers him a job, but the guy's found out what happened to Gnarly and the others, and is here for payback! As he pulls the trigger, Uncle draws his katana and charges, narrowly avoiding the shot and striking the assassin a near-fatal blow. The wounded biker falls back out of the window onto the street below, and dies.

Uncle tightens security. They investigate how the assassin got in; it seems he crept through the fields and prised open the grate that lets the spring-stream flow out of the city. Uncle has it reinforced, and lines the floor of the tunnel with pebbles so it's harder for someone to move quietly through it. A keen-eyed lookout spots a small group of bikers waiting a long way down the road.

Uncle considers his next move.

>>> To be continued.

Apocalypse World: Sorting the MC Moves

I posted this on the G+ Powered by the Apocalypse group, and it seems to have met with general approval (or at least no negative feedback) so I thought it would be worth doing a blog post on!

Last night I was preparing for tonight's Apocalypse World game, and going over the events and decisions I'd made while running tremulus the night before.

I wasn't really happy with some of my choices of Keeper moves (the MC in tremulus). I find that during play, I have trouble holding all of the MC moves in my head at once, which interferes with my ability to make a decision at the table without always picking the most obvious thing or spending ages going down the list. 

So I sorted them into categories. With only seven broad things to remember, I'm hoping I can juggle them more efficiently during play.

Positioning - separate them, capture someone.
Portents - announce future or off-screen badness.
Harm - trade or inflict harm (as established).
Stuff - take away, make them buy, activate downsides.
Choices - spell out consequences, offer an opportunity, put someone in a spot.
Reversal - turn their move back on them.
Fronts - make a threat move.

Now I have a shorter list to look over, and I should be able to winnow the choices down more quickly by considering which categories are suited (or totally unsuited) to the current situation.

What do you think? Would you organise them differently? How do you remember the MC Moves and make your choices at the table?

Monday, 17 June 2013

Ebon Eaves: Chapter V

A powerful, creepy, and life-threatening session, full of unexpected developments!
  • +Paul plays Father Aaron, a Devout. He is a Presbyterian priest, sent to Ebon Eaves for being difficult and asking too many questions. He wears formal vestments, has an open face with bright eyes, and is of slim build.
  • +Annette plays Amy Hearst, a Librarian. She's recently come to the town of Ebon Eaves to open a new library. She wears a nice suit, has an open face with clever eyes, and has a lithe frame.
Previously, they had been invited to Rain House and met the twins, Taylor and Maximilian Rain. Aaron and Amy had reason to believe these two were behind the disappearances eight years ago, and after the meeting Father Aaron suspected they meant to finish the job by getting rid of Clark Lewis.

After leaving Rain House the pair return to the church, where Father Aaron manages to find an old book that describes a ritual for exorcising ghosts. Amy pokes around among the books while the priest reads the rituals; unfortunately, she pulls too hard on one tome stuck in the shelf, and the rickety old thing falls over on her! Aaron tries to rush to her aid, but was too late, and she took a nasty knock to her head and pride.

About five minutes too late, I realised I could have "taken away their stuff" by having Amy cause the ancient books to crumble, thus robbing them of any further potential mystical aid. Then again, can I really take away stuff they don't yet have? I suppose I could have broken her glasses instead, robbing her of her +1 Reason bonus. Also at this point, Father Aaron failed his Help roll and opted to let me take a point of "hold" against him for later use.

They decide that the best course of action is to lay low and wait to see what happens. Aaron is hoping that the Rain twins will take care of Clark Lewis for him, and Amy needs to go back to the boarding house for a bit of a lie-down with a cold compress.

Amy is lying in bed after dark when she hears the sound of something smashing in Mrs. Rain's room next door, followed by odd noises and cries. She goes to help, finding Mrs. Rain having a seizure on the rug, a broken jug next to her. She makes sure the old lady isn't going to hurt herself, but Mrs. Rain's bony hand clamps hard around her wrist. She tells Amy that "they are calling the children! The twins are calling out to them!" Her lips are pulled back from black gums and jagged teeth, and her eyes are as black as the night sky. Amy slaps her, managing to bring her back to her senses. She tells Amy that the children are being called to Manley Manor, and then passes out. Amy finds Mrs. Partridge who, familiar with Mrs. Rain's "turns," goes to put her to bed. Amy heads out into the night to find Father Aaron.

Father Aaron is just sitting down for dinner at the Vales' house when Mrs. Vale walks out the back door from the kitchen. Her husband stands up from the table and silently follows her, leaving their dog and the priest both a little confused. Aaron follows them, dashing ahead of Mr. Vale to see that his eyes are glazed as though in a trance.

Meanwhile, Amy's been running through streets filled with entranced people. She sees the Mayor among them, and slaps him to see if she can snap him out of it! He seems dazed and disoriented, but recovers his senses and wonders what everyone is doing in the street. With the help of Father Aaron and Marjory, Amy leads a full-on slapping campaign with the help of Father Aaron and Marjory, and manages to awaken all of the waking sleepwalkers. By the time they've dealt with them all, it's become obvious that only the paler members of the community were affected; those from old families long associated with the town. They finish their task close to the driveway to Manley Manor, as that seems to be where all the people were headed.

The two are about to head back to the safety of their homes when they hear the sound of breaking glass from the Manor. They cautiously approach up the road; as they round the bend, they can see that the boards have been ripped away from one of the front windows, and the entire lower half of the window has been smashed in. Curtains flap in the breeze as the lights flicker on and off, and a disturbing, inhuman howl shatters the night from the woods to the North. They head for the back door, and check to find the door-handle trap has been switched off. Strange barking noises from the trees sound oddly, distortedly human. 

They open the door and head inside. Just as they enter, they hear a man's hideous scream from upstairs. Amy looks about for a weapon, and discovers a heavy old fire-poker with a nasty hook at one end. Terrible gurgling and tearing noises can be heard upstairs, but Father Aaron searches the downstairs hallway for interesting books. He discovers an aged notebook that's fallen between a shelf and a cabinet, which seems to contain hand-written observations of the experiments from fifty years ago.

Unfortunately, Father Aaron's distracted by the book, and doesn't notice the creature until it creeps around the corner and is almost upon him - a misshapen humanoid form, silhouetted in the moonlight slanting through the boarded window. He turns to move the other way, back towards Amy in the sitting room, but his robe catches on the corner of the cabinet and it loudly scrapes on the floor. The creature leaps on him at once, sinking its sharp teeth into his leg and causing him to fall to the floor.

Amy rushes into the hall to see the priest being attacked by a scrawny, eyeless goblin of a creature, with skin like wrapped bandages made of pasty white flesh. She smashes it over the head with her poker, causing it to retreat and howl in pain. Its cries are answered from upstairs. Amy helps Aaron to his feet, and they make for the back door.

Amy takes the lead, but as Father Aaron passes a darkened doorway another of the creatures barrels into him, inflicting serious injuries! Amy turns and engages the creature head-on, beating it into submission even though she suffers a terrible wound from its claws. She grabs the creature around the neck, taking it hostage and threatening its life with her poker. Father Aaron attempts to wield the seven-pointed star amulet against it, but it doesn't appear to have any effect. Amy drags the wounded, mewling creature towards the back door, using it as a shield to threaten and hold back the four others who lope down the stairs and stalk them up the hallway.

Once they make it to the back door, Amy tosses the wounded creature back inside. They shut the door and arm the trap, and pause to catch their breath. Barking howls come from all around them in the woods, and Amy is at a loss. Father Aaron, having lost a lot of blood, is in bad shape. Luckily, the creatures don't attempt a pursuit. The pair hobble to a thick patch of bushes just to the West of the house, where Amy performs first aid on Aaron's wounds. They hear the breaking of glass from an upper-storey window on the North side, and the muffled thump of something hitting the ground.

And there we leave them, for now...

This was a really great session, on several counts. I'd created a mini-timetable based on previous events and the intentions of some of the major NPCs, so there was always something happening and I never felt lost or like I didn't know what to do next. I managed to inject some creepy horror with Mrs. Rain and the mesmerised townsfolk, although in the end it turned into gut-wrenching fight-for-your-life horror in the confines of the old mansion!

But by far the most awesome and unexpected thing, from my point of view, was Amy gaining a 10+ on Resort To Violence (thanks to her Lore Move allowing her to use Reason instead of Might), and choosing to eschew "take little harm" in favour of "take definite hold of it." I was like, "Take definite hold of the creature?" "Yes, I want to take it hostage!"

The second attack on Father Aaron was a "hard move," the result of spending the Hold I gained earlier from his failed Help roll. Again, I probably could have chosen a move other than inflicting harm, but it seemed like the thing to do at the time. I'd originally intended to use the Hold during the first attack, but when I described things I gave him something to react to; it was only his failed attempt to Act Under Pressure that resulted in him being wounded the first time.

Our intrepid investigators aren't quite home safe yet. The night is full of terrors, and the Manley Manor stands between them and the town.

>>> To be continued!

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Skyship Islands 5

  • Alice plays Amarylis, a female Centaur barbarian with a warhammer and an attitude.
  • +Andrew is playing Inigo Yonez, a male Dwarven archaeologist.
  • +Melysa is playing Annona, a female Jungle Elf shaman.
  • Michael plays Engrin, a quiet male Human rogue armed with a crossbow.
  • I'm playing Zanne, the female Human captain of a small skyship. 

On our way to the flying island on which lay the ruins of an ancient Elven civilisation, we stopped off at a bustling market city - one of the trading capitals of the world - to resupply and get some work done. I paid to have the ship's engines overhauled, increasing their "grunt" and giving her a better chance in strong winds and storms. Most of the party went shopping with loot gained from our previous expedition; I bought a bigger staff and some more leather armour, Amarylis got some custom spiked horseshoes, Engrin bought a bow and a new sword, and Inigo bought a pot of glue.

The ancient elven island was quite large, so we had little trouble locating it wending a slow circuit near the equator. We'd heard rumours that the jungle-choked ruins were now home to goblins and possibly gar-ogres, a particularly vicious breed with nasty needle-like fangs.

We landed the skyship on a rocky "shore" near a river that flowed from the interior to endlessly plunge off the edge, turning to mist long before reaching the island below and scattering rainbows beneath the ponderously floating rock. Matis the ship's engineer had brought a collapsible boat, so the main party assembled it and began punting upstream into the interior.

As we were carrying the boat around a cataract, a leopard pounced on Inigo and rendered him unconscious! Annona talked it down with her Beast-Speak magic, and restored Inigo to health with medicine and magic. She recruited the leopard to act as a guide and ally, and learned from it that the river ahead was the territory of a gar-ogress with two sons, the latter having recently headed further upstream to seek their own territories.

We discussed at length how to best get past the ogress. We eventually decided to have Annona and the leopard cause a distraction in the jungle, thus attempting to lure the ogress away while the rest of us punt past its campsite...

>>> Session 6

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

TBZ: Guardians of Green River, Acts 2-4

After not being able to meet up last week, we got together on Tuesday for the second half of our Tenra game. First half here.
  • Chris plays Crimson Lotus, a male Phoenix Order Buddhist monk who has lived in Green River for several years.
  • John plays Honjo Yoshino, a female samurai and high-ranking member of the Iron Fist Mercenary Company.
  • Sean plays Omayu the Worm, an annelidist doctor of indeterminate gender (possibly female), who's lived on the outskirts of Green River for many years.

Act Two: Winter of Discontent

It's the middle of Winter, and a light dusting of snow covers the village. The long-house that now serves as the mercenaries’ quarters is warm and cosy inside, with those not on duty relaxing, drinking, and enjoying the company of the more willing village girls. Honjo talks to Captain Souma about the company's plans for the future. The Captain is considering staying on as the village's protector rather than leaving in the Spring. The village elder's granddaughter is delivering another jar of sake, but Goroyoshi, one of the kijin mercenaries, grabs her by the wrist and asks her to keep him warm. Crimson Lotus happens to be walking past, and makes a speech about the responsibilities of guests and hosts. The mercenaries stop and look at him, the message sinking in to some of them. Captain Souma tells Goroyoshi to let the girl go. 

The village men hold a rather cramped meeting in Elder Kobunta's new lodgings to discuss the situation. The mercenaries have been consuming large amounts of food and drink; although the stores will last, they will have little surplus until the next harvest, and the sake may run out entirely. Some of the village men are worried about their daughters spending time with the mercenaries, and the chaos caused by so many idle warriors. Omayu the Worm suggests putting a curfew on the village women, and enforcing it with an armed militia of villagers. Crimson Lotus suggests another path - instead of treating the mercenaries as honoured guests, why not officially make them a part of the community? If mercenaries have been besmirching the honour of the village girls, then they should be invited to preserve the family's honour through marriage. In return, the villagers gain even closer bonds with the warriors, and Green River gains a second source of income if some of the mercenaries go away to war during the campaign season.

This scene was the pivot-point that put paid to 90% of my remaining scenario notes. I had to scramble to rewrite and re-cast. My original plan had been for the mercenaries to become more and more of a nuisance, until they started to cause serious problems.

Originally, the Final Boss was going to be Captain Souma himself, as he became a tyrannical despot ruling the village with a literal Iron Fist. Having the village open up and welcome him and his men in this new way, making them a valued part of the community, played up to the Captain's desire to stay and rule the village while sidestepping the problem of the village wanting to be rid of the mercenaries.

It was a subtle redirection of the story's energy, which completely removed almost all of the tension I was attempting to build between the villagers and the mercenaries!

As Winter draws long, Tsubo uses his Kimen Armour to help build a new barracks and a palisade around the village. Honjo makes sure that the villagers and mercenaries work on the project together, growing closer through shared labour and achievement.

Crimson Lotus, Honjo, Omayu, and Captain Souma discuss marriages over a game of Mah Jongg. Honjo, who thinks of the Captain as her soul-mate, proposes to him on the spot. Unfortunately for her, the Captain does not return her affection; practically speaking, a samurai cannot bear him an heir, and it would be more politically beneficial for him to marry Old Kobunta's granddaughter and legitimise his aspiration to rule the village. Many of the other mercenaries are marrying and settling into their new families.

I suppose I could have changed the tension-lines somewhat - after all, many of the Iron Fist are kijin with mechanica bodyparts, and that's something a new family may not easily accept. Also, some of these guys are professional soldiers who may not have the urge to settle down. That said, most of the girls getting married were the ones who'd already begun courting the soldiers, so I guess it wouldn't have come to much anyway.

Act Three: The Fruits of Resentment

Spring has come, and life in the village is looking rosy. Omayu is deep in the woods looking for medicines when she hears a scream! She finds the village girl Onatsu running barefoot through the woods, her kimono showing signs of cuts from bladed claws. Two kijin mercenaries, Goroyoshi and Juroyoshi, soon appear running after her. She tells Omayu that they tried to sieze her while she was bathing, but she managed to get away. Crimson Lotus and Honjo both enter the scene. Honjo orders them back to the village for disciplinary action, but they are sick of placid village life and are spoiling for a fight. Omayu tells Onatsuto turn around and close her eyes, and unleashes a volley of Talonfang needles at the pair. Honjo engages Goroyoshi, and Crimson Lotus disarms Juroyoshi. The two kijin are quickly defeated.

Back in the village, Juroyoshi and Goroyoshi are cast out. Gotoyoshi suggests that any other dissatisfied people should come with them. Honjo makes a speech, reminding everyone of what they have built and gained by staying in Green River, and persuades the other mercenaries to stay. The two outcasts leave under a cloud of bitterness and resentment.

This was a very short Act, where I basically cut to the chase and presented the most provocative scene I had in an attempt to get a passionate response out of the PCs. As it was, the offending mercenaries had to insist on a fight, rather than meekly surrendering and being escorted back to town for disciplinary action.

I was hoping the scene in the woods would be a good chance for Omayu to shine, as her player was a little quieter than the other two. It didn't quite work out that way since they both bought into the scene; although she protected the girl, concealed the annelids from her, and unleashed a barrage of highly effective needles, the other two got to share the combat glory.

Act Four: A Harvest of Swords

Late in the Spring, the two exiled kijin return, guiding an advance force from the neighbouring province. The force consists of three Kimen Armours and nearly two hundred footsoldiers, and is led by the Armour-Hunting scion of a noble house.

As the force assembles on the far side of the rice paddies, Crimson Lotus walks out to parlay. He tries to persuade the commander to leave the village alone, but is roundly ignored. The commander signals the advance, but Crimson Lotus uses the Binding Prayer of Acala to stop the lead Kimen Armour from moving. He has to fight off a wave of footsoldiers and an attack by Juroyoshi and Goroyoshi, until Honjo runs down from the palisade to help. Between them, the two defeat the traitorous kijin, and Honjo stops to finish them off.

Soon, Armour bombardment has rendered the village's wall useless, and the mercenaries of Green River flow across the fields to meet their enemy. Tsubo and Captain Souma fight the enemy Armours, while the kijin mercenaries prove their worth against the rank-and-file soldiers. Omayu arrives just in time to engage the enemy commander alongside Honjo and Crimson Lotus. Honjo takes him on blade to blade, gaining the upper hand. Omayu ran in, attacking with her unexpected Talonfang Bugs at the last second to inflict a grievous wound on the commander!

The enemy lord summons all of his strength to strike Omayu down, but Honjo steps in front of the blow and takes it full-force. With both of their lives on the line, Honjo prepares to unleash a flurry of attacks which will mean the end for one of them. However, the commander succumbs to a volley of Spirit Burst attacks from Crimson Lotus, and falls dead. The monk topples one of the remaining Kimen Armours with a spare fireball.

With their commander dead, the rest of the enemy force is soon routed. Green River stands victorious, a shining success of harmony between farmers and soldiers.


While Captain Souma is on his way to becoming the legitimate head of the village, Honjo Yoshino takes on the role of "sortie captain," leading the fighting men away from home during the campaign season.

Crimson Lotus, having struggled with the practicality of behaving peacefully in a world at war, renounced his vow of pacifism and is considering joining the Ebon Mountain sect.

Omayu the Worm still lives in her hut on the edge of town, but has a more active role in the community dealing with the injuries of farmers and soldiers alike.

Well, to put it mildly, the game went in a direction I had not anticipated! This was a playtest of the scenario concept, using the notes I'd worked out up to this point; I wanted to test it out before refining the details. It's a good thing I did, because it has a few issues.

I'm concerned that there's not enough dramatic tension, especially in the earlier Acts. Indeed, I deliberately set it up so that things would start out looking great, and slowly go downhill as time went on. However, a lot of the early scenes are just two people talking about stuff. I'm not entirely sure if the players just weren't expecting that type of in-character, RP-heavy gameplay, because they didn't tend to engage with each other all that much with in-character conversations. There was some (the monk espoused philosophy quite frequently), but some of the scenes were more like one or two sentences followed by an awkward silence.

Perhaps I didn't communicate this aspect of the game clearly enough, but Tenra runs on characterisation. By portraying your character in a strong and vibrant manner (rather than a considered and subtle manner), you earn Aiki which you use to overcome opposition later on. It's like a Kabuki play in this regard - even the audience up the back needs to have a clear idea of what your character is about.

When I was writing up the scenario concept, I pretty much had it in mind that, with the power of hard scene framing, the GM can direct the flow of the game. You present the players with a situation, and it's mostly their job to show how their characters react to that situation. It's a pretty railroady approach, which runs counter to my usual flexible GMing style, and the brittleness of a nailed-down script was made clear when the group came up with a solution to the major problem in the scenario, rather than just reacting to it.

Unfortunately most of my late-game tension-building and hard-choice scenes got taken off the table by the monk's social engineering in Act Two. I am wondering if it would be better if there were more tense scenes earlier on, but then again I'm wondering how a different group would approach the same scenario.

All in all, I think the Guardians of Green River would need a serious overhaul to make a useful scenario supplement. I have some other, newer, and more flexible ideas that I think I'll probably develop instead. If the new approach works, I may return to Green River and redesign it from the ground up.

This is the second Tenra game I've run, and it's the second one in which no PCs were injured. Well, Honjo took a blow in the boss fight, but that was purely voluntary so she could tick her Dead Box and gain bonus dice. If the PCs have Kiai on hand, it seems to be trivially easy to stack in enough dice that you'll overwhelm the opposition, and if you roll badly you can buy up to 1 Success to make sure you hit them. I may have to consider exposing Bosses to the PCs early on, just to prove how bad-ass they are, and how unbeatable they are without Kiai.

It worries me, what will happen in a Final Boss Fight if all the PCs run out of Kiai. It seems like they would have no hope of winning at that point, and they wouldn't have enough time to regroup and regain Kiai. Downer ending?

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Savage Devonport 1

On Sunday night we held the inaugural game session organised by members of the Devonport RPG group. I'm GMing Savage Worlds, and we started off with a D&D-style fantasy game focussed on adventure and combat. We spent the week before the session creating characters via the Facebook group. As it was to be a test game, pitched as a one-shot, I wasn't too worried about making a perfectly balanced group, so within the confines of typical D&D-style fantasy and the options available in the Savage Worlds core rules, I let people pretty much take what they wanted.

I drew up a simple map of a rural coastal province. I got everyone to each choose one of the options from a list of six to connect their characters to the location and give them some motivation for protecting the place. Other than that, I suggested that they were all local do-gooders and heroic types, rather than mercenary adventurers only out for themselves.

  • +Annette plays Snowfall, a Human Paladin whose family owns an apothecary in town.
  • James plays Invghost, an Aevion Archer looking for fame and glory.
  • Michael plays Novim, an Elf Ranger who has sworn fealty to the local Lord.
  • Sasha plays Kae Swiftfoot, a Monk/Thief who owns a corn farm North of town.
  • Shane plays Typhus, a Wizard who seeks to make his fortune.

Since there was no unifying point of contact for all the characters, and because Annette and James hadn't played a D&D-inspired game before, we decided to actually start everyone off in a tavern...

The Green Dragon Inn is the social heart of Stormhaven. One morning, all of the characters are assembled there when Old Linderman from the farm just outside of town bursts in, and tells everyone that he's witnessed kobolds come out of the Moss Vale forest and kill one of his cows! Kobolds don't usually come this far South, as they mostly occupy the ruined fort on Kobold Hill, near a mountain pass that has fallen into disuse.

On their way out of town, one of the priests from Faithstone Abbey sought out Snowfall and informed the knight that the gates to the ancient Dunlane Crypts had been opened. The priests feared some sort of evil or necromancy is afoot. The group decided to go check out the kobold situation first.

At the farm, they found the butchered carcase of the poor cow. They followed a trail of blood and footprints into the woods, and eventually found a group of six kobolds cooking cow meat in a clearing by the river. Forgoing all pretence of ambush, Kae stepped out and challenged the creatures; in a brief skirmish, all of the kobolds were quickly defeated. The last one, an archer who'd moved to the treeline, almost escaped but Invghost managed to aim an arrow between the treetrunks and shoot him down. The heroes feasted on barbecued cow and returned to the Green Dragon to report a job (and steak) well done.

The group next headed up the other side of the river to ask the priests about the Dunlane Crypts. They are an ancient burial ground, and the Abbey was established to safeguard it. The priests had sensed an evil presence, disturbed spirits, and possibly the taint of necromancy. The group immediately headed in, with Kae once more charging ahead. The interior was a dark passageway; only Kae had thought to bring a lantern, and Novim could see in the dark as he was an Elf. The rest suffered a bit from the poor lighting. The Elven ranger scouted ahead, discovering an animated skeleton wandering around in a side passage. It was quickly despatched, followed by three of its friends.

After picking the lock on a barred gate, the party entered a large chamber with six skeletal warriors. Invghost became cut off from the rest of the group and, due to his lack of close-combat skill, suffered a wound at the hands of two skeletons. The heroes soon finished off the undead, and discovered a hidden treasure chest. They reported back to the Abbey, receiving a reward, and finally managed to pop the lock on the chest after arriving back in town to find many gold coins. Freshly cashed up, they bought some new equipment and retired for the night.

At the Swiftfoot farm, Kae witnessed a strange, flickering light on the distant Kobold Hill. In the morning, he brought the news to town. They also heard the testimony of a pilgrim who'd arrived in Stormhaven that morning after travelling through the Last Pass. He'd seen a greenish-black flickering glow playing across the ruins, and decided it was best to press on rather than camp nearby. The group immediately got ready and headed to Kobold Hill.

The ancient, ruined fort was once the scene of a mighty battle in years long past, and now its great walls were laid low. They found signs of a necromantic ritual, with a magical symbol burned into the earth. However, there was no sign of any activity above-ground, so they descended into the ruined cellars through one of the blasted towers. They discovered a large, dark chamber with eight skeletons. Luckily, more people had brought lanterns with them, so visibility was less of an issue. As they engaged the skeletons, a necromancer appeared from behind an altar and began chanting. Unfortunately for him, Novim's bow took him out in one shot! He obviously should have kept his head down. The group cleared out the rest of the skeletons and returned home, secure in the knowledge that evil had been defeated for another day.

Everybody enjoyed the game, and we're planning a second session in a couple of weeks. There will be a few tweaks and revisions on some of the characters, now everyone's had a chance to see how the system works in play.

I deliberately went pretty easy with the monster stats and numbers, as I didn't want to accidentally overwhelm the PCs during their first introduction to the system. It's obvious that I'll need to step up the quantity and/or quantity of enemies in order to provide a decent challenge, though.

Although I set up a dynamic situation with multiple things going on, I never actually followed through on any evil plots as a consequence of player choice or inaction. They chose to deal with the kobolds first rather than the crypts, so I could have had undead attack the Abbey. They didn't check out Kobold Hill promptly to see why the kobolds had moved South, so I could have had a wave of freshly-risen skeletons attack the Swiftfoot Farm.

I originally planned the game as a one-shot, but I'll expand on the basic ideas and give them a reason to roam further afield, facing more varied and hazardous foes, and exploring new and more dangerous environments.

>>> Session 2

Monday, 3 June 2013

Ebon Eaves: Chapter IV

Due to technical hitches and other commitments, we only had a pretty short session tonight - only an hour and a half. Even so, it was fairly eventful!
  • +Paul plays Father Aaron, a Devout. He is a Presbyterian priest, sent to Ebon Eaves for being difficult and asking too many questions. He wears formal vestments, has an open face with bright eyes, and is of slim build.
  • +Annette plays Amy Hearst, a Librarian. She's recently come to the town of Ebon Eaves to open a new library. She wears a nice suit, has an open face with clever eyes, and has a lithe frame.
Previously, they had both done a spot of book-research and talked to some folks around town, and they are gradually piecing together a picture of Ebon Eaves' sordid past.

On Tuesday evening, Amy returned to the boarding house and overheard her landlady referring to her neighbour as Mrs. Rain.

On his way from the church to his humble cottage, Father Aaron noticed Lewis' electrician truck parked in the street nearby.

Tuesday (continued)

Amy offers to take Mrs. Rain her dinner, as the old lady eats in her rooms. The landlady, Mrs. Partridge, gladly accepts her offer. Mrs. Rain is suspicious of Amy, but lets her in because she won't hand over the food tray until it's on the table. Mrs. Rain complains about the voices of the children that are constantly talking to her, and Amy asks if she means the children who died in the experiments. Mrs. Rain says not all of them died, and some crawled away... It becomes confusing when she starts also talking about her own children, the Rain twins Taylor and Maximilian, whom she says cast her away because they have no use for her any more, and they think they're better than everybody, and she doesn't need their money anyway, but she can feel their hand reaching across the voices of the children. Amy realises the old lady is rambling chaotically, and returns to her rooms to "wash the crazy off."

Father Aaron waits around the corner of the church to see what Lewis is up to. The electrician comes out from around the side of the house, looking around furtively. Aaron accidentally makes a noise, and Lewis hurriedly gets in his truck and drives away. Father Aaron is deeply suspicious that Lewis has booby-trapped his door-handle or doorway, and goes to great lengths to test it. After determining it's safe, he heads inside and goes to bed.

In the middle of the night, Father Aaron awakes to discover his house on fire! Thick smoke chokes the hallway, and it looks like the fire is well underway in the front room, just near the fuse-box. He hurriedly evacuates out the back door, and raises the alarm with the church bell, waking the whole town. Amy rushes over with a bucket to help, but by the time she arrives the volunteer firefighters are already at work passing a chain of buckets from the well to the blaze. The fire is extinguished, but half the building is lost, and most of its meagre contents smoke-damaged.

Mrs. Vale, head of the Church Foundation, offers the priest a bed at her place. He accepts her offer, but insists on taking the slightly-too-short couch, where his feet are attended by the Vales' labrador.


In the morning, Father Aaron and Amy start picking through the ruined building to see if anything is salvageable. They are visited by Mayor Wilson, who says Father Aaron's presence has been requested at Rain House that afternoon. Apparently they have heard he's been asking after the Church of the Seventh Star. The mayor doesn't think the Rain twins would mind if Amy went too.

That afternoon, they front up to Rain House. The edifice is carved from white stone in a classical style, with steps leading up to an imposing set of black double-doors. Their knocks are answered by a slick butler in a tailcoat, who escorts them inside. The decor is heavy; thick, plush carpets, burgundy paint and dark patterned wallpaper, furniture of teak and mahogany. Velvet curtains block much of the light from outside. The pair are escorted to a sitting-room, and shortly afterwards to a well-appointed board-room. Along one side is a long table. A grand fireplace dominates the opposite wall. In the far corner are several ornately carved and upholstered chairs around a coffee table. In one of the chairs sits a figure; behind them stands another. They are identically outfitted in pant-suits, with eerily pale skin and white-blonde hair, contrasted by deep, almost black eyes.

Maximilian bids them both sit, and takes a seat himself. He asks of the priest's interest in the Church of the Seventh Star, and Father Aaron tells him that he's worried that it's more of a cult, and that a surviving member may be attempting to return to power. This is of concern to the twins, who share his concerns, and ply him for more information. The pair don't reveal exactly what it was they saw at Manley Manor, but Aaron freely tells the Rains that the local electrician, Lewis, is the suspected cult member. Amy also mentions that they found a book in the mansion that detailed the cult's activities, but that they lost it while fleeing. The Rain twins are very interested in all they have heard, and thank the investigators, asking them to return immediately if they uncover any more information.

During the conversation, Father Aaron surmised that some members of his church group are also under the sway of the Rains due to receiving trust-fund payments, which is how the information got back to the twins so quickly. He's also fairly certain that the twins intend to finish the job they started eight years ago, finding Lewis and causing him to disappear.

The butler escorts them out of the building, closing the ebony doors behind them.

Another in-town chapter, but this one sung a little more! I'd set up a couple of good situations at the end of last session, so we were able to dive straight in. There weren't an awful lot of moves made by the players (more than last time though), but I could consciously make and identify lots more Keeper moves.

Partly what helped was that I managed to figure out how the PCs were upsetting the status quo in town, and to see where that was pulling on strings connected to my major NPCs. Once they started disturbing the web of connections and influence in town, it became apparent how NPCs would react and create new, dynamic and confronting situations. Before that happened, it felt like this Ebon Eaves was a little too quiet and complacent, with folks who really had no good reason to rock the boat.

It's been a slow burner, but I think things are starting to pick up speed...

>>> Chapter V