Final (seventh) session of the dragongame

4 March, 2009 at 6:42 pm (actual play, Dragongame)

Again, everyone present, as is proper.

Play

Negotiation between the elves and the lizardfolk, with dragons also participating. Of lizardfolk the leader of the plains-dweller, called Garithyx, is quite ready and willing to slay the puny elves; others are not as eager, and neither are dragons (except Zaphádoranon). Garithyx and almost of its warriors are in full war-paint, with red and white markings on their bodies and faces.

Elves arrive at the meeting place; they have roughly hundred warriors who stay farther, and three figures of some value who, accompanied by two bodyguards, come close. Of lizardfolk there is each leader present and a single guard or other cohort for support. And there are the dragons.

There is an honest attempt at negotiation, but one of the elves starts softly singing, working some magic as observed by Hafnir, and Vulcanus responds by his own draconic singing. Everyone is tense and negotiations really do not work out. The elf actually has more powerful magic than Vulcanus, which is a feat in and of itself, but it comes to little as the dragons resist the consciousness-shattering arcane forces, as do almost all of the lizardfolk army. Then there is war. The elven negotiators and their guards are quickly slain and sheets of icy formed by Isla’s breath and ice manipulation make arrows useless. A melee ensues with many dead on both sides and that particular elven army defeated. The other one destroys the village of plains-dwelling lizarfolk and there are griffons that assault the island. Dragons take a portion of the army to retrieve those on the island (freesing one gryphon drives the others away). Finally everyone is in the caves. There is a brief siege but then the elven forces are noted as wanting and the lizardfolk break out. Elves retreat to their island.

All is well, until the large elven invasion fleet arrives, but that is another game at another time.

Post mortem

I am reasonably happy with this game. I had one notable goal besides the obvious (a good game): To train game mastering for characters that have varied and powerful senses. I’d call this a mediocre success in that I only once forgot one of them, but they were not very prominent during the latest third of the game.

I did not succeed at using the rules properly. This can be explained by two factors: The conflicts were zoomed in too much for this resolution system to work and I had too fixed notions of how everything works to leave it to dice. I think I’ll leave more to dice in the mage game, just to practice running a game with heavy emphasis on dice results.

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Dragongame, sixth session

23 February, 2009 at 10:36 am (actual play, Dragongame)

Session n-1, everyone present.

Play

Planning, idling, then on to the forest near the forthcoming elven tower. Vulcanus persuades (hypnotises) a small bird to act as his spy, forming a mind link to said bird so as to see through its eyes. After some complications it arrives to the desired location. There tower is somewhat taller, some wall of stones is being built in the usual way and there are three members lizardfolk also working, under watch but not maltreated. Some elf begins chirping at the birdie and Vulcanus leaves it.

Zaphádoranon takes the shape of an elf (without clothes) and some plans are as to how it would be best to approach the elves, who are now patrolling the forest. No decision is reached and the dragons decide to wait until night-time, as a squirrel told them that the griffons sleep in certain trees at night. At evening Hafnir notes that some magical pulse is being emitted from the upcoming elven tower, and that the auras of the dragons are responding to it. Not much later there are elves running at them from the forest and griffons circling above. Arrows are fired, Isla swoops back to threaten the elves, who jump to the ground at her icy breath, after which Isla quickly flies away, but not before an arrow hits her.

The others help Isla to the mountainfolk’s lair, wherein she is cared for, including a healing ritual or two. One of the rituals requires spring water, and the lizardman previously slighted who claimed to be called Blosk offers to do this, but the offer is quickly denied. Few bite wounds later the arrow is in Isla no more. The lizardfolk prepare for war, and drums are used to communicate this further.

The next day there are griffons flying above the valley where the dragons like to fly around; one of them is ridden by an elf. The lizardfolk are preparing for war. Elves are marching and souding horns. After the dragons show themselves (by peaking from a cave entrance) the gryphon-rider approaches. Zaphádoranon’s newly developed language skills show their worth, as soon enough it is clear that the elf wants to negotiate. A neutral ground is found and the elf even dismisses some of its gryphons so that the dragons come near. The elf rambles some nonsense about the world being once whole and now shredded and that the elves want to make certain a similar catastrophe won’t happen again by taking control of other peoples. All things considered, the elf seems a little off-kilter. There is posturing by both parties and eventually an agreement is reached: That the leaders of the lizardfolk and the dragons and the local elven leaders would meet and negotiate.

That done, word is taken to the three lizardfolk tribes and even to the dragon-that-is-a-hill, though anger is the only response therefrom, even after Vulcanus sang to it of dragons and their glory.

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Dragongame, session five

15 February, 2009 at 5:55 pm (actual play, Dragongame) (, )

Players as before. There will be two sessions played after this one, assuming nothing changes.

Play

Sleeping and eating done, the dragons go to meet the mountain-dwelling tribe. While entering the settlement proper they meet a gang of of lizardfolk who ask the dragons to follow. Dragons are loathe to cause trouble so they oblige. To trash pit they are taken and demanded to clean it. Though Zaphádoranon snorts in derision, others get to work, which is fairly easy with judicious applications of small-scale wind manipulation, fiery and icy breaths. The gang seems disappointed whereas they were snickering a moment ago. Hafnir hears something akin to chanting and goes on to investigate: A youngish group of lizardfolk notice him and for direction to the others. Once there, they kneel and ask of the sins they did to deserve their eggs being frozen, and of the actions they should take to prevent such disasters in the future. The other group is very hostile to entire idea, as is Isla (who prevents Zape from saying much). The other group is, in fact, hostile enough to ready their spears, though they do not dare attack the dragons. Isla tells the kneeling group to be happy and multiply, which the youngish lizardfolk are fairly certain to approve of, as far as cultish behaviour is concerned. The younglings leave and Zape confronts the other group, which quickly departs as they clearly had no authority to boss the dragons around as they did. Their leader is clearly demoralised by this event and the more followery types scurried away a bit earlier than their leader did.

Zar, the leader of the mountainfolk, was impatiently waiting for the dragons. It soon became clear that cleaning the trash pit was not something the dragons were supposed to be doing and the perpetrator would be duly punished. Dragons are assigned the worthy mission of finding out what the strangers to southeast are about, preferably without starting a war.

The strangers are already have a well-established city on an island, and are constructing something on the mainland, too. To find out more the Zape is to take on the form of a griffon, as some of those seem to be guarding the cities of the strangers. Griffons are larger than the hatchling dragons, so plenty of food is required. A herd of gazelles is driven into a chasm and then eaten, most by Zaphádoranon who then changes shape and eats whatever the others did not. A suitable mountain wherein some cover and a good view are possible is selected and Hafnir and Vulcanus wait there while Zape flies towards the gryphons circling the mainland settlement. Isla creeps along in forest; an activity greatly aided by her scales taking on the colours of her surroundings.

Though Zape looks like a griffon and sounds like them, he has little idea of their language, such as it is. Few attempts at communication prove unsuccessful and he flies away to ponder on the experience. Isla, meanwhile, hears the griffons but decides to go on. He encounters one of the strangers; a guard in silvery metal armour with a sword and a horn at belt and bow in hand, as though it had heard something. As elves are the strangers known. Isla waits until the guard calms down and then freezes it. Sneaking closer Isla finds that the elves are cutting down forest and constructing a tower of marble by forming a circle and chanting at it. Isla leaves. Soon enough two gryphons start circling the area, as if alerted by something. The dragons quickly leave to inform Zar of what they found out.

Zar is busy, so especially Hafnir investigates scrolls present in the common room of the mountainfolk leader. There’s info on local flora and fauna and rumours about wild elves to the north but little factual information, other than that they were territorial (the lore is more than two hundred years old and may not be exactly reliable anymore). More interesting, the treasure hoard of Thunan is somewhere nearby as is a magical divination tool that looks like a stone tablet and a tower that is very rarely visible. The exact locations of all are unknown. Some ritual scrolls are also there, including one for attracting animals by using a large amount of their food and one for summoning winds by blowing a special feather to air.

Zar and the the lizardman who made the dragons clean the trash emerg from Zar’s chambers. One is clearly hostile to the dragons, though does not have the guts to do anything then and there (or is too smart to do so). Information is shared, Zar tells that a few of their people who watched the intruders have disappeared and informs that he has a scroll that might be helpful in communicating with the gryphons, but nothing immediate comes out of it.

Dragons eat (trying the animal attraction ritual, which works as assumed) and those who did not sleep in the scroll chamber do so now. Some further plotting as to how approach the elves is done.

Notes

Two sessions to go, which is a bit less than I expected or that would be ideal, but such is life. The climax is likely to be either awakening a dragon, should the players figure out a way to do it (I don’t know how they might succeed, but there’s four of them and one of me, so they have a distinct edge at figuring out solutions to problems), or as is more likely resolving the elven issue in some way.

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Dragongame, session four

9 February, 2009 at 6:47 pm (actual play, Dragongame) (, )

The dragons wait for the night the rulers of lizardfolk gather to pronounce judgement. A flight of gryphons heads southeast, flying over the valley. Nothing else of importance is done.

The gathering happens on the altar island, known for a large square-shaped slab of black stone dominating it. All three clans of lizardfolk take one side of the square, the dragons taking the last side. The plainsdwellers keep their word, having sworn obedience. The mountainfolk demand that the dragons give one day in three to serving them, for the rest of the dragons’ lives. They agree. There are other issues discussed, including poison from upriver and some strange folk building crystal towers not far.

The dragons have two days before servitude. They decide to spend the time dealing with the incident of poisonous water, hopefully to aid the lizardfolk so as to appease them. A swamp and therein a putrid pool of water with only rotting moss surrounding it is found. Some gentle attempts at waking something living therein follow and five snake heads emerge. Their necks have radius in the ballbark of ten centimeters, though one is much smaller. They like their living in the swamp, came from among the mountains since there was no food there, and are quite poisonous. They agree to move if provided plenty of meat in their destination.

Vulcanus goes scouting for more swamplands, Isla starts freezing some nearby smaller ponds, Zaphádoranon hunts, Hafnir summons clouds to rain snow upon the area. Vulcanus does find swamplands, though fairly far away, and there is some mysterious slightly pulsing and slowly growing mass of whitish meat there. In his flight Vulcanus also sees a mountain that is as if cut by knife, surrounded by a perpetual storm, but explores no further. Meanwhile the others convince the snakes that winter is coming; the hydra, as it reveals itself to be, rises out from its pond to consult Thunan or Thunadrankhor or Thunatriink or whatever. It ponderously walks with short, tubby legs, moving towards the mountains. It gone, the others meticulously do more freezing (and hunting).

Vulcanus returns, as does the hydra. Isla and Hafnir have frozen the swamp fairly badly so that persuading the hydra to relocate is not difficult (it told Thunan was asleep, so no help there with regards to the winter). Isla informs lizardfolk of the hydra on the move and begs Zar of mountainfolk some extra time, to be paid with extra service as soon as possible. Hafnir remains to feast after the laborious weather altering while the others escort the hydra, which is a fairly capable swimmer, though awfully lazy and nastily poisonous. One can follow it by spotting dead fish rising to the surface. Hafnir notes that there is an island with fancy buildings and that a griffon or two patrol above it. One has strangely powerful and inappropriate aura. Then Hafnir seeks the others.

The hydra is satisfied with its new swamp and has forgotten about the meat, though Zape does deliver some, at which the hydra is grateful and the oldest hydra head tells the dragons to wake Thunan up. They first eat and are about to enter the home of the mountainfolk and meet the cult of Isla, of which more can be told in the next session report.

Notes

Slaying the hydra would have been trivial, given it can do little to airborne dragons with breath weapons. Maybe the hydra had some tie to Thunandriaikhor? The dragons are up to three days of servitude for the mountainfolk and there will be consequences to the frozen eggs. Isla has leadership, which gives means that there will be folk worshipping her. Some may be just a bit hostile, though. We’ll see.

The blob of meat and the stormy mountain are just random detail, which have a point and purpose of a sort, should they be investigated by the player characters. Or they can just be ignored. Either way is fine. Sandboxy.

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Dragongame, session three

2 February, 2009 at 6:00 pm (actual play, Dragongame) (, , )

Players: As before. No absences thus far.

Game started in the the island where a particular tribe of lizardfolk lives. Vulcanus meets a blind shaman and gets instructions for building an amulet that provides protection for birds and their kin and then carries on them (feathers from birds of three species; once done, the heartblood of a bird). The others interact a bit more with the island lizardfolk. It is discovered that Hafnir forgets his hostility as easily as becomes sulky. (Hafnir’s idea of building a large bird cage for capturing the aforementioned birds was soundly crushed.)

Isla goes scouting and discovers what might be a sleeping, or dead, dragon. Further research confirms this. First attempts of waking it are unsuccessful and attract the attention of a largish bird of prey. Once Isla reports of these incidents others decide to awake and dig out the dragon, though Zaphádoranon complains, as his desire to conquer liberate the cave-dwelling lizardfolk is strong.

Once everyone is near the dragon, the size of a hill and buried under one, with trees growing on it, it becomes clear that it indeed is a dragon. It has a powerful aura that is somehow turned inwards. Digging ensues and within few hours a scale is revealed. It is dark greenish brown in colour. The dragon is evidently capable of rudimentary communication via feelings, but even Vulcanus’ formidable roar does little to awaken it. Three griffons, one clearly larger, do circle the area for some time while the dragons hide under trees (luxury of being small).

Some hunting, and an oath of loyalty from plains-dwelling lizard-tribe commence. That out of the way, the Plan takes place.

The four dragons get close to the relevant mountain. Zaphádoranon changes shape, adopting that of a lizardman, and pretends to be a king from far away. This is aided by the three dragons being his servants, and one his mount (Isla has that honour). Audience with the ruler of the mountain folk is demanded and granted. The creature is large, fat, ugly, scaleless with uneven body hair, roughly humanoid in shape, and lives in the egg chamber of the mountain folk. The entreé of the dragons is suitably impressive. Zap is as arrogant as the monsters, so things quickly devolve to the creature grabbing a huge stone club and trying to smash Zap (and Isla) with it, with little success. It then threatens to smash the eggs unless the dragons and their lizardman leader behave. Isla responds with an icy breath, Zape by changing shape, Hafnir by wimpering in a corner and Vulcanus by roaring for aid.

A frozen monstrous despot. Many frozen eggs. The monster falls on the eggs. Lots of smashed eggs and shells thereof. Few almost born lizard-things, dead and shattered.

Zaphádoranon tries to figure out a way out of the mess. The others want to surrender, as is soon done. The dragons make a blood oath to come to the meeting of the lizardfolk leaders to be judged. They depart, though many do mutter angrily.

Notes and commentary

This is exactly why I love letting the dice fall where they may. I would not have forced this on player characters. The game took a distinctly dark turn, completely out of blue. This is why gaming is good.

There arenon-trivial analogies to certain countries liberating others, for various reasons.

The endgame is among my best roleplaying moments. I am happy. No matter what happens, I am happy with this game.

My concerns with Zap’s players were unfounded; he is doing well enough, as are all the others.

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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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Dragons, then humans.

7 September, 2008 at 9:21 am (Dragongame)

More on my D&D fantasy setting. “D&D fantasy” as a genre, not system. No elves this time. Dragons there are, though, but not till the end.

Age of dragons

In the ages past there were dragons ruling the land (and the sky and the sea and presumably everything else). Little could humans do to them; the mere presence of a dragon was sufficient to make those weak of will to serve them and do as they willed. Very few could resist an order.

Dragons treated humans as pets or slaves or food, depending on the individual. A few actually befriended a human or two, who would thereby gained great power and influence.

During what is now known as year two before the age of humans a shaman, known as Tirae, claimed he would oppose and overthrow the dragons. Some followers she gained, but most ignored her and some hunted her. Regardless she managed to gather roughly hundred followers, around twenty of whom were shamans or wizards.

The small group, forged into a tribe in their challenges, performed a ritual according to Tirae’s directions. They did manage to reach a powerful spirit and struck a deal: They would venerate and worship the entity and it would help in slaying and driving away the hated serpents. The sky was filled with eagles and gryphons and rocs an unnamed flying creatures, bird-like. They savagely attacked the dragons and with help of the various human tribes, many of whom suddenly found strength to defy the dragons, killed many and forced many more to escape wounded. Many of the dragons were spell-bound or delirious or merely savage beasts, in stark contrast to their normal might.

Easy the victory was not; many warriors were dead and the ground was littered with corpses of birds, many of which had never been seen in the region, and would never be seen again. Three of the most powerful dragons, one who was the storms that struck the region, one who was the feared sea serpent, swallowing those who wandered too far from the shores, and the last one burrowing deep underground, causing violent earthquakes, cursed the tribe of Tirae for its insolence; every year the first three children would be born with the scaly complexion of dragons, and woe to any who would harm the dragonspawn (the shamans later consulted several spirits and are convinced that harming the spawn is indeed a bad idea). Of the blood and bones of the three dragons were three seals made. Their locations were a closely guarded secret and thus has remained.

The avians went their ways, some to live in the region, others to live elsewhere. Dragons were gone. For some time the tribes made preparations for their return, but it did not happen. The tribe of Tirae did no such thing, instead seizing power and forging alliances with nearby tribes. With dragons gone humans would have to govern themselves. This role the people of Tirae quickly adopted. They and a total of six other, larger,  tribes formed a kingdom, the first of humans. This was the first year of the age of humans.

Age of humans

Soon enough Tirae, as the kingdom was known, had extended to what space it had; there was a range of mountains to south, badlands and desert to north, sea to the west, and hostile tribes to east, not easily driven away from their native lands with hills and mountains and many an opportunity for ambush, but only little water and game. Some tribes north were also hostile, but rarely did they brave the desert to pillage and kill.

Forests were cut down for farmland and to work metal. Wood became a rarity. To the north, across the badlands, there was a forest known as Thaleth, but all who approached were first warned to not come closer, then brutally slaughtered, should they not take the hint. Elves lived there and their forest was sacred, humans not fit to live there. The mountains to south were difficult to scale, but there were lush forests beyond.

Today

Today it is year 243. Tirae has not grabbed any more area, but tentative peace with the eastern barbarians has been made. Two wars against the elves were expensive, yet futile. Iron is being forged into blades and armours of greater strength than before. A somewhat safe passage to the southern lands has been discovered and garrisoned, as strange monsters live in the forests. Occasionally a warband is sent to the forest, where trees are quickly cut and then warriors return. Often these expeditions are successful. They provide enough wood for forges to burn hot and bright. Three ships have also been built, but one turned to piracy and now preys upon coastal settlements, the other two hunting it and keeping it away when possible.

Tirae the shaman-queen has died of old age, but her descendants sit on the throne built of dragonbone and wood (the two expensive materials only rich can afford), located in the city of Tirae, the capital of the kingdom. Every year three scaly monsters are born; the shamans find them and they are educated in the great stone fortress that is the central feature of the city of Tirae. Deep in a dark dungeon this happens. At the age of nine they are taken away to the southern garrison and banished from the realm. Any that return are killed.

There is a small cult, some say consisting of 27 true members and half a dozen people sympathetic to it, that want the dragons to come back. Their ancestors were, some say, friends of some powerful dragons. Others say they are just disgruntled at the current rulership. Some say their children were born lizardfolk and taken away from them, making them bitter. Whatever the reason, the cultists are widely hunted and little liked.

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Here be elves

30 August, 2008 at 9:34 am (Dragongame) (, , , )

I used to run a game that started as D&D and later was converted to a homebrew system. Dragon player characters were in a prominent role. The game kinda died, and I take full responsibility for it.

The setting had some interesting points (and several outright flaws). In this post I will describe the creation myth of my revised version (a friend is doing another, vastly different, revised version). There are elves in it and it is seen from their perspective. It is traditional D&D fantasy. This is your unique chance to stop reading.

There has been one previous article related to this setting: Body dreaming about a mind. Something like that.

Read the rest of this entry »

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