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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