Online Playtest of Lavender Hack by Phil Lewis

Playtesting and Gaming via Google Docs and Zoom

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Cover image for “Lavender Hack: Tarantula Hawk Wasp Edition” by Phil Lewis. “A Grand Strategy Fantasy RPG. Rules for getting lost, going broke, losing friends, and making questionable assumptions about magic.”

Phil Lewis, the creator of Wrath of the Autarch, facilitated a Zoom and Google Docs based playtest session of Lavender Hack. In , I interviewed Phil about Wrath of the Autarch. Phil publishes under the Ziapelta Games.

Lavender Hack is heavily inspired by other games. The big influences are Whitehack, Black Hack, Macchiato Monsters, Fate Core, Dungeon Crawl Classics, Czege House Rules, Knave, Dreams of Adventure, The One Ring, Into the Odd, Sharp Swords and Sinister Spells, Ironsworn, Torchbearer, Dungeon World, Adventurer Conqueror King, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, and Old School Essentials.

We started with some pre-made characters. For ability scores, you roll 3d6 straight down. Imagine my surprise when I rolled an 18 for Wisdom followed two rolls later by rolling a 3 for Constitution.

Phil presented us with three options for play:

We opted to explore Hot Springs Island.

The Cast

The three players all made characters associated with the Academy of Eldritch Mystery.

Connor Fendelborn IV

Gnumph Family Endowed Chair of Potions, Tinctures, and Insoluble Reagents

Class
Wise
Ability Scores
STR* 10 (0)
DEX* 8 (-1)
WIS* 18 (+3)
INT* 13 (+1)
CON* 3 (-3)
CHA* 8 (-1)
1 HP*
Ambition
I must find the recipe for the potion of eternal health
Star Sign
Esoteric Fungus (poison, mold, caverns, disease)
Background
Potion Crafter
Equipment
Staff
Raiment of Starsilk (5)
Familiar
Pale Thom (poison dart frog)
Favored Element
Entropy
Spell
Astral Projection
Languages
Common
Hagspeech
Hirelings
Fo(u/w)l Harris (Hunter, HP 11, shortbow, shortsword)
Molly Watson (Laborer, HP 7, staff)
Elena Stone (Heavy Soldier, HP 21, chain armor, greatsword)
Olami

Guidance counselor for the particularly unruly

Class
Deft
Background
Diplomat
Star Sign
Honeyed Hearth
Ambition
Enroll Svarku in the Academy of Eldritch Mystery
Language
Common
Ogre
Fire-Speak
Hirelings
Twinkle-Toes Fenwell (Hunter, HP 15, Shortbow, Shortsword)
One-Arm Thren (Torchbearer, HP 9, Dagger)
Pestering Steve (Herbalist, HP 4, Dagger)
Edel Bom

Professor of Meteorites and Antimatter

Star Sign
Born under a Silent Siren
Ambition
Become a constellation (become stars in sky)
Background
Astronomer
Hirelings
Zach Robertson (Hunter, HP 12, shortbow, shortsword)
Carmen Osborne (Shieldbearer HP 27, chain armor, shield, shortsword)
John Blair (Laborer, HP 6, staff)
Equipment
Staff
Fine Inks
Sand Timers
Familiar
Rainbow Quokka
Language
Common
Lizardfolk

The Background

As part of the background building, we established that the characters set out to gather reagents and perform fieldwork.

They hired nine hirelings to assist in their expedition. They signed a contract with the Martell Shipping company for passage and transport. As is typical, contracts produced by the Martell Shipping contract have predatory terms.

All under the assumption that Connor Fendelborn IV had filed the appropriate reimbursement paperwork with the Academy of Eldritch Mystery. He had, in fact, not filed the necessary paperwork, and the characters were now on the hook to pay the shipping company and the hirelings.

As part of the Hot Springs Island, Phil said that we the characters had a copy of the in-game notebook: A Field Guide to Hot Springs Island.

Starting Off

With passage secured to the island, Phil called for a roll on the wind and weather chart. I rolled a 12: gale-force winds drove our ship to the ground. We rolled to see where we crashed. Looking at our in-game map, we had crashed near a village.

How fortunate!

As the characters trudged in search of the village, I—the player—started consulting the field guide for any information about the village. With the characters spotting what appeared to be a village, I—the player—had found the village entry.

And both in character and out of character, we bemoaned our fate. We had found and were found by a village of ogres. Crap!

Courting a Faction

We approached, and Phil called for a Creature Reactions test. We rolled a weak success; The ogres were uncertain.

We then set up to playtest the Court a Faction mini-game. We established the following goals:

  • We wanted the ogres to allow us to travel unhindered in their lands.
  • We wanted to learn about where he could harvest reagents.
  • We wanted to get supplies to repair our ship.
  • We wanted to avoid the ogre’s demanding that we surrender one of our hirelings for their ritual of transformation.

Working with the mini-game, we role-played an afternoon and evening courting the ogres. In the end, we had secured an agreement of unhindered passage through their lands, where we could harvest reagents, and avoided surrendering one of our own.

As part of the exchange, we narrated a miscommunication. The ogres heard that we promised to rid the island of the volcanic fire demon. That was not what we said, but in fiction, the ogre faction certainly thinks it.

Wrapping Up

As with all first sessions, we spent time rolling up our characters and establishing the starting fiction. We managed to playtest the Court a Faction mini-game and spent time providing feedback.

One thing I really liked was collaborating on a Google Document during play. We expanded our backgrounds, the NPCs* and even clarified our goals during the Court mini-game.

In a way, the Google Document was our grid map. We focused on it. I left feeling as though we had a richer experience because we generated this shared document.

We knew the names of our hirelings and even began sharing and building out their narrative. One-armed Thren, had two arms, though one was overly strong from always holding a torch. Molly Watson, a butch laborer who rolls up their sleeves and gets to work.

And then we have Fo(u/w)l Harris. He always talks in the third person. And our characters have never clarified how to spell his name. Is it because he’s got a foul mouth or has an affinity for poultry.

We’re going to continue our game next Friday. I’m looking forward to it.