Dragongame, session 2

26 January, 2009 at 9:21 am (actual play, Dragongame) (, )

This was the first session where substantial amount of play happened. Same cast of participants as before. A map which I might remember to print and take to the next session can be found online. It is hand-drawn and in size was 6 A4-sized paper, give or take two. Probably give.

There are observations below the play report.

Play

To start with the dragons followed their smallish lizardman guide to a cavern wherein they found an old, soon-to-be-dead, lizardman sage (of sorts). There were questions asked and answered and a huge tome discovered. The tome has too many pages to count and too fine pages to (easily) discover the first one; taking any page, there still are pages before it. Within the tome is detailed the history of dragonkind. A number of pages are devoted to the adventures of the very dragons now reading it, as in when Hafnir first looked at what was being written to the book, the text said that Hafnir was looking at what was being written on the book.

From the book and discussions with the venerable lizardman it became clear that (according to the book) they are the only dragons livingand active; some were petrified or asleep or banished, most simply slain, by humans and their feathered allied. Particularly, two dragons called Thunandriaikhor and Ceosinnax are supposed to have died/etc. nearby.

There was also feasting; someone had evidently prepared for large amounts of food to be consumed in the abode of the ancient lizardman. After feasting, there was sleeping and after that departure. Outside the dragons decided to go hunting; some mountain goats happened to be nearby (whatever the correct nomenclature happens to be). A successful hunt, which does demonstrate Hafnir’s absent-mindedness and Zaphádoranon’s unwillingness to take help from the others, was followed by (more) sleeping. At this point we negotiated a set of rules for creating rituals as part of actions; trophies from everyone’s hunt were a requisite and the talisman hence created makes one a fierce hunter. Such an amulet was created by Vulcanus.

Hafnir was sleeping alone near jagged rocks and was hearing faint music, but ignored it. Isla, given its heat vision, saw something small dancing on top of Hafnir and charged in. The small thing was gone, two dragons bumped together, as their coordination is not quite yet perfect. Soon all the dragons were present, conferring as to what had just happened. Hafnir spotted one of the creatures, earth-coloured and with a mushroomish hat, observing them among the rocks. A quick attempt at catching the thing was not successful, as Hafnir got stuck in a small hole and only caught the creature’s hat.

This attempt was the first case of resolution by rules in this particular game, so I’ll go to some detail. The goal was to catch the creature and the things that could go wrong were that the creature would die or Hafnir get stuck. Rolled results were (reconstructing by memore and deduction, so consider this an approximation) 2, 3 and either 4 or 5. The four or five APen allocated to not harming the creature, 3 to catching it (the hat) and 2 to getting stuck.

Some painful pulling did get Hafnir out of the hole, though a wound to head was suffered. The dragons tried calling the thing back to little effect. A rat did come to stare at them; more precisely, at Vulcanus, the stare of whom hypnotised the poor creature. It came to smell and stare at Vulcanus, staring deep into its eyes, and was not eaten, instead being asked to go back and tell that they meant no harm. The rat gladly scurried away. Not a long time did it take for one of the mushroom folk to come up, moving in a blur to check Hafnir, then running back. Soon it came back with moss that it tied to Hafnir’s wound after which there was much spitting on that same wound. Then it went back to hiding among the rocks.

Everyone but Zaphádoranon went to sleep. Zape went flying, presumably to find out more about a certain primitive settlement nearby. Zap heard sounds of something feathered, and not of negligible size, flying and approaching. Then the thing dived at Zap, who did manage to dodge while also screaming in a distinctive voice. Isla was not pleased at Zaphádoranon thusly fluttering around alone. So they all slept together under a small cliff.

Come morning the young dragons started searching a local lake in order to find Thunandriaikhor. (Hafnir’s wound felt good, yet Hafnir did not remove the moss still covering it.) As none of the dragons is particularly adept at swimming or breathing water and living their attempts at scouting were limited in success. What they did find was that a mangrove and jungle-like island that stands in the middle of the lake is inhabited; there are lizardfolk there, much like those mentioned earlier, though more muscular and slimmer. One idea heard around the table is that the island may in fact be Thunan. The truth value of that is yet to be discovered.

Zaphádoranon, who can shift shape, approaches the island settlement, which consists of fairly primitive huts, in a lizardman form (with the distinctly green eyes that remain regardless of shape). A guard is suspicious and courteously escorts the visitor to the shaman’s hut. The other dragons wait at Hafnir’s request. The shaman can see Zape’s true form, at which point a few comments are uttered and Zap leaves the hut. Hafnir still wants the others to wait, but Isla calls him a wussy and flies to the settlement, followed by Vulcanus and (fuming) Hafnir.

Within the village the powerful visitors are stared at; the lizardfolk are careful, not knowing the nature of the visitors. Vulcanus imperiously demands food, which is provided. It is known that the nightly attacker was a griffon and that they live eastwards, occasionally bothering the lizardfolk, who drive them away as necessary. It also becomes known that there are at least three settlements of lizardfolk hereabouts; these people on the island, one tribe on the plains below and one in a mountain to the west. The best moment in this game, up till know: Hafnir, clearly angry and fuming, asks of the shaman: “Am I a wussy?!” (or perhaps “Do I look like/seem …”), and the shaman, somewhat politically minded, quickly responds that such is not the case. Vulcanus has been gathering bird feathers and another shaman who lives in solitude has griffon feathers, so there goes Vulcanus. End of second session.

Observations

This is the most challenging game I have run thus far. The greatest reason is that the characters have several sensory and other passive abilities that I need to remember and make relevant in play, which is not at all easy. This is by design. I knew what I was getting into. There’s no way of improving but challenging oneself.

Terho plays Zaphádoranon in a way that reminds me of another player I have GM’d for; I have hard time figuring out what he wants his character to accomplish, even if single actions are sufficiently communicated. This did not happen in the previous game I played, which is a strength of those particular rules. Potential solution: Explicitly asking “What are you trying to do?”; in any case, discussion is useful.

Dragon personalities: Isla wants everyone to stick and work together, Hafnir wants to observe and learn and keep some distance to whatever is happening, Zaphádoranon wants to be independent and to get a hold over the lizardfolk tribes. Vulcanus I am unsure of at the moment. Nice amounts of tension, especially now that Isla slighted Hafnir.

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Dragongame, character creation and some play

19 January, 2009 at 6:11 pm (actual play, Dragongame) (, )

GM: Me. Players: Vepa, Terho, Apen, the one guy whose name I don’t remember, but which seems to be Mikko.

Character generation-related topics (and some other stuff) I discussed previously. Characters were made, three of them being very social creatures and one of more cerebral nature. Lessons learned: When using your own notes as an aide for picking special abilities and such, first explain the strange ones, then hand the list to players.

The play started with the dragons hatching, after which they loitered around and let their wings dry and socialised a bit. There was getting used to the environment, then flying to get an overall view of the surroundings. Some settlement was seen and then a small lizard-like humanoid spotted.

The lizardman, whose name was not asked (remember: A pregenerated list of names is a Good Idea.), was suitably awed by the dragons and also scared of them. Some questioning revealed that the lizardan lives in a mountain some distance away and will now take the dragons to its master so that they may get some food therein. Further, the lizardman’s tribe of twenty and twenty and ten and four is dominated by some large, scaleless beast that the dragons showed some interest in overthrowing.

The dragons

If you, the gentle reader, happen to play in this game, consider carefully if you want to read the descriptions and abilities of other dragons. Do it only if it will make your gameplay better and improve the play for everyone. Thank you.

Isla

Body 2, mind 2, will 4.

Abilities and skills somewhat in flux, but include skilled flying, strong will, leadership and control of everything that is icy. Probably an icy breath.

Zabhádoranon

Body 2, mind 2, will 4.

Killer, social chameleon, knows civilisation, powerful will, shapeshifting, voice demands obedience.

Zabe clearly lusts for power, which is a pretty interesting personality in a player character and a fitting one for a dragon. (The temptation to call this one “zap” is significant.)

Vulcanus

Body 2, mind 2, will 4. (I see a pattern.)

Roaring, breathing fire, reading, rituals, making deals, hypnotic gaze, lying, aura of power.

Vulcanus seems very much a traditional dragon.

Hafnir

Body 1, mind 5, will 2. (Pattern broken.)

Skilled flyer, aura seeing and reading, smells emotions, perceptive, can talk to small animals, is believable, weather spirit.

Hafnir is inquisitive and a little careful or scared or mayhaps shy. Hafnir is also not very large.

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Here be (rules about) dragons

1 January, 2009 at 6:06 pm (Dragongame, game design) (, , )

I’ll be running the second iteration of a game in which players play dragons, the first ones after generations without any of their kind having graced the sky. The game is scheduled to start at during early January with the university group. The previous iteration of dragongame is the best game I did not GM well enough.

Of dragons in general

Player character dragons start as mere hatchlings, between one and half and two metres long, including tail. They are omnivorous creatures, though large quantities of meat are necessary for fast growth. Plenty of sleep is also useful for that purpose (it is also the excuse for absent players; the dragon they play just went sleeping or started a frenzy of hunting and feasting).

All (player character) dragons can fly. (A good rule of thumb: all characters can fly or none can, especially in a game where there will be insignificant amounts of exploration.) They are not particularly good at it, however, but see below on skills. They can somewhat swim and burrow with the efficiency and speed of an average dog. Dragons have keen sight, hearing and sense of smell. They can see in darkness. Their sense of touch is not particularly delicate due to scales. They are fanged and clawed.

Psychology is up to players, pretty much. Hoarding instinct is voluntary but recommended. Old dragons tend to be eccentric, but they also do not exist when the game is happening, so it does not matter very much.

Dragons can communicate with their own kind and with human-like beings via normal speech, assuming there exists a shared language. Dracons instinctively know their ancestral language, which humans are unable of speaking due to differences in physiology. Dragons are capable of reasoning in much the same way that humans are. Dragons can make use of magical rituals, much like anyone else who can find instructions for performing one.

Mechanical representation

Dragons have three stats; body, mind and will (keho, mieli ja tahto tai jotkut näiden synonyymit). To start with players divide around 8 points between these; minimum of 2 is recommended, but not enforced. Most humans have the equivalent of 2 or 3 per stat, with 4 and 1 being rare and 5 maximum. Dragons are not bound by such silly limitations.

The main function of stats is to signify how many skills and special abilities dragons have in each domain. Each odd rank (1, 3, 5, ..) in a given stat gives a single skill. Each even one (2, 4, 6, …) gives one special ability and accompanying visible manifestation (or audible, or keyed to some other sense).

In addition, attributes determine how adept characters are when compared to each other. A difference of no points means relative parity, of 1 point means edge, of 2 points means significant edge and of 3 or more points means overwhelming edge. (The character with higher stat reaping benefits of the difference, of course.)

Advancement will, I think, be something like one point per session with an extra point or two if necessary.

Resolution

A version of otherkind dice. What is the character trying to achieve, what two things are risked? Roll 3 dice. Assign one to success: 1-2 is failure, 3-4 is partial success or nothing happens, 5-6 is success. Assign two to the risks: 1-3 is bad stuff, 4-6 is averting the risk. The goal and the risks are made explicit before rolling. Ideally everyone gives ideas, but play will show.

There are also heritage tokens. They are actually fate/luck/plot/action points. You get one for playing well by some measure relevant around the table. This includes entertaining descriptions, good acting, deep character moments and clever solutions to problems. Other stuff, too.

If character has a skill relevant in a conflict, one heritage token can be expended to roll an extra die. This should be done after rolling. Player must explain how the character recalls something relevant or draws from the power of its ancestors. One token can be used to temporarily acquire the use of a particular skill. (Learning the skill when given the chance to do so is polite.)

One should note that stats and resolution are decoupled on mechanical level. They have an effect solely through the fiction; what one can attempt and what the risks are depend on stats, skills, special abilities and the conflict at hand.

Lists of skills and special abilities

I should write more extensive ones someday. The following are not exhaustive. Skills marked with star (*) require relevant in-game events before they can be taken.

Body skills

  • Burrow: This dragon can create tunnels, even a lair, in soft earth. Sand swimming: This is a separate skill that requires burrowing. The character can move as though swimming in loose sand and similar materials.
  • Fly: This dragon is particularly good flyer, to the extent of chasing and even catching birds in the air.
  • Kill: This dragon can kill any beast or man of reasonable size. Warfare*: This is a distinct skill that requires killing. This dragon can fight military formations on at least equal footing.
  • Roar: This dragon can emit a roar of greater volume than one would assume, given its size. It can be used for intimidation, large-distance communication or stunning small animals, small being a relative term.
  • Stalk: This dragon makes no more noise than a stalking cat does and always finds the best places to hide in.
  • Swim: This dragon can swim and dive as well as crocodiles.

Special abilities keyed to body

  • Breath weapon: This dragon can exhale flames, lightning, frost, acid, venom, or some other hostile substance or type of energy. Breath weapon may manifest as smoke emerging from the nostrils of an angry, or excited, dragon, or the dragon having inordinate static electricity, or by caustic spittle. The power of the breath is a function of body stat. Using a breath weapon makes the dragon awfully hungry, which makes the situation no better for those suffering its effects. Breath weapon that affects minds of targets also counts as a mind special ability. (E.g. sleep, confusion, rage.)
  • Chameleon: The dragon is of colour similar to its immediate surroundings and changes in colour as it moves around.
  • Regeneration: This dragon will heal all non-fatal wounds, up to and including lost body parts. Recovering from major wounds involves long periods of sleep. This dragon always looks healthy, its scales lightly shining and perfect in shape and colour.
  • Scales of iron: This dragon’s scales are harder than weapon of iron, bending and shattering any used against it. Body 5+ required. The scales will look special in some way.
  • Venom: This dragon has venomous bite, stinger, or maybe even claws. It can eat food killed by its poison. Poison glands are a typical sign.
  • Water breathing: The dragon can breathe underwater as in air. Swimming is a recommended skill. Webbed feet or even gills may be how this special ability manifests.

Mind skills

  • Extend awareness: This dragon can, by concentrating, simply know everything about its surroundings. This process takes about an hour per two metres of range. It relies on no normal senses, but is rather mystical in nature.
  • Literacy*: This dragon is capable or reading and even writing, though the natural shape of dragons is ill-suited for the latter activity.
  • Lore*: This dragon is very knowledgeable and competent within a certain field, such as flora and fauna, history of dragonkind or tracking.
  • Notice: This dragon notices almost everything stalking it, trying to hide from it, or generally concealed.
  • Read auras: This dragon can read what an aura reveals, assuming it can see the aura in the first place.
  • Sorcery: This dragon is particularly adept with arcane rituals, being able to analyse and modify them. Given suitable collection of arcane works, even developing new rituals is possible.
  • Teaching: This dragon can easily teach the willing on any subject they are capable of mastering and the dragon is skilled in.

Mind abilities

Unless otherwise mentioned, mind and will abilities often manifest as strange behaviour or odd-looking relevant sensory organs. Some abilities are associated with specific sensory organ, such as aura sight; these are examples only.

  • Far sight: This dragon can by concentration see places far away, known by having been there or by simple distance and direction.
  • Hear emotions: This dragon hears powerful emotions of entities close by, assuming such emotions are not being deliberately controlled or suppressed.
  • See auras: This dragon can see the auras of powerful entities; aura of a being is a function of the being’s will. The eyes of such a dragon often look otherworldly in some way.
  • Sense heat: This dragon can see heat, to the point of being able to act in complete and total darkness if there are differences in heat levels.
  • Speak with animals: This dragon can communicate with a given group of animals, such as fish, canines, spiders or little birds. Typically the dragon also behaves in a manner similar to the animals in question.
  • Speak with things: This dragon can communicate with objects of a given substance. For example, rock, plants, clouds and fog, rivers and lakes or fire and smoke. The knowledge such objects have is often peculiar and very limited.

Will skills

  • Deceit: This dragon is easily trusted and few think of questioning its words.
  • Disguise: This dragon can effortlessly act as entities in given position do, even if shapeshifted.
  • False patterns: This dragon can obscure its real thoughs and emotions, projecting what it wills on any that observe those.
  • Forceful: This dragon has very forceful personality and carries an aura of authority; lesser creatures are prone to doing as it commands.
  • Leadership: This dragon, willingly or not, attracts followers of various kinds.

Will abilities

  • Awe: This dragon inspires awe and worship among any that see it in its full glory.
  • Command substance: This dragon can bend a given substance to its will. Examples: Water, rock, clouds. Manifests as the dragon resembling the substance thus under control.
  • Domination: This dragon can control the minds of those who look deep into its eyes. The eyes look like swirling pools of molten metal, water, or other liquid substance.
  • Emanate: This dragon projects its feelings to nearby creatures; any strong emotions the dragon experiences are mirrored in lesser creatures around it.
  • Shapeshift: This dragon has a number of alternate shapes equal to the least of body, will or mind. Assuming a non-native shape takes minutes, returning to native shape mere seconds. This counts as a special ability of all three kinds. All shapes share some distinctive feature which knowledgeable observers can notice and use to identify the dragon.
  • Weather spirit: This dragon can manipulate weather by willing it to change, though the process is slow. In addition, the weather naturally follows the moods of this dragon; anger and storms, sorrow and rains, happiness and clear weather, confusion and fog.
  • Whispers: This dragon can implant ideas and actions on creatures not aware of its presence by mere whispers. The dragon’s voice is particularly compelling and soothing.
  • Wings of terror: This dragon inspires a strong instance of gives emotion on any who are under the shadow of its wings. Examples: Terror, sorrow, despair, joy, hope, madness, awe, obedience.

Design blather

The idea here is that most of the time, skills tell when characters succeed and abilities tell what they can try. If something is risky for a given character, then dice will be rolled.

I was considering some sort of mind reading ability, yet did not find a suitable way of implementing it. Maybe later, if some player is interested in such an ability.

Note that many of the abilities are powerful; players can very much shape the gameplay by taking relevant abilities and skills. I’ll try to shape my gamemastering to fit with whatever choices they make.

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