Saturday, 8 February 2014

Ryuutama: The Swamp Witch

This is a continuation of the journey from Millane to Frog Hollow. James didn't make it this time, but we had two new players. The start of the session involved creating and equipping characters for Geoff and Tony, and levelling up Mickey and Sasha's characters who'd made the journey last time.

I'd mapped the area around Frog Hollow, and built in some potential quests and destinations. It made for a bit of extra work, since I wasn't sure where they would decide to go, but I prefer to give the players a choice rather than tell them "you're going here." I didn't actually get the time to fully detail all the quests, but I had enough of an idea what was going on that I could wing it.

In many of my games, I've set up XP so everyone gains experience and levels at the same time regardless of whether their character has been present or not. For games such as Savage Worlds, it's more important for everyone to have similar capabilities so they can face the same challenges and contribute meaningfully to combat. However, in Ryuutama experience is directly tied to the number and difficulty of journeys undertaken, and I think it fits the style of the game better to have characters gain XP and level separately based on their individual experiences. The exponential XP requirements mean that hopefully regular players won't get too far ahead, and the increases in capability are mostly fairly subtle.
  • Geoff plays Walker, a Merchant/Magic character based in Frog Hollow. He knows Summer magic, and his personal item is a broken pocket-knife.
  • +Michael plays Yamahaki, a Minstrel/Attack character. His personal item is a silver flute that he can't play, a gift from his father.
  • +Sasha plays Nisonoya, a Hunter/Technical character who wants to see Frog Hollow's zoo to catalogue many different creatures. His personal item is a necklace.
  • Tony plays Adelric Heathcraw, a Noble/Attack character and disreputable scion of the small noble family that rules Frog Hollow. He wields a katana and wakizashi, and his personal item is a cracked monocle.
Mickey acted as the party's Diary Keeper, and wrote up his own Actual Play too.

Since James wasn't present, I said that Karin had separated from the others when they arrived in town to deal with her personal pilgrimage. Yamahaki and Nisonoya go to the tavern, where they meet Walker and Adelric, and sample the local specialty, Froghollow Ale.

The local brewmaster offers them a job. A witch in the swamp is turning people into frogs, which is hampering their ability to harvest Froghollow Ale's secret ingredient - in fact, they are down to the last few barrels! He offers 500 gold each if they can go into the swamp and stop the witch!

Since he is also enthusiastically discussing the menagerie, Nisonoya is approached by a man who works there. He mentions that the menagerie is always after new creatures, and they'd heard tale of a dangerous creature roaming the rocky wastes some days to the northeast. The zoo would pay 4000 gold for a live creature!

Since the swamp is closer, the group decides to deal with the witch first. The next morning, they set off into the swamp during a sweltering hot day. Everybody suffers from the hard journey, and the confusing environment and loud calls of frogs and insects disorients them and they make poor progress.

By evening, only halfway through the swamp, they come across a mysterious forest of giant mushrooms. Adelric has heard tales of this mysterious place, said to confuse and disorient travellers. Yamahaki takes the lead in setting up camp; at Nisonoya's suggestion they carve a hut into the stalk of a giant mushroom, and despite the environment they enjoy a superb night's sleep!

By morning the party is fully refreshed, but their condition is mostly low apart from Adelric who always seems to be in tip-top shape.

Geoff had to bow out early at this point, so I said Walker was feeling a bit under the weather. While still able to follow along, he wasn't able to participate in skill checks or combat. We basically had him following along with the pack-chocobo.

The travellers head into the imposing mushroom forest as it starts to rain. They make excellent progress, but at one point find themselves in the company of four large Poison Toads! The creatures leap to the attack, surprising poor Adelric and managing to poison Nisonoya as well! Adelric revises his stance and the combat starts to turn in their favour. Although the front-line fighters make good progress against the Toads, it's Yamahaki's crossbow that finishes most of them off.

 By noon they reach the centre of this mysterious forest that, by all rights, shouldn't even fit inside the swamp. They come across a clearing with a massive toadstool mansion in the centre, and knock on the door. A young witch on a broomstick flies out of an upper window and asks if they've come to be turned into frogs as well! They negotiate, discovering that the witch has turned people into frogs because they have been taking too much rag-weed from the swamp and damaging the ecosystem. In the end they reach a compromise - the villagers can harvest one cartload of rag-weed a month, and the witch will return the townsfolk that have been transformed.

Satisfied with the deal, the travellers return and camp at the mushroom hut they carved the night before.

Since the "mushroom hut" was the result of a Critical Camping Check, I let them have the result of a standard Success on their Camp Check this night without having to roll for it.

The next day they manage the hard slog through the foggy swamp and make it back to Frog Hollow by lunchtime, bringing with them a few villagers they found wandering around having been returned to human form. The brewmaster reluctantly accepts the deal they've brokered, coming up with plans to cultivate the rag-weed in the town and maybe turn Froghollow Ale into a boutique microbrewed product. He also pays them an extra 200 gold each to keep the secret ingredient a secret.

We wrapped the session up there, with the group looking at capturing the dangerous wild beast for the menagerie next time. Adelric and Walker advanced to Level 2, while the other two are most of the way to Level 3.

I did have my Ryuujin, Gerubera, written up and following the party. She's a Green Dragon, but her goal is to see the travellers gain strength through adversity so she doesn't like providing much direct help. I chose the Bénédiction "Elite Enemy", which I would have used on a Poison Toad if they'd ended up fighting the witch. I also would have used it on the mysterious monster that the menagerie wants, if they'd decided to do that quest first. Her Réveil is "Gift of the Dragon" which provides extra food and water, something they haven't needed yet. As it was, I didn't have to intervene at all, so Gerubera remains at a distance.

I wanted to see the travellers dealing with very difficult terrain, and also wanted to make it more than a day trip to the middle of the swamp and back. The magical mushroom forest was a "space within a space" that I used to make the journey a little longer. They only had to travel half-way through the swamp, then half-way through the forest, but because they got a little lost it ended up being a three day round trip.

They actually fared pretty well despite the Topography difficulty on all three days being an 11. It was hard going, and most of the time people lost half their HP from Movement, but they did OK. It might have been a different matter if they'd battled the witch and lost more Health.

Condition and Statuses featured more heavily this time, thanks to the Poison Toads' attacks causing Poison 6. Since several characters happened to roll a low Condition that day, I was actually able to see a Status effect sticking. Nisonoya was affected by the poison straight away, and remained poisoned the next day partly because his penalised Strength made it harder for him to roll a good Condition. Adelric was hit with Poison 6 while he had Condition 14 so it had no immediate effect, but only rolled Condition 4 the next day - so apparently it took a while to set in.

I wasn't sure how the game would fare, dealing with small side-quests from town hubs, considering it's built around three-day journeys between towns. I wasn't sure how to deal with Town Threats like the witch as part of a standard journey, unless the standard Ryuutama setup means I'd make them go through the Swamp and have them run into the witch then. However, doing a short day-trip there and back makes the journey about the same distance as a regular journey, so it all worked out pretty well.

I'm looking forward to the next session, although given the episodic nature of the game it is eminently suitable for picking up and putting down on a whim.

>>> To be continued!

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