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  1. So my PCs decided to kill Harrek the Berserk. Here's how it went. (for context, see and First, before I recap this, here's the cast of PCs we're working with: Androgenus, a genderfluid Esrolian Eurmali trickster with the Illuminated Illusion, Earth, and Luck runes. They're out for blood vengeance against anyone who's ever victimized their family, their clan, and their homeland. in that order. Recently illuminated as part of a Heroquest that gave them temporary use of the Infinity Rune. The player has been coming up with some awesome ideas for how Illumination might work, and I've been wholeheartedly stealing from what @davecake has said on Illumination to try and inform the player on what they might want to do. Iris, an Esrolian Earth Priestess in service to the Goddess of Moss (I don't know who that would be in actuality, but when her player heard "land of ten thousand goddesses," she immediately came up with a gaggle of minor Earth goddesses that barely anyone might care about). She's got the Earth, Movement, and Spirit runes. Iris wants power at all costs, both for her cult and her personally, and sees the group's adventures as the ticket to recognition and glory. Zonthor, a Praxian sorceror of the Impala Tribe and expert archer. The player always uses that name if he can get away with it in ever game I've ever played with him. Zonthor learned sorcery from a demonically possessed spellbook he plundered from Big Rubble, and has the Fire, Disorder, and Magic runes--he's only in this for himself, and is up front about how he's only working with Iris as long as she can pay him. The Wolf Pirates have plenty of treasure, treasure that Zonthor wants. and finally Waddlestomp the Bloodybeaked, a Hueymakti Duck thane with the Water, Death, and Truth runes. He has sworn a dread oath that he will personally slay one human for every Duck that is or has ever been killed or otherwise victimized by human hands. Played by the oldest in our group, and the most experienced with Glorantha. He now holds an enchanted shield he got in the same adventure where our party Trickster got Illuminated. For future reference, I use bold text to denote Traits, Runes, or other abilities the characters use. We join Our Heroes a few days after they have accidentally rampaged through the Esrolian city of Valadon and escaped with the city guard hot on their heels. Androgenus's mind is reeling with the infinite possbilities of Illumination and the horrible truths contained within: there's no purpose to any of it. Even rebellion. Everything has a place, which is nowhere. Nothing means anything, so everything means everything. You only struggle against yourself. While having this cosmic existential crisis, Iris, Zonthor, and Waddlestomp are discussing their next move to murder Harrek the Berserk and avenge the Holy Country. Iris succeeds at a role against her Noble Trait, with the breakout trait Connections At Court--she's heard a wild rumor at court that the queens of Esrolia, working with Caladraland and the Shadow Plateau, have amassed the remnants of their armada. They seek one last chance to strike at the Wolf Pirates and throw them out of the Mirrorsea or die trying. Zonthor once again gets reminded that the Wolf Pirates have plundered the City of Wonders, and that they've got to be swimming in loot. "As long as I get my shares," he says, emphasizing the plural, "Then you have my magic. I want to see that smug pirate die just as much of the rest of you." "Maybe not as much as they do--" grunts Waddlestomp, gesturing at the party Trickster, who's walking down the road a little bit ahead of the rest of the party, rambling to themself and waving their arms in the air "--so we should probably hasten us to our deaths before they decide to do something really unexpected." A brief travel montage later, the party arrives in Nochet, just ahead of bounty hunters sent from Valadon. Androgenus crits on his Beggar trait to find a bolthole for the party to hide in while Iris begs an audience with the Queens during their war conference. Meanwhile, Zonthor learns a new spell from his grimoire (he defines the ability Mass Migraine tied to his Demonic Grimoire) that he thinks will be useful in the coming battle, and Waddlestomp meets a sage to identify the enchantment on his shield. As it turns out, when thrown, the shield will always return to its wielder, a la Captain America. Later, Iris barely wins an audience with the Queens and drags along Androgenus. However, they are told that if they so much as breathe a word that isn't an abject apology for the riot they started in Valadon, they'd be next on the sacrificial altar to Maran Gor. They overhear the Queens discussing strategy with the surviving admirals of Caladraland and a representative of Shadow Plateau. As far as they understand it, the plan is that some of the Holy Country's naval remnant will engage the Wolf Pirate treasure fleet as it leaves the City of Wonders's ruins, hopefully bogging them down in the classic ram-and-bow brawl while the rest circle around and engage from the rear in a classic pincer maneuver--and let a regiment of Dark Troll marines do their brutal work in boarding actions. About then, Androgenus opened their dumb mouth. "This won't work, Your Highnesses." "What?" exclaimed the assembled Royalty, as Iris quickly tried to silence her bound trickster. "It won't work. You'll get slaughtered, and the Wolf Pirates will stay here forever. Broyan the Betrayer will have his barbarian mercenaries, and he'll come to rule Ketheala. Unless..." replied Androgenus, stepping away from his mistress. The assembled Esrolian queens and Caladralander admiralty immediately began demanding the trickster's life for his insolence. The Troll mistress in attendance held up a hand to silence them. "Unless what, snack?" "Why, unless you kill Harrek the Berserk." Disbelieving laughter. Derisive laughter. A call for Iris to silence the Trickster before someone else did for her. The troll interrupted: "Is that all? I wasn't aware it was that simple. How should we do this, snack?" "Well, that's simple. I'll betray you." Androgenus's player then managed a major victory with their Illuminated Illusion rune's breakout ability Tell Two Stories At Once, which they defined as tricking different parts of the same audience into hearing different things at the same time. About now, we called for a brief break so that Androgenus-player could discuss the plan with me in private. When we came back, Androgenus told the rest of the party what would happen: Androgenus would Swallow his companions and steal a fishing boat. Then he'd travel to the Wolf Pirates, and beg an audience with their leaders. They'd tell them the entire plan for counterattack against the Wolf Pirates. Hopefully, that would buy enough confidence with the Wolf Pirates to let them speak to Harrek. At which time, they'd regurgitate the PCs, use the Infinity Rune to forcibly separate Harrek the Berserk from the god he wears on his back. Then it'd be up to the rest of the party to murder the (probably very angry) berserker and his inner circle before things went sideways. There was a perfect, silent moment after Androgenus recounted their plan. "That's a stupid plan," said Zonthor, after composing themselves. "We're all going to die." "Do you have a better plan?" asked Androgenus, flatly. "No," spluttered the sorcerer, "But we're still all going to die." "Better we die our task fulfilled than live forever having failed," quacked Waddlestomp, grimly as ever. The other heroes stared at the murderous Duck for a while. Eventually, Iris broke the silence. "I for one love this plan. I'm excited to be a part of it!" Cut to two weeks later: the group bought a fishing boat (at a severe discount due to Waddlestomp's Unexpectedly Terrifying breakout ability keyed to his Death rune), and Iris whistled up a wind spirit to fill its sail. A day's calm sailing later, they approached the Island of Wonders from behind, drifting with the tide. As night fell, they reached the beach, hid their boat, and made camp in a secluded seaside cave. There, they talked more about their pasts and their motivations. Iris related how her family has always been scorned for serving the Moss Goddess, despite their faithful service to Esrolia. Zonthor could relate--he was ostracized from his clan after learning sorcery, despite the fact that it was his own chieftain who ordered him to retrieve a treasure from Big Rubble. Waddlestomp merely sharpened his sword in preparation for the morrow's battle. When he did speak, he talked of how Duck Valley was once a beautiful place, and how every time he closed his eyes, he saw the humans who came, screaming Orlanth and Sedenya's names, and slaughtered his people en masse. Androgenus nodded sorrowfully and tried to comfort the Hueymakti thane...he also wanted revenge, so sharp and painfully he could taste it at every moment. Androgenus sheepishly offered Waddlestomp one of their "stabbing effigies," a sort of homemade Voodoo doll that so happened to be shaped like a Lunar soldier. Waddlestomp awkwardly took it, and poked at it with his knife. "I do feel a little better," he grudingly admitted. The party laughed, and with that, went to sleep. Iris awoke last, just before dawn. Waddlestomp and Zonthor had already been Swallowed into the Trickster, and Androgenus had waited for the priestess to awaken on her own, because, as they put it, "What happens next isn't going to be pleasant. Best to have a good night's sleep first." "Run the plan down for me one more time?" asked Iris, getting a weird feeling with a minor victory against Androgenus's opposed Trickster flaw. "Well, first," they said, picking up a piece of driftwood, "I betray you." The fight was short, but a few unlucky rolls from Iris had her knocked out and trussed up. Androgenus dragged her down the beach to a Wolf Pirate foraging party. Some tense negotiation later, the tricksy Trickster easily wormed their way into the Wolf Pirates' boat on their way back to the main force of looters. They were enbyhandled onto a pirate ship and interrogated at swordpoint by the captain himself--a massive man from the Far South, who demanded to know why they were spying. Androgenus said he'd brought a prisoner--Iris--and had knowledge of the Holy Country's plans to oust the Wolf Pirates once and for all. Some quick thinking, good rolls, and fast talk had Androgenus parlay the captain into bringing them and their hostage to his higher-ups. It was about now that Iris woke up and started screaming bloody murder. She pronounced Androgenus a traitor. She begged, threatened, cajoled--and Androgenus just smiled. Her thrashing actually served to convince the pirates of Androgenus's truthfulness, despite his Illusion rune. We montaged the next hour or so of Androgenus being passed from pirate to higher-ranking pirate until finally, he stood on the deck of the Ice Serpent, in front of Harrek the Berserk, and at his right hand, Gunda the Guilty. "I'm going to kill you, Eurmali," rumbled the vast pirate lord, "But speak quickly and speak the truth--if you can--and I'll make it a quick death." "I know Esrolia's war plans to drive you out of the Holy Country. And this priestess here is head of a conspiracy to kill you, o mighty lord." "You do, now? Hrm. Y'know, Gunda and I have a rather reliable policy: kill every Trickster I meet. You have five heartbeats to change my mind," said Harrek, standing up, popping his neck, and grabbing his axe. I made sure to describe how Harrek's bear cloak growled in response to its wearer's movement, the ears twitching in the sea wind. And here's where things went even more off the rails. Androgenus rolled, and I kid nobody reading this not, three critical successes in a row. First, they rolled a critical success with Look Harmless to lull Harrek's bodyguards into a false sense of security. Then, he critical'd an opposed check against the assembled pirates with Tell Two Stories At Once: Harrek and the pirates heard the Holy Country's original plan, the pincer movement that wouldn't have worked. Iris heard him talk about the real plan: the Holy Country would beach its navy in a nearby hidden cove at low tide, then drift back out to sea (and directly behind the pirates, cutting off their retreat) when the tide shifted, catching the Wolf Pirates unawares. Iris, enraged beyond all reason, loudly proclaimed that Androgenus would die for betraying Esrolia. All of that 'proved' Androgenus's veracity even more. Harrek stepped closer to Androgenus, staring the little Eurmali down, madness matching madness. "Do you feel that I should reward you for this?" asked Harrek, "I've had enough of Kethaelan traitors to last me a lifetime." "Oh, mighty lord, getting this close to you is reward enough," replied Androgenus, who then made the sign of the Infinity Rune with their hands and placed it over their eyes. (In Roll20, this was accomplished by making finger goggles and pulling a rather amusing face). The third critical was activating the Infinity Rune they'd earned from the Heroquest. For a moment, the world stopped. Androgenus was Eurmal the Lightbringer, grasping the net of the Cosmic Compromise. He was Illusion Illuminated, separating Real from Unreal, remolding the Cosmos to his will. Harrek reeled as the energies of Creation surged through his boat, threatening to capsize it. He felt his magic drain from him, forevermore locked into the God Time. The Bear God left him then, leaving a confused, dizzy, and for the first time ever, frightened Harrek the Berserk retching on the deck of his ship. "Harrek?!" exclaimed Gunda, rushing to his size. "What did they do?" "I don't know! They took my bear! Kill! Kill them!" And then came the fourth critical: Androgenus cast a glamer with their Illusion Rune that seemed to split them into five mirror images, each one taunting and jeering at the onrushing pirates. Then they regurgitated a sorceror (who'd been preparing their Mass Migraine spell, ready to cast as soon as he was out of the Trickster) and an angry Duck. Hilarity, as they say, ensued. This was the first big fight I'd ever run using the HeroQuest rules. Per the rulebook's suggestions, it was mostly narrative, with few rolls (which is weird for me, accustomed as I am to crunchier systems like D&D and World of Darkness, or even Fate, for that matter). Waddlestomp rolled well with his Truesword, Magic Shield, and Vengeance-Seeking Swordsduck to carve a path through the pirates and get the attention of Harrek and Gunda. Zonthor managed to get off his Mass Migraine spell (and had a lot of fun narrating its grisly consequences among the pirates onboard) and untie Iris. Then he failed hard against Gunda the Guilty, nauseated but still single-minded, who ran the little Praxian through with her spear and tossed him overboard for the sharks. Iris also got heavily wounded before she could scramble away from the pirates, but managed a bare success to get to her feet and summon up shark-spirits, attracted by the blood of the battle, to further harry the pirates. Androgenus...just stayed alive and taunted Harrek. The battle concluded with a lookout's call--Kethaelan ships approaching, rowing hard for the pirates! The tide had come while Androgenus had distracted the pirates, and given the Esrolians a chance to get into position to ambush them. Harrek took a mighty swing at Androgenus--only for his axe to pass right through the little Trickster. Dumbfounded, Harrek tried it again--and again, his axe passed through (in game terms, this was an opposed Illusion check vs. Harrek being the most lethal man on Glorantha that I hid the results of until it was dramatically appropriate). "You can't kill me, Harrek, but it's okay," said Androgenus peacefully the light of Illumination glowing in their eyes, "There is no struggle against yourself. You did well, but be at peace. Every story has an end." And then Waddlestomp jumped on his back and stabbed him repeatedly. Harrek the Berserk, God-Traitor of the Rathori, Destroyer of Worlds, was brought low by an angry duck and a Trickster with a grudge (who, now that the exchange was over, was found to have gotten a Minor Defeat, and was very very injured, but had hid it with their Illusion rune for a few moments). Gunda the Guilty howled in rage, and leapt for Waddlestomp, murder in her eyes.... Right as an Esrolian galley rammed the Ice Serpent. Nearly capsizing her. We narrated the rest of it. Waddlestomp cut his way through the panicking pirates and Iris helped him haul Androgenus's broken, disemboweled body to the Troll marines who were stomping aboard and slaughtering the stunned pirates. They passed the trio onto the Gannet, the Esrolian trireme, and received emergency healing. The last they saw of Gunda, she was cutting down a pile of trolls around Harrek's form. Eventually, the Ice Serpent sank, but nobody was seen to have escaped. Surely, nobody could have escaped. Surely... It was with that that we closed the session for the night. Everyone seemed to have had a good time. Waddlestomp's player in particular was dumbstruck that only one of them had died, and Zonthor's player took his death in good stride, promising to come up with someone with an even more ridiculous name next time. I left the players with hints as to what had come: they had now become capital-H Heroes of the Holy Country, and would be feasted and hailed as such...and they had also earned powerful, implacable enemies, and a key role in the world-shaking events to come. Whether they wanted it or not.
    8 points
  2. I added to these thoughts over a two-month long period from release of the PDF to this posting. RPG Imaginings Stream-Of-Consciousness Children of Fear Reflections Chapter 1: Reflections: 1) No work in Call of Cthulhu, to my knowledge, has devoted such thoughtful consideration to a common section as the "Involving the Investigators" section in this campaign. Great care has been taken to suggest potential character motivations for beginning the campaign and to designing investigators that are suited to the types of goals for the travel posed. I think this is solid modelling for considerations for any campaign start. 2) The "Experiential Learning" section suggests some of the most developed additions to the game for in situ learning mechanics for players. Anyone who Keeps the game knows that acquisition of specialized skills that are uniquely suited to a particular storyline just doesn't work with the existing RAW of the game, particular with learning languages. Narrative story-telling frequently requires characters to learn specialized skills more quickly. I think many an experienced Keeper (myself included) have resorted to house-ruling in this regard. Its nice to see suggestions for ramped-up skill training to be codified with such detail in an official product. I'm not saying that it is unique to this campaign. Other writers have certainly done variations. This section just seems to hit the problem head on. If a character needs Language (Chinese) to be effective in a campaign, the Keeper needs to give them opportunities to learn Language (Chinese) much more quickly than in the RAW. 3) This brings up another point I forgot to mention. You can also essentially choose the nature of the origin of the key locations as part of this. I know that's vague, but I don't want to spoil anything. Dr. Hardy has given us something like four potential Mythos explanations, making an unprecedented level of Keeper choice to suit the desires of different groups. And, as you say, non-Mythos is an option too! What that does is allow this game to be set into virtually any campaign, because there are options that allow one to fit it in to whatever your particular threat-vision or group aesthetic is. 4) I am also enjoying the "What Your Investigator Knows" handouts as an expeditious way to give context. I'm sad to say that many Western players may not know a lot about the Far East. Sad, yes, but true. And I think these handouts are particularly important for that context. One thing that I have always appreciated about Dr. Hardy's work is that she has a very clear forward-thinking vision as to how games play out, and what the practical needs are of Keepers and players. Chapter 2 Reflections: This campaign has a lot of potential for bringing up the ethical issue of Western interference in Eastern cultural history. I could see that being a major secondary plotline in a campaign. I also like how many of the NPCs are real historical figures. It means lots of additional background information that can be brought in at the Keeper's discretion. Chapter 3 Reflections: 1) Experienced Keepers write tips and options into their writing to give different groups the options they need to have their particular flavor of fun. Subtle things like "reward ingenuity where possible" are important tips. This campaign is chock full of "this or that or this might happen" that helps Keepers anticipate outcomes. 2) Without spoiling too much, there is a campaign-wide mechanic that rates investigator decisions. I've always been a big believer in rewarding or penalizing investigators with tangible and intangible consequences for their choices. It can only help the immersion, in my opinion. RPGs tend to devolve into murder-hoboing simply because there are no consequences for thoughtless play. CoC has always been better at this than most other games. It is a distinct in-theme feature of this campaign. 3) This campaign is particularly good for teaching Keepers how to run campaigns and how to let player choice drive what happens in games. If the Chapters in this book give you the impression that it is "linear" until Chapters 4-6, that couldn't be further from the truth. Other than Masks, I've never seen a greater variety of encounter and lore options within individual Chapters. Many of the options are far more in-tune with the story than the sub-options in Masks. I'm not anti-Masks. I'm saying that there are dimensions of this campaign that very much seem to me to be comparable to Masks, or better. That is a compliment. 4) The campaign won't waste your time giving stat blocks for "generic profession" NPCs. Be real. The stat blocks of "Resident Archeologist" or "This One Priest" doesn't need to be different for the purposes of game execution in different Chapters. The generic professions section of the Appendices is a welcome replacement for (I'm sure unintentionally) wasting page count on producing stat blocks for every individual NPC, over and over again, when 90% of the stats are the same. I'm going slow because I'm a print-reader. I can't read a PDF as fast as I can read print. But I'm really enjoying what I've read so far! I just finished Chapter 3. Yes, I know. I'm slow. I'm a teacher and this is our worst year of our careers. I don't have a ton of time to read and focusing is a struggle right now. Thoughts: 1) Chapter 3 wasn't what I expected. It was better than I expected. The quandary that the investigators are faced with in obtaining a campaign McGuffin is complex and has many potential solutions. It screams "Classic 1920s CoC challenge for academics." I could see any group of players coming up with a unique solution to the problem. 2) The section headed "Missing Pieces" made me laugh out loud. I said to myself: "That escalated quickly." Players may not be able to succeed in their McGuffin-finding. No worries. The "solution" to their failure is dark. And I can imagine a major NPC nonchalantly explaining to them, with a straight face, what they would need to do. Good stuff. 3) I can't help but think of Dr. Hardy's scenario Scritch Scratch when reading this Chapter. @Lynne H, can you confirm that you are a fan of a particular terrestrial mammal? Chapter 4 reflections: I really enjoyed this Chapter and it was a quick read. 1) <compliment sandwich> I have many reasons for loving and playing CoC, and an opportunity to learn world and local history is one of the big ones. This Chapter is REALLY scratching my itch for that. There are dimensions of Buddhist and Hindu culture that are likely to really challenge some Western readers. And I think that is great. We grow when we are challenged. I'll give an example that I think is prescient. Some cultures feature genital mutilation as a rite of passage. These practices are (rightly) highly controversial, debated, and sources of activism in Western culture. But it is an incredibly challenging discussion because of the Western history of colonization attitudes, manifest-destiny policies, and aggressive attempts to covertly and/or overtly supplant indigenous religion. I'm not saying that to debate it here, but rather draw an analogy. The point is that there are aspects of culture here that are certainly likely to make Western players squeamish. I applaud Lynne for challenging readers. 2) For those of you who think I'm just a Chaosium yes-man, I do have a gripe at this stage. And it could just be my own ignorance of Eastern geography that is the real problem. There is a LOT of geographic territory covered in this campaign, much of it that Western readers may not recognize. That's fine, but I think there are aspects of the text that could do a bit of a better job of helping a Keeper out with locations. I recognize that this isn't likely to change before publication. Specifically, there will be sections that will talk a lot about specific routes that investigators could take in between locations. A lot of the time, half of the names don't appear on the maps. And maybe that is ok, because the intent is just to name the options without mapping it out for the sake of red-lining expediency. I'll reference the page 158 section "Getting to Sitavana" as an example. This is an example of a section in which a lot of locations have been mentioned before, but the maps of the immediate area in the Chapter don't mention half of the locations presented. This could be a problem for me in that I am simply a visual learner, or because I just need to accept the fact that the descriptions are simply "performance aides" for the Keeper to sound like they know the region. I just personally prefer text mentions of locations to be over-represented in maps. I recognize that there is an aesthetic variable of not making maps too busy. When I balance all those variables I end on the "frustration" side as a reader/Keeper, and that makes it worth mentioning to me. 3) I love the table on 168. It may be my favorite use of Luck as an investigator stat in anything I have read. He he he. In addition, given how important "ritualism" is in CoC, I think this particular table is a really good model for a general mechanic for any Keeper to use in setting investigators on a task to prepare effectively for a ritual. Ritual components do not just have to be a binary (you have a component or you don't). The quality of the component can and should matter. From a metagaming perspective, it is just another way to reward players who are careful and intelligent in how they solve problems. </compliment sandwich> 4) Full credit for use of the word "susurrations." #OxfordEnglishDictionary? 😜 5) I find Handout: Bones 5 to be interesting. It's good to have for Keepers needing expediency and could be ditched entirely by Keeper's wishing to have the teaching by the lama be a role-playing set piece that require players to carefully learn their role for the ritual. Different groups will value different approaches, and any could be successful here. A lot depends upon the prior choices players make earlier. 6) Suggested manias and phobias for a Keeper in specific situations are always appreciated. As is the Keeper aide provided on page 180! It is now time to bust out an overview book I have on world religions and delve more deeply into Buddhism and Hinduism. I think it may actually help me to appreciate the campaign even more! Chapter 5 first part 1) The use of dreams to continue to drive the action is a common and useful Call of Cthulhu trope. What sets this campaign apart from many scenarios/campaigns is the detail given in each Chapter to aide the Keeper in describing those dreams to players. Many scenarios will vaguely say things like “use dreams to keep the tension up for players” or something of the like. And in a short scenario, that may be perfectly adequate. But in a campaign of this size, the detail given to theming dreams as a cohesive whole while aiding Keepers with specifics is much appreciated. 2) The campaign really (rightly) punishes groups that don’t take on the aide of a major NPC. I mean, I won’t ever tell a group what to do or how to play a specific subset of investigators. But if they elect not to take the aide of this character, they’re really hamstringing themselves. Personally, as a Keeper, I would do everything that I could to subtly encourage them to take his aide. The person I’m referring to is also a very interesting character for role-playing, and I feel like a running of this campaign would suffer by side-lining him. I’m curious as to how it play-tested, which groups kicked him to the curb immediately, and how they fared as a result. I mean, the campaign writes in detailed suggestions for what to do if this happens, but I gotta think that option is only for groups that are really deliberately golf-handicapping themselves. I don't think this is a flaw of the campaign. I think that CoC groups should always avoid alienating potential allies. I've played in enough Con games to know that a lot of role-players can't help but engage in self-sabotage. If it's in character, fine. Just not my style. 3) I think Chapter 5 illustrates why a balance was struck for overall campaign locations. Anticipating travel between three locations, when the players can take them in any order, gets real complex real fast. People like things in threes. A fourth location would really increase the complexity. There is a lot of dense travel information in Chapter 5, but it would have to go somewhere. The decision was clearly made to arrange Chapters according to a “typical” route, which I think was the correct choice, with Chapter 5 including the “flex travel info” needed depending upon individual group choices. When needed by a Keeper, this information would be key. Chapter 5 second part Just finished Chapter 5. I doubt I'm going to be able to read the whole thing before it goes to print. Professional duties and a bunch of life groin-kicks have gotten in the way. If you want to pay me to be a proofreader I could finish it in time. 😜 I did find zero typos in the second half of Chapter 5, so kudos to the first few passes! 1) There are two boxes in Chapter 5 that do a really nice job of helping Keepers stay engaged on over-arching plot points and mechanics. 2) This section of the text answers a key concern I had with motivation and plot. I don't want to spoil it here, but if you're wondering how the baddies are able to do a baddie thing that at first seems illogical or unlikely, there is a very elegant explanation for how it happens. Makes sense. 3) I like the ally/antagonist/friend of my enemy is an enemy dynamic in the latter part of the Chapter! Chapter 6 reflections: I've been trying to synthesize my thoughts on this Chapter and what I keep coming back to is that the skills of the Keeper are going to factor in tremendously as to how it goes. I think that the "main event" featured in this Chapter is a real challenge to run, largely because it centers around the age-old table issue of how to work with players who have lost game autonomy. The key, I think, is description. Skilled Keepers are going to be at a great advantage in successfully running this Chapter. This Chapter is not for novice Keepers, and I predict that a novice Keeper could find themselves in a tough spot in which their players feel like the outcome was pre-ordained (even if it wasn't) or that their "success" was entirely due to chance. In addition, players could very well feel railroaded if a Keeper isn't careful at describing what they see. I'm not saying this is a "bad" Chapter. Just that I think it is very challenging to run effectively. I suppose I could make the argument about the whole campaign too. You need solid Keeper skills to run this. There are a lot of rolls for the Main Event. I personally would not use the quantity of rolls suggested, but the rolls seem more designed to "prevent the investigators from failing" rather than "helping them succeed." The question will be what the "right" amount of rolls will be for a particular group, as I could see my group considering these rolls to be tedious. All that said, the "main event" of this Chapter is the event that the game has built up to until this point. It is potentially very grisly and will need some level of veil for some groups. My group would, for sure, need it veiled, because of some pretty intense body horror. But for groups who like that sort of thing, it will scratch the morbid itch. There are a lot of very useful Keeper aides in this Chapter that will help one keep track of the logistics. Dr. Hardy is truly a master of practical Keeping, in this regard. In most role-playing supplements, many of us find ourselves needing to spend time constructing even the most basic aides to run a certain game, and Dr. Hardy has anticipated the most critical of that work! This Chapter has some really nice art. The Karmic Balance mechanic sees direct utility here and I appreciate the description offered as to how each investigator may be impacted differently depending upon their Balance. Tons of options are given here as to how to proceed with or conclude the campaign at this stage. There is a lot of fodder here for surviving investigators to continue within this narrative, or on to other adventures. Great care was clearly taken in suggesting options here. I really like the setup of classic Mythos villain combined with new creature in this Chapter. This campaign oozes "classic" 1920s as written. I truly believe, after six Chapters, that this one is going to go down in history as one of the greats. Chapter 7 reflections: This Chapter is an absolute delight. It not only follows a classic investigative arc, but adds depth and humanity to some campaign creatures in a Runequest Trollesque kind of way. This isn't unique to this campaign (Paper Chase is another notable example), but it is a Chaosium tradition to add depth and ethics to foes treated far more stereotypically by most game companies. That's why I play the types of games Chaosium makes. More deferential to quality story-telling. Less brutish, more intellectual. How's that for a compliment? 1) There are several plot-oriented environmental hazards in this Chapter that follow both the larger and smaller plot. Variety of challenge is the spice of life and this Chapter has it. 2) Care has been taken here to provide options for combat-oriented or investigation-oriented groups. There is nothing lazier (in my personal opinion) than role-playing scenarios that resort to "fight happens here because we need a fight." It happens way too often in role-playing writing. Yes, partly because some groups "expect" it. But many of us find it tired and cliched. This campaign is largely investigative and cultural and I cannot stress enough how important it it to me that Chaosium and Dr. Hardy have the courage to produce a campaign targeted at those of us who prefer classic character-interaction-focused gaming experiences. 3) This Chapter has a tremendous amount of utility, either in the context of this campaign or elsewhere. I think that even if the Investigators "succeed" and technically "end" the campaign in Chapter 6, Chapter 7 could quite easily serve as a backdrop for many different further adventures. There is a lot of substitution that can be had here. Dr. Hardy has created a wonderful underground "playground." I plan to use the framework of this scenario very soon in my own campaign, but with replacing the location, creatures, and McGuffin(s) with situations and objects unique to my own campaign. 4) The action location map is truly wonderful. I love great cartography. 5) There is just so much cross-referencing in this book. And I love that. Makes everything so much easier to run and to prepare for, for a Keeper. This is truly a campaign that serves as a culmination of everything we've learned about effective practical game-running in decades in the hobby. 6) Loving the suggestion of a non-human NPC joining the party if they are short on characters. Chapter 8 reflections: 1) If you like tea, like I do (I'm partial to Jasmine and a good Darjeeling), this is the Chapter for you. I remember fondly my tour of the Cutty Sark when I visited London in '14. 2) If you have a charismatic villain, use them! I love the very forward approach here. 3) The environmental hazards escalate and are liable to be incredibly unnerving to the Investigators. Reminds me of certain popular science fiction franchises that shall remain unnamed. Perfect for Call of Cthulhu. Like elements of the prior Chapter, these could be dropped into any game. 4) There are tough ethical decisions in this Chapter for the grand finale. I appreciate the playtest notes and Keeper hints as to how investigator creativity might help them avoid a gruesome fate. 5) I like learning British colloquialisms from Call of Cthulhu authors from across the pond: "or by the investigators making a hash of things." Appendix A (NPCs) reflections: 1) I very much like this idea of having a "stable" of generic NPCs by occupation to draw from. This campaign spans multiple countries over potentially a year and naming all of the NPCs that the characters might encounter in a Chapter wouldn't be feasible. Or it would just bloat the page count. 2) "couldn't give two figs about the concept of customer service" LOL 3) As with the previous comment, there are quite a few quality exercises in humor in this section. Don't skip the backgrounds of the generic NPCs! 4) The "real person" vignettes are a welcome addition. 5) The characters in this section could be used in virtually any campaign, with some modifications to cultural placement. Appendix B reflections: 1) I think it is a really nice gesture for Chaosium to include the nearly full text of some Grand Grimoire of Cthulhu Mythos Magic spells in this text. Many of us, of course, possess the book, but some may not. It has allowed Dr. Hardy to use the full command of "the catalogue" in her writing, without setting some readers at a disadvantage. Many companies would quite cynically either cheapen the depth of narrative to not require it, or simply require the book to get full use of the campaign. Chaosium is considerate of gamers. 2) There are a lot of really nice "utility" style spells in this Appendix that I could see being very useful and interesting for a lot of investigative groups, even outside the confines of the campaign. They are all also appropriately costed, meaning that they aren't like DND cantrips or anything where they could be cast on a whim. Many require large investments of Magic points, so if an investigator wants to utilize them, they must be used infrequently. POW expenditures abound too. I am very much of the school of thought that investigators should have access to lots of spells in the game (this is an unpopular opinion), but that the costs of learning them and the costs of casting should be such that they really need to think long and hard if their use is "worth it." Mask of Reason stands out to me as a really fun spell (a key to this campaign!) with a cost "the number of Magic points the target possesses!" There are lots of twists on spell costs like that in this section. Another notable: "All Magic points but one," reflecting that the spell just basically exhausts your eldritch reserves. Appendix C reflections: I commented on this section in my early reading. This campaign is arranged so that Investigators may be regional. In that case, these handouts become "common knowledge" for your character. For non-regional investigators, these handouts effectively become "investigative red-lining" so that the first step of entering any populated area doesn't need to be a Library Use roll if that process can be expedited. Library Use rolls are reserved for highly specialized info instead. Interestingly, this is an example of a Call of Cthulhu campaign that isn't as heavily dependent upon the Library Use skill as others! Appendix D reflections: 1) The need for overland travel in this region of the world is critical and the hiring of porters and guides is an absolute must. As such, this section gives you all the guidelines needed to work through the process. I can see it as being a key obstacle at the start of the campaign that gets progressively more "red-lined" as the action continues. 2) The perspective on the photo on page 254 is fun. There is a train of four camels, two riding abreast, but the photo makes it look like there are five- or six-legged camels. 3) As a part of the travel process, this Keeper would likely offer Investigators improvements in a concentrated area of their choice for observing the caravan in operation. Navigate, Survival, and Appraise (as reflected in the need to barter) might be candidates. 4) The Travel Times tables are super useful. In reading the text (I tend to read books sequentially, so didn't look ahead here) I was concerned about keeping track of travel times. This is handled with these Keeper aides! Appendix E reflections: 1) I will definitely be checking out the resources listed here to learn more! Call of Cthulhu gives wonderful opportunities to learn. 2) The music suggestions are something that tends to not be included in these sections and is refreshing here. Targeted key words to search for on YouTube will make it very easy for Keepers to find appropriate regional music quickly. Appendix F reflections: 1) Handout quality is superb, as is befitting one of Call of Cthulhu's signature features. Do you expect anything less? I'll tell you, once you play a game like Call of Cthulhu it's really hard to take the handouts of a lot of other RPGs seriously. I love Curse of Strahd, but the four handouts that the game offers, in the context of that game, is just a joke. Yes, I will throw shade at DND here. 2) I appreciate that the large regional map on 384-385 is full-page with no page numbers. 3) Subtle additions, like the external view of the Peshawar Museum on 391, are greatly appreciated. Appendix G reflections: This is an example of a campaign where I would probably ask my players to seriously consider using the pre-generated investigators. In lieu of that, I might ask them to re-spec their existing characters as "alternate universe" versions with slightly different backstories that match the skills proficiencies of these pre-gens. Although this campaign oozes Classic-era 1920s, I don't consider "Miskatonic Country" skill sets to be useful for this campaign. Index reflections: I've commented on the extensive cross-referencing in this campaign before, and the index is very detailed. It includes multiple topical sections which will, no doubt, be very useful for Keepers. Final thoughts (While drinking a cup of Blue Shadow tea. Yes, we have tea shops in Omaha, Nebraska. No, we aren't all farmers. 😜 ) I haven't run Children of Fear, so note that these have been my reflections on first read-through. I think this campaign is exceptional, with an incredible amount of depth. I also think that this is a great overall addition to the Call of Cthulhu product line. Like Masks, this is not a campaign for novice Keepers. Chaosium has done a great job over 7th edition of providing resources for novice (Gateways to Terror, Call of Cthulhu Starter Set, Doors to Darkness), intermediate (Mansions of Madness Volume 1, Harlem Unbound, Two-Headed Serpent, A Cold Fire Within) and advanced (Masks of Nyarlathotep, Children of Fear, Horrors on the Orient Express) Keepers. It will take a fair amount of research and Keeper skill to run this effectively. But the result will be a spectacular foray into Hindu and Buddhist mythology, as well as a lot of regional culture. There is a lot here to challenge people. Cannibalism, human-sacrifice, and charnal grounds are all aspects of Eastern religions that are likely to challenge Western players. Keepers will need to take care to know their groups and veil where appropriate. That is not a criticism. This campaign takes risks, and it will require an empathetic Keeper to mitigate the outcome of those risks. I've commented many times before that Dr. Hardy and the Chaosium team know what it is like to run games. They are in our heads in writing this campaign. Running it will be easier as a result of their hard work. I also need to comment that this is my style of Call of Cthulhu game. The emphasis here is largely on role-playing interaction, learning, exploration, and investigation. This is what Call of Cthulhu is, at it's core, in my opinion. It is different than a lot of Miskatonic Country investigations, and that is ok. We're globe-trotting here. And this is a region of the world hitherto not explored in-depth in Call of Cthulhu history. I'm a "physical book gamer," so I likely won't run any aspect of this until the hard copy is released in February/March. I'll be picking up the Leatherette, as is befitting of a legacy work like this. So, @Lynne H, I hope to hell you're proud of this work, because you should be.
    3 points
  3. (Note: Bold text refers to a Trait, Ability, or Rune that a character in question has). DRAMATIS PERSONAE Androgenus, a genderfluid Esrolian Eurmali trickster with the Illuminated Illusion, Earth, and Luck runes. They're out for blood vengeance against anyone who's ever victimized their family, their clan, and their homeland. in that order. Recently illuminated as part of a Heroquest that gave them temporary use of the Infinity Rune. Now missing the Rune, and grappling with the fact that his role as a Trickster may be just as meaningless as the society he rebelled against. Iris, an Esrolian Earth Priestess in service to the Goddess of Moss (I don't know who that would be in actuality, but when her player heard "land of ten thousand goddesses," she immediately came up with a gaggle of minor Earth goddesses that barely anyone might care about). She's got the Earth, Movement, and Spirit runes. Iris wants power at all costs, and now finds herself with an opportunity for it. Waddlestomp the Bloodybeaked, a Hueymakti Duck thane with the Water, Death, and Truth runes. He has sworn a dread oath that he will personally slay one human for every Duck that is or has ever been killed or otherwise victimized by human hands. Played by the oldest in our group, and the most experienced with Glorantha. He wields an enchanted shield originally crafted by the Square Circle Temple, and is making grim plans. and finally K'dud (pronounced Ka-Dude, after the persona of a Knight in our local chapter of the SCA). K'dud is a Caladralander priest of Vestkarthan, God of Volcanoes, and also an initiate into the cults of Gustbran and Kalvan as well. He holds the Fire, Law, and Mastery runes. He is a master of the Bronze Arms and Sharp Soul schools of unarmed combat, and seeks to help his people navigate the uncertain future after Belintar's death. To this end, he's attached himself to Iris and her gang of misfits, but more on that later. So last week, the heroes had killed Harrek the Berserk, one of the prophecied capitol-H Heroes of the Hero Wars. This week, the players wanted to rest on their laurels for a moment, lick their wounds, and let the player of the late Zonthor ease his new character into the game. I had other plans. We began the game at a celebratory feast in honor of our heroes, having slain (and barely survived the slaying of) Harrek the Berserk. The heroes were seated at a high table in the royal palace of Nochet, being toasted again and again and again by grateful nobles. Iris was wary of poison--she was the first to recognize that their deeds had painted a target on the party's back a mile wide. Androgenus didn't care; they were gulping down horn after horn of rich God Forgot-brewed beer and singing along (badly) with the songs of praise being expounded forth by a young poet who had captured (and dramatized) the events of last session. So far, he was playing up Iris's contribution to the battle as a fearless leader who had come up with the entire plan and was solely responsible for Harrek's downfall. Androgenus thought that his small part in the song (tricking Harrek into casting off his bear-skin cloak) was hilarious, and Waddlestomp wasn't amused at all, especially when the song mentioned him as a 'feathered friend.' Zonthor's ex-player (an enthusiast in Mediterannean archaeology) and Waddlestomp's took great pleasure taking turns to describe how bright and colorful the hall would have been, and the low tables piled high with rare delicacies brought from across the Six Nations. Well, five nations. I mentioned that since the betrayal of the City of Wonders and the fracturing of the Holy Country, Heortland was largely on its own. The Lunars (though beaten back earlier in the year) still prowled the northern frontiers, towards Sartar. Esrolia, the Shadow Plateau, God Forgot, and Caladraland still stood more-or-less together....but the Orlanthi ruled by the vile Broyan the Betrayer, the Last Vingkotling? They'd have to face the oncoming storm by themselves. In fact, rumor around the table was that the Shadow Plateau and God Forgot (I made sure to underline how much of a surprise the latter would be) were apparently preparing to attack Heortland to avenge the fallen God-King. Belintar's death--although caused by the Lunars--was being blamed on Broyan. Perhaps, the rumors said, Broyan had been in league with the Lunars all along. Perhaps he had wanted sole kingship of the Holy Country. In ages past, Vingkotling ambition had led to strife and turmoil again and again. It was to be expected....so perhaps it'd be safer all around if the other former Sixths dealt with the threat first. Iris was dragged into this intrigue when Samastina (Queen of Nochet, recognized as the leading Queen of Esrolia) leaned over the table, looked to her left, and asked Iris her opinion on the "Heortling question." Iris badly fumbled her Noble trait roll, and was completely tongue-tied, offering little more than confused noises and halfhearted platitudes about how unity in times of crisis would probably have been what Belintar would have wanted. "Yes," said Samastina coolly, as the local High Priestess of Maran Gor looked at Iris strangely, "But Belintar, blessed be he, is dead. Should we unite with those who spat on his memory, or against them?" The feast hushed, as if the entire hall was craning in to listen to Iris the Bearslayer's response. Androgenus loudly belched, trying to break the tension with their Trickster Trait, and scored a bare success. Despite herself, Samastina smirked, and things seemed less instant-death for Iris. Our Earth Priestess composed herself, and said, "I would counsel that we consolidate our forces. The Wolf Pirates are scattering, as moss mites do when you smash their nest. However, like moss mites, they will burrow deep and make more nests if we don't track them down and burn them out now. Broyan, if I may be so bold, can wait. The Wolf Pirates should not." Samastina smiled. Iris's player cursed loudly. "Exactly my thoughts as well. My young friend--" Iris's player groaned and cursed again"--is exactly correct. It is at this time precisely that we should strike together against the remnants of the Pirates. Gunda the Guilty is still out there, and may rally the survivors to attack us once more." There was a murmur of agreement. "To this end, and working with my esteemed friend King G'gardas of Caladraland, we shall send Queen Iris of the Three Step Isles to reclaim territory once stolen from us!" Iris choked on her wine. Androgenus fell over, clutching their side and laughing uproariously. Waddlestomp facebilled. A great cheer went up in the hall, and Iris managed to barely restrain herself from glaring daggers at Queen Samastina. After all, apparently she was a Queen herself, now! ....of a trio of remote, pirate-controlled, sheep-infested islands. ....very far away from the Esrolian power centers. Immediately, Iris's player figured it out: they had just made themselves the biggest threat to the Esrolian Queens' power. Howling barbarian demigods? Well, yes, those are horrible dangers to the Queendom and her people. But previously unknown adventurers who can kill those threats like it's nothing? An unknown quantity, particularly when one of them is such an obviously power-hungry Earth Priestess as Iris. The rest of the dinner was a drunken blur, discussing grand strategy and lofty goals: a phalanx of Esrolian pikemen backed up by caladralander naval support, led by Iris and her retinue, retaking the Three Steps in a swift invasion. Plundering the pirates' hidden treasure troves. Building a grand temple to the Moss Godess. Constructing a grand fortress in the middle of sea, from which the Holy Country (with Esrolia at the helm, naturally!) shall project its strength across many lands, for the greater glory of Kethaela! More raucous applause. Androgenus attempted to leap atop the table to improvise a praiseworthy poem, only to be stopped by Waddlestomp grabbing the wounded Trickster and yanking them back down onto their cushion. The feasting nobles laughed uproariously again, and we fast-forwarded past the feast, to later that night. Midnight in Nochet: celebrations for the death ofIris was abed already, having drunk herself into a stupor to deal with being outplayed by the Grandmothers. Waddlestomp was, as ever, sharpening his weapons and meditating on how much he hated humans. Androgenus, meanwhile, was being seduced by a comely servant from God Forgot. Androgenus had gotten even more drunk after the feast, and was busy trying to sleep their way through the entire serving staff. This one servant--a cupbearer that had taken his eye at the feast--was trying to lead them to a quiet stable in the outer bounds of the Royal Palace. Androgenus failed an opposed roll with his Paranoid flaw, and was led, stumbling and muttering, into a suspiciously empty stable. Well, it'd probably have been suspicious if Androgenus wasn't so stinking drunk, anyway. The Trickster wasn't laid down onto a soft pallet of straw, but rather a hard wooden table. They were tied down--which wasn't that much of a dealbreaker for them--but rather than inestimable pleasure, they felt the cold prick of a bronze knife poking them in the forehead! They could vaguely hear a cold, high-pitched voice (with a pronounced God Forgot accent) say: "The Rune may be vanished, but echoes of such a great power still remain, even in such unworthy flesh as this. Haruspex, are you prepared?" "Yes, lord," said the cupbearer, raising the knife. The Trickster sighed, the gravity of their situation sinking in past all the wine. They'd sort of figured it might end this way. It was now that we introduced K'dud. He burst into the stable (literally, using his Fire Rune's breakout ability Bronze Arms Style to punch through a stone wall Kool-Aid Man-style!), easily dispatched a burly Heortling mercenary set as a guard on this dark work, and set about attacking Androgenus's kidnappers. As it turned out, Androgenus had been taken by a Zzaburi sorceror--one taken with studying all sorts of forbidden God Learner-era lore--and his retinue. They sought to extract whatever remnants of the Infinity Rune still might be in Androgenus's carcass and use it for their own foul ends. K'dud wasn't having any of that. Using his Sharp Soul Style, he easily beheaded the Haruspex with his bare hands, dodged a retaliatory bolt of magical energy from the sorceror, lurking in the rear of the stable, and proceeded to kick the babbling, pleading Zzaburi through another wall. After untying Androgenus and using some Fire magic to help them sober up a bit, K'dud made his introductions: he was the youngest son of the King of Caladraland, dedicated to Vestkarthan and the Lowfires, master of several ways of unarmed combat, and he was here to protect Androgenus. Well....he was here to protect Iris, actually, but as Iris's sworn Trickster, K'dud's protection extended to them, too. Androgenus fell over himself (literally) thanking the burly, be-loincloth'd warrior, and scurried home to his quarters in the Palace. This wasn't the last of would-be assassins, either. As the in-game weeks went on in preparation for the conquest of the Three Step Isles, K'dud helped the party overcome a party of assassins sent by a rival priestess of another minor Earth Goddess, seeking to usurp Iris's position in the Three Step Isles (which baffled Iris to no end), a group of surly beastfolk who accused Waddlestomp of selling out their kind to humans by killing Harrek, and on the eve of the fleet's launch, broke the arms of a Dragonewt warrior who sought to punish the party for "usurping infinity with their unworthy mammal parts." Meanwhile, Waddlestomp began meeting contacts he had with other Duck expatriates in the Holy Country--enough was enough. He'd had it with obeying the orders of murderous humans. Once he'd returned from those blasted islands, he'd lead every Duck he could find in glorious war to reconquer their homeland. One way or another, anyway. Androgenus got into a philosophical argument with another Trickster about the illusory nature of Creation and their place within it that ended in a barroom brawl, and K'dud received a quiet pep talk from his father about how important it was for the Sixths to remain unified, even after Belintar's death. We stopped the session just before the fleet to the Three Step Isles set off. Iris had been told in no uncertain terms that she and her....warriors were not to return unless the Three Step Isles had been fully pacified and brought into the fold of Esrolia. Succeed, and a grand temple to the Moss Goddess would be constructed on those islands' chalky hills. Fail, and, well, they'd probably be killed by pirates. Or by Samastina's assassins, should they try to leverage whatever power they think they had back at home to disobey her orders. Thoroughly cowed, Iris finally agreed to this quest, and prepared as best as she could to conquer the Islands.
    2 points
  4. I've had the recent fortune of having a few Keeping Conversations with new Keepers. They always want advice, and I am normally happy to provide some, so long as the advice can actually do some good. Most advice given in the world is wrong. Not in of itself, but given with poor timing and without considering someone's improvement needs. Human experience is too varied for advice to do what it is intended to do. It isn't about "what worked for me." It is about what will work for the other person. I've been mentoring colleagues as an educator for many years, and the way we address this problem is by giving less advice and instead asking more questions that can help someone find what they need to be successful. I do believe that there is some baseline advice that can be safely given to new Keepers. 1. MGF (Maximum Game Fun) 2. Work towards balanced involvement at the table. (Quieter people may want to stay quiet, and that's ok. But also, some people need to be invited to participate. You shut down a table hog by inviting others to be involved and using the phrase: "Great idea, I'll come back to you" for people who Bogart time.) 3. Communicate with players early and often. (topics that are off the table, are we at MGF? etc) I think that is pretty safe advice and gives new Keepers actionable things to practice. Anybody can practice asking questions around a table so all are involved. Each of those has their own specific skills that need to develop, but it doesn't hurt to have them as axioms to aspire towards. But what about advice that most Keepers wouldn't immediately think of? What is deeper advice that could make a big difference? I'm specifically thinking about scenario execution. This leads me to the title of this post. I also just want to give a disclaimer here that I am not a scenario designer, nor am I trying to unfairly criticize scenario designers. I don't have those skills, but at the same time, I know what I most frequently change about scenarios. I think there is a generalized fallacy that is assumed in role-playing games that I'll call the "perfect timing fallacy." The idea is that many encounters are designed such that player characters are expected to be in the right place at exactly the right time. This classically manifests itself in a variety of ways. Dungeons are all stocked full of monsters that, for some reason, stick to within the boundaries of their room despite their being open corridors between them. They are always awake. Investigators stumble upon a ritual exactly as it is being completed, or right before they can have an impact. The cop who saw something is on duty when the investigator's ask for them. Monsters in a room are always prepared to fight, or willing to fight. There is nothing inherently wrong with any of those examples, so long as it is fun for the participants. Scenario designers frequently do a great job of proposing "alternatives outside the norm." And sometimes "the norm" is what produces MGF. And that's great. Perfect timing is arguably critical from a narrative standpoint. It moves the narrative along when it needs to move. That isn't lost on me. Managing the ebb and flow of the story at a table is another critical skill for Keepers to develop. But what advantages can be gained by breaking with perfect timing? I think that it is also worth considering the potential benefits of imperfect timing for investigative horror role-playing (or role-playing in general). I think Jaws is a perfect example of using imperfect timing as a narrative tool. Brodie, Quint, and Hooper spend most of the movie too late to do something. And the shark is only barely on screen for the majority of the movie. Them always being late produces a frustration that drives the narrative because it just makes them work harder to engage the threat. Now, imperfect timing works until perfect timing is needed. The movie has a time cap and they gotta ramp it up, so the shark shows up. And when it does show up, the payoff for the audience is huge. They had to work to get the payoff, rather than the payoff just appearing immediately for all to see. So how does this translate as a tool for gaming? Here are some examples: 1) Curating existential dread. Fear of the unknown is one of the greatest and most primal human emotions. This is why horror movies that work are those that don't show the threat ever or until as late as possible in the narrative. In the Jaws example above, the dread is created by the heroes arriving after the shark attacks and seeing the grisly aftermath. And the shark promptly sinks back into the waves and out of actionable distance. It is often better for the Investigators to arrive late to something happening, especially if violence is involved. The pendulum can swing the other way too. Don't underestimate the power of investigators arriving early and then having no idea how to prevent or engage with an issue. Being early and being late is often far more frightening to people than being "right on time." This also has the advantage of really selling the idea that "shooting your gun" or "swinging your club" isn't going to fix this situation. Taking that off the table forces investigators to use other means to address a threat. As always, know your group and what they like. 2) Eliciting healthy struggle. If your players always arrive on time, there may not be as much brain work that they have to do to work out a situation. Speaking for myself, when I play, I love not knowing what is happening with a situation because it encourages me to turn the wheels in the head. This can be particularly useful when players arrive really early and the number of clues present in a location, right at that moment, is minimal. Or, they may stumble upon a total orgy of evidence but have no idea how it all relates to the current time at the current location! That in of itsekf can be frightening. Or, maybe they arrive early or late and what could have been a critical narrative location has now become a red herring. This last one is particularly useful when running games in which the players know the scenario and are struggling not to metagame it! 3) Keeping investigators alive in campaigns. If you play mostly one-offs at conventions, it is understood that the gloves are pretty much off for lethality. People who play CoC at Cons know that their characters aren't likely to live, even if they make a string of good decisions. There is also the "Sandy Petersen killed me" dream of a lot of gamers. But when you do campaign play, it is a completely different ball game. This is an area where communication is key. And while some players are perfectly ok with their character getting slaughtered or going insane at any turn, many players get attached to their characters. If we could criticize one aspect of early (1970s) scenario design, it is that a lot of early scenario work featured "gotcha" deaths that were nearly impossible to avoid if ran as written. That does not contribute to a positive table feel unless it is known in advance to expect that. People often ask me how I am able to Keep (capitalization intended, he he) characters alive when playing campaigns with a reputation for lethality. The answer to that question is that players often arrive early or late to situations that would just end the narrative unnecessarily prematurely. in thinking about MGF for my group, they are very attached to their characters. I think it is incumbent upon CoC Keepers to consider that scoffing at that attitude in players isn't the most productive way to get to MGF, even if you think that "frequent character death and insanity is how CoC should work." This is less about how a game works, and more about how your table works. If you play a game the way it "should work" and your players aren't into that, then you've failed. You can have your cake and eat it too in campaign play. It just takes considering having characters arriving early or late to encounters that are designed to be "right on time." These techniques are not new to horror role-playing. Many published works emphasize rigid or flexible timelines for events. The key is simply to consider the possibility that "right on time" may not be the best decision for maintaining a slow descent into madness. I'm prepared to venture that going extended periods being alive and sane is far more frightening than just dying and going insane instantaneously. Your game will vary, of course. There is a sprawling continuum of what different people find fun. The key is to consider: How can you avoid being trapped by perfect timing as a Keeper?
    2 points
  5. Here and now “What do you want to know? My name? Which one? You already know all of them. My friends and my family call me Aendel, so let’s use that. Where to start? The beginning? My mother, Jareen Londrosdottr, gave birth to me during the fourth year of Dangmet’s reign, the wWild day of the Truth week, during the great Umath season. My clan was the Taraling. Here, my kin count lots of kings, such as Leika my lovely cousin, Kangharl the shameful, unfortunate Kallay and many more. My father has nothing to be ashamed of with his lineage. But I discovered this point when I (just) was a young adult. My mother wanted me to become king. She planned, acted and manipulated for her obsession. She obtained a good position in the Runegate Earth temple and was selected to incarnate Ernalda at the Spring fest. In exchange for favours, she obtained a noble warrior as her Orlanth. She explained to me later that he was visiting the clan before moving far away, so he was a good candidate, allowing her to educate me like she wanted, without having to convince a “bull” of her choices. Of course, she sacrificed all the few resources she had and Ernalda blessed her pregnancy. She gave birth to the wonderful baby who now sits in front of you. And mother started my education. She taught me all our lineage. She taught me all the Heortling laws a king must know to lead his people. She taught me how to order and convince a crowd, to manage a house. When other boys discovered woods and rivers, stones and sticks, I recited Vingkot’s story. Fortunately, sometimes, I was able to escape her attention, and seeking to resemble my unknown father, I trained with my sword. Alone. With such a weird education, few children wanted to play with me. Some did, but I quickly discovered they were forced to by their parents, who hoped to gain some social benefits in the future. That was a bad bargain. I refused these false friendships, and, angry and wounded by such lies, I swore to always tell the truth. And then the drama came. We had to flee out of our clan land from Lunar invaders. Mother decided to reach for Boldhome. I think she planned to impress the Prince, to make some alliances and to place me in the court. The plan would be great…. if the Lunars were defeated. When she saw the forces beyond the ramparts, she kissed me, ordering me to follow my destiny, to become the great leader she dreamed of. And she joined the army, and she was in the front line, and she died, bravely, spitting her blood in the face of her murderer. Here is my fate, by my blood and my will, by the winds and the truth, I was born to be king. All my choices are dedicated to that. And nobody, nothing, not even you, will prevent me from accomplishing my destiny.”
    1 point
  6. (Note: Bold text refers to a Trait, Ability, or Rune that a character in question has). (Another note: we didn’t have another session this last weekend because I was sick and Androgenus’s player’s partner had a death in the family, so I’m posting the rest of our last session now--sorry for the delay!) DRAMATIS PERSONAE Iris, an Esrolian Earth Priestess in service to Takakia, the Goddess of Moss. She holds the Earth, Movement, and Spirit runes. Iris is the supposed leader of the party, but finds that bossing around a bloodthirsty Duck, an erratically insane Trickster, and a somewhat gormless volcano priest to be a tad more difficult than nailing Jell-O to the wall with an office stapler. Right now, she’s also finding that staying conscious is just as hard, but more on that later. Waddlestomp the Bloodybeaked, a Hueymakti Duck thane with the Water, Death, and Truth runes. Creator of Waddlestomp’s Big Ol’ List Of Humans That Need Killin’™, and now seriously considering adding his fellow adventurers to the list after being captured by mythic Sun Empire soldiers. In fact, the party got their butts handed to them so badly by the onrushing troopers that he did the previously unthinkable and surrendered! Androgenus, a genderfluid Esrolian Eurmali trickster with the Illuminated Illusion, Earth, and Luck runes. They’ve found themselves trapped in Myth with the rest of their companions, and capture by Sun Empire soldiers who sense a strange, unknown (to them) power in the weird little Trickster. They’re utterly convinced that their “best friend Waddlestomp” (their own words) will come save them--despite the mountains of evidence to the contrary. And, of course: K'dud (pronounced Ka-Dude). A warrior priest of Vestkarthan and the Lowfires, K'dud holds the Fire, Truth, and Mastery runes. Though and through them has mastered the Bronze Arms and Sharp Soul styles of unarmed combat. His player, after two weeks struggling to define a personality trait for K’dud beyond “Vaguely helpful and a bit dumb,” has decided to embrace it, renaming his core trait Volcano Himbo. And he’s going to make good use of that trait in the second part of this session… ...because we came back to the action (after the first half of the session’s argument over whether or not a Hueymakti warrior would ever surrender) with Iris drowning in a sacred pool beneath an enslaved river-dragon, and K’dud (barely) fighting off fish spirits under the command of, to his astonishment, the same Merfolk hero that the PCs had thought they’d slain in the last session! Stunned by this revelation, K’dud failed in a contest against the hero (using his Fire rune versus the hero’s Water rune) and was trapped in a bubble of crushing, ice-cold water. The Merfolk introduced himself...and I realized with horror that I forgot to name a critical NPC. Immediately, Androgenus’s player suggested “Fssh,” after a fish-man barbarian hero from a Dungeon World livestream performed by the Canadian comedy group LoadingReadyRun. Everyone groaned. They then suggested “Bruce,” after the shark from Finding Nemo, and decided to try a supposedly Australian accent that sounded more vaguely South African than anything else. Everyone groaned louder. Then Iris’s player suggested “Sashimi,” and weirdly enough, everyone agreed. Thus, the Merfolk hero was named S’shiim, holder of the Water, Storm, Death, and Mastery runes, hero of the vile, slimy, fangly-jawed Ysabbau, Breaker of Ships, Drowner of Cities, and current questor for Magasta. Well, to put more of a fine point on it, questor for Brastalos, Goddess of Waterspouts and spouse of Magasta. I gave Iris a Hero Point for coming up with the name, which she promptly used to barely regain consciousness and struggle to shore while S’shiim was distracted with the fire priest. “What do you want from us?! Why harry us like this, fishman?!” exclaimed K’dud. “Me?!” burbled S’shiim, “You worthless dirt-crawlers are hunting me through my people’s most sacred story! Your interference will ruin everything!” “Huh?” asked K’dud, rolling (and getting a decent success with) his Volcano Himbo Trait to convince S’shiim to monologue about what’s going on and give the heroes an exposition dump. Meanwhile, (as I cut back to Androgenus and Waddlestomp and made the other two players groan with anticipation), Waddlestomp and Androgenus were being brought to the island’s governor, Iramat. Androgenus was in fiery chains, Waddlestomp was being warily surrounded by soldiers, but otherwise unmolested. The bickering twosome were dragged before Iramat’s marble throne in the center of a garishly-painted, palatial villa overlooking the waterfall (which, close up, could be seen to be a captured Water Dragon!). I described the throne “room” as an opulent, gold-and-jewel-set pavilion of sorts, with two sides open to the courtyard, one to the cliffside, and one leading deeper into the palace. It was the governor’s meditation garden as well as seat of governance, with a rock garden, reflecting pool (in fact a spring, with a small stream flowing out from it that left the throne room and rushed forth to join the raging cataract beyond), and elegant mural depicting Yelm’s Celestial Court and the birth of a solar deity. “Barbarian filth,” drawled the governor, barely able to look up from the sand painting he was working on, “You stand accused of violating the sanctity of Secret Cradle Island. Before executing you, have you anything to say?” “Secret what nrrfghg--” began Androgenus, before being gagged by the nearest guard. They glared at the guard, struggling against the chains. “We apologize, O mighty lord,” quacked Waddlestomp, to Iramat’s evident amusement, “But we had no idea where we were. Our ship was run aground of the reef during a storm, and we came ashore to gather supplies and repair our vessel before continuing on. We meant no trespass.” I had Waddlestomp roll his Truth rune’s breakout ability Zone of Truth versus Iramat’s Arrogant Sun Empire Bureaucrat ability, and Waddlestomp scored a respectable success. Showing his Truth rune shining forth, Iramat scratched at his beard and considered this. “You speak truly….obviously, but still, I know not why a….mutated Keet? Whatever you are, you and your….” Iramat stared quizically at Androgenus. “Pleasure slave?” Waddlestomp managed to choke back a violent response (with a bare success against his Humakti Geas: Suffer No Insult Without Violence Flaw, as Waddlestomp would see any intimation that he would be intimate with any human, much less this human, as a deadly insult) and Androgenus went from grumbling to laughing uproariously behind their gag. “...or whatever they are, you have no right to come here. By decree from the Sun Himself, any but those without his personal authorization on this island must die. It has ever been thus since the creation of this island. I see no harm in telling you, for you will die anyway, I suppose: in ancient days, Yelm once favored a concubine called Tihs, a minor goddess no people pray to in these times. Yelm’s affection sparked vicious jealousy among his Court, who sought to hurt the object of his affection since they could not hurt Him. When Tihs was with child, she was hidden away—here—and though she died bringing the Forgotten Sun into the world, neither she nor the holy child were ever found by their enemies. To this day, the most important treasures of the Golden Empire have been hidden here. Any outsiders must be slain, by order of the Sun Himself.” Waddlestomp considered this. It certainly explained all the finery around the place, and the heavy guard. ...meanwhile, at the bottom of the cliff… Exasperated (and somewhat entranced by) K’dud’s handsome cluelessness, S’shiim launched into the story of How Magasta Won the Hand of Brastalos. Before the Sea claimed the world, Magasta was alone, and sought companionship. No lord or lady of His domain would join with him as his spouse, or even his mate. Magasta loved many, but few loved him in return. Then he met Brastalos. (“Who?” “Shut up and the merperson will tell us, K’dud.” “Oh.”) Lady of the No-Wind, Queen of the Cyclone, Daughter of the First Storm, Spray-Twinkling, Still-And-Moving, Umath’s paradox daughter. Magasta saw her frolicking in the clouds above his domain and knew he had to have her. Singing a song of roaring beauty that reminded her of her own lusty brothers’ cries, Brastalos came to the edge of Magasta’s waters and sang back. The two loved one another from their first glance. Magasta desired her for his spouse, not merely a mate of convenience. Brastalos desired this, too, but knew that proud Umath would not consent to give his daughter to an upstart Water Lord. “But there is another way,” said fair Brastalos. (“Wait, I thought ‘there is always another way’ is an Earth Goddess thing?” “That’s a lot of gods’ thing, K’dud. Shut up.”) Magasta whistled in confusion. “The Bad Emperor seeks stillness in all things, and punishes my father by stripping his greatest treasures from him. He refuses to allow the Air People to have a place in the way of things. To cow my father and my brothers, he took our peoples’ regalia to a secret place. Find the treasure stolen by the Sky People. With it, my bride price will be paid, and my father shall have no choice but to let us claim one another. Brastalos accepted this, and with a kiss soft as a breeze set off to reclaim his love’s treasure from the Sky People. Foolishly, they set their dirt-loving hovels at the edge of His domain to taunt him. With crashing waves and rushing torrent, he drowned them, swept their huts into the sea, and picked through the remains. He found a few baubles, but not a treasure worthy of the Storm. Magasta went to the Gull People and demanded they repay the favor he had done by saving them from famine. Eagerly, they told of the Sky People sending boats of all things-- (“Wait, I thought Merfolk’d like boats, ‘cause, well, they’re water things, right? Both of them are water things?” “...Neither of us have time to explain how wrong that is right now. Shut up..” “But--” “Shut Up!” “Thank you, S’shiim.” “Don’t mention it. Now where was I? Ah, yes…”) Magasta went to the Gull People and demanded they repay the favor he had done by saving them from famine. Eagerly, they told of the Sky People sending boats of all things across Magasta’s realm, furtively sneaking treasure stolen from other peoples they had oppressed for too long. Magasta went in search of the boats, led by the young scouts of the Gull People. He called Six-Mouthed-Deep to devour the boats of Admiral Savatilan and spit the treasure out into Magasta’s grotto, but no Air treasures were to be found. He chased the flagship helmed by Captain Never-Runs-From-Battle into the Dragon Eye Atoll and sucked it down to the seabed, but although the cargo was rich with strange spices and pelts, it had no Air treasures. Finally, Keehar, youngest scout of the Gull People, found a ship hidden by powerful magic. It was found by looking at where a ship should have been, but wasn’t. Magasta called his kinsman Charax, he of the many rows of teeth, and bade him chase the ship to its destination. Charax did so, but the captain was too wily, and sailed in a wide circle around the port they sought until Charax got tired and swam away to seek prey. Magasta howled in frustration--if the Gull People could only barely find the ship, if his fearsome cousin couldn’t track it, and if they wouldn’t stay still to meet him in battle, then how could he find the bride price? He wept, and hearing his sobs, Brastalos stood at the edge of his realm and sang. She sang of lost hope, of a happy life with Magasta that may not be, of her rage at how she was kept from having a place in the cosmos--not only by Yelm the Bad Emperor, but by her father, Umath. The rage in her song became a storm, and the storm trapped the treasure ship on a reef just before it reached its destination. Magasta and his warriors stormed the ship and found one of the treasures, Umath’s favorite arm-ring. The others had already been hidden away, but Magasta learned from the captain where they had gone: Secret Cradle Island, where a forgotten solar god was hidden as he was born. No island was hidden from Magasta. He went to Secret Cradle Island, and befriended the dragon-- (“Wait, this dragon?” “Yes, that dragon, now shut the hell up!”) He went to Secret Cradle Island, and befriended the dragon that was enslaved to guard the place-- (“I’m sorry, but how in Magasta’s holy name can you stand travelling with this man?” “He’s handsome, and he punched a hole all the way through your chest like it was nothing.” “....Fair point. Where was I?” “The dragon?” “What dragon? Oh, that dragon. The dragon. Yes. A-hem:”) He befriended the dragon that was enslaved to guard the place. Its name was Oraka, and it was the dragon of a secret spring deep under the Earth. A creature of great Darkness and Water, the island’s governor cruelly forced it out into the light to serve as would a hermit crab use an anemone growing on its shell. Magasta took pity on the great beast, and with a mighty pull snapped the chains binding to dragon to the cliff side. In gratitude, Oraka swore a life debt to the lord of the deeps. He let Magasta swim up him to his source, where the governor had reshaped a holy spring to a reflecting pool for his own vanity. The greedy governor, puffed up with his own self-importance, was set to guard Yelm’s most coveted treasures, here on an island that nobody knew of. He saw himself as Yelm’s most trusted servant, and his arrogance knew no bounds. But yet, he was bored. Guarding a treasure hoard that was not sought after led to no challenges save wringing recognition from a distant Emperor, and he always craved distraction. Wily Magasta, hidden in the spring, took on the form of a beautiful water nymph. He sung a song that inflamed the governor’s lust, and, beguilingly, called the governor to tryst with him in the spring. The jaded man leapt into the water, where Magasta drowned him and stepped out from the spring, wearing his shape. Magasta then had the governor’s guards lead him to the vault. There, he found astounding wealth! Treasures robbed or extorted as tribute from all manner of the world’s peoples and gods. There was Lodril’s first Spear, still smoldering with heat. There was the Crown of Mastery, surging with such power that even Emperor Yelm could not wear it without risk. There were Rastalos’s Rings, used by the primeval trickster to amuse the Celestial Court. And, of course, in pride of place, was Umath’s tribal regalia, as cold as the wind, as bright as lightning. Magasta took the treasures he sought and fled the palace, leaping atop Oraka as the palace guards found the drowned corpse of their lord. Magasta’s laughter and Oraka’s roars of rage sunk the island beneath the sea, drowning the Sky People and their stolen treasures forevermore. Magasta rode Oraka across the sky to Umath’s grotto, where he was greeted coldly by his son Storm-Thane and belligerently by his other son Hurt-Everything. “I have come for the hand of Brastalos!” He called, and when the Air gods laughed, he threw Umath’s stolen treasures at their feet. “I offer a bride price: your honor, so long ago taken from you by the Bad Emperor.” Umath scowled, for he was loathe to let his daughter marry such a lowly Water lord, for such was Magasta at this time. “Trinkets cannot buy the heart of my daughter,” he growled, and made to turn his back. Storm-Thane saw his sister’s dismay, and said, “I guess we won’t be getting the Bag of Winds back, father. Oh, or the Widebrew Cauldron, too, we’ll miss that at feasts. And oh, look! You’re rather generously allowing Magasta to keep your favorite arm-ring, the one that duplicates itself every season?” Umath made a strangled noise in the back of his throat and looked at Brastalos, who was beaming at Magasta with loving pride. “They are beneath you,” he rumbled, like a thunderclap. “And they always will be,” whispered Brastalos, taking Magasta’s hand, “But they will ever be my equal. The fates of Sea and Storm will forevermore be joined, for good or ill.” Umath saw that he could not disobey his daughter’s heart-wish, and allowed the match. Magasta took Brastalos to their grotto. Although she could not stand to live beneath the Water, she ever stayed near her spouse, circling around him as currents encircle the whirlpool. And there she remains to this day. “That was...beautiful…” breathed K’dud, after a while. Then he looked confused. “But what does it have to do with—“ Iris groaned and slapped her forehead. “The myth, you, you—rragrh! We’re stuck in the myth! S’Shiim was—is—heroquesting to re-enact the myth, this myth, the story of Brastalos’s Bride Price, yes?” “Yes,” Burbled S’shiim, still staring at K’dud incredulously. “The attack on your ship was when my lord Magasta attacked the hidden ship in a storm, and found the location of Secret Cradle Island. Though you fended us off and wounded me terribly, I still learned of the island. And now, I must navigate the rest of this sacred story with you dirtcrawlers in the flotsam, messing everything up.” “Oh. Oh,” said K’dud, realization dawning. “Oh, my. I’m so sorry! How can we help?” S’shiim and Iris looked at him, dumbfounded. I had K’dud roll for his Volcano Himbo Trait again, opposed by S’shiim’s Haughty Merfolk Hero Trait, and he got a critical success against a critical failure! Despite himself, S’shiim began laughing. He couldn’t help but like the empty-headed firehunk, and said, “I...I don’t know. But any assistance you can grant in freeing the dragon so I may resume the story would be gratefully accepted. I admit, the wounds you dealt me almost threw me from the storypath. And now—“ All of a sudden, there was an almighty roar, and the water dragon thrashed above— —as the governor of the island called Oraka to heel. I moved the action back a few minutes, and gave the PCs a chance to explain themselves. Waddlestomp had decided that blunt honesty was the best way of things. “We were traveling by ship to a distant land,” he said, “And were attacked by merfolk. Water people,” he continued, looking at the governor’s incredulous expression. “They stranded us on the reef out there—“ he pointed a wing to the She’s One Of Ours, Sir!, now surrounded by Golden Empire longboats bearing warriors, “—And we came ashore only to gather supplies before heading on.” “Ah, the cargo ship,” said Iramat, the myth easily slotting the She’s One Of Ours, Sir into the role of the treasure ship. “Bearing the latest addition to the vault. Why didn’t you say?” “Cargo...ship?” Asked Waddlestomp, looking at Androgenus, who wordlessly gestured for the Duck to play along. “Right. Yes. Cargo ship. The ship indeed carries cargo, and we are here,” finished Waddlestomp, lamely. “Yes. If you had but sent word, you would have received aid, not spears. Now...water people, you say? They attacked you?” Waddlestomp nodded. “Ah. In that case, there is a risk, however slight, that they have tracked you here. No matter, however. Let me call the guard—“ and with a wave of his hand, the waterfall started falling upwards, spraying ice-cold water over the palace. Oraka’s chains tightened, the dragon RRROOOOAAARRED, and reared above the palace, circling it in midair, sniffing and snuffling for signs of intruders. “Oraka, the dragon of this place. He serves Yelm now, as do we all. He shall find these water people, and devour them! Have no fear, little Keet. Your diligence does you credit.” Below, S’shiim started screaming in anguish. We ended the session there, on a cliffhanger, and me desperately trying to figure out where to take the game from here.
    1 point
  7. (Note: Bold text refers to a Trait, Ability, or Rune that a character in question has). DRAMATIS PERSONAE Androgenus, a genderfluid Esrolian Eurmali trickster with the Illuminated Illusion, Earth, and Luck runes. They are attempting to explore the mysteries of Illumination without a teacher—without any type of teacher—and are beginning to wonder whether or not existence is worth all the trouble. They’re also being watched very closely by... Waddlestomp the Bloodybeaked, a Hueymakti Duck thane with the Water, Death, and Truth runes. His quest to avenge his people has hit a small speed bump while he’s been pressganged into helping Iris conquer the Three Step Isles (see below). In the meantime, his patented Waddlestomp’s Big Ol’ List Of Humans That Need Killin’™ has just gained a new member: Androgenus, after the cowardly Trickster abandoned him in the middle of a merfolk fight last session. Currently mourning the loss of his enchanted shield in that same fight, and nursing some serious wounds. K'dud (pronounced Ka-Dude, named after the persona of a Knight in our local chapter of the SCA). K'dud is a Caladralander priest of Vestkarthan, God of Volcanoes, and also his sons Gustbran and Kalvan. He holds the Fire, Truth, and Mastery runes, and through them has mastered the Bronze Arms and Sharp Soul styles of unarmed combat. His player, after two weeks struggling to define a personality trait for K’dud beyond “Vaguely helpful and a bit dumb,” has decided to embrace it—and renamed his core Trait in the process. More on that later. And last but certainly not least: Iris, an Esrolian Earth Priestess in service to Takakia, the Goddess of Moss, who holds the Earth, Movement, and Spirit runes. Iris is the supposed leader of the party, but finds that bossing around a bloodthirsty Duck, an erratically insane Trickster, and a somewhat gormless volcano priest to be a tad more difficult than nailing Jell-O to the wall with an office stapler. Plus, she’s also having to deal with a smuggler captain who blames her and her alone for getting their ship stranded in the middle of someone else’s mythos... That’s right, this session opened in the God Time. I revealed that right at the start by calling for everyone to roll against their strongest Runes, with the possible consequences for failure being that they’d be even more confused by what was about to happen than normal. Everyone passed—except K’dud, which became a running theme. Therefore, everyone except K’dud twigged onto what was going on and where they were immediately. As the red sun dawned over multicolored, shimmering waves, wind spirits and fish spirits visibly dancing about them, everyone (including most of the NPCs present on their ship, the She’s One Of Ours, Sir), except K’dud, realized they were not in the material world, but in the Godplane! Iris got it first: they were probably sucked into the God Time during the storm, which did seem even more violent and magical than usual. Her Spirit Rune glowed brightly, showing that they were closer to the spirits, clueing her into the magic all around her. Then Androgenus understood another nugget of what was going on with his Beggar background Trait, he recognized snippets of a story he’d heard from Triolini dock workers in his youth. He recalled the tale of Magasta, God of the Seas, fighting the Fire Tribe, plundering treasure ships and coastal settlements for the bride-price of Brastalos, Goddess of Waterspouts and Sea Storms. The last session’s fight against the merfolk during the storm, and the island they were marooned in front of, both seemed familiar to them somehow, but they couldn’t recall any more details other than that they were definitely trapped somewhere in a merfolk myth. Then Waddlestomp, with his Death Rune affinity, sensed the presence of another great dealer of Death—the Merfolk Hero from the battle, still somehow alive, despite the grievous wounds that K’dud had inflicted on him! He advised the rest of the party to be wary-that kind of Hero seldom leaves a task unfinished, particularly if they got swept up into a Heroquest. Meanwhile, K’dud stared overboard and gawked at the brilliantly-colored fish flitting around the oyster-covered reef below. He was interrupted by the ship’s captain. The damage to the She’s One Of Ours, Sir had been repaired in such a way that the boat was literally pinned in place by a chunk of oystery coral; more extensive repairs were required to actually move the ship, which would take materials that just weren’t on hand. The mythical tropical island laid out before them, however, looked like it had plenty of wood, fresh water, and perhaps food. Everyone knew the risks inherent in foraging—for supplies in the God World—travel is dangerous even if you knew the story you are traveling through. Going blind through another culture’s myths? That was tantamount to very incompetent suicide. But they needed to do it. The adventurers set out in a longboat for shore with a work party of sailors; they were looking for fresh water, some food, and enough timber to repair the ship. Waddlestomp made sure that he was sitting riiiiiight next to Androgenus, so the Trickster didn’t start any funny business. “I don’t know what’s on that island, but I swear by Hueymakt’s cloaca that when shit goes down, if you so much as twitch wrong, Androgenus,” muttered Waddlestomp out of the corner of his beak, “You die first. Get me?” Androgenus nodded and smiled, apparently happy to hear it. “Glad to know you’re back to normal. How’s the arm?” They responded. Waddlestomp’s arm had been impaled by the merfolk Hero the previous session. “All the better for you to mind your own business, mammal,” grunted the thane, giving Androgenus the world’s biggest stink-eye. (The players cracked up at this: Waddlestomp’s player acted this out through his webcam and everyone started making jokes about The Rock that went on for about thirty minutes.) The boat made landfall with nary a sound on an isolated, picturesque beach. Iris Called Up Local Spirits (swiftly becoming her favorite stunt), secretly opposed by the watchful eyes of the island’s mythic guardians. With a marginal failure, she learned where a good supply of fresh water would be—the base of the waterfall that could be seen from the She’s One Of Ours, Sir, and furthermore that the pool had a decent population of fish for the ship’s larder. Iris led the way, tailed by K’dud (who kept gawping at everything with a slack jawed “Gosh!” Every few minutes). Androgenus and Waddlestomp stayed behind to help out the smugglers and hoplites that were busy chopping down a decent-sized tree that stood a few yards back from the beach’s treeline. Androgenus managed a critical success against their Paranoid flaw, so we ruled that they were jumpy, but justifiably so—they could tell that they were being watched by something, and not just the local spirits. They alerted Waddlestomp, who grudgingly stood on guard as well, contemptuous as he was of the Trickster’s flighty antics. As the crew got to work knocking down the tree, they were proven right! Out of the trees, a band of gold-armored, flame-armed warriors sprang, instantly cutting down a handful of the workmen and putting the others to rout. As the crew fled down the beach and Waddlestomp met burning bronze with killing Truesword, we “cut” to Iris, K’dud, and their crew contingent. Iris led them to an eerily tranquil pool underneath a roaring waterfall. Roaring, as it so happened, because it was actually an enormous Water Dragon, chained to the cliff with ropes of pure dancing sunlight! Immediately, they were set upon by a trio of fish spirits that leapt up from the pool. K’dud’s Bronze Arms Style (tied to his Fire rune) burned away two of the fish, but not before the third savaged Iris with snapping jaws and razor-edged fins. The moss priestess was knocked into the pool, barely conscious and no doubt doomed to drown... ...And we cut back to Waddlestomp and Androgenus. Androgenus got a solid success with their Luck rune's breakout ability Clumsy Curse against the onrushing soldiers, making many of them drop their weapons and shields in their charge down the beach. Waddlestomp used Vengeance-Seeking Swordsduck to great effect, laying many of the soldiers low and holding their attention long enough for the She's One Of Ours, Sir's crew to escape back to the longboats and row hard for the reef. But it wasn't quite enough--Androgenus found themself swiftly found by soldiery searching the trees, surrounded with a flaming spearheads, then wrapped in scintillating chains of fiery light. Waddlestomp merely took a good luck at the wave after wave of fire-clad, weirdly identical warriors that were streaming down the beach towards him, and did the unthinkable for a Hueymakti warrior: He laid down his sword and surrendered. This started a bit of an out-of-character argument, and also was the midpoint of our session. I'll recap the other half of the session soon! We took a mid-session break with Iris struggling for consciousness in a deep, dark pool, K'dud barely fending off fish spirits, Androgenus and Waddlestomp captured, and four players arguing vehemently about whether or not Waddlestomp's god would let him surrender.
    1 point
  8. The Brothers were discouraged. They looked around at the busy, bustling fortified village. Warriors were talking, drinking and gambling. Where are we asked Wulfhere and where is Grim's Dyke? The man grinned and motioned them to look to the northwest. See that dyke stretching into the distance? That’s Grim's Dyke. Built by giants long ago. There was a great earthwork that stretched to the northwest into the dusk. This is Grim’s Dyke Burgh. The Brothers were beginning to find Angle humour hard to take and if they had not been so tired, they might have started an argument. Uthric asked if Ealdorman Wiglaf was here and if so would he see three travellers? I think he might, replied the man, but not at present. This turned out to be another bit of Angle humour and when they complained that they came from a place where people talked plainly and not with riddles or sarcasm the man grew grumpy and told them that if they insisted on asking stupid questions, they would get stupid answers. Southerners have no sense of humour. The Thane in Grim's Dyke Burgh was Wictred and he was more approachable than the guard at the gate. He was interested that the Brothers had seen five Wealsc, as the Angles called the Britons. Wealsc means foreigners, which is a bit ingenious thought Wulfhere as the Britons lived here before either Angles or Saxons came to this land. Still it serves a purpose and gets us fired up against the Britons. Wictred praised Uthric and suggested he might be known as Eagle-eye. Often Wealsc scouts move through the countryside unseen. The first thing that a person knows that there are Wealsc around is when a spear suddenly sprouts from your chest. Wictred laughed at his own joke and added that it is also usually the last thing you notice too. When he had calmed down somewhat, Wictred gave the brothers more ale and asked them for their news. Wulfhere, as eldest, explained they had travelled from Portus Caester to talk with Wiglaf. Wictred commented that he wasn't sure where Portus Caester was, but he considered that the Brothers must have important business with Wiglaf to come into Mierce. But that discussion would have to wait a while longer, for unfortunately, Wiglaf had left and gone to Mershford before last Midsummer. He was using Mershford as a base to attack the Wealsc. Mershford was only two days travel on the Old Road, however he did not expect the brothers would meet Wiglaf there as it was summer and he would have taken his Warband north in search of plunder. The next day the brothers travelled to Danasted. They met a Warband on the way in a temporary encampment. The Warband had come off worst in a fight with the Wealsc and were recovering before moving on. Towards evening they arrived at Danasted which was a fortified camp and were given lodging and food after they had chopped wood and carried water to the communal kitchens. They left early in the morning eager to get to Mershford. On the way, Eagle-eyed Uthric again saw some men watching them. This time they were Angles, who waved at them from a distance, after reaching the conclusion the Brothers were not enemy troops. At Mershford, they learnt from Thane Offa that Wiglaf had returned to Mershford a moon ago but had returned to a city in the north called Ratae. Wiglaf had stormed the city last harvest time and was fortifying it. Offa counselled against going. The Wealsc are thick around here and if it is not urgent business with Wiglaf they should stay. The Brothers disagreed saying that the business could not wait for Wiglaf to return. Offa gave them hospitality but remarked that the Wealsc were likely to kill them and their business would be unfulfilled. Dunstan thanked him and said that he, for one, had other plans than to die at the hands of the Wealsc. The Brothers thought Offa a gloomy man and wondered how a gloomy man could brew such good ale. Ratae was five days travel north and they got directions when they bid farewell to Offa. The days travel took them to Tondbertsburgh, a fortified village that straddled the road and even had market stalls. Some of the buildings had been built by the old people. Particularly impressive was a temple and a place where you could have a bath. The Thane, Tondbert, would not see them and eventually they left his hall to find food and shelter. Tondbertsburgh was a meeting point where the Old people’s road met with another road that seemed to be made from white stone. It shone faintly in the moonlight. A man who had watched them look at it told them had been made by Thunor driving his goat driven cart to get to the Western sea. Uthric did not think it was impressive as the old people's stone roads even if it glowed in the moon and suggested Thunor might be better employed killing giants. The man laughed and asked if all Saxons held similar views about the gods? Wulfhere said that the Brothers thought for themselves and did not listen to wet nurses’ stories. During the next day’s travel, they saw a large Warband moving across their path in the distance going westwards. The Warband had mounted scouts or perhaps even some of the feared British Horse warriors. The horsemen rode closer but did not interfere. Uthric said they were Britons and what was odd is that woman and children were in the warband. They discussed the fact that the Angles might have killed so many British warriors that they now had to use children to fight. If this was indeed the case said Dunstan, Briton would soon belong to the Saxons and Angles. Even the Jutes could have some more land if children were involved in warfare said Wulfhere. The Brothers watched as the Warband moved on. They arrived at Pendaburgh shortly after dark and were only admitted when they had been closely questioned. Pendaburgh was an impressive fortification which had both ramparts and ditches. There were ruins of old people's homes outside the fortification and one of their burial grounds on a hill opposite. It looked as if someone had dug up the graves, no doubt looking for gold. They thought the old people had been clever builders but they obviously did not understand military defence as they had built so many of their homes outside the walls of the Burgh. No wonder that their houses were now burnt and they were no longer here. They gave news to the Thane Penda and asked for directions to Ratae which they were told was two days at a fast pace. Travelling the next day was hard. They met a Thane called Aelfryth and ten of his Carls coming from Ratae. The Thane told them to be careful as there were lots of Wealsc in the area. The Brothers said they had made it this far and as their luck was excellent they expected to reach Ratae without much problem but to be on the safe side they asked Aelfryth for his advice. Aelfryth told them the directions and when they got to the crossroads they should leave this road and travel east. They should reach Ratae by tomorrow night if all went well. That evening they reached the place where two of the old people's roads crossed. It was marked by a building that had a roof but no walls. On the roof was an orb and a cross. Dunstan wondered if the old people didn't feel the cold or perhaps their water heaters kept them warm. The other two had no opinion on the matter and were more concerned about having somewhere safe to sleep. The next day they took the new road that went to the northeast and at sunset reached the city of Rate. They were directed to Wiglaf's fort known as Caer Leonis. The old people's city, though still grand, was mostly deserted. but Wiglaf's halls were bustling with warriors. The fortifications were still being repaired and there were pieces of wood seemingly abandoned by the woodworkers everywhere. Wiglaf invited them into his hall to hear the news and their business. He welcomed them warmly when they told him they were Hrothgar's sons and cleared some of his Carls from the top benches to give them a place of honour. Wiglaf was saddened by their mother's dream. He had been fond of Hrothgar and had invited him to stay and make his home here. But Hrothgar had wanted to go back to Hildegard. Your mother must be very special for Hrothgar to leave me for her he laughed. Dunstan was told by a man sitting beside him that it was the first time the Ealdorman had laughed in days and that the Brothers should come more often. There had been a slave revolt a few days ago and all had escaped with a Wealsc princess called Ydwina. The warriors were glad she had gone as she caused strife among them and Wiglaf had lost interest in doing anything except being with her. The opinion of the warriors was that Ydwina was a sceadugenga and it was well she had gone. Wulfhere and Uthric, on hearing the story, told Wiglaf of the Wealsc warband they had seen and they had commented on the woman and children in the group. Wiglaf became excited and pressed the Brothers for information, particularly if there was a blonde-haired woman amongst the Warband. Wulfhere said he could not say for certain if there had been as his attention had been more focused on the Horse warriors that had ridden close. Uthric told Wiglaf he was known as Eagle-eye and was certain he had seen a woman of outstanding beauty with golden hair leading the woman and children. Wiglaf got more excited and knocked over his horn of ale calling for one of his Thanes and spent time in private conversation with him. The warriors seated near to Uthric gave him hard stares but he ignored them and told an amusing story of hunting rabbits When Wiglaf returned he apologised for being a poor host. He asked the Brothers their intentions and how he could be of help. Wulfhere asked about the message that Hrothgar delivered and could that have been the cause of treachery. Wiglaf said he would not think that was important. Aelle had wanted to know if Wiglaf would join him in an expedition. Wiglaf had replied by asking the King for his terms in the deal which he said meant no as he did not want to form an alliance with a Saxon king. Uthric then asked what had been his opinion of Beorthric and Wilfrith but Wiglaf said he had no opinion on either as he recalled neither of them. He did ask his Carls if anyone had anything to add and one said that Wilfrith had a gambling debt still outstanding to him. To much laughter, he asked if when the brothers met Wilfrith could they remind him of his debt before they killed him. Wulfhere promised this would be the case. Wiglaf took the brothers aside and heard the details of the vision. He was as perplexed as the Brothers and could not read what they meant. He did offer to let them talk to Isen, a laece, who was in Ratae at present. He also offered gifts for the brothers in recompense for their father’s death. He upbraided them for travelling north without any helmets. He thought that being so young they had not thought of the danger and they were perhaps of the opinion if they get hit on the head that it would cause no ill effects as they had perhaps not developed brains yet? However, whatever their opinion on helmets, he would remedy that they had none and, in his opinion, needed them. He also gave them fine silver arm rings. He asked them if they wanted to stay and fight but they declined saying that although he was a generous Lord, they must find out what happened to their father before they thought about their own futures. In the morning they met Isen. They were much the worse for wear having tried stupidly to match Wiglaf cup for cup of ale. Isen was blind. It was said that he had plucked out his eye to gain knowledge like Woden and then had lost the other eye to disease. He also had a servant who constantly whispered in his ear and made the Brothers uneasy. However, Isen’s blindness did not seem to trouble him, he moved with the surety of a sighted man. Isen laughed when the brothers told him of the vision and declined to help. He disparaged Wiglaf for telling them he would help and for being a fool in general. The Brothers were disappointed with the outcome as they were no further on in finding out what happened to Hrothgar. One bit of information that they did find was that Wiglaf had met Hrothgar at Mershford. He had never come so far north as Ratae. He had left Mershford and travelled South. Wiglaf was sending one of his Thanes and 20 men to Offa at Mershford to go after the escaping slaves and the Brothers gratefully accepted the offer to travel with the men.
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  9. In the third year of King Aelle's reign, on the first day of Solmonath, three brothers woke early to help their mother prepare the cakes that marked the end of winter. The three brothers known as Hrothgarsons and were well liked and thought of in the village of Caedering. Their mother Hildegard had told often them that they were descended from Thunor but Uthric, the middle brother, scoffed at this idea. How can I be descended from Thunor? I don't have red hair or carry a hammer. I don't like goats except for the excellent goat stew you make and I certainly would not hitch them to a cart. They all laughed but Dunstan, the younger brother, thought it might be unlucky to make fun of the gods. They were good natured, likeable boys and the neighbours said they would make fine young men like their father. Their father, Hrothgar, had led a force north to deliver a message to Ealdorman Wiglaf of Mierce but never returned. Only two housecarls came back, Beorthric and Wilfrith. They had said that Hrothgar had stayed behind to fight a pursing enemy to allow the others to escape. Caedering was an inconspicuous settlement on the borders of Aelle's land and ruled over by a Thane, Osberht. Osberht was mostly unremarkable and had no outstanding talents, but was good at most things. He brought peace and prosperity to the people who owed him allegiance. He was not too proud to help with the harvest or go looking for the farmer’s lost cow. His Carls grumbled about a lack of glory but the women were glad that they could bring up their children in peace. And so, this was how matters stood. The brothers made their living by hunting, bartering what they did not need for goods their mother needed. It was on one such trip that the younger brother Dunstan asked his brothers if they thought their mother was ill. We have not noticed said the others, but now you have mentioned it we will pay greater attention. Returning home after the days hunting they asked their mother if she was ill but she denied it and ruffled their hair and told them it was a pity their father could not see them now. And so, the days passed and Hildegard seem to grow older and more tired before their eyes. Wulfhere, the eldest, again confronted Hildegard asking what was wrong. With a great sigh she told them that after Yule she had been having dreams of their father. He comes to me at night, He has wounds in his head and on his body and a large death wound in his chest. He speaks but l cannot hear. The brothers were perturbed but tried to console their mother. Uthric brewed a sleep potion by boiling herbs that he gathered. When that didn’t work they tried to keep guard on her at night but the dream always came. Why is it our father has not gone to Neorxanwang, the Fields of Contentment, they asked each other. Eventually they agreed they would seek guidance from Osberht. The Thane was dismayed at their news and asked for Beorthric and Wilfrith to recount what they knew of Hrothgar's death. It was the first time the brothers had heard from the Carls and what they heard perturbed them. They had a sense of unease about the story and felt that both men might be holding back information. Wulfhere challenged the men but they added little to the story of Hrothgar's death or their part in it. Osberht took them aside afterwards and offered to pay the price of the fee for a laece to enquire of the spirits what the truth of the matter was. My advice said 0sbehrt is to ask Aelfwith with when he comes to the Eostre festival. The brothers were content with Osberht's words and counsel but were concerned at their mother’s plight. Uthric bartered a wild pig head for a potion of Nightshade from Eadgyd who was expert in making potions. The potion brought relief to Hildegard but it turned her nails black. She thought it was a small price to pay. At dusk before the Full moon, the village lit bonfires to celebrate the goddess’ return and in the morning Aelfwith came. There were lots of travelling merchants and peddlers who brought news from the South or further away in the East. Chief among the news was that Cerdic, Ealdorman was gathering an army to attack the British. Eadgyd told everyone she was disgusted by kings and nobles. They were forever declaring wars and disturbing the peace. However no-one paid attention to Eadgyd unless they needed a potion for toothache or help with the berthing of babies. The brothers approach Aelfwith with their bargain. I see no benefit in this for you replied Aelfwith. The risk for you is that the spirits might keep your souls and your body would be vacant until it withered. But for me the risk is greater and I fear that not only would my soul remain sundered from my body but it would be tortured by the unfriendly spirits Aelfwith would not be convinced by the brothers speeches, not even when they offered him the silver arm ring. Osberht’s arm ring is poor recompense if I cannot spend it. The brothers were discouraged by Aelfwith’s words but he told them of another laece, Stithwulf who was presently in Portus Caester. The brothers resolved to ask Osberht for leave to travel and seek out Stithwulf. He gave them a second silver arm ring as he thought they might require extra money. The journey to Portus Caester was uneventful and they followed the level road made by people long ago. They found Portus Caester a marvellous place seeing for the first-time houses that had upper floors and steps that went upwards without the need for ladders. Most exciting of all was the harbour with boats which came from faraway places. They found Stithwulf in a tavern drinking ale and told him of the bargain they wanted to make. Stithwulf made the brothers nervous. He had a habit of not replying directly to questions but often waited. He eventually agreed that he would take the brothers hunting tonight and they would see what became of it. Confident that if this was a trial, they could easily pass it, being accomplished hunters. When Stithwulf told them they would be hunting dangerous plants at midnight, they were perplexed but did not question what they were asked to do. Hunting plants is dangerous said Stith wolf and you must sneak up on the plant, overcome its willpower and then gently remove it from the ground, taking care not to damage the root. The brothers did find that hunting plants is much more dangerous than wild boars and Wulfhere suffered greatly before he had got the required Monkshood and Wormwood. They were tired following the hunt but got no rest as Stithwulf needed their help to build a spirit tent. Dunstan was most helpful as he had been formerly an advisor to Osberht in building withies to keep the sheep paddocked for sheering, Uthric gave up as no matter what he built fell down. Stithwulf at Uthric to build a fire pit instead. A task he accomplished with some style. The brothers were then set tasks to prepare their plants for the coming travel to the land of spirits. The spirit tent was hot and stuffy and they found breathing difficult. Stithwulf gave them each a horn of drink made from the harvested plants. To their horror they began to see spirits gather in the corners of the tent. Spider spirits came first, then bird spirits and finally larger animals. Stithwulf warned them not to move and to not pay attention to the spirits who would not harm them if they were ignored. The spirits had come to watch the laece. Then the visions started .. You are standing in a forest at night. The wind rises suddenly and in a short time it roars through the trees tearing off leaves and branches. You hear howls of dogs or wolves getting closer. The sound of horse’s hooves beat the ground. Horsemen and hounds sweep past you and you are dragged after them in their wake. You travel fast over hills and down into valleys, through forests in what you think is a northerly direction and slowly you are left behind as the riders increase their speed and disappear... In a valley there are two armies fighting. The Shield Walls clash, men shout, heave and die, screaming and shouting. You see the ghosts of the dead looking bemused and you are carried through the air by a violent storm. Thunder crashes close, deafening you and lightning blinds your eyes with its brilliance… ..to be set down in a dark forest. A huge wolf with red eyes comes into the glade where you stand and asks you what you want. Before you can answer you are flying through the air again.. You look down at your arms and they have turned into wings. When you look around you are in the middle of a flock of geese. Suddenly an arrow hits your chest and you fall, tumbling over and over, hitting the ground with a loud sickening smack.. You land by a forest pool and a woman asks you if she can take the arrow from your chest. Before you can answer she pulls the shaft and you feel a searing pain. From the wound maggots and insects flow out and start eating your legs and arms reducing them to bones You collapse and sink into the earth, falling and tumbling a great distance that seems like hours.. ..landing on a shore covered in bones. It is dark and the waves crash onto the shore of bones. In the distance you hear a noise as if something monstrous is moving. it seems to be getting closer and the sound of screaming gets louder. A vast shape moves towards you with gleaming eyes and sharp long teeth. Unable to move as the creature lunges at you, swallowing you. It is dark and the stench is unbearable.. it is death… and you move forward, feeling a rocky ground. Water trickles from somewhere and there is a faint light ahead. Slowly you make your way in the darkness towards the light. As you turn a bend the light floods in blinding you momentarily… ..focus returns and you see a red hat in front of you. You put it on and feel that it is wet. When you look at your hands they run red with blood. Two men walk towards you and laugh. They seem familiar but you cannot recall their names or focus on their faces when you try. They seem to be telling you something but you don't hear words. They spit at you and make a sign against evil. You pick up a piece of wood and there are runes carved on it. You look at the runes and as you stare the runes enlarge and glow. You can only see the runes and you fall or are absorbed by them. You awake in a forest, there is a pool. A woman looks at you and you feel movement. A snake comes out of your mouth and talks to the woman. She nods and gives the snake some bread dipped in honey. The snake crawls back into your mouth and you feel it move against your skull… You are moving again, flying through the air. flying south past forests and a settlement on a hill, past a forest, past your village and into your hut… You open your eyes. Your body is weak and sore. It’s difficult to move. You have bruises and cuts over your body.. a healed arrow wound in your chest Panting and exhausted they looked to Stithwulf to understand what they had seen but he just shook his head and said he had no power to interpret what had happened. What you have seen may be from the past, the present or the future. If it is the future you will know what it means when it happens. He took the largest of Osberht's silver arm rings as payment.
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  10. The huge raven alighted on the branch that buckled under her weight. The object of her attention was a man leading a horse through the forest at the edge of the lake. The raven was ravenously hungry, anticipating a feast of eyes, tongue and liver when the Rusalka was finished with him. The thought of the Rusalka made the raven nervous. She shifted on the branch making the man with the horse look up suddenly. "Stop following me, bird," shouted the man, breaking the silence. He looked around for something convenient to throw at the raven but unable to find anything but contented himself with muttering some curses. "The gods have forsaken this land. There are no animals or people anywhere.," he mumbled, “except for that demon pretending to be a raven.” The raven looked at him curiously, paying a bit more attention to her prospective meal. She could hear other being’s thoughts if she concentrated although she seldom did so much these days. Sometimes in the past she had been more curious about people. She often had flashes of a different life but when it happened it made her uneasy. The best way to get rid of those intrusions was by hunting and eating. The past was the past. The present was what mattered. The raven focused her attention on where she thought the Rusalka would be. When it started singing she had better get out of hearing. She would come back for the meal when the Rusalka had finished with whatever it wanted with the man. The two predators had worked together from last Spring and the raven saw no benefit in becoming one of the Rusalka's victims. The unlikely partnership was what had allowed the raven to stop the endless searching. She had forgotten what she was searching for which made it hard to find whatever it was. The raven croaked in what might have been a laugh if her vocal chords could have made the sound. Maybe partnership was the wrong concept, the Rusalka was unlikely to enter any sort of partnership, she was the most powerful predator in this region. But Autumn was here and with food becoming scarce she might have to resume her endless flight. The Rusalka seemed to be getting sleepier as the colder days arrived and was less active. That meant less food and more active hunting for her. The raven turned her attention back to the man. The horse he led was lame and both seemed wet, hungry and exhausted from the recent incessant rains. It was unusual to see people travel in late Autumn. The man must have a pressing need. The raven listened to the man. Perhaps with her acute hearing she could hear sub-vocalisations or perhaps she could hear his thoughts. She never really was interested to find out which. The man was thinking of his wife and three daughters. He was calling them over as he pictured himself sitting in a comfortable seat beside a fire. He was explaining to them that the Boyar had asked him to take a message to the Prince of Kiev and that it could not wait for Spring. His words or thoughts changed and seemed to move to the present. He was telling his wife that he missed her and feared he would not return. She needed to look after the girls and make sure that Boyar Yaromir found them good husbands. He cursed Yaromir and wished him all manner of unpleasantries. In the middle of his monologue he slipped and fell, twisting his ankle on an exposed tree root. He cursed the gods, cursed the marshes, cursed the lakes and in particular, cursed tree roots. What I need he said out loud is Baba Yaga's hut. His thoughts and words were interrupted by singing. The raven started, stretched her wings and flew off. She did not want to be caught by that beautiful, unearthly song. Her brain was fogged by images of wellness and desire. She had only to find the source of the song and she would have anything she desired. But the Rusalka lied. She always lied. The only reward for anyone who believed the song was a watery death. From a safe distance she watched the man drop the horse’s reins and swollen ankle forgotten, move at almost a run towards the source of the sounds. A short time later the music stopped and then an ethereal shout of ‘Elena’ echoed through the empty woods rising to a crescendo and then fading like the wind in the empty night. The raven knew it was time to eat. She soared over the cold, deep lake, quickly spotting the body. Landing beside it, she chased off several other scavengers who wanted the fresh meat. They all gave way to the outsized Raven. She started with the eyes, the juiciest parts and would finish with the liver. She was interrupted by a bear but it backed off. The raven ruffled her feathers, proud that she was powerful enough to scare a bear only to be quickly corrected in her assumption. "I am curious," said the voice behind her. The raven shifted position to look at the Rusalka sitting on a rock observing her. “I am curious about a raven that is not a raven," said the Rusalka. "So am l," said the Raven." but I can't help you with the answer." "Do you get sleepy too in the winter? I find I grow very sleepy in winter and my memories fade. In Spring I awaken refreshed and remember who I am, who I was" "Not at all, this is not similar for me” answered the raven, "and l have always been a raven.” "But that is not what I see," said the Rusalka smiling," I think l was once a woman, who was warm and loved. Maybe I loved too much. But the memories are dim. I think you also were a woman, but did not love like I did." The Raven looked anxiously around, judging if she could escape the Rusalka. "Fear not!' said the grinning Rusalka, "I am sated and warm after I fed on your meat’s soul, I will not harm you. I can see you were once something else. Have you been ensorcelled?" "I have always been a Raven. I do not recall any other existence but there are sometimes dreams." The Rusalka seemed to lose interest in the conversation. She began to look around. The raven became wary. "Maybe you would like me to sing for you," said the Rusalka. The Raven did not wait to reply. She stretched her wings and flew. Her flight was followed by the sound of soft laughter.
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  11. Angrboða closed the door into the main hall where the Jötunn still drank, boasted and tried to outdo each other in feats of strength. It was sadly often the case at the Yule feast. Angrboða sighed and turned to her companions. “Boys will be boys, Angrboða, you can’t change the way they have acted for millennia”, said Sívör. “But girls will be woman”, replied Angrboða, “ and as ever, we need to plan for the coming year to counter the Æsir. Our men are too busy swinging their dicks to consider what needs to be done.” “Tell the others what you told me about Óðinn, Gnissa”, said Angrboða taking her seat at the head of the table where the other twelve Gýgjar and Trollkvinna sat. Jötunheimr is a matriarchy. The Jötunn like to pretend otherwise and the Gýgjar are content to let them believe that but everyone knows where the true power lies. If it was not for the Council of Thirteen, Thor would have long ago reduced the Jötunnr to extinction by pulp. The Æsir deny power to the Ásynjur, preferring to believe they alone have the power to rule the nine worlds and prevent Ragnarök. Angrboða often thought that if the Ásynjur would revolt against the patriarchy, both could bring peace to Miðgarðr. Instead, Angrboða had to consider absolute destruction to bring about change. That is the meaning of my name, she thought, ‘she who offers sorrow’. Angrboða turned away from her inward thoughts to listen to Gnissa as she was explaining how once again Óðinn was consulting with Mímir's head to try to understand the last days. “My fylgja, Hreysiköttr, sat unseen in the lower branches of Yggdrasil as Óðinn questioned Mímir’ head. Mímir would not tell Óðinn directly of Ragnarök, but Óðinn has drunk the Mead of Kvasir and he was able to discern much of Mímir’s dissembling.” “Óðinn once again shows that his only purpose in life is to preserve his own and that, at the expense and detriment of all others. All of the nine worlds suffer for his selfishness and his self-preservation,” said Angrboða, “However, we have learnt something new. Tell us Gnissa.” Gnissa stood as she addressed her sisters as she felt that the occasion warranted more formality. “What we have learnt is that in Ragnarök, the patriarchy will die but there will not be absolute destruction but arising from the ashes and sundered seas, new worlds will arise. These new worlds will not be ones of sorrow, hunger and death for those that will once again dwell in Miðgarðr, but a land of plenty. It will not be overseen by the self-preserving Æsir, but by a council of Vanir and Gýgjar.” There were sharp intakes of breath and Angrboða rose and motioned for silence to quell the questions beginning to form on many lips. “I have cast the rune-sticks and we have a new hope in Járnviðja.” “Járnviðja? My youngest daughter and heir;” said Gnissa, smiling.
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  12. The rain began to fall heavier again as left the cottage behind, re-crossed the Rubicon River and made their way to the Green Man Gorge. Darkon, who had the map, struggled to keep them on course and they got frequently lost. Arguments about directions, whose turn it was to cook, clean the dishes and feed Stove got worse as the days went on. They were generally soaked with the rain, cold from the wind, tired because they hadn't slept and hungry because they struggled to light fires. Things didn't improve when they discovered some sort of beetle had got into the hardtack and none of them dared to eat it. Eventually they found a river that might be the Green Man River and following it. According to the map might get them to the Gorge. By the third day of travel, the land on either side of the river began to climb. They had not seen any signs of habitation but were desperate for somewhere to dry off. Rust started to spot their weapons and equipment felt twice as heavy as it was soaked through. Not for the first time they thought 100 silver was too little for all this suffering. Maybe they needed to renegotiate it with the Fatman. By midday of the fourth day they stood at the entrance to Green Man Gorge. The wind howled in their faces and it looked as if there might be a thunderstorm soon. The hair on their necks stood on end and their nerves jangled. "Let’s find a campsite that we can defend, I don't like the feeling here, hemmed in by all this rock," said Darkon. "Is there a Green Man in this gorge?" asked Egil, clutching his spear and nervously. "How should I know" answered Darken," Never been here before, and the map has no attached tourist information. It might have been useful to pay the extra 2sp for the guide. Hindsight is wonderful. ” "I heard some merchants talk about a Green Man they met who was four metres tall and demanded a toll for allowing them to pass. If they wouldn't pay the toll or didn't have it he demanded a head," said Graphen is a whisper. Quietly they picked their way through the gorge trying to keep to the bushes that lined the path. After an hour the rain stopped and the wind died down. A thin mist seemed to rise from the ground getting thicker as they trudged on. After half an hour it had risen to their knees and obscured the ground making walking at any speed tricky. "We need somewhere to camp for the night. I really don't like this fog" said Egil. "It’s not a fog, it’s a mist." said Graphen. "A fog comes down. A mist comes from the ground." "No, it’s definitely a fog" said a voice, "and my advice is find higher ground, and quickly." All three stopped and looked around. They couldn't see anyone or anything through the fog. "Fog is thicker than mist," said the voice, "and reduces visibility." "Who are you? “ asked Darkon," or even where are you?" All three were back to back with weapons drawn, staring her into the thickening fog. Stove had been left outside the defensive ring and was using his considerable intellect to curse all three, He would have turned and bolted back the way they had travelled if his reins had not been caught by a small wrinkled man who smelt like elderberries. The wrinkled man coughed politely waited for the three companions to notice him. "My name is Rooskin and I couldn’t help but correct your mistake about the mist. I also thought I should stop your excellent donkey from bolting. Can I be of service?" It’s a well-known fact that people who adventure in the Wilds often make mistakes about who to trust. This was indeed the subject of the plenary session of the 12th Symposium of the Adventurer’s Guild, but sadly, it did not draw any conclusions but did set up a committee that is yet to report back. If there is, for example, a sequence of good creature, bad creature, helpful creature, good, bad, helpful etc. and the adventurers get the sequence wrong then they are always going to make the wrong decisions. This was the case with Rooskin. He was one of the helpful creatures who spent his life dong good deeds much as making shoes for poor Cobblers, turning water into wine, giving sweet almonds to young children and specifically helping people get through the Green Man Gorge. He was also Chair of the Orphans and Waifs Holiday Fund, but that as they say, is another tale. Our three companions, however, chose to believe he was a demon sent to waylay them and therefore jumped him, tied + gagged him and threatened bodily harm up to and including chopping appendages off if Rooskin didn't tell them if he had any gold, any food and how to get out of this fog. Despite the rather rough treatment and the threats to his physical integrity, Rooskin was one of the good folk and had forgiven the three men putting it down to anxiety + possibly the fact he had surprised them. However unable to persuade them he didn't need gold therefore didn't have any and he had no dwelling nearby, he began to grow annoyed. Egil also lost patience with the small wrinkly person, not believing for an instance he didn’t have a pot of gold hidden under a bush somewhere and tossed him on the packages on Stove's back. "We can keep him with us as a hostage." said Egil. "If any of his fellows try to attack us we can threaten to harm him. That should keep us safe and what’s more, I’m sure he has gold somewhere. Creatures of his ilk always do.” The group moved on slowly and after 10 minutes the fog appeared to be getting thinner to the point they could eventually see the ground again. It took them a while to realise they were on a mound and rather than the fog disappearing they were actually on an island in a sea of fog. In the centre of the island was a huge stone that looked as if some ancients had carved a face on it. It was difficult to say what the carving represented as it was so weathered. "We’ll stay here for the night," said Darkon," Egil, light a fire and let’s get some hot food. In the morning we can take stock of where we are.” Rooskin struggled in his bonds and make odd nooses. The three men gathered around him. "What’s he doing?" said Graphen "I think he's casting some form of hex" said Egil," I've seen this kind of thing before.” "Maybe he's trying to tell in something" said Darkon. After some discussion they agreed that the strange wrinkled man was trying to cast a spell on them and they stuffed more rags in his mouth and made sure the ropes were tight. Stove watched the scene unfold. He was certain the wrinkly man had said don't light a fire on the mound at the dark of the moon. Stove turned his head to see Egil's fire spring to life.
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  13. I have decided to start writing recaps of my ongoing RQG campaign, which is centered on the Bardori clan in Sartar, of the Dundealos Tribe. I've been feeling like it would be helpful to get myself writing regularly again, and I would like to have some sort of record of our campaign. Hopefully, folks will also enjoy reading about an ongoing story in the relatively new RQG system. I began my current campaign back in March. My plan is to quickly cover the background and events of the campaign so far, and then hopefully write more detailed coverage once I catch up to the present. Background After immersing myself in Gloranthan material for many months, I found myself struggling to find the right framework for creating a campaign. There was simply so much lore and background information to absorb, I didn't know how to do it justice. Then I discovered The Coming Storm/Eleven Lights, which inspired me to run a campaign focused on a single clan in Sartar. This seemed like the ideal way to tie a group of PC's together, and give them the motivation to go on adventures together. Faced with the choice of which system to use, I found myself more interested in the new RQG rules. I usually prefer more rules-lite systems or story games, but Runequest seemed to be experiencing a revival that was very exciting. I also liked the idea of setting the campaign later in the timeline, after the Lunar occupation. My next big decision was choosing which region in the core book to focus on for my campaign. I felt like Sartar and Prax were the most detailed with prior published material, and Sartar was slightly more interesting to me. With a clan-based campaign, I also had to choose which tribe would be a good fit. The Dundealos immediately jumped out to me as being in a unique position in the setting's start date of 1625. They were one of the few tribes to be completely disbanded by the Empire, but they had returned to resettle their valley after the Dragonrise. This is detailed very briefly in the core book on p. 108, under the section on Swenstown. This would allow me to run a campaign focused on rebuilding, and reforging a lost connection with past traditions (not unlike King of Dragon Pass). The Dundealos also have some interesting neighbors, who could make good allies or antagonists depending on players' actions. These include the nomads and creatures of Prax, the impoverished Balkoth Tribe, and the slave-taking Sambari Tribe. When I was writing notes on the setting, I found the fanzine Hearts in Glorantha very helpful. The first collection contains an article on the Dundealos Tribe by Jeff Richard, of which I used most of the clans for in my campaign. It also has an article on the Balkoth, which I made use of (and it's awesome, there's so much more to them than just goats!). The Sartar Companion was also very helpful in mapping out the Dundealos Valley. The Bardori Clan I wanted to create a clan of my own for the campaign. The Bardori are typical of many Dundealos clans: they herd more sheep than cattle, they produce many fine riders, and they tend to fight in a skirmishing style with bows and javelins from horseback. They are also unusual in several ways: their clan wyter is a rooster, they consider all chickens (especially roosters) sacred, and they see Elmal and Redalda as equally important to Orlanth and Ernalda. They worship several heroes known for their skill in riding, including Hyalor, Ulanin, and Derik Pol-Joni. The Bardori were disbanded in 1618 by the Lunar Empire, after the Dundealos rebelled, and were defeated. The survivors either went into exile, lived as bandits, or were enslaved and forced to work on the New Lunar Temple. The core rulebook for RQG states that the tribe was disbanded in 1615, while the HQ books say 1618. For my campaign I went with the later date, because I wanted there to be a faction of former slaves in the clan, and 10 years felt like too long for anyone to survive in a Lunar slave camp. The core book mentions a "Pol-Joni adventurer" being responsible for recreating the Dundealos tribe. I decided to flesh out this character more, and give him the name Ekil Blackmane (or just Blackmane). He led a band of warriors back to the valley, only a few days after the Dragonrise, and destroyed the remnants of the Lunar Enstalos tribe. He then became the new tribal king. What exactly happened to the Enstalos people, specifically the women and children, was left to the new clan chieftains. Most were enslaved or ransomed if possible. The new Bardori chieftain, Angarr Broad-Back, returned to the Dundealos Valley with his warriors at the same time as Blackmane to reclaim his people's land. The harvest was not yet complete, so he chose to go against clan tradition and keep the Enstalos survivors as thralls to finish the harvest. All of the player characters were either children or teenagers when the clan was forcibly disbanded. When I had my players make characters, I had them think about how they fit into their clan's recent history. This was in addition to the normal family history generation, but they ended up being fairly compatible. They had the following background options to choose from- Exile - Fled with family or sent to live with distant kin. If players chose this option, they had to also choose where they spent their exile. This option allowed players to choose Homelands other than Sartar, to reflect a different style of upbringing. Banditry - Stayed in or near the former Dundealos tribal lands, and lived a precarious existence as bandits. Enslaved - Forced to work in Sartar in Lunar slave camps, or sent to Lunar Tarsh. Players could also choose to be married or adopted into the clan, which opened up even more options. Here is a segment of the Dragon Pass map by Darya Makarava. The river running from Boldhome into Prax (near the Dragonrise), and the surrounding valley, is the campaign's "home base." The river is called the Willow Beck, and the valley is named for the Dundealos Tribe. The Heroes We started with three players, and ended up adding a fourth fairly recently. Garkar - Former bandit, Initiate of Orlanth - Garkar lived as a bandit, and fought against the Empire after the clan was destroyed. The harsh life of banditry formed him into a vengeful, somewhat paranoid man with many grudges (most of his passions start with "Hate"). Garkar has few ambitions other than to see his clan back on their feet, and to punish their old enemies. Erindros - Exile in Esrolia, Initiate of Issaries - Erindros is the scion of one of the two merchant families in the clan. His wealthy aunt in Nochet took him in as a child, and he was raised in the (relative) safety of great city. When the Empire was driven from Sartar, Erindros was encouraged to reclaim his family's land in Dundealos Valley, and he did so (somewhat unwillingly). He discovered his family's farm was in great disrepair, and set about rebuilding it. Erindros is effete and snobbish towards his "barbarian" cousins, but in spite of this he is a great leader in battle. Egajia - Praxian, adopted into the clan by the chieftain, Initiate of Daka Fal - Egajia was born among the High Llama riders, her family were rebels who fought the Lunars alongside Angarr Broad-Back and the Pol-Joni. Her family were all killed, and Angarr adopted her into his own household. She returned to the valley to serve the chieftain as a thane, and lives a strange half-life, spending time with her new kinfolk, and visiting her shaman mentor in Prax. He Who Spits at Chaos (formerly known as Brun) - Exile in Prax, Initiate of Storm Bull - Most of Brun's family were slaughtered by the Lunars after the last Dundealos uprising. He found a sense of belonging with a band of Storm Bull warriors based in Prax. After his initiation, he took his new "name." HWSAC only recently joined the campaign, and is determined to build a shrine to his god on Bardori land, which will also double as an inn and beer hall. His kin appreciate his talent at fighting Chaos, but see his future ambitions as... problematic. Next time... More background material, and covering the campaign events up to the present. Thanks for reading!
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  14. More Character Creation We started our RQG campaign back in March. At this point I don't actually remember how many sessions we've had, something like 8-10. Before character creation, I gave everyone a brief overview of the setting. I explained that their characters' choice of cult was one of the most important, and probably something they should have in mind beforehand. At first, I was kind of reluctant to do the Family History generation. I wanted to fit character creation into one session, and I feared that we wouldn't be able to. Thankfully, my players insisted that we go for it, and I'm now glad they did. Here are some notable highlights for each characters' history. Garkar - Grandmother was a bandit who fought to save Boldhome, then was killed by the Sambari Tribe. Father fought in Starbrow's Rebellion, and was killed by the Lunars. Garkar nearly starved during the Great Winter, and lost other family to troll raids. Fought in the Liberation of Pavis. Erindros - Grandfather was killed at Grizzly Peak. Mother was a Dundealos Vingan warrior who fought in many uprisings against the Lunars, but died of illness. Erindros fought in the Siege of Nochet, and distinguished himself at Pennel Ford. Egajia - Grandmother was (oddly) a Lhankor Mhy sage who married into the High Llama Tribe. Father was a typical Praxian who died in a raid on the Redwood Elves. Egajia refused to pledge loyalty to Argrath, due to the influence of her new Dundealos kin (the Dundealos distrust anyone who would revive Jaldon Goldentooth). Took part in the Liberation of Pavis, but was nearly driven insane by Lunar magic. Garkar and Erindros' players rolled up fairly average characters, who excelled at a few things (fighting and bargaining respectively), but were rather poor at using spirit magic. Egajia ended up having very impressive stats for a future shaman (POW 20, CHA 18), and a spirit combat skill of 125%, partly thanks to her encounter with the Lunar demons. For occupations, Garkar chose warrior, Erindros chose the life of a merchant, and Egajia went with assistant shaman. We had to discuss how these occupations fit in with their character histories. Garkar technically started as a bandit, but after the clan's return to the valley, became a weaponthane for the new chieftain. Erindros had learned the merchant trade with his family in Esrolia, and decided to expand the family business to Sartar. Egajia's role as an assistant shaman was somewhat hard to explain, due to the great demands placed on assistants by their mentors. We decided she would have an agreement worked out with the clan chieftain where she would spend roughly half a season serving him as a thane, and the other half in Prax with her shaman teacher. Early Sessions - The Sacred Rooster The first session of actual gameplay involved a journey east into Prax. It took place in late Earth Season, 1625. The clan was still in the process of trickling back to their ancestral lands, but the PC's had all returned. A new chieftain, Angarr Broad-back, had been chosen by the clan. He in turn had chosen his Inner Ring, including a mix of cults and people representing different groups from the exile. The PC's, being prominent heroes already, were considered to all be thanes on the Clan Ring. Other clans in the Dundealos Tribe had also returned by this time. Most of these had to create new wyters for their clans, although a few had managed to preserve their old wyter. The Bardori wyter was traditionally bound in a red rooster, supposedly of a lineage of males going back to before Time began, originally owned by the clan's founder. The last wyter was defeated and lost during the most recent uprising. Angarr had resigned himself to creating a new wyter from a less exalted lineage of birds, at the risk of weakening the clan's magic. However, he began having recurring dreams of being trapped in a cage, and looking out on the chaparral of Prax. He believed that the old clan wyter still lived in it's original body, and was trying to communicate with him through visions. The chieftain summoned Erindros, Garkar, and Egajia to discuss his dreams. He explained that the Sacred Rooster was likely imprisoned somewhere in Prax, and described a place of weeping statues, with a small sheltered pool nearby. He also mentioned seeing a man with a painted face, wearing a long-horned headdress. He asked the three of them to travel east to the oasis of Day's Rest, and determine if anyone could help them find the place, or the mysterious man. The chieftain provided everyone with riding beasts and supplies. They set off for Day's Rest, which took more than two days to reach. On the way, they encountered a group of Morokanth travelling with their herd-men. Egajia attempted to give them gifts from the clan, and ask if they knew any information to help their mission. She addressed them through song and dance, hoping to flatter and praise them. Unfortunately, she made a poor choice of improvised lyrics and compared them to stupid beasts (the result of a fumble). Instead of talking with them, the Morokanth commanded their herd-men to chase them away and pelt them with feces. Which they did, quite successfully (after all, you can't parry flying projectiles). Eventually the party arrived at Day's Rest, tired and still covered with shit. The oasis was bustling with activity, as the Sable Tribe had recently been driven out, and the oasis claimed by the Bison Tribe. The party planned to stay the night at a Geo's Inn called the Shady Rest, run by a person (gender unclear) named Fosli the Beautiful. They were permitted to bathe behind the stables. Day's Rest included an inn, an Issaries Market, and several sandstone dwellings on one side of the watering hole. On the other side, the Bison Riders made their camps, near a small village of Oasis Folk. The party set about ingratiating themselves to everyone around, seeing if they could gather some information. Egajia met with a group of Bison Riders led by one Mokwar, all apparently Storm Bull cultists. Gaining their trust, she learned that they were hunting a shaman from the Sable Tribe, an enemy of their clan and a Lunar collaborator. After describing to them the man from the chieftain's dream, they confirmed that he was likely the same shaman, named Keshluk. Egajia told them about the place with the weeping statues, and they claimed to know of a place half a day's ride east which fit the description. Unfortunately, the Bison Riders were ready to spring into action immediately and investigate the place, and the party was forced to ride after them in great haste. They rode until sunset, and then approached several tall rock formations, which sheltered an ancient courtyard of ruined statues. The Bison Riders charged in. They quickly found their shaman, but he had been dead for several days, and picked at by vultures. They rode off, leaving the party to poke around on their own. Garkar noticed that Keshluk's throat had been cut, and his various charms and fetishes had been smashed around his body. No one could immediately locate the Sacred Rooster, or any other valuables in the shaman's camp. Egajia used Second Sight to look for any spiritual activity. She found that there were several powerful Death Spirits gathered around the shaman's ghost, which was writhing in pain. They appeared to be inflicting some kind of spiritual torture on him. She attempted to communicate with them, and determined that they had been enslaved to Keshluk, and were now enacting their revenge. They spoke only in the vaguest of terms, and mentioned the shaman being killed by "the boy." No sooner had the spirits mentioned this, than the party was attacked from the shadows by three human-like figures. Up close, they realized that these figures were human, but likely possessed by malevolent spirits of some kind. Their heads, hands and feet were all twisted backwards, and their fingers sprouted long claws. Garkar and Erindros held them off while Egajia engaged them in spirit combat to drive out the possessors. The party defeated them fairly quickly, and the spirits fled after being driven from their hosts, fearing Egajia. The three attackers appeared to be from the Sable Tribe. They needed healing after their bodies had been so grossly malformed. Simple spirit magic fixed the problem. The party bound and interrogated their attackers, and learned that two of them had served as bodyguards to the shaman, and the other, a young boy, was his apprentice. The boy, named Maralak, had murdered his master after he returned from a taxing journey in the Spirit World. Keshluk was apparently a cruel man, and the boy regretted nothing. Except for the fact that all of the shaman's bound spirits were set free, and then took control of Maralak and the bodyguards. The Sable men asked to be ransomed back to their tribe. The party agreed. Maralak told them of a cave nearby where Keshluk kept his valuables. The entrance to the cave was blocked by an earth elemental, which moved when Maralak spoke a certain word. Within the cave, they found the Sacred Rooster, along with other stolen goods and charms. The clan wyter was happy to see it's kinfolk. It had been trapped in a cage made of wicker and iron nails, which sapped it's magic points. The party destroyed the cage (it had been built specifically to hold the wyter), and looted the shaman's former belongings. The heroes traveled back to Day's Rest, and paid an Issaries priest to bring their captives to Pimper's Block for ransom, in return for a percentage. They returned to Bardori lands in triumph, and the chieftain threw them a feast. The wyter had returned just in time for the chieftain to perform a heroquest that would ensure the hens' fertility, and that they would produce a supernatural surplus of eggs to enjoy in the winter. This involved a ritual dance in full regalia for the chieftain and his wife, and then the two of them spending a vigorous night together. Thank you for reading! I've been trying to stick with the seasonal model for my campaign. This first session was the Earth Season adventure, next time, Dark Season 1625. P.S. Comments are welcome, but no chicken jokes please, I've heard them all from my players.
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