Burning Sanctuary – Session 1

We met for our second session of Burning Sanctuary. Some of the players had not completed their beliefs. So we spent some time finalizing both characters and a bit of the world. This took about an hour of our 3.5 hour session.

Preparation

Without knowing the players starting beliefs and instincts I wasn’t able to plan as much as I had hoped.

There was Shrewsbury Abbey (and clergy). One of the players provided beliefs related to smuggling something out of the Abbey.

I focused on writing various impressions and bits of scenery for Shrewsbury Abbey:

  • Stooped monks harvesting squash and onions
  • Moans of the injured
  • Dripping water as bloodied clothes are wrung out over a bowl
  • Chanting prayers as tallow candles crackle and flicker
  • Hushed conversations in stone halls
  • Wretched poor seeking alms
  • Unarmed soldiers walking idling about
  • Cool stones in open air passages
  • A small girl asleep under an ancient oak
  • A bell tolling

I used the above to add color to the environs. It provided a means for tredding water as we felt out the scope of the game.

Character Burning

What follows are a list of beliefs; not precise as they were workshopped during the session, but instead the notes and recollections that I’m working from.

  • Aneúpin [Nye for short] (Welsh Scout):
    • B1: Wants solitude and to get back to the wilderness
    • B2: Needs to get possessions back so I can be self-sufficient
    • I1: Always looking for new cooking ingredients
    • I2: Always fall to the back of the group.
    • I3: Always watch the nobility out of the corner of my eye.
  • Raimund (Anglo-Norman Smuggler):
    • B1: William was supposed to supply an artifact to me as part of the deal, but it’s sealed away at Shrewsbury Abbey. I’m to meet his contact there, obtain the artifact, and deliver it to Ranulf.
    • B2: I need help to escort me back to Chester.
    • B3: I will advance my status and wealth to return my family to the peerage
    • I1: While at ports, large markets, or trade fairs, always chitchat with fellow merchants and look over their wares. Prioritize the exotic and foreign.
    • I2: Never pass by a rare or exotic good without inspecting it.
    • I3: Always carry a packet of herbs to ward off the disease-ridden miasma.
  • Old Travis (Anglo-Norman Elder):
    • B1: Find the family of Clovis FitzTravis, my son.
    • B2: I want to be known for my writings, but I must learn to compose. So I will study the manuscripts of the abbey.
    • I1: When prattling on about travels always be assessing my surroundings.
    • I2: Always take an afternoon nap.
    • I3: Always work patiently when mending
  • Edmund Thatcher (Anglo-Saxon Doctor):
    • B1: I will get my sister (Adwyn) out from the control of Robert of Gloucester. I will take her to Chester and seek an audience with Earl Ranulf. (wants to improve her station)
    • B2: I have an academic interest in these relics, I know someone wants them I’m going to find out who.
    • I1: Always provide medical attention to the injured

Procedures

I’m adopting the procedure of having the players go around the table reading their Beliefs, Instincts, and Traits. It is a helpful reminder for everyone since each players BITs drives the Artha awards.

In this session we went around once to flesh out the beliefs. We then went around again to restate the more “formalized” beliefs. It was a collaboration.

World Burning

Mixing throughout character burning was some world burning. We fleshed out the primary deity and the details of the relics.

Shirat, the Illuminating Eye

Instead of using a “vanilla” Christian God, we came up Shira, the Illuminating Eye. The “Catholic” church venerates her.

  • Sun
  • Water
  • Time
  • Knowledge
  • Labor
  • Forethought
  • Augury
  • Law
  • Written Word

Relic Smuggling

We discussed that Raimund is smuggling relics to Ranulf. The players know that these relics are Fey related. They are also being positioned along ley lines. The characters know none of this.

The Session Proper

We spent much of the session getting the characters into a common orbit.

  • Edmund Thatcher became a local celebrity through his miraculous healing of one of Robert Gloucester’s men (Roger FitzWallace).
  • Travis spent time fixing up the Abbey, always conspiring to gain access to the scriptorium and its books. He learned that Brother George had a key to the storeroom.
  • Nye focused on gaining his equipment; Things went awry when he sought the help of several fellow Welsh men.
  • Raimund was busy tracking down his contact and laying out an initial plan to smuggle out some “holy” bones.

The session drew to a close when they all noticed the Welsh men carrying out a corpse of one of the priests (Brother George). The church bell rang, raising the alarm; The abbey awoke; In the general chaos Raimund and Nye begun forming an alliance.

NPCs

The NPCs introduced throughout the session:

  • Gwyir – a Welsh traveler and spokes person for 3 other Welsh men. They have sought an evening respite at Shrewsbury Abbey; They are not wealthy. They came with a wagon of wool.
  • Abbot Gerald (Vicious and Precise) – Abbot of Shrewsbury
  • Brother Michael – contact for Raimund
  • Brother George – oversees the storeroom.
  • Brother Ferand – tends the kitchen
  • Brother Albert – an elderly monk with one eye blind from cataracts

Tests

  • Faith (Ob 4) for Edmund Thatcher:
    • Task: Seek guidance for the surgery to come
    • Intent: Gain guidance
    • Consequence: Brother Albert, the chatty old, will mark you a blasphemer.
    • Result: Success. A glowing nimbus and a bead of sweat forms on Edmund Thatcher’s brow.
  • Surgery (Ob 4) for Edmund Thatcher:
    • Task: Stitch up this severe wound
    • Intent: Get him healthy and on the road to recovery and even ingratiate himself to Earl of Gloucester.
    • Consequence: He’s a bannerman of Gloucester and Gloucester will find out about it.
    • Side note: The player rolled 3 successes. But one of them was a 6 and was the dice from astrology. With the open-ended dice, they got the 4 successes.
    • Result: The bannerman is on the road to recovery. And Brother Albert is extolling the virtues of a miracle.
  • Persuasion (Ob 5) for Travis:
    • Task: Persuade the abbot that this place is falling apart and you can help clean it up.
    • Intention: Ingratiate himself with the abbot so he can gain access to the books
    • Consequence: You draw the ire of the Abbot and he assigns someone to watch over you.
    • Result: Failure
  • Stealth (Ob 2) for Raimund linked into Inconspicuous:
    • Task: Moving through the abbey without being seen
    • Intention: To observe each monk.
    • Consequence: You draw unwanted attention as it is clear you are singling someone out.
    • Result: Success, one over OB, so the linked test gets +1D.
  • Inconspicuous (Ob 2 linked from Stealth) for Raimund:
    • Task: Mingling without drawing attention
    • Intention: To find Brother Michael without drawing attention.
    • Consequence: You are unable to find the brother as he is out-of-town. This one was weak. I was thinking perhaps a Circles test.
    • Result: Success. Raimund finds Brother Michael.
    • Side note: I really should’ve called for an Inconspicuous test then an Observation test.
  • Scavenging (Ob 3) for Nye:
    • Task: Find something that could be used to pick a lock.
    • Intention: With a tool in hand, he’d pick the lock to get into the store-room.
    • Consequence: you draw unwanted attention. Opted not to test.
    • Result: The player stepped away from the test.
    • Side note: With the Ob set, the player backed down. Instead going towards Rumor-wise
  • Rumor-wise (Ob 2) for Nye:
    • Task: Poke around a bit regarding these Welsh men’s mode of operation storeroom
    • Intention: I want them to help me bust into the store-room
    • Consequence: These Welshmen are very bad news; burn down the Abbey, mass murder.
    • Result: Success. These Welshmen are ready to help.
  • Mending (Ob 3) for Travis: I’m drawing a blank on this one, but I believe it was along the lines of you aggravate Brother Michael and he assumes you are stalling.
    • Result: Success. Travis has begun ingratiating himself with Brother Michael.
  • Inconspicuous (Ob 2) for Raimund:
    • Task: Pull Brother Michael aside to talk
    • Intention: Determine what and where the relics are that Raimund needs to smuggle out
    • Consequence: You are deep in conspiring and someone stumbles upon you.
    • Result: Success. The players.
  • Persuasion (Ob 3 untrained, so Ob 6) for Nye:
    • Task: Convince the Welsh men that there are valuables in the
    • Intention: Get them to help me bust into the store-room
    • Consequence: They’ll help but its going to escalate into the abduction/murder of a priest. abduct/kill a priest.
    • Result: Failure (untrained got 5 successes).
  • Observation (Ob 3) for all:
    • Task: Looking into the evening.
    • Intent: See if they spot the people leaving through the sally port.
    • Consequence: You don’t see the events transpiring in the courtyard.
    • Result: The players see four men carrying the body of another.
    • Side Note: I wasn’t sure how to proceed. The party was not coordinated in their effort. So I called for individual tests.

Closing Scenes

Abbot Gerald (Vicious and Precise) insinuates the Edmund Thatcher’s miracles could draw pilgrims to Shrewsbury and bolster their coffers. The Abbot wants to talk with Edmund in his chambers.

Nye and Arnolt have their first conversation. Arnolt offers cash to Nye if he will help get some relics to Chester. The beginnings of a plan take shape. We end the session.

Precedence

I am keeping a running log of what we establish via Wises and Duel of Wits. Both resolutions are manifestations of the Let it Ride principle.

  • The Four Clovers are a band of Welsh rebels; They despise the English. They are destabilizing England. (via Rumor-wise)
  • The relics are three leg bones from the Abbey crypt. These bones are in a prominent spot.
  • At temples of Shirat, at least one brother or sister maintains a nighttime vigil for Shirat’s return.

Observations

I also like to reflect on the sessions that I’ve run. I have personal notes for where to go with the next session; But I’m not going to publish those at the moment.

Task and Intent

I was insistent on players providing both Task and Intent. In doing so, we were able to map tests to beliefs. This made the end of session Artha awards smooth and meaningful. The wrap up discussion concerning Artha award categories was helpful for me; We were generous in interpretation. It also felt like we ended on the same page.

An interesting note, no one earned Artha for character traits. There are a lot of parts, and I believe those traits are something that is hard to pay attention to in the first session.

Once we completed the session wrap-up, the players saw some of the reward cycle. They now have greater clarity on how to write their beliefs. They can also focus their beliefs to the immediate situation.

An interesting observation is that I think User Stories (from Agile software development) are an excellent template for writing beliefs. They have the following form:

As a ____, I will ____, so that ____.

Odd Getting Started

The players are not well aligned; I believe this is a failing on my part. The initial situation (everyone has declared sanctuary) doesn’t have enough teeth to join them. I also didn’t lead them through group creation.

I’m not worried about keeping the characters together, but hope to nurse the aligning of goals.

Then again, it’s a first session. Everyone is feeling out their characters and intentions. I imagine the next session will move better.

Burning Sanctuary – Session 0

We gathered with an initial situation in mind. A civil war is ramping up and the characters have each declared sanctuary at an abbey.

We had a new composition of players, some that have never played together. There was a bit of back and forth on characters to play. Lots of noodling on the mechanics.

The session was very low-key, toddlers romping around, eager to play and see what the grownups were doing.

We ran out of time to dive into beliefs and instincts; But things were drawing close. The character lifepaths ended as:

  • Scout < Conscript < Hunter < Village born
  • Doctor < Student < Temple Acolyte < Noble born
  • Smuggler < Merchant < Shopkeeper < Village born (at least from memory)
  • Elder < Thinker < Student Tinkerer < City born

Two of the players leveraged the online Character Burner to assist in the character process.

At this point, my understanding of the character backstories are:

  • The elder is from a village neighboring Shrewsbury, and was outspoken against King Stephen and the siege.
  • The scout just learned that sanctuary was an option and deserted.
  • The doctor worked in the city of Shrewsbury.
  • The smuggler, likely Welsh, is a trade magnate.

Only one of the characters is “combat” savvy. It is the Scout; The one with the character trait “Flee from Battle” and an instinct to always be in the back rank.

Observation

People were quick to dive into the book and think about building their character. It was a much more personal affair. I did not feel like I was facilitating the collaboration for character creation. In the future, I think having further constraints will help bring focus to the character creation.

I’ll also consider seeding a few constrained beliefs – but not lifepaths. I wrote a few quick sketches for kick starting a Burning Wheel campaign:

The scope of these 4 situations is perhaps more urgent than Burning Sanctuary’s initial situation; The framework of belief prompts helps point characters in directions without removing their ability to interpret them.

In hindsight, a bit more collaborative world and situation building may have been appropriate. Character creation felt somewhat isolated. I wasn’t facilitating the back and forth conversation.

Once we wrapped up I sent out some guidance to work on character’s beliefs:

  • A belief paired with actionable things
  • Tied directly to the situation of play
  • Designed to drive characters towards action and conflict

I also pointed them to the Burning Wheel Belief Workshop.

I’m looking forward to this Burning Wheel; My favorite RPG sessions have always been those that strive to avoid physical combat. This group is ill-prepared for any physical combat.

They are, however, quite ready for Duel of Wits.

World of Steve – Session 2

This is a post that I dug up from the drafts. Its incomplete, but has a bit of value.

In September of 2013, I ran a Dungeon World session and today we picked up from that session – its not often that you run a singular session then 6 months later run the follow-up. Tragically, I forgot that I had written up elaborate notes for that session, so there was a bit of discontinuity.

Starting from Memory or What Was Different

Cyne was able to track the shape changer. Though this turned out to be false.

Collectively, we had forgotten the contact, so we renamed to Black Jack.

Diving Right In

Confrontation in the Courtyard

Kind Steve was captured and his player, Jaron, quickly created Mutton Steve, a barbarian priest of the church of Steve.

Using the secret passageway into the garage, they found a warehouse room with several hundred crates. They were marked with a sigil that Skinny Jake remembered seeing 6 months ago on a ship back in Bluefall. Inside each of the open 10 or so opened crates was a single large obsidian shape, each different and perhaps part of a large puzzle.

In the quartermaster’s office, a high stakes skirmish erupted as Skinny Jake, Cyne, Mutton Steve, and Jasper attempted to secure the room from 4 littlings without alerting the hoard of littlings outside the door.

A particularly tense moment was when Cyne over extended his attack, and two littlings rushed up his spear. One dove for the door knob while the other jumped in Cyne’s pack. With the help of the table, Cyne needed to defy danger to both stop a littling from opening the door while  also stopping a littling that jumped in his pack from chewing off his ear. He succeeded keeping his ear and the door from opening.

What We Learned

Clergy of the Church of Steve can change their name, under two circumstances: promotion or atonement. The name change is performed by four other priests.

The horned faced creature in Kind Steve’s fevered dreams is named Ixit.

Hirelings and Help

  • Mutton Steve – A barbarian priest of Steve, adorned in ram skins and a horned helmet, wielding a ferocious two-handed sword. Cost: Debauchery;Skills: Priest 1, Protector 1, Warrior 3, Loyalty 0.
  • Veldrin – An elf ranger, and travelling companion of the heroes (former PC). Cost: Uncovered Knowledge; Skills: Tracker 2, Warrior 1, Loyalty 2.
  • Lem – A tower guard for Ramsford. He’s the one that knew about the secret passage into Ramsford. Cost: Money; Skills: Warrior 2, Loyalty 1.
  • Jasper – A tower guard for Ramsford. He’s the one that Skinny Jake first woke up. Cost: Good Accomplished; Skills: Warrior 2, Loyalty 2.

Back on the Gaming Treadmill (maybe)

It would appear that running a lengthy session of Dungeon World for a table of five was great for a few reasons:

First, the dwarven judiciary is only slightly less terrifying than the dwarven actuarial system. Together, their justice is both exacting and miserly. And with 10% interest on debts accumulated each month, adventure is mandated!

Second, roaming bands of halflings are dangerous. They lay “surprise siege” to a city/village by first entering, eating all of the food, then leaving the city and setting up a blockade for all arriving caravans. All of this in search of a coin on one of the player character’s person.

Third, playing with a new player that doesn’t know all of the old tropes of D&D is revelatory…realizing a curse is an opportunity for even more adventuring.

Most important , playing with a great table is hands down one of the best parts of role-playing. It took a lot of questions to get a sense for why a Templar, Cleric, Halfling, Druid, and Mechanic would all stop around together, but we eventually built some cohesion and a good adventure was had by all.

So yesterday and today, I’ve been sharpening my RPG tools, gathering up raw resources, and beginning some work on a potential campaign. I spent about an hour on Friday morning cataloging what system I would want to run and use.

The contenders were:

My heart initially said Burning Wheel Gold. So I started with reading the Adventure Burner, an excellent resource on getting campaigns going.

And I got to thinking, Burning Wheel Gold is great; The system speaks to me. But it feels very tightly coupled. There are lots of intertwined elements, crafted to work in concert. I have no doubt the game would be amazing.

But it pushes hard against several of the play styles of the gamers I have available. In some cases, I think the accounting would be overwhelming. In others, the odds are too much to overcome. This also knocks Ars Magica out of the running (as not everyone wants to play a wizard).

So I set aside Burning Wheel and its sibling Torchbearer. I gave Dungeon World a brief consideration, but it is my goto game for one shots, it is not what I want for longer games.

As an aside, I’m considering lifting Discern Realities from Dungeon World and bringing it as an option for any game; I’ll need to normalize the probabilities, but it is a good “We are stuck, what comes next” release valve.

While Lamentations of the Flame Princess, Sword & Wizardry, and Labyrinth Lord appeal to me for their bare-bones systems, I am looking for some additional “tech” to provide for the gaming group.

This leaves D&D 5E, Stars without Number, and Pendragon up for grabs, though I’m leaning heavily towards D&D.

I spent some more time poking around in the DMG 5E. There are an awful lot of house rules to push things in a direction that I believe will work best for the table and for the type of game I want to run.

Next steps are to figure out who all can play, a schedule for a character creation session and mini-adventure, and a plan for what to do when someone can’t make it.

Apocalypse World: Dark Ages Session Report

A follow-up to my playtest observation.

Stronghold

  • What does the stronghold defend? A harbor and a port
  • Who are its enemies? Raiders by land. Raiders by sea.
  • What are its fortifications? An island position; a palisade outer wall; watch and signal towers; and a well or deep cistern.
  • What does its armory include? Hide coats and leather helmets; Bows and a suplly of arrows; Swords.

Characters

  • Acealon (Court Wizard)
    • You are literate.
    • You have the right to step out of your earthly life.
    • You have the right to throw down demons and lawless spirts.
    • You have the right to win over ghosts.
    • Bold 0, Good +1, Strong -1, Wary 1, Weird 2
    • Head of household; Library
  • Darloon, son of Mote (Wicker-Wise)
    • You have a right to enchant someone or something.
    • You have the right to be overcome by an oracular vision.
    • You have the right to speak wisdom in counsel.
    • When you whisper to ghosts you have the right to win them over.
    • Bold 0, Good +1, Strong -1, Wary +1, Weird +2
  • Kadlosch (Blacksmith)
    • You have the right to blood recompense when you are wronged.
    • You are a free landowner.
    • When you rally warriors from among your peers, you have the right to roll Strong.
    • You have the right to slay whom you must for the protection of all.
    • Bold +1, Good 0, Strong +2, Wary +1, Weird -1
    • Head of household; New wealth, armory, vassals, cattle
  • Aezar (Peasant Beauty)
    • When you appear on the battlefield, you are breathtaking and fell.
    • When you confront someone, you are beautiful, poised, and hard as steel.
    • You are exhilerating, intoxicating, when you choose to be.
    • You are radiant and stunning.
    • Bold +2, Good +1, Strong +1, Wary 0, Weird -1

People

  • Norse
    • Bound by the boats, the sea, and the gold
    • Look like: Wiry and tawny brown
    • Known for: Physical prowess, archers, sorcery, superb metalwork, far reaching trade routes
    • Rites 0, War 1, Wealth 1
    • Souls 70, Households 50, Warriors 20
  • Russian
    • They are subjects of the same crown
    • Look like: Hulking, milk white
    • Known for: Devotion to law, patience in suffering, brutal raids, loyalty, marvelous feast
    • Rites 1, War 1, Wealth 0
    • Souls 300, Households 40, Warriors 40
  • Kelds (Baltic)
    • They worship the same god
    • Look like: Small and peach pink skin
    • Known for: Ruthlessness, loyalty, vigilance against sorcery, skill at arms, elaborate cosmology, garish fashions
    • Rites 1, War 2, Wealth -1
    • Souls 30, Households 4, Warriors 8

The Session

Opening Moves

  • Prepare for What’s Coming (Blacksmith)
    • With a new gatehouse
    • With a bounty of food
  • Soldiering (Peasant Beauty)
    • You begin the season unhurt
    • You are owed pay
    • You are still bound to fight
  • Rites & Celebration (Wicker-Wise)
    • Celebrating Old Ways; A blood sacrifice
  • Ask for their Hospitality (Court Wizard)
    • He was given archers to help find the Peasant Beauty’s company
    • Aezar owed Acelone money; Aezar’s ancestors owed money to Acelone, and Aezar kept with tradition.

Session

  • An omen in the fisheries. A black fish being eaten by a white fish being eaten by a black fish.
  • Acelon was going to find Aezar, to call in the debt owed him.
    • Ingrid, the castellan, spared 10 archers to find Ingulf’s company, with whom Acelon was soldiering.
  • Acelon wanted to step out of his earthly life to find Aezar. A botched roll, and he found himself submerged deep underwater. Lanterns bobbing. A maggoty corpse of Ingulf, leader of Aezar’s company, approaching.
  • Acelon threw down the demon, demanding his name – Mannon – and to be left in peace. Acelon awoke, in bed, drenched.
  • Kadlosch was going to undertake a Great Labor by Crafting fine quality arrows for the archers.
    • Assistance was given by way of consulting the spirits
    • Exhausted, Kardlosch nearly broke as he realized that “These apprentices are no better than when I got here.”
  • Acelon Lept into Action (Heading out to find Aezar)
    • Acelon found Aezar but suffered minor scrapes as the Kelds harried him and his company.
  • Aezar, through presence and bravado, was able to break the Kelds and able to make a hasty retreat.
  • In the woods Aezar, Acelon, and the companies meet.
  • Leap into Action (Returning Home)
    • Acelon easily covered the distance to get back to the village, inspiring the company to follow, startling and scattering the raiding kelds.
    • Aezar attempting to keep up, ruins his leather armor and helmet.
  • Raiders on the sea, the watchtowers spotted.
  • Kadlosch and Darloon seeing doom on the horizon, mustered warriors and set about preparing defenses.
  • Batle was eminent, but would it be possible to avoid?Kadlosch’s player grabbed the dice to Avoid Battle.
    • They are raiding for food. The Russians were famished; Kadlosch might be able to convince them to give up their raid if the bounty of food were given.
  • Kadlosch made the offer. And Boris accepted.
  • Darloon consulted the spirits of fallen crewmates of Boris. He won them over to haunt Boris.
  • Aezar called out Boris, the leader of the raiders to join in single combat.
    • Boris had a spear, shield, and hide armor: 4 Harm, 2 Armor
    • Aezar had a knife: 2 Harm, 0 Armor
    • Boris had 1 point to spend choosing between Attack, Defend, Position. Aezar had 3.
    • Boris chose 1 for Harm; Aezar chose 2 for Position and 1 for Defend.

Aezar in a fit of defiance, took a spear to the side, but instead of withdrawing, pressed forward to disarm Boris and bring knife to his throat. Aezar suffered 5 harm, but still drew breath.

With a clear abundance of food, the Russians were willing to relocate their families to this blessed land of abundance.

In haste Kadlosch prepared an enchantment to heal Aezar – Among the other sacrifices, Boris was made the blood sacrifice.

End of Season

  • Aezar spent the remainder of the season recovering
  • Acelon spent the remainder of the season recovering
  • Kadlosch spent time with his people preparing for what’s coming.
    • A bounty of food.
    • Added stone and timber longhouses.
  • Darloon spent time with his people preparing for what’s coming.
    • Added an encircling ditch.

Apocalypse World: Dark Ages Playtest and Observations

This past Saturday at Better World Book’s monthly game day, I ran a playtest session of Vincent Baker‘s Apocalypse World: Dark Ages. There were four other players. We spent about an hour creating the stronghold, people, and characters. Then another two and a half hours “in character”.

The process of crafting the stronghold, people, and characters gave immediate shape to the characters’ environment. As this is a game about strongholds, peoples, and war companies, the game world crafting process is better than any Quickstart Guide.

The game started bumpy; I wasn’t asking my usual questions to grow the world. I fumbled a bit. I went quick to the dice for guidance. This helped me get my feet. I’m also working on a session write up.

Observations

  1. There is a lot of information to juggle
  2. This is my kind of game
  3. Playtest notes

Juggling Information

There are a lot of “nouns” to coordinate in Apocalypse World: Dark Ages:

  • Strongholds
  • Peoples
  • Companies
  • Notables
  • Characters

There are a lot of “verbs” to process of Apocalypse World: Dark Ages:

  • Basic moves
  • Battle moves
  • Season moves
  • People moves
  • Enchantments

I found it challenging to coordinate so many sheets of paper. I was not prepared.

This is My Kind of Game

My favorite long running campaign was a 2nd edition D&D Birthright game. The campaign was a web of individual adventures and political machinations. Character level actions impacted the campaign; And likewise political actions impacted the individual adventures.

With basic moves, the characters have power to ask for more information or take action. Characters can bide their time, assessing things, asking how to affect change. Or they can leap into action to take the initiative.

Layer on the battle moves – of which we didn’t explore. The characters can either take control of something larger than themselves or be part of the scrum.

Last, the season moves provide a mechanism for advancing the campaign calendar. It is a powerful tool at the disposal of the Master of Ceremonies. A scene can be cut short. Brought to a close.

In other words, Apocalypse World: Dark Ages is a game ripe for campaign play.

Playtest Notes

Some of the players at the table wanted more information about wealth. Were they rich? Or poor? How poor? Was there a middle ground? As wealth impacts starting equipment, this was important for some of the players.

We were hesitant to dive into the mass combat rules; The closest we got was a player grabbing the dice to Avoid the Battle. It was a great moment as the player leaned on the move and in essence asked “I don’t think I want to fight for this, what can I do to avoid this battle?” My response was catered to campaign play and not the single session playtest at hand.

There were a few points in which, as a GM, I was fishing for moves that were applicable; I wanted to go to the dice because I wasn’t ready to “Say yes.” Things were at stake. I wasn’t as familiar with the basic moves; Things didn’t flow as smooth as they could.

 

 

 

Dragonknights – Session #1

Tonight was a playtest run of Dragonknights, a game in the works by Travis Scott.

A dragon and doll having tea.

Coathios and Ilfwan having tea. Courtesy of Mark Daniels

The Player Characters

Coathios

  • Species: Lustrous Nightfang
  • Temperment: Obsessively Entranced
  • Hoard: Porcelain Dolls (“Ilfwan” an obsidian-headed doll)
  • Wingmate: Skollis is soooo pretty
  • Bond: With the right hammer any dream is possible

Domnus Oric (Smith)

  • High Concept: Bigger & Better
  • Trouble: I Must Touch Everything
  • Mentor: Many hands make light work
  • Role: Hey, its just money
  • Bond: With the right hammer any dream is possible

Skollis

  • Species: Brazen Bolter
  • Temperment: Opportunistic Hotshot
  • Hoard: Arms & Armor from beyond Indgard
  • Wingmate: Coathios takes care of the boring stuff
  • Bond: We make this look good

Domnus Grimaer (Magistrate)

  • High Concept: Glory defined by someone else’s vision
  • Trouble: Too many balls in the air
  • Mentor: The finer points of diplomacy diplomacy ends at a dragon’s snout.
  • Role: Puppet Master
  • Bond: We make this look good

The World

Abject Dangers > Human Perils > Blackguards & Skullduggery > True Rule

Everyone knows that Steward Oldfa is the true power in the domain. She whispers in the ears of the rules, pulls the strings of the local Trade Leagues, and even has a few Magistrates she can rely on to get things done or covered up. Steward Oldfa came to power through financial dominance over other stewards, in particular by placing tremendous pressure on Magistrate Ardolf the Angry.

Uncertain Futures > Opportunities & Endeavors > Costs & Bargains

Every traveler takes one of three major trade roads in your domain.

  • The Burning Pass is known for its scalding winds.
  • The Gentle Road is known for its bandits.
  • The Merchant’s Trail is known for its kudzu-like carnivorous grass.

Uncertain Futures > Opportunities > Costs & Bargains

The confluence of several major trade routes falls at the outskirts of your domain. The beloved Ogre’s Head Ale is in great supply, and the contraband Root Death (made from yolk of Venomous Whisper Drake eggs) is put up with by the good fold of the domain.

Uncertain Futures > Opportunities & Endeavors > Who Would Rule?

The dominant faction in the local Stewards Council has been ousted, and the people couldn’t be happier! Steward Parduelf has been given the new title of Speaker. He is speaks of progress but is an insidious demagogue. His first major change was to remove the regulations regarding Root Death usage.

Outrageous Fortunes > What Luck > Strange Blessings

What luck! Vast plains support a huge quantity of cattle. Goodman Wufric makes sure that Fort Hope gets its share, though he is cross with Fort Hope because they snubbed Magistrate Ardolf the Angry’s diplomatic envoy.

Established Cast

  • Steward Olfda – the power behind it all.
  • Magistrate Adrolf the Angry – ousted from power.
  • Steward Pardeulf – an insidious demagogue, and puppet of Steward Olfda.
  • Smith Wufric – provides cattle for Fort Hope.
  • Scholar Parewan – Bandit leader, gave Domnus Oric the gift of a letter of introduction to the Melted Library. Domnus Oric reverse engineered a safe for him. Domnus Grimaer orchestrated the safe of Magistrate Ardolf falling into the hands of Parewan. Recently branded a bandit.
  • Domna Bowid, Steward – almond skin, scar from ear to collar, Steward of Fort Hope; Low Eminence, High Stewardship
  • Fraebog (Frilled Mountain King) – Domna Bowid’s bonded dragon, High Eminence
  • Domnus Angwyn, Warrior – A dragon bonded warrior of Fort Hope.
  • Smith Pulfric – Helped Oric craft the masonry shelves for Coathios’s lair
  • The Land of Vos – Blades are forged in the blood of the fallen, in a way creating a family tree. This blade begat this blade.

Campaign Aspects

  • The Glorious Order of the Knights Dragonbonded
  • Unheard Voices
  • Political Unrest

Scenes

Taking a cue from Travis’s GenCon game, I gave each bonded pair a moment in each of the dragon’s lairs. We are also pressed for time, having about 2 1/2 hours to play.

Coathios has a small table set for tea. He is enjoying tea with Ilfwan his prized porcelain doll. Oric enters through the fine crafted door. The lair is shelves of lesser dolls each facing the large soft bed on which Coathios rests.

Skollis has his lair arranged such that morning sun shines in. The polished arms and armor reflects and magnifies the morning sun.

Bowid has asked Oric and Grimaer to prepare their dragons for flight. It turns out that Bandit Parewan has stolen a book that will prove Magistrate Ardolf‘s treason. But they must act in haste for Magistrate Ardolf will be leaving the lands in 6 days time. And this capture should happen within Fort Hope’s domain!

Reconaissance

They take flight to gather information from the city of Iyravandron.

  • Domnus Oric reaches out to Smith Pulfric learning the general whereabouts of Parewan (Contacts, Create an Advantage Obstacle 4, Success).
  • Domnus Grimaer is out talking with the crowds attempting to drum up anger over Parewan. (Rapport via Stunt, Overcome Obstacle 5, Failure choosing Success with Great Cost.) The crowds agree with Domnus Grimaer that justice must be served to Parewan, but turn and say it is the Magistrates who cause trouble. “We don’t need the Magistrates! They bring nothing but trouble!”
  • Coathios goes hunting to find the largest cattle from the fields. He wants to make sure that Skollis is well fed and rested for the upcoming hunt. The cattle are theirs to eat. (Notice, Create an Advantage Obstacle 4, Success)

The Hunt

Two days have passed, but Skollis is confident in getting the scent. After two days of heavy flight, I compelled Coathios’ delicate Lustrous Nightfang frame to drive him and his rider to ground. Coathios accepted the the compel. (Note: in hindsight, reading through the Lustrous Nightfang is not frail and easy to tire.)

Skollis and Grimaer continued on. In flight I called for a Notice check on Skollis and Grimaer, though encouraged a bit of a retroactive Create an Aspect.

  • Grimaer encourage Grimaer to keep the sun at their backs (Lore, Create an Advantage, Obstacle 3, Success with Style).
  • Skollis notices a single ballista and three men (Notice, Overcome, Obstacle 3, Success). There are also grazing sheep nearby, not a distraction for this well-fed and rested brazen bolter.
  • Skollis and Grimaer remain unnoticed proceed to fly around to gain an ambush (Stealth, Overcome, Obstacle 4, Success).
  • A quick ambush ensues. Skollis destroys a ballista, kills a human, injures a second, and captures a third.

A gentle interrogation proceeds, with words of honor exchanged, and the captive released. Parewan is in fact in a cave nearby with 20 men.

The Strike

While Coathios and Oric were waiting, Oric crafted some leather wing enhancements (Craft, Create an Advantage, Obstacle 3, Success with Style) to help.

They agreed to wait until an hour or so before dawn to strike Parewan. So Coathios and Oric took to the air and scouted high in the night sky. They were real quiet (Stealth, Overcome, Obstacle 3, Success with Style) and were waiting.

Coathios’s player opted to spend a Fate point to have Parewan step out to relieve himself. Sounded great by me. Coathios struck fast subduing and dragging off Parewan.

The Deal

Back at their camp Coathios, Oric, Skollis, and Grimaer began bargaining with Parewan. Grimaer, on his honor, promised that if Parewan surrendered himself and the book (a new book written in ancient Indarin) that all of Parewan’s men would be free to disperse. Parewan accepted the terms.

They flew back to the camp where Parewan explained the situation. One by one he said farewall to each man and woman by name, also naming their spouses and children.

Wrap Up

We closed the session with a mission accomplished. In game, four days have passed since Bowid gave the assignment.

It has been a long time since I ran a Fate game, but I was willing to fake an awful lot of things. There are a few things I need to lookup.

Observations

The game that I ran felt as though it belonged in the world of the previous games of Dragonknight I’ve played. In part this is because I’ve had the privilege to play four sessions with the creator of the game. But the richness of the setting generator helps fold the common themes back in upon themselves.

And sweet heavens do I love the detail of honor. I made sure to emphasize that the absence of the empathy skill and the value of honor mean that when you say “On my honor” people will believe you. It is a big thing.

There are too many nuances of the setting for me to have “digested” and gotten right. Conveying the spirit of the campaign world is a challenge. I did not put the “So you’re a Magistrate” paper in front of the magistrate player, so there me be a deviation from canon, but I feel like we have enough moving parts to set things in motion.

I have more thoughts but the hour draws late.