Ropecon play report 3 – Frog-men, a giant snake and dark caves

18 August, 2008 at 10:19 pm (game mastering, persistent fantasy, Ropecon) (, , )

This game was played during Sunday. Thalin did not fit in, as there already were 6 players (note to self: next time, only five players; the sheer number of new characters is too much for me to handle with no preparation).

The updated characters and setting info can be found in the relevant page. (The list now has twelve unique players, including me. There have been a total of thirteen [again, including me] players, but one did not get on the list at all in this game. Or maybe used that name in play. I don’t remember.) The new characters are Darethos Freyar, Jackpo, Eerik, Thóren, Tobi, Vrael Derith (with a picture).

I made the mistake on not using any random elements. There were reasons for this, yet it was a mistake. Next time I’ll print a few set of random seeds and select one so as to provide inspiration and make character generation faster. As a consequence the characters look pretty much like a standard D&D adventuring party, which is not the aesthetic I am interested in.

Fiction

A bunch of random rogues and such, by request of Darethos Freyar, a knight of the church, protector of good, and (above all) destroyed of darkness, seeks to investigate certain ruins in the Swamp of immortals, due to rumours of treasure and evil cults. Thóren, a shaman of plainsmen, is heading for the same place in search of half an ancestral blade.

No proper roads go to the ruins. Darethos’s party, guided by a local hunter named Vrael Derith, meticulously move through the swamp, avoiding dangerous areas. Something human-shaped with a spear is once seen watching them, but nothing outright threatening.

Thóren the shaman is surrounded by a buzz of insects, frogs, birds and reptiles. He enters a trance (the process involves mushrooms)  and contacts a spirit of that particular part of the swamp, who manifests as a mound of moss and rock and mud, speaking of someone watching him and telling about the safe paths through the swamplands. Thóren also exchanges gifts with something; leaves some animal skins, gets a bronze knife with crude frog-like shape in the handle.

Freyar’s party notices the shaman, there is some communication by yelling, but the shaman does not join the paladin’s group. Sleep, then progress forward.

The defender of the faith and his merry band of adventurers are approaching one of the more woody parts of the swamp. Three arrows in rabid succession fly from the woods, hitting the ground a few meters from the adventurers. They wisely stop, someone tries negotiating while Jackpo the thief crawls and swims towards the woods.

Thóren notices a shape in a tree, wielding a bow, and Jackpo sneaking. Thóren also approaches the tree, as does Eerik (also a scoundrel). Darethos Freyar yells religiosly coloured threats and insults into the woods, getting an arrow to his foot as a reward. The one who was hiding in the tree is swiftly coming down. It is certainly a human or very close to one, but so covered in mud and dirt that further identification would require significant washing. As the creature comes down, arrows, knives and one club fly, seriously wounding and poisoning the archer. It is questioned to no effect, only indicating some interest in the knife held by Thóren, who attempts giving the knife to it, which is responded to by spitting at Thóren.

Jackpo slits the archer’s throat.

Some days after the ruins are reached. A fire burning there indicates human presence, which scouting confirms: A lone man, very short and heavily robed, is sitting besides the fire, completely oblivious of the killers in the shadow. A knife at the throat and some interrogation tell that the man is an alchemist willing to make a fair trade with his fares, assuming he is not slain outright. He is mistrusted and the intruders instead want to know if there is anything of value hereabouts, at which the robed dwarf (as in a human of short stature) points the way down with his abnormally long hand.

The bloodthirsty adventurers head down to what looks like a cellar. There’s some water on the floor and a dripping sound can be heard. It is dark. They are not likely to be eaten by a grue because they have improvised torches. A narrow tunnel leads forward. A giant snake, venom dripping from its teeth, lunges from the darkness ahead twice, to no great effect. It then retreats.

Next in the tunnel there is a larger space, something like a cross between a cellar and a natural cave. The snake is there, as are around 10 small frog-men, some armed with knives, a few even wearing ill-fitting helmets, and a blood-stained obsidian altar with two fires in both sides of it. A flurry of weapons hits the serpent as it attacks, slaying it. The frog-creatures dive into water-covered parts of the cave, still pitch-black except where fires or torches burn.

One of the frog-men jumps on the altar, visibly drops the bronze dagger it had and, with considerable difficulty, takes off the helmet. The player characters accept the evident gesture of peace. Frog-men, few first, but then increasing numbers, up to fifty, emerge from the water and croak and jump around, as if celebrating something. There is a broken shelf with random pieces of equipment on the far wall; Thóren finds half the blade he was looking for, and others pick a few odds and ends that seem useful. The frogs don’t care.

Jackpo and Darethos Freyar go back, as there is nothing further that would be of interest to them.

Of the others Vrael Derith discovers a tunnel through which at least some of the extra frogs came. He swims through it and finds himself in a cave of some sort. Making noise disturbs a remarkable amount of bats that live there, making them screech and twitter about. There is no light and no wall nearby. Vrael continues forward in the cave.

Others wait. Toben, the peddler who brought everyone together, continues waiting as Eerik and Thóren follow Vrael into the tunnel. The uncoordinated croaking and jumping of the frog-men is changing, becoming a dance or ritual of some sort.

In the actually dark cave, with water up to thighs or so, Vrael discovers a platform of some sort, around the fifth of a meter above water. Climbing on it he discovers that there are some round objects, around the size of fist, lying there. They are cold and hard, maybe stone. Dropping one makes noise (and fluttering bats) , but the item does not break. Vrael continues forward, again entering water. There is some beast ahead, as indicated by a “hrumph”, and growling as Vrael tries to move forward. He is thus gently guided back to the platform, after which the creature departs.

Eerik enters the dark cave and starts wandering towards sounds made by Vrael and the beast. Speaking to Vrael is futile due to the bats, easily excited by unexpected noise. Thóren likewise enters the cave, cue yelling and bats. The creature drops a carcass (of a beaver) near Vrael, who slowly starts backing off from the platform.

Tobi in the frog cave is the center of their ritual dance. He is offered insects, quickly denied, but he does accept the rat they give to him and cooks, then eats, it. The dance becomes more wild and fast. The frog that initiated the surrender offers a bronze knife, like the one Thóren has, to Tobi but pricks him before giving it to him. The frogs seem to be growing larger and their movements and shapes distorting. Tobi tries to yell, but only manages a croak. He has become one of the frog-men, their new king.

Vrael is in the water, Eerik gets on the platform, finds the fist-sized thing and breaks one. Bats. Vrael finds some sort of sandy beach and a heap of rotting organic material, mostly plants, lying on the beach. The beast attacks Eerik, who does not fare well. Thóren approaches. Long struggle ensues, Eerik taking several wounds, almost drowning and falling unconscious before Thóren gets there and slays the beast, cutting its throat with the half of a blade. The frogs made a few slashes and cuts at the hated beast that eats them when able to, and few of them were killed.

Vrael finds an egg in the heap of rot and promptly breaks it. He further discovers a way out of the cave, which everyone uses.

Observations

Pacing sucked. Start was too slow, the end was sudden. Two players had to leave early, which worked sufficiently well.

I have the following patterns: Eggs of monsters, arrows flying from nowhere as warnings, creatures that are not outright hostile unless provoked, which is usually easy. There are strange rituals and the sheer weirdness of everything tends to increase as time does, reaching a climax at some point.

I really enjoyed the fiction that was created, aside from the characters, who acted too much like a band of adventurers, or cold-blooded murderers, as they are also called. Individually they are good to mediocre, but in group, nah. Turning that one character into a froggish monster was the definite high point of the session, for me.

All the stats and so on are recorded in the persisten fantasy page, as far as I remember them correctly (two players wanted their character sheets, which I graciously allowed).

Assuming I don’t get too many good ideas before the next ‘con, it is likely that I will run two proper sessions of this game there. Less players, though.

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As the witch wills

12 February, 2008 at 10:12 pm (Burning vikings, Burning Wheel) (, , , )

This session was shorter than the previous ones due to wgaztari’s university stuff.

Transcipt

Game starts as everyone gets up, with a bit of retconning due to Mori first visiting Nässla and only then going to sleep.

I neglect to mention several rolls and both gains and expenditures of artha. They are a legion; artha is flowing as it should, dice get rolled often enough for my tastes. Thalin wants more. Maybe so.

Scene 1

Brunhildr and Halvard wake up. Brunhildr goes bathing in a nearby stream. I resist the urge to do the classical scene at this point, which might have been a mistake. I may get another opportunity. Anyway. After getting back she goes to get some food. ksym (plays Brunhildr) asks where Leif is. Of course he ust came in and is taking food at the same time as ksym is. Brunhildr very accidentally knocks his food to the floor (ksym gets fate artha for playing thug and moving the story forward). Leif is outraged. One of his soldiers challenges Brunhildr to a duel (this happy event involves  Brunhildr’s instinct to punch anyone who touches her without warning; she misses, having no brawling and soldier having some; this involved a roll). The soldier is pretty good at what he does: Relevant numbers are solid (black) fours, including stats and weapon skill. Not quite in league with Brunhildr, but still potentially deadly.

The duel was fought along more-or-less historically accurate model. I assume the “less”. A cloak was set on the ground. The one to first step off it, drop blood on it, be disarmed or dead loses the duel. In this particular case, this allowed using the rather elaborate Burning Wheel Fight! rules and disregard positioning, as both combatants preferred their weapons. I asked ksym if he wanted the long form combat; he did, though struggled a bit with it. When dueling, ksym quickly noticed how damn important armour is for survival and how frustrating it is to use a sword against an armoured opponent (the opponent used an axe and had lighter armour than Brunhildr). I once allowed ksym to probably save his character by expending a persona artha; this was a minor breach of the rules, I would handle it in a different way if the situation came back again. After a number of attacks clinging of armours and everyone noticing just how chaotic the combat system really is, Brunhildr managed a successful disarm. The opponent rolls steel due to losing a duel to mere woman and fails it. He stands and drools. Some witty banter and one attack on head that is handled by armour, Brunhildr gets a choice: She can slay the opponent then and there. It is clear that she did after having won. It breaks no rules but certainly will give her a fierce reputation. Result: Off with the head. Ksym gets fate and persona artha (IIRC, at least fate). A lot was used in the duel, too, so net effect on artha was probably mildly negative. This is one of the good gaming moments and I got to give ksym artha as a recognition.

Scene 2

Before the fight breaks out two important things happen. First: Halvard and Leif bet on the winner. Leif loses, gives Halvard a loan (one PC actually has a resources exponent to use again). Mori returns to the hall (catching the attention of two magpies due to failing a foraging roll; lame consequences), succeeds at inconspicuous (nobody pays significant attention to him). He flirts with Gilla and poisons the gobletful of mead (or something) that the winner of the duel is to drink. Nothing lethal, just something that will cause a mild fever for some days. ksym first intends to not drink it, but decides to go with it after I bribe him with a point of fate artha (slight breach of the rules, but stealing an idea from FATE/SotC is generally not a bad idea; worked fine this time).

This is an opposed test: Poisons versus health. Mori’s poisoning is successful with two successes over Brunhildr’s health test. I read this as giving -2D on everything for one day and -1D on the second. Both players agree. ksym burns a point of fate artha to open-end the one six rolled and reduces the effects of the disease to -1D for the next day due to mild fever. Both players are happy.

Pretty eventful morning, I must say. When Brunhildr gets back and talks to her daughter, it becomes clear (dice are rolled to find this out) that Mori was there and talked to her (about her seeing spirit or spirits, among other things). The poisoning is not discovered. All players know, of course. It’s fun.

Scene 3

Next in order: Gathering information. Halvard and Brunhildr have a cunning idea of setting up a trap for Nifur the giant. It involves finding a suitable place for ambush, which involves finding someone who knows the local area very well. This is a circles roll. Halvard gets Leif to help as it is for common good. Brunhildr also asks around. Helping dice are a powerful thing; success. Failure would have meant that the hunter who knows the area like his backyard just tragically lost his brother by Brunhildr’s arm. Failures complicate, not block. Too bad the roll was successful.

Halvard asks around for someone who knows about giants and gets directed to a witch who lives in a nearby spruce swamp with a nasty reputation. That’s Nässla. He, too, gets two magpies following him. Gets fate artha for throwing one with a rock; misses, though Nettle doesn’t really appreciate it, which probably did not show enough. Mori found out the magpies serve or report to Nässla.

Scene 4

Halvard knocks on Nässla’s door. Mori opens it. Situation is somewhat interesting. There is some subtle unhospitability on Mori’s part and lots of negotiating with the witch. Halvard wants to know about the giant; Nettle promises to tell where and how he can obtain a weapon suitable for slaying it, for a price. Namely; to bring Gilla there and make sure she remains there. This after Halvard didn’t want to give Nässla his strength.

A note on OOC talk: I explicitly asked players if they want a magical weapon in the game; wgaztari wasn’t particularly keen on magic in general, but okayd the sword, assuming it is not very flashy. Well, I can guarantee there will be no threat of that. Our senses of aesthetics seem to be quite compatible. Good.

Halvard further asks if Nokkonen knows about his father’s death. Answer is flat-out yes. Price: Halvard’s strength. Nässla does accept the strength of someone else, too (Leif is the most likely target right now). Halvard leaves, Nässla orders Mori to accompany him (and make sure Gilla really gets there).

Meanwhile: Brunhildr and some men start seeking a suitable place for ambush.

Notes and some minor spoilers

There is likely to be some retconning, namely: Did ksym order his men to keep Mori away from Gilla? Did she leave her armour to be repaired or take it with her?

There is a chance that Leif’s men will ambush Halvard on his way back. It would kind of fit, but would,on the other hand, be dramatically a bit unsuitable when thinking about the possibility that Leif is taken to Nässla and his men attack after that, which I would prefer. I have not decided yet. Time’s running.

There is a significant chance that Brunhildr and the others meet a giant. The giant. This for two reasons: First, if they fail a suitable roll, I can use Nifur as a consequence; second, other Brunhildr will be less active for significant time (one and a half sessions) and that is not good.

Gilla will not be too willing to meet the witch; if nothing else complicates the matters, she will see some aura on the magpies. I assume she will be taken to Nässla regardless.

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Reflections: Like umbrella

19 December, 2007 at 8:30 am (actual play) (, , , , )

Like umbrella was a game of new Mage GM’d by Thalin. Players were me, wgaztari and ksym (hopefully spelled right). I wrote some of the story down before getting bored. This post is mostly intended as a feedback for Thalin and a way for me to structure my thoughts to dig out more insights. Thalin may or may not write somethig related from his POV. Probably not, which is a great excuse for calling him lazy.

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Writing actual play reports

23 November, 2007 at 3:03 pm (actual play, roleplaying) (, )

There is a movement, spotlighted by the decision to close Forge theory forums, which says that theory should always spring from actual play. There is a stronger form, too: All theory discussion should be in context of AP, being tied to a specific instance.

I tried writing useful AP posts. It didn’t work out well, for a few reasons. First: It feels like work. I don’t want to make my hobby work. Second: The reports have the tendency to degenerate into story hours. After writing that, I am too weary to write down anything insightful.

They do have a use: They help in remembering what actually happened in the game. A permanent record is always a good thing. It just is not worth the trouble, to me.

Hence, writing those posts will be rare. I may do it, when it feels useful. Not that often, I fear.

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