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  1. No matter how well you plan and prepare your adventure or campaign, something will always come along which will throw your plans straight into the trash. Your player characters fight when you plan for them to run away; or they run away from a combat scene. You set them up for their first skirmish with the scenario's Big Bad, and somehow they manage to kill him; or you roll for a wilderness encounter, and a tiny party of kobolds somehow make critical successes and wipe out the party on their very first adventure. There are some useful game aids available which are intended to help you with the unexpected, including improvising when a game has to be put together from scratch for whatever reason, such as the scheduled Games Master suddenly being unavailable at the last minute. Don't Stop So the characters have just derailed the entire adventure, somehow. What should be your first act as Games Master? Your first act should be to carry on as if they'd just slain one more insignificant random mook. Try not to let the Players cotton on to the fact that the whole scenario may have just been upended. Your favourite dead non-player character should not have fallen in vain. Choose A Random Encounter Don't roll for a random encounter. Pick one, either from your list of pre-generated random encounter groups or just have a number of mook characters turn up, spoiling for a fight. Turn the scene into a combat scene immediately, to take the Players' minds off what they've just done. This is one time where my usual aversion to combat can be set aside. Combat scenes do have their uses - they allow the Players to focus their attention on the task at hand, and more to the point, they focus attention away from the more important matter at their feet. "That's Odd" If a combat scene out of nowhere does not sit well, call for immediate Perception checks in the area. Emphasise this check by saying "You notice something odd." Then allow them to ask questions, one at a time, and make a Perception check for each question. Closed Questions Closed questions have a "yes" or "no" answer. Examples: Is there something unusual here?, Does my character feel something is out of place?, Is this a trap? or Was this too easy? To answer this, you can consult a Yes/No Oracle. Some supplements exist which are designed to replace a Games Master ... but nothing says that a Games Master can't use these supplements too. An excellent instant oracle from an indie publisher, Ken Wickham, is called 100 Shades of Nay ... and Yea. This is a brilliant supplement to create random answers to closed questions, and they can catalyse the spinning off of the stalled adventure in another direction completely. Open Questions The six main open questions are Who?, What?, Where?, When?, How?, and Why?. Anyone can ask these questions at any time, including yourself as Games Master. But in the event of a completely derailed scenario, as Games Master you may need to come up with answers to these questions before the Players ask them. The best time to prepare such emergency answers is before the story begins. The next best time is right at the point of catastrophe. Keep Oracles Handy Bring along oracle-style supplements to every single session, and consult them heavily, even during those scenarios where everything is happening exactly as planned. Pregame Prep: Contingencies Prepare contingencies for your encounters. If your non-player characters manage to kill off the entire party of Adventurers, bring them into a scenario you devised beforehand, where they wake up in a white room, stripped of all but the clothes on their backs. Set them the task of finding where their armour, weapons, gear, cash, treasures, and magic items went to, whilst escaping from random prison guards. Set them the task of wondering where they are (a prison), and how they escaped apparently being killed (they'd been hit by trank darts or something). At the very worst, this'll take up the rest of the game session, and give you time to bring them back on track in the next session. If they've managed to kill someone you did not want them to even fight until the final battle, then have the Adventurers notice something odd about the corpse. It's wearing a mask, or it was shapechanged from some lesser minion to resemble the Big Bad. Or it could be their twin brother, giving the real Big Bad added incentive to want to kill the Adventurers, out of revenge. The best way to avoid the Adventurers killing off the Big Bad too soon, however, has got to be to save the actual main Big Bad until the end. It's always an illusion, a deluded fool hypnotised into believing they were the Big Bad, or a hapless minion brainwashed into believing themselves into being the Big Bad. And the best way to ensure the Adventurers do not get wiped out by a random encounter is not to subject them to wandering encounters - not, at least, the sort which result in mindless arcade violence for the sake of it. The job of wilderness and wandering encounters is never to kill the Adventurers anyway, but to give them opportunities to learn things about the Big Bad before the main story - assuming, as I have been all this time, that the point of the scenario has been a simple dungeon crawl. Contingencies For Other Kinds Of Scenarios Up to this point, the thrust of the post has been on improvising on scenarios which are straightforward dungeon crawls. The Big Bad is sitting in his dungeon, practically waiting for the Adventurers to come along and do battle to the death, or something. Basically, the plot of The Hidden Fortress, The Guns of Navarone, or That George Lucas Movie From 1977 ... But there could be other types of scenarios, which are just as engaging. Diplomacy and Intrigue This is where Fioracitta, The Heart of Power comes into its own. But there are other game modules available which focus on intrigue, politcs, and treachery - such as Republic, by Mutant Chiron Games. The biggest improvisation you can make, if your favourite mover and shaker is unexpectedly killed, is to reveal to the Adventurers that the person they just destroyed was not, in fact, the main villain, but rather working for someone (or someones) higher up the food chain. Investigation Your Players' Adventurers are Investigators, for want of a better term. It doesn't matter if the game is set in Mythic Babylon or M-Space: they are tracking down some miscreant, either to prevent a bigger crime from happening or to bring someone to justice for a crime already committed. What happens if your Big Bad goes down in a hail of bullets at the end of the second act? Again, look to the "Diplomacy and Intrigue" solution above. If the story is set in the modern era, the Adventurers find a cell phone on the dead guy's person, with a video from someone else (holding a loved one in an undisclosed location), or they find incriminating texts and/or calls to and from somebody else: someone who is clearly, by the messages sent, calling the shots. Head of The Snake So the Adventurers have indeed cut off the head of the snake in the second act. What now? Now, the game changes. Now, as Games Master, you lead the Adventurers through the consequences. The Big Bad has contingencies set up to avenge his death, by sending capable assassins after his killers; or a succession war starts up, as ambitious Lieutenants and henchmen start squabbling, and ultimately going to war over, their little piece of the Big Bad's empire of crime. This is a scenario which would work great in a police procedural game, an intrigue game, even a modern game of espionage or superheroes such as The Design Mechanism's forthcoming Destined or Department M. Surprise! The Adventurers could have killed the Big Bad, only to find the same person standing in the very next room, as though he had never even died. It had all been an illusion, or even some sort of strange spell or psionic mechanism to make them all think they'd just defeated the Big Bad - and, in fact, even their presence in the next room is also just another illusion. One Last Thought There will never be a perfect scenario, because the Players are so ingenious in figuring out who the shot callers are, and hitting them with everything they've got. If the little person in the corner of the room starts chanting and waving their arms about, chances are they're preparing some dangerous spell, so every character with a ranged weapon is going to aim right for the little guy with the pointy hat the minute they've done a Perception check in the room. They always assume that the mage is always going to be the master tactician, and they'll select that target accordingly. If you find that your Players tend to think this way, and all you're doing is running arcade-style violence and dungeon crawling, the best arena in which to improvise is in the realm of scenarios where improvisation is practically a requirement: games where the objectives are dialogue, diplomacy, intrigue, investigation, and where surprises are practically expected - such as Raymond Chandler's famous solution to reader boredom, which involved a man bursting into the room, brandishing a gun. Just shoot back first, and ask questions afterwards. Just make sure there are clues in the dead guy's pockets, so you'll have someone else to ask questions to. If your little improvisation - a discovery of strange foreign coins on the bad dead guy's person, or a letter from a third party, or a text or email to the Big Bad from the real shot caller - keeps the Adventurers on their toes, gets them to think that there was more to this than just a fight in a dark alley or some catacomb, then you'll be able to manage to turn what could have stalled your adventure in its tracks into a pause in the action, as it shifts in another direction. If your Players don't read this post, they could go along with your improv and not even see the join. And if you make improv a part of all your stories, even the ones which are going smoothly and exactly according to your plan, then they may well never even realise how close they came to bringing your scanerio to an abrupt halt. Just carry on, and keep a straight face the whole time. You've got this.
  2. I regret that, due to a working commitment this week, the next entry in this blog will be delayed one week, until January 22nd. Apologies for any inconvenience.
  3. Fire and Violent Death After the Moot, Wæcla held a feast and invited the Hrothgarsons to the High Table to discuss why they had come to Verulamacæster. Dunstan told the story of the Bannucmann in the hope that he would distract Wæcla’s attention but got himself tongue-tied and the listeners lost interest in his telling of the tale. Dunstan was upset with himself but most of the warriors were so drunk that Wulfhere said to him that he did not think it would affect their standing in the Hall. Wulfhere noticed that Wæcla did not drink much and he thought it might be a good idea to copy the King. Uthric had been brooding throughout the meal and did not say much. He had said to Dunstan that he was worried that Dunric had suddenly appeared again and had a feeling that this did not bode well for anyone. Dunstan explained to Wæcla that Uthric’s poor mood was because he had been worried that Dunric had come to his Kingdom and he did not see it as a coincidence that Wæcla had then been poisoned. He told Wæcla of their past dealings with Dunric and how he took great interest in death and killing innocent people by causing extreme suffering and pain. Wæcla said he was unsure what Dunstan wanted him to do. He said he was aware that leæches often sacrificed people to further their aims and while he did not agree with it, he accepted that it might be necessary for others to live. He thought priests and leæches were often inscrutable in their actions and he had found that trying to judge their motives as good or evil was essentially difficult and, in his experience, never successful. Wæcla thought Dunric may be evil and act evilly, as Dunstan had said, but he was, without doubt, being prompted by the gods or spirits. Wæcla did not see that he was therefore in a position to judge him or act against him without more evidence. Wæcla said he was more interested in their relationship with Hrof, Aelle and Cerdic. He said that they had by now heard that he had imprisoned Ealhwyn and he wanted to know if they could tell him how Hrof might respond. Wulfhere said that he could not claim to know Hrof well but they had met him a few times. He had found him to be a generous man to his friends but he was implacable as an enemy. He did know that he was fond of his daughter and that he could only guess that Hrof was still unaware of Ealhwyn’s imprisonment. Wæcla said he had been thinking how he should respond to Hrof and had not yet decided what to do with Ealhwyn. Uthric wanted to know if that was because he thought Ealhwyn was not guilty of poisoning him. Wæcla said he was still not sure but the evidence pointed to the fact that she was the only one who could have put the poison in his cup and the bottle of poison had been found in her sleeping chambers. Uthric said that the King must be aware that he had many enemies and not all of them identified themselves openly. Wæcla agreed with Uthric and said he thought this was a consequence of trying to be fair to everyone. Some mistook his justice as weakness. He asked if they knew of Aelle's intentions. Wulfhere said that Aelle's motivation was unknown to him but that he had found Aelle, in general, to be more open than Cerdic. One could always tell what Aelle was thinking as he tended to be hot-headed and emotional. Cerdic, on the other hand, did not let emotions rule his actions. Wulfhere said that, as he was the most northerly of Cerdic's Ealdorman, what he could tell Wæcla was that Cerdic had currently no thoughts of invasion of Mierce. His goal appeared to be to thwart Aelle's attempt to take land north of the Tamyse. There was peace at present between the two Kings but Wulfhere said that he could not see it lasting. He said both were too ambitious. Wæcla thought that if they fought each other then they would be likely to leave Mierce alone but it was clear to him that he could not really trust either King. They talked of other things that were more immediate and Uthric admitted that he had come north to find his wife, Meire. Wæcla was keen to hear the story and Uthric was able to keep the King’s interest with the tale. Wulfhere asked if he could have Wæcla’s opinion on Brithwen’s relationship with Iænbeorht as he had observed it to be overfamiliar. Wæcla thought Wulfhere's comment amusing. He said he would forgive the remark as Wulfhere was more than likely unaware that Iænbeorht was Brithwen's mother's brother. Wulfhere was surprised and apologised for his insinuation although he had found the interaction strange. Wæcla said that his wife, the Cyninge, was beyond reproof. He asked if they would be leaving in the morning but Uthric said that Meire was unwilling to leave without ensuring that Ealhwyn was declared innocent. Wæcla said that he thought this would be a good thing and when Dunstan asked if they could visit Ealhwyn in her rooms, Wæcla said he could think of no reason why that could not happen. When they were alone, the Hrothgarsons discussed the information that they had and what they needed still to do. Wulfhere said he still had suspicions about the Christians but that Cissa, Aelle’s son and Northern Warleader, had most to gain from Wæcla’s death. Dunstan said he was still confused by what was happening and said that it would be a lot simpler to take over the Kingdom rather than all of the plotting and poisoning. Wulfhere said that it would surely be sufficient to have someone in charge who is well disposed or willing to become a vassal of another Kingdom. Uthric said he was confused too but his confusion was about Ealhwyn’s motivation. He reminded his brothers that Ealhwyn was Hrof's daughter and married to Wlencig, Aelle's son. He wondered if the she had been acting on Aelle's behalf. Wulfhere said that they all agreed that Aelle and Cissa would benefit most from Wæcla's death. They could then absorb the lands of the Wæclingas and expand their territory further east but to do so they would need a compliant or inexperienced King. He wondered who might succeed Wæcla if he had died. There was no guarantee Wæcla's son, Scænwulf, would be the next Wæclingascyning as the Moot would need to vote for him and from what they had seen of him they were not sure he was capable of ruling a Kingdom. None of them had any idea of the power distribution in the land and what would happen at the Moot. Uthric had drunk too much the night before and felt very unwell the next morning. Dunstan on the other hand, was moving around noisily and whistling which caused Uthric to complain about inconsiderate people. Dunstan decided to leave Uthric sleeping and avoid an argument. He went into the main Hall and sat at one of the benches calling one of the serving women over to ask if he could have something to eat to break his night fast. He paid the serving woman, Mildburh, compliments and asked her opinions on the food. Mildburh was flattered by his attention and was happy to spend time talking to him. However, she said that she had to make it clear that if he was trying to get her to sleep with him then he would be wasting his time. She did suggest that if that was what he was interested in, then he should seek out Edoma, the kitchen maid, and that giving her some silver would get him what he wanted. Dunstan said that he had only been making conversation and settled down into eat his food. He did keep talking to Mildburh as she went about her chores and she returned his comments with equal enthusiasm. When Wulfhere joined Dunstan, he noted that Dunstan seemed to have attracted the attention of another woman and wondered why he needed to be surrounded by women and thought perhaps that he was not satisfied with only one. Dunstan said his mind was fully on Æthlind and that she was in every way beautiful, intelligent and hard-working and therefore all he needed. She had also given him a new son, Alhstan, who he believed would be a famous warrior one day. Wulfhere laughed as he noticed that Mildburh was paying close attention to Dunstan's plate and seemed to always be nearby by despite the number of other men in the hall looking for food. Wulfhere asked Mildburh if the king had a Beorsceale1 and who ran the household, particularly at feasts. Mildburh said that Brithwen, as the Cyninge, was in charge of the household but Haneald was the Boldweard2 and assisted the Queen. The boy, Oswui was the Beorsceale and it was he that sometimes served ale to the King. Wulfhere thanked her and when she was out of earshot said that once again Dunstan had got an attractive woman interested in him. Dunstan said that Wulfhere had misjudged him and if Wulfhere was interested in sleeping with Mildburh, he might find himself disappointed. He thought that Wulfhere would be more successful if he sought out Edoma, the kitchen maid, and gave her some silver. Wulfhere looked quizzically at Dunstan and said he was obviously still drunk as he was still not making sense. Dunstan shrugged his shoulders and said he was only trying to be helpful. Uthric eventually joined them in the main Hall and as he ate, Wulfhere discussed what they must do. He thought primarily they should see and speak with Ealhwyn but it might be also useful to talk to Haneald and Oswui. Dunstan said that he would like to talk to Bairre the Priest as he did not trust Christians to not cause trouble wherever they went and he thought it best to find out what his motives were for being in Verulamacæster. Uthric mumbled something about Blacksmiths and cauldrons but neither of his brothers were sure what he meant for he spoke so low and haltingly, frequently stopping midsentence to hold his head. While they were waiting for Wæcla to come into the Hall to gain permission to speak to Ealhwyn, Wulfhere talked to Haneald the Boldweard. Wulfhere thought Haneald was guarded in his responses but he was not sure who he was protecting. Haneald said that during feasts it was his duty to ensure that the Hall had enough food and drink, making sure that the servants were continually filling the drinking horns and trenchers. He said it was always the Cyninge's duty to ensure the guests at the High Table had enough to eat and drink but, on that particular night, Brithwen had not served the High Table became she did not want to embarrass the Cyning, who sat alone with Ealhwyn. Haneald said it was not up to him to comment on the actions of the King but he left Wulfhere with no doubt that he disapproved of Wæcla's behaviour. He said that Oswui, the Beorsceale, had served Wæcla and Ealhwyn that night. Wulfhere said he would like to talk to Oswui if that was possible. Oswui was brought into the Hall at Wulfhere’s request. He was a young boy of about eleven summers and Wulfhere thought he was likely to be the son of some favoured Þegn. Oswui was nervous and as he spoke he constantly played with an amulet of silver and gold that hung around his neck. Oswui said that he had given the Cyning and the Lady Ealhwyn drinks all night. He said that late into the night, Wæcla had suddenly stood up, had fallen over and had then begun to shake. Oswui said that despite what people were saying he did not believe Ealhwyn could have poisoned the Cyning because she was too nice. Wulfhere said that just because someone seems nice does not mean that they sometimes do things that are wrong. Oswui became flustered and upset by Wulfhere's words and held more tightly onto his amulet. Wulfhere asked who had given Oswui the drinking horns to give to the Cyning and was told that it had been the Cyninge. Oswui was startled by Wulfhere's question and possible consequences and said he did not think that Brithwen would have poisoned her husband. Wulfhere thanked him for the talk and went back to the bench where he had left Uthric and Dunstan. Dunstan had despaired of Uthric recovering from too much ale the night before and had left him to seek out Bairre, the Christian Priest. He asked directions from the guards on the Hall door and was told that Christians were not allowed to live within the city walls. They believed that he lived at a shrine to the Christian god to the east of the City. Dunstan eventually found the Priest, Bairre mac Guilla where the guards had told him. He was a small, round man with thinning hair and a stained robe. Bairre was excited to see Dunstan and told him he was welcome and glad he had sought him out to hear the message of the gospel. Dunstan said he was unsure what that might be but said he was always open to discussion. Dunstan acknowledged that he was not overly familiar with Christians and his previous experience of them had not endeared them. Bairre said that he thought that this may have been an unfortunate experience as he believed that most Christians were good people. He likened them to fishermen except that they were interested in saving souls. Dunstan frowned so heavily, Bairre took a backward step. Dunstan said that neither idea filled him with joy. He disliked fishermen because they had given him unending trouble. He was also not happy about any discussions about souls having lost and then found his own recently. Bairre said that he would like to hear the tale sometime but Dunstan said that he was not keen to tell it at the moment and it would need to be told at a later date, if Bairre was still interested. Dunstan decided he needed to change the subject and said he was keen to hear why the Priest had come to Verulamacæster because he was certain there were no other Christians in the area. Bairre reluctantly admitted this was true. His own people who were left in the area had taken up worshipping demons and idols. He had come with two junior priests to tend the shrine of Alban, a Christian martyr, who had been beheaded by the Romans for hiding a Priest. Dunstan said that he thought that the Priest must have been a criminal or else he would not need to have hidden. He therefore should have been given over to the Romans but Bairre disagreed and said Alban had been a good man. Dunstan said he was not sure he would ever understand Britons or Romans. They seemed to have an ability to cause unending harm to each other. Bairre said that he thought that characterisation of Christians was unfair and he reached to touch Dunstan’s arm to guide him towards the shrine. In doing so he revealed his hands that had been concealed by his robe. Dunstan noticed that his fingers were stained black and he asked Bairre why this was so. Bairre said that he spent his spare time copying out sections of his God’s Holy words in a book. The black stains were ink. Dunstan said he had never heard the word ink before and he pressed Bairre for an explanation. Bairre showed him the book and Dunstan said that he would call the marks in the book Runes and if this was the case then Bairre could rightly be described as a sorcerer. Bairre was upset by Dunstan’s words and repudiated that he would ever be involved in sorcery. Dunstan remained unconvinced and said he thought he should return to his brothers. Bairre asked him to come back again. Uthric had eventually gathered himself and had gone to the street where the īsernsmiþas3 worked. He asked around about small cauldrons but none of the īsernsmiþas said that they would do such a job unless specifically commissioned. They said that no-one would want such small cauldrons to cook with. Uthric noticed that most of the īsernsmiþas had black hands and when he asked them about the colour they explained that working with hot metal always caused burns where slivers of the metal and charcoal mixed to turn their hands black. One of them said that it was considered lucky and he had found that the women liked it. Uthric said that he thought he could manage woman’s interest without burning his hands black. Wulfhere was waiting for Wæcla to come into the Hall but when he arrived he was having an ongoing argument with his son, Scænwulf. Wulfhere was not close enough to hear what the argument was about before Scænwulf left in anger. Wulfhere decided that he would wait for Wæcla to calm down before asking to see Ealhwyn who might be another source of anger for Wæcla. He decided he might await the return of his brothers and continued to watch and wait but Wæcla did not seem to concerned about Scænwulf’s behaviour. Wulfhere concluded that it must be a regular occurrence. Wæcla continued with his daily tasks and was ensuring that his judgements from the Moot had been carried out. He brought Hwætmund the Merchant to see him and reminded him that he had made an agreement to charge a fixed price for cloth and yet he had heard that he was still overcharging. Hwætmund tried to claim it had been an accident but Wæcla said he was not interested in excuses. When his brother’s returned Wulfhere was still sitting listening to Wæcla. He said to them that it was easy to see why Wæcla was a popular King. He was very focused on protecting his people from those that would exploit them but Wulfhere said he also thought that he had many enemies because of that. Dunstan said that Kings are likely to have enemies. Uthric agreed and pointed out that Dunstan continually complains about Cerdic to anyone who will listen and even to those that tell him they are not interested in his views. Wulfhere told them he had witnessed Scænwulf argue with his father and Dunstan wondered if he could have attempted to poison Wæcla. While they were discussing this, Sceirhead the Chief Huscarl, came over and asked them if they needed some exercise. He said he was planning a trip to the Chiltern Hills and thought he could use more people that knew how to handle themselves. He thought the Hrothgarsons’ reputation was sufficient for them to have a prominent place in his Warband. Wulfhere respectfully declined the offer and said that if their time was their own there was nothing he would like better than exercising with Sceirhead. Sceirhead said he was disappointed and maybe their fame was only made up by Lēoþwyrhtan4. Wulfhere chose to ignore Sceirhead’s provocation. Wulfhere said that he would continue to watch the Hall and Uthric and Dunstan should go and meet Ealhwyn. He thought he might learn information by watching the interaction and the added bonus was that he could also continue to drink Wæcla’s excellent ale while he did so. Uthric and Dunstan went to see Ealhwyn. Outside the door, one of Meire’s brothers stood guard. He did not respond nor hinder Uthric or Dunstan when Uthric said that they were here to visit Ealhwyn. Uthric explained why they had come to see her and Ealhwyn’s initial hostility was replaced by a warm welcome. Ealhwyn was grateful that Meire had not deserted her and that the Hrothgarsons were searching for evidence to allow her to be freed. She was adamant that she had nothing to do with Wæcla’s poisoning. Ealhwyn could tell them little that they already did not know about the night Wæcla was poisoned. She was initially reluctant to tell them her business with Wæcla but when Dunstan said that it would be difficult to help her if they were not aware of everything she was doing. After some thought Ealhwyn agreed to their request but she made them swear an oath of silence before she told them. Ealhwyn told them that she had agreed a plan with Saeberht, her cousin to create a Miercian confederacy to defend themselves against the three most powerful Kings, Guercha One-eye, Aelle and Cerdic. It was Sæberht’s opinion that all three had shown intent to invade Mierce to further their aims to be Brytenwealda. The Miercians, on the other hand, only wanted to be ruled by their own elected Kings. Uthric said that he found this strange and could not quite work out why she was doing this. He said she was, after all, Hrof’s daughter and Wlencig’s husband and both had strong loyalty to Aelle. Ealhwyn acknowledged what both had said but she said she believed that people needed to choose their own destinies and Aelle, Cerdic and Guercha would not allow that. After a moment she added that despite his love for her, her father would also not allow people to seek their own wyrd. As for her husband, Wlencig, she had no real feelings for him. It had been a marriage to cement the alliance of their respective fathers. Uthric asked about her relationship with Wæcla and, after a moment of silence, Ealhwyn admitted they were lovers. Dunstan said that he thought this might be a motive for the poisoning. Uthric agreed and wondered if Ealhwyn had been blamed to stop her relationship with Wæcla. Ealhwyn said that while this was possible it was likely to be a more political act. Uthric and Dunstan went back to talk to Wulfhere. Dunstan thought there were too many layers to Wæcla’s poisoning. There were many people who could have had a motive but he thought by focusing on those that would benefit most they might be able to find out what had happened. Wulfhere said that in his view it must be one of the Kings who has paid someone to get rid of Wæcla. He thought that Wæcla was possibly the only one that could hold a Miercian Confederation together. Wulfhere said that no-one would pretend to know Cerdic’s mind but he seemed to be focused on lands to the west. Aelle, through Cissa, was the most active north of the Tamyse and no-one knew what Guercha’s plans were. Uthric thought Aelle or Cissa could have bought one of Wæcla’s people and that person was responsible for the poisoning. Dunstan thought that they needed to free Ealhwyn and leave. He thought they might blame Bairre mac Guilla or ask him to preach against adultery to infuriate the King. Neither Uthric nor Wulfhere thought of Dunstan’s plans as useful. As they were leaving the Hall, Mildburh came over to Dunstan. She reminded him of the questions he had asked her that morning and said that he might be interested that Brithwen had a disagreement with Sceirhead this morning in the herb garden and directly afterwards she had another argument with a man she did not know. She thought he was likely a craftsperson from his clothing. Dunstan thanked her and gave her a broach which she was delighted with. He asked her to continue to listen for any other useful bits of information. She moved closer to him and whispered that the Cyninge’s maid, Estrith, had told her that Brithwen was angry at Wæcla because of his relationship with Ealhwyn. Brithwen had told Estrith that she feared that she and her eldest son, Scænwulf, will be discarded and Wæcla will have children with Ealhwyn. Wulfhere gathered his brothers to talk about what they now knew. He started by saying he had been thinking that they were basing their premise on Meire’s word that Ealhwyn was not guilty of poisoning Wæcla. He wondered if they should also consider that she could have poisoned him. Uthric said that if Wulfhere doubted Meire, he might want to take it up with her brothers. Wulfhere ignored his comment and reviewed some other points. If Brithwen was divorced by Wæcla would that mean Iænbeorht would be dismissed as the Hlafweard5. Would the threat of losing his position be enough for Iænbeorht to consider killing Wæcla to keep his role and to uphold the honour of his sister’s daughter. Dunstan said they had forgotten about the leæches and in particular Dunric. He reminded them that any situation involving Dunric is likely to involve a significant amount of deaths. Wulfhere said he did not get the sense the leæches were involved. He thought they would not need to poison someone to commit murder and were unlikely to be so secretive about it. They preferred to be ostentatious and very public in their killings. Bairre the Priest could be involved because Christian’s like to sow discord as they had all seen in Dumnonia. Dunstan said that Bairre had been writing runes in a book and was clearly a powerful sorcerer. Uthric asked what they thought about Mildburh’s information and wondered if the craftsperson that Brithwen met could have been an Īsernsmiþ. Wulfhere said that he could not tell for sure but the one thing he did know was that, the more information they got, the more complexities and more possibilities arose. He said his head hurt with overthinking. When Dunstan left the Hall, he noticed Bairre standing and staring at Meire. She was teaching her children the names of flowers and herbs that she had placed on a table. Bairre was making magical symbols with his hand and muttering under his breathe. When he noticed Dunstan, he said that he had been unaware that the Sais had sunk so far into evil as to allow a brùnaidh6 to live amongst them and in doing so they would imperil his and others’ souls. He said that this woman was obviously a fae, and she needed to be exercised. He thought it had likely been her that had murdered his comrade, Iola, and taken his blood for her foul and idolatrous sacrifices. Dunstan said that Meire was his brother’s wife and she had not been known to sacrifice people. He thought, if young Hrothgar was to be believed, that it was better not to mention that she seemed to have a propensity to burst into flames because that might annoy Bairre more. Dunstan said that he was dismayed by Bairre’s news and asked what had happened. Bairre said that they had found Iola this morning and he had had his throat slit and every drop of blood had been drained from him. He had then been pinned to a tree with a spear point. He blamed the fae woman and was going to speak to Wæcla about Iola’s death to demand justice. Wulfhere and Uthric were sitting together talking but listening to what was happening in the Hall. Both thought that there was a connection between Aelle and his desire to become more influential in Mierce. They were eavesdropping on Wæcla’s discussion with Iænbeorht while trying to look like they were minding their own business. There were two interesting pieces of information overheard. Wæcla and Iænbeorht discussed a possible treaty with Aelle to preserve the peace. Iænbeorht was keen for a deal to maintain the peace and allow the people to recover from ruinous wars, poor harvests and illness. However, they could not agree and Wæcla thought that they needed to negotiate from a position of power with Kings like Aelle. Wæcla brought up that he was also worried about Sceirhead’s recent attitude and his continual questioning of his authority. Iænbeorht said that they both knew Sceirhead was a hothead and his diplomacy was usually carried out with a spear. Wæcla said that he hoped Sceirhead would develop some sense of composure that did not involve always killing people. Wulfhere was worried about Wæcla’s proposal for an alliance with Aelle. He felt this was how Aelle spread his influence by using intimidation and a threat of violence and he was certain that Cerdic would not be pleased with this development. Uthric thought Cerdic’s anger would be because he hadn’t thought of it first but he was thinking that taking Sceirhead down a notch would not be a bad thing for Wæcla’s authority. They were both surprised and amused when the Priest, Bairre made an appearance to complain about the murder of Iola, his comrade, who he claimed had been sacrificed by a devil. Uthric was not so amused that Bairre accused Meire of being a demon and that Wæcla needed to do something about her. Wulfhere had to restrain him from threatening violence in the Hall and breaking Wæcla’s peace. Bairre said that he was going to sit outside Wæcla’s Hall and go on hunger strike to shame Wæcla until the murderer was punished. Wæcla tried to appease Bairre but he was not in the mood to be placated. Wulfhere suggested to Uthric that to take his mind off Bairre he might want to talk to the Īsernsmiþan about the person Brithwen had met in the herb garden. Uthric thought he might benefit from time away from the atmosphere in the Hall. He spoke with Tancred, one of the Īsernsmiþan, who was unusually talkative. The news on Īsernsmiþanstræt was that Mercheld, one of their number, had the day before decided to leave and go to Lundenwic. Tancred was under the impression that Mercheld had not planned the move and it was a quick decision. There had been a lot of speculation as to the cause and some gossip about falling out with Brithwen. Tancred dismissed the gossip as he thought it unlikely Mercheld would know the Cyninge other than by sight. He did say that Mercheld had been at odds with Wæcla because last year his son had been killed by Scænwulf, Wæcla’s eldest son, over an argument about a horse. Mercheld had thought that the wergild was not enough and had made his thoughts known to anyone who would listen. Uthric thanked Tancred for the information and left to see Meire and to make sure that her brother was still guarding her. He was not pleased about Bairre’s threats against her. The Hrothgarson’s mood was subdued that night as they ate their evening meal in Wæcla’s Hall. Their mood seemed to infect the nearby benches and spread to the other people present as the night wore on. People spoke in low voices and there was not much laughter. The door was opened suddenly and a blast of cold night air silenced the Hall. Sceirhead came into the Hall with about ten of the Huscarls. He was still in armour and armed. Gold shone at his throat and wrist. Wæcla asked why he had come dressed for war and had broken the peace of his Hall. Sceirhead threw a sack on the King’s table which fell open and said to Wæcla that he had solved his problem with the miners. Inside the sack were severed heads. Wæcla was furious and said that he had not had a problem with any miners and Sceirhead would need to pay wergild for the dead with his new gold jewellery. Sceirhead drew his sword and would have moved toward the King if some of the warriors who, although unarmed, pushed Sceirhead and his men away from the King. Uthric drew his seax and taking a shield from the wall moved in between Sceirhead and the King. Sceirhead did not hesitate but attacked Uthric. The fight was unequal and Uthric could not land a significant blow or when he did Sceirhead’s armour turned his seax. Sceirhead wounded Uthric in the arm and leg which convinced Uthric that this was not going to end well. Sceirhead was a skilful and capable warrior and even fully armoured Uthric would have struggled against him. Dunstan had taken a shield from the wall of the Hall and Wulfhere had picked up a shield from a wounded warrior. Both ran to help Uthric. Uthric had jumped backwards but was bleeding from his wounds. Others were now running to engage the rebel warriors and although Sceirhead himself was keen to land a killing blow on Uthric, they began to withdraw in case they were overwhelmed. Someone threw a javelin at Wæcla when he was organising the defence and he did not see its flight until too late. It caught him in the chest and the force knocked him backwards. There was a momentary lull in the battle as the enormity of what had just happened sank in. Dunstan and several others reacted first and went to see if Wæcla was still alive, shielding him from further thrown weapons. Wulfhere picked himself off the floor. He had tried to parry a spear thrust, slipped on a discarded bowl and collided with a Hall post, hurting his ribs. When he got to Uthric, Uthric was bandaging his own wounds and lamenting that his good tunic was now ripped and covered in blood, not all of it his own. Wæcla was still alive but gravely wounded. Someone had staunched the wound but the pool of blood beneath him suggested that he had lost a lot of blood. He was barely conscious and his men were calling for a leæch. Uthric volunteered to look at Wæcla because he had some experience with battlefield wounds. The loyal Huscarls were reluctant and voiced their concerns that Uthric could be in league with Sceirhead and seek to kill the King. They were over-ruled by Heremann, one of the senior Huscarls who pointed out, without attention, Wæcla was likely to die anyway and Uthric was the only one with some level of skill. Uthric packed the wound with herbs he asked the Kitchen maids to bring from the herb garden and the bleeding was stopped by tight badages. Wæcla was still unconscious but Uthric said he could do no more and Wæcla now had to battle to stay in Miðgarðr or go on his journey to Neorxanwang. Some of Sceirhead’s warriors had been wounded and had been left behind when Sceirhead made his escape. They were keen to avoid death by hanging and willing to talk to Heremann. They told him that Cissa had given Sceirhead gold to kill Wæcla but they were certain that he had not poisoned him. They said that Sceirhead would rather stick a spear in someone while looking him in the eyes and he thought the use of poison beneath him. Heremann thought there was truth in their words and ordered that the captured warriors were executed by beheading rather than being hanged as criminals. The information helped Heremann understand why Sceirhead had turned on his King but did not help in the mystery about Wæcla’s poisoning. Iænbeorht and Heremann discussed what they needed to do to secure the Kingdom. Iænbeorht asked for scouts and warriors to be sent after Sceirhead but it was clear he had left the city. A search of his sleeping quarters found gold buried in the earth floor and the suspicion was that this was some of the gold he had been given to kill Wæcla. The Aethling, Scænwulf wanted to take over from his father but both Iænbeorht and Heremann told him that while he was still alive, Wæcla was still the Wæclingascyning. If Wæcla died then the next King would be a decision for the Moot. Iænbeorht reminded Scænwulf that the Wæclingas had no tradition of passing on Kingship from father to son. The only thing that was decided was that Heremann was elected by the loyal Huscarls to be the new Chief Huscarl. The Huscarls would not willingly follow Iænbeorht and Scænwulf, while liked by the Huscarls, was too young and unproven in such an emergency. Uthric asked Heremann if he could see Ealhwyn to make sure she was not hurt. Uthric hoped to persuade her to leave in the confusion of Wæcla’s wounding but she declined. She thought the Miercian Confederation more important than her own safety and that she might be better to take her chances when Wæcla recovered. Uthric said he wondered what might have happened to her if Wæcla had died or perhaps if he now died of his wounds. She said she would not think of such things. Dunstan and Wulfhere were trying to make sense of what happened. The suddenness of the violence had been unexpected and the potential difficulties for the kingdom were huge should Wæcla die. Dunstan said that he would be keen to leave and get back to the relative safety of their own Halls. He was disappointed with Ealhwyn’s answer when Uthric returned to his brothers to tell them of her response. Uthric said that the thing he could not get out of his mind was that he still wondered how Dunric was involved in events. The violence and death were his trademarks particularly when friends fight each other. They sat in the Hall and tried to work out what had happened and what they should do about it but only tied themselves in knots going over old ground and old theories. Uthric said that he found it interesting that Brithwen had not been prominent in the Hall and he wondered what she was doing. The answer came when Mildburh brought them some ale. She told them that Brithwen was with Wæcla making sure that he had everything he needed. Mildburh also told Dunstan that she had reconsidered her earlier words, and if he still wanted to sleep with her that would be a good thing. Dunstan said that he was honoured by her offer but would have to gently refuse. He told a tearful Mildburh that he was always faithful to his wife. Uthric smiled when Dunstan told him what had passed between the two and said that Dunstan needed to behave himself with women in future. He thought it was not a good thing to upset the serving women as they might die of thirst if they refused to serve any more ale. In the morning there was no further news. Some said that Wæcla had died during the night because they had heard the wails of mourning women. The rumour spread to the point where Heremann had to tell the Hall that Wæcla, while still unable to talk, was still alive and that his fever had broken overnight, which was a good sign. A messenger came from the warriors who had been sent after Sceirhead saying that they had tracked him to close to Aeglesburgh but had not dared to go any further as they were in Cissa’s lands. They would watch and hope to catch Sceirhead if he left the safety of the city. The Hall was still in a sombre mood and men mostly ate or drank in silence. The quiet was interrupted by shouting from outside. The noise made the men in the Hall look for weapons. The doors burst open and six men in armour strode in. Uthric recognised Wlencig, Atheling of the Cantaware and thought that the Atheling’s entrance might get interesting. Wlencig demanded to know of Iænbeorht where his wife was being kept and, when he did not answer, threatened him with violence. The warriors in the Hall were silent despite this being the second time in as many days that Wæcla’s peace had been broken, even though Dunstan noted that they were drawing their seaxs but keeping them hidden under the benches. Heremann tried to restore some semblance of propriety by asking Wlencig to formally introduce himself and state his business. Wlencig’s response was to threaten to take out Heremann’s eyes with hot needles if he did not keep quiet. The situation might have got out of hand as Wulfhere noticed several of Heremann’s warriors go to get their weapons, but Brithwen, who had been standing in the shadows, asked Wlencig to refrain from violence and she would tell him where to find his wife. Wulfhere thought that Wlencig was still considering violence when he suddenly bowed to the Cyninge and asked her pardon for the interruption. He said he had been abrupt because he had heard that his wife had been imprisoned and that he was keen to find out the truth of the matter. Brithwen graciously accepted his apology and said that she believed the Lady Ealhwyn was in a side room. Wlencig took his men down the side passage and Uthric thought he might go after them to see what would happen but sounds of fighting and yells of pain discouraged his idea. It was only a few heartbeats later when Wlencig reappeared in the main Hall. He was followed by only two of his men and both were wounded probably fatally judging by the way they staggered. Dunstan was sure that Wlencig did not seem to be injured but he had lost his helmet and Wulfhere thought there was a look of terror on his face. He remarked to Dunstan that something horrible must have happened because he had seen Wlencig in Shieldwalls and he was always calm. Uthric said he suspected that one of his wife’s brothers might be the cause of his terror but the passageway was silent. No-one could say for sure where the three hooded figures had come from. Afterwards there was much debate if they had been in the Hall all along as none of the guards had seen them pass the door. Wulfhere said that they might have come in because nobody’s attention had been on the door from the moment Wlencig and his men had gone down the passage. Two of the hooded men threw backed their hoods, lifted their heads to the roof and howled. Uthric recognised the leæches, Snyring and Nægel. Their cries were answered by half seen spirit shapes that looked like giant wolves and that had begun to circle the Hall. Where they touched human flesh, they left a chill like that of the grave. The crowd in the Hall moved as far back against the wall as possible trying to make themselves small and unseen. Some of the wolf shapes had enough material form to rip the sturdy benches and toss them aside. The central figure was still hooded and he stared at Wlencig who was on his knees at the feet of the figure. The cloaked figure threw back his hood and light gleamed off his single eye while blackness gaped from the other. The figure screamed. It was an unearthly pitch that jarred everyone who heard it and at the same time he raised his hands and flame jumped from the central fire pit to his hands. He slowly lowered his hands and fire engulfed Wlencig’s head which burst into flames. The Aethling of Cantaware died horribly and painfully while the one-eyed man howled at a pitch that hurt human ears. Snyring continued howling and pointed at the door of the Hall. Spirit wolves gathered in a pack around him and bounded toward the door which burst its hinges outwards. Screams and ripping sounds were heard and people would not go to investigate for fear that they might meet a grisly fate too. As suddenly as the leæches appeared they left. Dunstan recognised the one-eyed leæch as Dunric and said afterwards that he was sure Dunric grinned at him as he left. Uthric said that he had not particularly liked Wlencig but he did not deserve a death like that. Wulfhere said that deserved or not he was not keen to be in Verulamacæster as there would be consequences to Dunric’s actions and he for one was not keen to see them. Heremann restored some semblance of order and threw a cloak over Wlencig’s body. Uthric said that now might be a good time to see if Ealhwyn was still alive and said he would make it his business to find out. He went down the side passage, stepping over the bodies of three of Wlencig’s guard and nodded to Meire’s brother, who did not respond. Ealhwyn was against the back wall of the room guarding herself with a meat knife. She visibly relaxed when she saw Uthric and said that she thought the fighting outside had been men sent to kill her by Wæcla. Uthric said that he thought that was unlikely as Wæcla could presently not issue any orders as he was either dying or possibly dead already. He told her that she was also a widow and her husband’s body lay in the main Hall. Ealhwyn said that she needed to understand this in detail and followed Uthric to the main Hall. No-one tried to stop her and no-one said anything about her release as she asked questions about the events. She ordered the serving women to take Wlencig’s body and wash it in preparation to be sent to his father. She then went to find Wæcla. Wulfhere wondered if the ease at which she had left her prison and none had challenged her was because Meire’s brother had been standing one pace behind her with a drawn and bloody sword. Uthric said that he believed Wulfhere to be correct as he would not be keen to challenge his wife’s brother. Dunstan had ventured outside and had found a body, who he assumed was Bairre mac Guilla, torn asunder by the spirt wolves. Dunstan said that he thought Christianity would have to wait a while to gain a foothold in Mierce. The mission to Verulamacæster and the shrine on the Hill outside the city appeared to have ended abruptly and bloodily. By the morning Heremann with the help of Wulfhere, as a ranking Ealdorman, had organised the cleaning of the Hall and removed the dead. Heremann had sent for Iænbeorht who had not been seen since the night before. The messenger returned with the news that, in all the confusion, Iænbeorht had left during the night with his guard and a pack horse. Heremann sent warriors to search Iænbeorht’s hall in the hope of understanding his disappearance. Snyring the leæch also came to the Hall. He stood silently for a long time looking at the destruction as people moved away from him. He then told Heremann that he had completed a sacrifice and the Lady Ealhwyn was to remain free as she was not guilty of the poisoning. Heremann asked if Ealhwyn was not guilty could the leæce tell him who he should blame but Snyring did not respond. Wulfhere advised Heremann that he should let the matter drop for the moment. With Ealhwyn’s release from her captivity, Uthric sought to convince Meire that they should go before the weather became too difficult to travel. In truth, Uthric had discussed with his brothers that the situation was becoming very dangerous and Wulfhere was concerned that their continued presence might upset the balance of power in Aelle’s eyes, particularly since his son had just been killed. Meire was reluctant to leave but said that she would go with Uthric as their time together would be short. Uthric asked her what she meant by short and wanted to know if she had some premonition about his death. Meire said she had not had a premonition but a summoning. She told him that she had spent seven years as his wife and their time would soon be over. She would return with him for a short while to Pontes to see that the children were safe, that much had been granted. Uthric said he was confused and wanted to know who had summoned her. Meire said it was her father, Tannatar, also known as the Lord of the Hollows and it was a summons she could not refuse. She told him the summons had been the real reason her brothers, Horith and Ardreth, had come to her. Uthric said that he did not like this news but Meire kissed him and said that all things must end. Dunstan had gone out of the Hall and his attention was attracted by a crowd of people gathered around a building. He pushed his way to the front of the crowd to where Nægel was standing with a smile on his face. Bairre’s remaining scribe had been nailed to a wall of the building. Nægel asked Dunstan if he approved. Dunstan did not answer Nægel’s question but instead asked what the leæches were hoping for with all this death and killing. Nægel told Dunstan that events in the Spirit world were more important than in Miðgarðr. Leæches were always trying to overcome and destroy the spirits left behind by the Britons and as Dunstan no doubt recognised this was not an easy task. Death was just a transition for leæches and Dunstan should not concern himself with the deaths. Those that died still lived in the spirit world. However, the killing released power for those that could use it to overcome powerful enemy spirits. Nægel said that the death of a King’s son caused a formidable release of power. Nægel asked Dunstan about Meire’s children and if the halflings would be going to Pontus or with Meire. Dunstan said that he was not aware that the two were different. He said that he did not like Nægel’s question but the leæch just smiled at him. The Hrothgarsons left Verulamacæster that afternoon. Uthric would not stay when Dunstan told him what Nægel had said. He discussed letting Orin ap Brinn foster the children as a way of keeping them away from the leæches. Dunstan said he thought that Orin should be warned of the danger and see if he could get a Druid to help protect the boys. Meire said that they would be safe as she would ensure they were hidden. Uthric said he could be satisfied with that. When they got home, Wulfhere travelled to Wincen Cæster to meet with Cerdic and told him of the news of their travels. Cerdic said that they had done well and that if Wæcla survived his injury, he was unlikely to side with Aelle in the future. He thought Cissa had gambled on the throwboard and lost. Cerdic said that it was plain for all to see there were dangers in gambling. He told Wulfhere that if Wæcla needed support he was to give it to him, but help should always be covert rather than given openly. He did not want to provoke the peace treaty yet. (1) Beorsceale is a cupbearer (2) Boldweard is a household steward (3) Īsernsmiþ is an ironsmith (4) Lēoþwyrhta is a poet (5) Hlafweard is a Reeve or Steward (6) Brùnaidh is Scottish Gallic for one of the Fae
  4. Friendship is important to Mythras. Not only do the Players need to come together - so do their Adventurers. This article explores the nature of team friendship, and what it means to the success, or failure, of a Mythras adventure. Beginning with Session Zero, when the Adventurers are being generated together, the Games Master should bring the characters together, finding what is common to them or creating connections if they do not seem to have anything immediately in common. Backgrounds Cultures Adventurers can be connected together by their Cultural backgrounds. They might have a common Culture, or radically different Cultures - a Civilised poet having to interact with two Barbarians and a Nomad, all from different Clans. It might be a challenge for the Games Master to get Adventurers to bond together if their Cultures have animosity towards one another, but even that can be doable, with a little tweaking of their back stories. Professions, Factions, and Cults Adventurers with similar Professions can be brought together very easily. The most common example is a team formed from Adventurers who served together under the same military unit, and who are now branching out as mercenaries for the same sponsor. However, Adventurers from different Professions can still be brought together to work as a team, if the Games Master works on the back story, such as Adventurers from different Guilds being brought together to work for the common cause of all of their factions. Background Events The Adventurers don't need to all have the same Background Events - but the Games Master can find a way of weaving the different kinds of background event into a single running narrative which links them all. An enemy who has been making one Adventurer's life a misery for years might be spreading that misery to a second Adventurer's family; the same woman might be an old flame to one Adventurer and a harridan of a Rival to another. Connections This has been covered in a previous article. Connections do more than bind the Adventurers to their factions or to significant non-player characters, including the antagonists: mutually significant Connections could bind the Adventurers' fates to each other, such as the entire party having the same Enemy, or every member forced to bind together in the face of an onslaught from a hostile Cult. Family If Session Zero includes the family generation stage, the Games Master can use a common element, or set of interlinked elements, to bind the Adventurers together. Perhaps the Adventurers' families are Allies to one another, or they serve together in the same unit, two military families with separate, yet joined, traditions of military service, fighting side by side. The Four Five Stages of Team Building This comes from a psychologist called Bruce Tuckman, who wrote a paper in 1965 about the path teams take when they come together for a specific task, designed to facilitate the best team performance. This process has a number of stages, usually four, with a fifth added later by Tuckman. Forming This is the phase where a new team forms. Individuals are unsure of the team's purpose, how they fit in, and whether they'll work well with one another. They'll be looking to the team leader for direction. This is the time where the Players bring up interesting facts about their Adventurers, and the Games Master brings them all together under the leadership of the party's leader. The Players, too, are busy trying to establish their Adventurers' viewpoints and ways of working. Storming This is the point where the party leader begins to establish each Adventurer's roles and responsibilities - who's responsible for what, and so on. The storming stage is where Players and Adventurers start to push against the established boundaries to make room for their Adventurers. Conflict can arise between team members as their true characters and preferred ways of working surface and clash against each other. Team members may challenge the party leader's authority or even the mission, and some individuals might begin to feel overwhelmed. Norming The storming phase is always temporary. The Players come to know each Adventurer, both their own and the others'. The team members start to resolve their differences, appreciate one another's strengths, and respect the authority of the team leader. Once they know one another better, they will feel more comfortable asking for help and offering constructive feedback. They'll share a stronger commitment to the goal of the adventure, and make progress towards achieving it. Performing At this stage, the team is working together in full flow, and performing to its full potential. The Fifth Stage This is the stage that comes at the end of an adventure. It might be a one-shot scenario, a multi-session single adventure, a mini-campaign, or a full scale campaign; but at the end of the story, the team is all set to split up, their job being done. The last stage, according to Bruce Tuckman, is often called Adjourning ... or even Mourning. In game, it usually means that individuals reach the end of their stories. They will have come to the end of their Hero's Journeys or Heroine's Journeys. They will have achieved their dreams, reached Apotheosis, or met a heroic, tragic, or grisly fate. And the survivors will have spent their last accumulated Experience Rolls, cashed in their last favours, and suffered the consequences of their dark secrets being revealed. All that will be left will be for the team members to dissolve the group, say their final goodbyes and mark the parting of the ways. The Lifespan Of A Group ... The life of a group is a single story. It doesn't matter if that story is played out in a single sitting, or over the course of a dozen years of weekly sessions: the campaign measures the life of the group, beginning at the forming stage, and proceeding through all the stages until the last act of the mourning stage. What makes this work is all the bonds formed by the Games Master and the Players, which keep the team working together, keeping it going even when team members have to be replaced, until the final ending which sees the Adventurers' ultimate triumph and final dissolution. Properly managed, those bonds can connect the team's fortunes, making it, and the adventures the team goes through, both unmissable and unforgettable.
  5. Sooner or later, it is going to happen. Your Players' favourite Adventurers are going to enter a battle too far, and one of them will receive a critical injury, which turns into a fatal one when they fail their Endurance check and bleed out on the cold, unforgiving ground. And you, as the Games Master, are going to have to tell your tearful Player that their beloved character has died. Character Death There are many ways a character can die. They can suffer a Serious or Major Wound in a critical Hit Location, and fail an Endurance check; they can contract a disease, or take poison; or they can suffer fatal blood loss, and even exhaust themselves to death. There are even magical effects which are fatal, such as the Transmogrify sorcery spells. The Combat section of Mythras, from page 86, outlines the most common form of character death. The book points out that combat is - - A very deadly business - Need not end in death - Both abstract and tactical - Exciting - Either gritty or cinematic Amid the fog of war, there are always bound to be casualties, and I have it on good authority that the aim of the game is to make sure that the casualties are all on the other side. However, sometimes one or more of the enemy may get in a good strike, and it can get very bad for the Adventurer who is the recipient of such a blow. As Games Master, what can you do to minimise the risk to your Adventurers? Peril, Not Automatic Mortality You do not measure death in Mythras as "being reduced to zero Hit Points." Page 94 of Mythras, Damage Reduction, provides your Adventurers with one possible mechanism to reduce damage, providing that they have something large enough to deflect the blow. Armour also helps to reduce damage, as do various spells. The Hit Locations section on page 109 goes into detail about what one can expect from a Light, Serious, or Major Wound in the various Hit Locations. Page 81 of Mythras details how long it takes to recover from injuries, and there is the possibility of an injury being permanent. As Games Master, you have the option of being able to keep your Players on tenterhooks, asking the questions Will my Adventurer die? and If they live, will there be permanent damage? Luck Points Adventurers have access to a resource mere mortals do not: Luck Points. Page 81 of Mythras describes the procedure for mitigating Major Wounds by spending a Luck Point to reduce one Major Wound to a Serious Wound. Ignore the "one Hit Point damage shy of a Major Wound" rule. Your Adventurer's Luck Point can be ruled as reducing damage sustained to a Light Wound. You're the Games Master. Every rule in the core rulebook is optional, except for the one about having fun. Worst Case Scenario So let's look at the worst case scenario. Your Player has their Adventurer engage with an opponent half their size. An easy match, but for the fact that the Player's dice just won't roll low - their rolls keep landing in the 96-00 range, even if they change the dice around. And the opponent, despite their clear weakness and poor stats, just keeps rolling crits. As a Games Master myself ... I've been in this situation. Nothing can prepare you for the howls of anguish, or the hurling of miscreant dice across the room as the frustrated Player vents their frustrations on those insubordinate little blobs of plastic. Remember - your Non-Player Characters aren't there to kill the Adventurers. Mythras is a simulationist game, not an Arcade style game. Even if the dice just aren't behaving for your Player, things don't all have to go the enemy's way. They can make mistakes, tactical misjudgments and be plain old sloppy. But even if you use NPC Bad Luck Points on your little hench characters, and still they manage to get the upper hand on the Adventurers, what can you do? Awareness Of Surroundings Ask yourself, as Games Master, what this encounter is supposed to accomplish. Is this combat scene something essential to the plot, a showdown with an important hireling of the bad guys, or just a random wandering monster encounter you just threw in? If it's the latter, that's the worst place to put in something that wants to kill the Adventurers and won't take no for an answer. Why throw in a random deadly combat just because the encounter tables tell you to? Again, random wilderness combats are just senseless in a simulationist game like Mythras. Save the deadly battle scenes for pivotal points which advance the story. And try not to kill the player characters with a random wilderness encounter. A TPK from a random group of kobolds is no victory for you as the Games Master. Access To Healers Adventurers who know First Aid and Healing skills, particularly those backed by a Lore skill such as Lore (Field Medicine) or Lore (Surgery) to augment the Healing and First Aid checks, can stave off the Angel of Death for a little while. Their fellow Adventurers can thank you later. Thing is, if you succeed in a Healing check, chances are they will be able to thank you later. Curtains If you have done everything you can to keep the Adventurer alive, and they are beyond even Luck Points, and it looks as though it's The End for your Adventurer, and not even a Games Master Deus Ex Machina can save them ("Wait a minute ... is that a bottle of healing potion underneath that dresser unit over there?") ... then you have the option of making the Adventurer's final moments count for something. Maybe there is an enemy force trying to beat down the door your Adventurers barricaded, and it looks as if they are about to get through it, and all your party needs is for someone to stay behind and buy a few lousy seconds for the team to escape through the secret door. Something like that. Your Adventurer can perform one last heroic action, as per the Heroic Last Actions section on page 111, Again, something to ignore - no need to have your expiring Adventurer burn a Luck Point. Assume they burn all their Luck Points, and that they automatically succeed with a critical roll. After all, if they are on their way out, they might as well make their exit a good one. Just ask Vasquez and Gorman. Conclusion Death doesn't have to be the end for an Adventurer. An encounter which turns fatal doesn't even have to end in death. As Games Master, you can always, always, set up some sort of twist - and bring the expired Adventurer back to rude health. That amulet they picked up from an adventure three sessions before might have the Hide Life sorcery power, which activates the moment the wearer reaches the end of their time. Or they might wake up in chains in the baddie's dungeon, with the baddie gloating at the inhuman pleasures she is about to indulge in, before that chapter fades to black, with the promise that the Adventurer will return some day ... ... after having probably played a lot of games of Backgammon with the baddie. What? Or you could pull a cutscene where the Adventurer thinks they are going to spend their last moments being heroic, only to wake up after the adventure is over, surrounded by the party, who'd risked their lives to come back and collect their fallen comrade because they leave nobody behind or something - and they'd found a healer who restored the Adventurer to full health. Or perhaps Atropos took pity on the Adventurer and stayed Her blades, keeping the threads of the Adventurer's Fate intact when they ought to have been cut. There is always something you can do, as Games Master, even for a Player whose Adventurer is facing certain doom. Until the Player themselves wants to bring their Adventurer to an end, of course - in which case, make it a good ending and give them a Viking funeral. The Adventurer, that is.
  6. DIADOCHI WARLORDS Campaign Here you will find the continuing story of four adventurers in Hellenistic Greece https://chrisbrann.wordpress.com/role-playing-games/diadochi-warlords-campaign/ Hope you enjoy it
  7. Let's play "spot the difference." Intro 1: "You, er, enter a room. There are ten orcs sitting around a table, playing some sort of game of chance. They stop what they are doing and charge. Roll for initiative." Intro 2: "You follow the sounds of arguing to a room behind a closed door. Opening the door, you see a group of orcs in a room. They are arguing amongst themselves. They look like Greykin's orcs, and their armour bears the sigil of that foul wizard, your greatest rival. "You look at them; they look at you. You see them starting to shuffle and spread apart, and one of them goes for their sheathed weapon. The situation is going south, fast. Looks like they've been itching to lock horns with someone for a while. Guess that's you. Roll initiative." However much you may like it or not, combat scenes are going to happen in any roleplaying game, no matter what the setting. Fighting is inevitable in many settings, and Adventurers are typically created to be singularly gifted in the fine arts of combat, so they might as well put those weapons and Combat Styles to use. So how can you, the Games Master, elevate combat from mere number crunching to a scene of heartstopping action, thrilling suspense and intense danger? The same way you elevate all the other kinds of scenes - hypnotic language. Setting Up Combat The setup is as important as the execution. As the Games Master, you are responsible for putting the NPC and monster miniatures onto the board, whether it be a plastic hex grid sheet or a virtual desktop. You are also responsible for the opponents' tactics, actions, and reactions. This is where every roleplaying game's combat sections kind of fall over, because they always seem to assume that combat is always a 100% slaughterfest, and the only differences between one combat scene and any other are the number and size of the opposing force, the weapons they use and how many rounds it takes for the player character combat units to reduce them to kedgeree. This gives every Games Master the impression that all combat scenes must be like this - the first person shooter video game philosophy, where the opponents are only there to be cut down. Engagement Before moving on, please check out "You Know, This Isn't Necessary ...", "Death Is Not The Only Option", and "Killing Has Consequences" on page 284 of the Mythras Core Rulebook. They're there for a reason. Not every random encounter has to be a weapons fest. Now, having read that, let's go on to those encounters which are weapons fests - where the gratuitous violence is integral to the story. Your most perceptive character has determined, through Insight, that the foe is implacable and bent on your party's destruction; and the only way to the mission's objective is through these miscreants. Negotiation won't work - so it's time to draw weapons and have at it. Page 285 is a good page to read, for the "Pacing Combat Encounters" and "Action Points are Not the Be All and End All" sections. Games Masters and Players should read these sections, to enrich your enjoyment of combat scenes - they present options which increase the Adventurers' chances of surviving the battle. "Grading Opponents" on page 286 is a vital read for Games Masters. It helps to gauge how much effort the Adventurers must make to achieve victory, or just to survive a combat which is going against them. But beyond these considerations, and of course studying the entire Combat section of Mythras from page 86 to familiarise yourself with the combat mechanics, how do you use the linguistic stylings of hypnotic language to describe combat scenes? Opening Moves Here's a little hint to get the Players engaged mentally in the oncoming conflict. Ask them to get out their favourite combat dice and get them ready. Give them a moment to select their dice, and announce their readiness. Once the entire group has signalled their readiness, then call for initiative rolls. Players: Battle Dice Players, here's something you can do to get yourselves into the spirit, if you aren't already doing this. Have a set of dice specifically for combat: a dedicated d100 for Combat Style checks; a dedicated d10 for initiative; and whatever dice you need to roll for damage. Nothing gets you into the battle mindset more than opening your battle dice bag and drawing out those combat dice. Keep them in their bag until a combat scene is announced, and take them out to show that this just got serious, and your Adventurer means business. Combat Cards There is one other tool available from The Design Mechanism to help you with battle scenes - the Mythras Combat Cards. If you have them, it would be a good idea to bring them out at the same time as your battle dice. Everything in this "Turn Zero" is about preparing everyone to be in the right mindset for the combat scene. Running The Battle Show, Don't Tell The language you use; the words, your tone of voice; affects and influences your players' mindset and reactions. The Adventurers' actions should have an impact on the opponents, and vice versa. A successful blow could knock a foe back, staggered for a moment before they rally around and charge back, enraged. Even if a blow glances off the armour, describe the thump travelling up the Adventurer's arm. Use the second person singular (and occasionally plural) - "You duck, and the breeze of the sword narrowly missing your head brushes against your skin," "The jolt of the impact of your war hammer travels up your arm," "The weird, arcane power you just called leaps towards your foes, engulfing them in scintillating flames," for example. The Adventurers, also, can be affected by the actions of the foe. Describe the pain of the impact on a Hit Location. Don't just say "The foe uses Stun Location on your Right Arm Hit Location": describe the numbness to that arm from the impact. If the Hit Location takes damage from the successful strike, describe the pain - crushing, bruising, cutting, burning, numbness. The unconscious mind has access to engrams where it remembers the pain of injuries from various sources. Hypnotic language can encourage the mind to experience echoes of those feelings, as long as it is gently reminded that this is only play, not the real thing. Artful Vagueness Everybody's imagined experiences are different. One person might imagine a vast chamber as resembling the Hall of Moria scene from the first Lord of The Rings movie, but somebody else might imagine it looking like the interior of Chartres Cathedral, and a third might imagine an abandoned underground Roman tufa quarry with thousand-year-old chisel marks on the rough, sandy-textured walls. The way to keep the immersion going is to use artful vagueness. Describe the characters' lights flickering, but do not remind each Player what their Adventurers are holding to provide that illumination. Describe the tightness of the armour, but again do not specify what kind of armour - everybody's armour is going to be stiff somewhere, but some of them might be wearing different armour to the others, and not everybody is going to be wearing armour over every Hit Location. When invoking sense memory, just say "a foul odour, growing stronger," rather than "smells like orcs" or "carrion stench"; or "the texture of the walls" rather than specifying roughness, sandiness and so on - some might be imagining the walls to be of brick, others limestone, and yet others might be imagining sandstone blocks. Use artful vagueness to encompass as many of the Players as possible in the sensory immersion. Invoke Emotions Fighting evokes a slew of emotions - excitement, anger, fury, even fear. Again, the language you use can invoke those feelings - but it is better to allow the Players to experience those feelings on their own, and to let the unconscious mind keep rein on those feelings, again by reminding it that this is only play. Pausing and Wrapping The Battle Half-Time Oranges One of the most important things a hypnotic Games Master can do is set up safe words, if you will. Every Player can invoke the safe words at any time during play one, such as a "pause" safe word to pause the action; one, a "half time" safe word to allow a Player to drop out of the fight scene for whatever reason, and most importantly a "stop" safe word to bring all the Players back into the room. As Games Master, it is recommended that you invoke the "half time" safe word to pause the action at least once during a heavy battle scene. This brings the Players into the room for a few minutes to breathe, and perhaps to have some refreshments and take a comfort break before the battle resumes. This is particularly vital during the climactic battle of the scenario, when the action is at its most intense and the emotions are at their highest. Post-Battle Ritual The end of any battle scene is a time of heightened emotions and tension, particularly the climactic scene - if that scene involves a battle, either for supremacy or for survival. As Games Master, you need to know how to defuse those heightened emotions - and, if you have been doing your job right, there will be heightened emotions. Every battle scene should end with a post-battle ritual. It can be as simple as the Games Master invoking the "stop" safe word to tell the unconscious minds to bring the Players back in the room with a glowing dopamine rush; or you can keep the Players immersed, and encourage them to let off steam with some hearty cheering before bringing them back in the room. After the battle scene ends, give the Players a moment to reorient in the room, before going through the process of clearing the table and bringing out the refreshments, or - if you are online - give them time to clear their own tables and put aside their minis and dice, then go and grab whatever refreshments they have to hand. Breaking bread at the end of a battle scene, and at the end of every scenario, is one of the best ways of grounding after your minds have been Elsewhere. You may have noticed that it also bonds Players and Games Master together - sharing mealtimes together is probably one of the oldest community-forming exercises going. Make use of our human need to bond as a unit. Aftercare Conscious Aftercare There is more to wrapping up a battle than just totting up numbers. The Players will be vested in the welfare of their Adventurers, and every wound and injury to their Hit Locations, and they'll probably be experiencing anxiety if their characters have sustained damage. As Games Master, you need to provide reassurance. This is especially pertinent if a character is on the verge of death, or has already met their fate - a topic which will be covered in the next post. Unconscious Aftercare Everybody has an unconscious mind, which is a benevolent guardian, keeping body and conscious mind working. By gently reminding the unconscious that this is only play, and by caring enough to give your unconscious mind signals to let it know that the game is being paused, as well as when it's over, you can bring in the unconscious to the story and make it a truly immersive experience. Combat scenes are meant to be cathartic - a release of emotions, particularly after a stressful period of time. Learning to include the unconscious mind in the play is a challenge, but ultimately rewarding, because the active involvement of the unconscious mind is guaranteed to make combat encounters memorable long after the scenario and even the campaign are over.
  8. Poison and Treachery The old Roman city of Verulamacæster was decaying. Many of the buildings had collapsed and had been replaced by Saxon buildings. Some of the most impressive still stood and it was possible to imagine what the city had looked like in Roman times. In the old days the British tribe, the Catuvellauni, lived in the area of their chief city that they called Verulamium. It was said the Romans had built the city to make the Catuvellauni more like them. They had succeeded but had also made them soft and weak in warfare. A generation ago the Angles had moved east from Anglia seeking more land and had fought and defeated the Catuvellauni occupying their land although they had ignored their city. Five summers ago, the Angles, in their turn were defeated and displaced by an East Saxon tribe, the Wæclingas, who sailed up the river Lygen and attacked and conquered Verulamacæster. The Wæclingas had not been as superstitious as the Angles and their King, Wæcla had made their main settlement at Verulamacæster or in East Saxon, Væclingascæster, the fortress of the people of Wæcla. Verulamacæster still had strong Roman walls and many of the crumbling Roman buildings were still occupied. Wæcla, the Wæclingascyning, had made his chief dwelling in the main Basilica, an immense Roman building set at the centre of the city. The Hrothgarsons were impressed by the decaying grandeur. Wulfhere thought that while the building might be magnificent he wondered if it would be hard to heat and therefore cold in the winter. Uthric said he was less keen to discuss architecture and very much more interested in talking to Wæcla as soon as possible and find out where Meire was. Wulfhere introduced himself and his brothers to lænbeorht, the King's Gerēfa1. Uthric was disappointed to learn the Wæcla was away on the business of his Kingdom. Iænbeorht said that he did not expect Wæcla to return before the Cyningmoot in two days’ time. Uthric asked if he could talk to Ealhwyn and was surprised to learn the she had been imprisoned. Wulfhere wondered why this had been done as he thought that it might not bring Wæcla much luck when either her father, the Ealdorman Hrof, or her husband the Aethling, Wlencig, discovered what had happened. lænbeorht said that he was in no doubt that Wæcla was justified in his actions as Ealhwyn had attempted to poison him. Dunstan wondered how this was possible but Iænbeorht did not answer his question. He said to his brothers he did not trust Iænbeorht with his thin, pock-marked face and nervous twitch. He said he did not like the way lænbeorht never looked anyone in the eye and constantly fidgeted with his tally sticks. Uthric asked him if he had heard any news of Meire who he believed had accompanied Ealhwyn. Iænbeorht did not answer Uthric's question but left going through a side door. Uthric was at a loss and unsure what he should do next. One of the guards, Theodric, talked to Wulfhere. He said that a woman, much as Uthric had described, had been with Ealhwyn and had taken up residence in Hering's Inn in the town. He thought Uthric might want to be careful of the woman and he should know that most of the people who had dealings with her had thought she had been uncanny. The warriors thought that she might be a drýicge2. She had removed herself from Ealhwyn's quarters and had gone to stay in the Inn with one of her guards. Uthric thanked Theodric and gave him a thin silver arm ring. The Hrothgarsons made their way to the Inn and asked for Hering to enquire if Meire was still at the Inn. Hering confirmed that there was a woman living in the upper floor and said that he hoped that they had come to take her away as he and his patrons found her too strange but were not keen to confront her and ask her to leave. He said that there were often strange noises coming from her room and smells like the Charnel pits of Nastrønd. He also objected to her bodyguard who never talked and allowed no-one to talk to her. He had therefore not been able to ask her to leave. Uthric said while the description of the woman sounded like Meire, he had never known her to act like Hering described. He also wondered who the guard might be and if the situation that Hering described was true would they be able to get past him to see if it was Meire. They went up some stone steps to the upper floor and were confronted by a man in full chainmail and a closed helm. He held a naked sword held in his hand and he turned to meet Uthric as he approached. Uthric stopped and waited. Dunstan put his hand on his seax as he thought this situation might not end well. Uthric asked the man if he could enter to see Meire. The man did not speak but nodded his agreement. However, he stopped Wulfhere and Dunstan with a movement of his hand and the implied threat of his sword as they moved to join Uthric. Neither Wulfhere nor Dunstan decided that it was a good time to argue the rights and wrongs of the Guard’s decision. Uthric opened the door and was hit with a blast of heat on his face. It seemed that the room was on fire but when his eyes stopped watering he could see Meire surrounded by a ring of fire. She was naked and appeared to be talking in a language that he did not know to someone he could not see. He stood in the doorway for several minutes and the flames died down. Meire turned to him and said to him that he was late in coming again but she had come to expect this. She thought he might want to greet his children while she got dressed. Uthric only then noticed that both children were sitting on the bed. Uthric went to his sons, Hrothgar and Sigebeorht who were wide-eyed and sitting rigid on the bed. Uthric said that he and Meire needed to discuss matters. He thought the children might be better not to hear what needed to be said and proposed that they spend some time with his brothers. Meire agreed and warmly kissed both children who in turn hugged her tightly. Uthric took both boys to Wulfhere and explained the situation. Wulfhere was reluctant to take the boys. He said he would prefer to hear from Meire what had passed but the prospect of having to fight her Guard with only his seax and no shield or armour did not fill him with hope. Dunstan thought that in that case Wulfhere would have to accept the current circumstances and that he would have to wait for any news after Uthric had finished talking with Meire. Dunstan said that he was also not keen to force the issue with the Guard. Wulfhere took the boys downstairs to the tavern and bought food and ale. As they sat waiting on the outcome of Uthric’s conversation with Meire, Hrothgar asked if he could ask Wulfhere a question. When Wulfhere said that he thought he might be able to cope with one question, Hrothgar said he would like to know if his father could burst into flames like his mother and wondered if it was something he was also supposed to do also. Wulfhere was not sure what Hrothgar was talking about but he reassured him that people generally didn't go on fire and his opinion on the matter was that Hrothgar had no need to burst into flames. Meire told Uthric the tale of her understanding of events. She explained that she had accompanied Ealhwyn at Sæberht's request to meet with the various petty-kings of the East Saxons throughout Mierce. Sæberht and Ealhwyn had hoped to forge alliances of the small kingdoms against the larger predatory Kings. Not only were the Britons a constant enemy, Guercha One-eye was pushing west again, hoping to gain control of lands his men had lost seven summers ago. In the west, Aelle was trying to gain influence on the lands north of the Tamyse and had established his forces at Aeglesburgh. The view was that he wanted more land to claim the Brytenwealda. People of Mierce were also concerned about Cerdic's motivation and his plans for Mierce. Ealhwyn had brought Sæberht's message to Wæcla. She had intended to travel on to meet with Iota, Cyning of the Chilternsæte, after delivering the message, but had delayed as she was enjoying the company of Wæcla. Ealhwyn’s plans were in disarray when Wæcla was then poisoned at his own feast. He had been sitting alone with Ealhwyn, having dismissed his Þegns so he could talk in private with her. Ealhwyn was the only person near Wæcla and Iænbeorht had found a bottle containing hemlock in her rooms when she was arrested after Wæcla had collapsed. However, Meire said she did not believe Ealhwyn would poison him. She had no reason to do so as Ealhwyn was convinced it would be better that a strong King like Wæcla was an ally rather than dead or an enemy. Besides Meire thought that they may have been lovers. She told Uthric that Wæcla had many enemies and any of them could be responsible for the poisoning. She had tried to seek otherworld help but could get no clear understanding of what had happened. She had discovered the source of the poison, hemlock, had been harvested in the north woods. She told Uthric she would not leave until she proved Ealhwyn innocent and she was released. Meire then informed Uthric that she fully expected him to help her and as a penance for leaving her alone for so long. Uthric had not said anything during Meire's explanation. He said he thought he had no choice other than help Meire in her task. However, he said that he might like to know who her strange guard was. Meire said that this was easily cleared up unlike the mystery of the poisoning as the guard was her brother Horith. Her other brother was Ardreth and he was guarding Ealhwyn. Uthric did not come back down to the main room in the tavern so Wulfhere had to pay for sleeping areas in the common room for himself, Dunstan and Uthric's children, Hrothgar and Sigebeorht. Dunstan was annoyed that Uthric had left them to look after his children but Wulfhere said that Uthric had been separated from Meire for almost two years and they needed some time together. In the morning Uthric joined them in the common room. Uthric told them of the discussion with Meire and their need to free Ealhwyn. He thought they could complete the task by making an assault on Ealhwyn’s prison and free her before escaping. Wulfhere said that violence was only one option. He felt it might be better to speak with Wæcla first and thought that there may be some merit in discussion. Wæcla had not harmed Ealhwyn which might mean many things but he clearly was either afraid to kill her or he did not believe her guilt. Dunstan said that they could look in the north woods. He reminded them Meire had said that the hemlock came from the north woods. He thought it might be useful to look to see what they could find. Uthric took Hrothgar and Sigebeorht back to Meire and told her they would go into the north woods. Meire told them that they should look for a lightening-struck oak that looked like a troll. They went first to Wæcla's Hall to talk with Iænbeorht. As they approached him he was talking intimately to a well-dressed noble woman. Dunstan thought that it was Iænbeorht's wife and was surprised that when the woman was introduced the was the Cyninge, Brithwen. Wulfhere chose to ignore the intimate exchange and introduced himself and his brothers to Brithwen. Brithwen made polite conversation and asked their business in Verulamacæster. Wulfhere said they had been looking for Uthric's wife who he had unfortunately lost and had been looking for her for over a year. Brithwen asked Uthric if he had found her to which Uthric replied that he was pleased to report that he had. Wulfhere decided that Uthric might say something about Meire as he sensed that she had not been popular in the Hall and even somewhat feared. He asked Iænbeorht when Wæcla was due back as he wished to talk to him before they went back south. Iænbeorht thought he should be back tomorrow but at the latest in the morning of the second day to attend the Cyningmoot. Wulfhere said that he would go hunting and they heard that the north woods had some wild boar. He wished both a good day and left. Dunstan wondered if Iænbeorht and Brithwen were having a relationship. Wulfhere said that it certainly looked like it and thought that Iænbeorht may have tried to get rid of Wæcla to be with Brithwen. Uthric said that was unlikely. He said he would be astonished if any woman chose Iænbeorht. After some hours of searching they found a lightening-struck oak that resembled a gnarled troll. They found evidence that someone had dug up hemlock plants and Dunstan found a blue thread from a cloak caught in a bush. Wulfhere thought they might have some evidence to find out who made the poison. Uthric said he thought they had found something but that it was not real evidence. He asked them to consider how many people had blue cloaks and did it really have any significance that someone had dug up hemlock plants. He thought that while someone digging up hemlock might not be a common event it was not in itself suspicious. He pointed out neither event might have any connection to the poisoning of Wæcla. Wulfhere said he agreed with Uthric and that they needed to be careful about drawing conclusions and making allegations as they were strangers in this land. Uthric said that he should never have agreed to help Ealhwyn and the sooner they left this land the better. He said he was not hopeful. While Uthric and Wulfhere were discussing their problems and feeling sorry for themselves, Dunstan had been looking at the soft ground and found a set of small human foot prints. He suggested that his brothers might be better employed helping him follow the tracks. He thought that maybe in doing so they might be able to put to rest the question if the things they had found are connected with the poisoning of Wæcla. Uthric and Wulfhere agreed and praised him for his efforts. It did not take that long until they came across a clearing that had a small moss-covered dwelling. An old wizened woman was tending an open fire over which a small cauldron was bubbling. She looked up and greeted the men. Wulfhere introduced himself but almost immediately recoiled from the overpowering smell coming from her. He gathered himself and resisted the urge to vomit and asked her if she lived alone in the woods. The woman named herself as Háthygge and said that she lived alone in the woods by choice. She said no one was really interested in an old woman, living alone without any wealth. She said people found her useful as she was excellent at brewing potions and asked if they had perhaps come to buy a potion from her. Wulfhere said they were more interested in the potions she may have made recently rather than ones she might still have. Uthric said they were interested in anyone who might have bought a hemlock potion strong enough to kill a man. Háthygge said there had indeed been such a man who had bartered for such a potion. He had offered her gold but she had not been interested. She told them gold only attracted bandits and neither the birds that gave her eggs or the bees that give her honey accepted gold as fair exchange of goods. Dunstan said that he had not thought of bartering goods with animals before now and despite his interest in such deals, he was actually presently more interested in who the man was. Háthygge said that unfortunately she could not tell him a name for the man but she could tell them that he did offer two excellently made small cauldrons which she accepted as payment. She broke off the conversation to point out the bubbling cauldron over the fire and suddenly left to go into her dwelling and quickly returned with another similar cauldron. She invited them to inspect it and admire its quality. Uthric said he could appreciate the quality workmanship but wondered if she might describe the man who gave her the wonderful set of cauldrons. Háthygge said that she had not much to tell about him other than he wore a hooded cloak and his hands were stained black. She did think it was odd at the time but had not thought to ask him how he had got black hands. Wulfhere asked if the man's cloak was blue and he took the blue thread from his pouch to show her. Háthygge said that the man had in fact worn a brown cloak but she thought that the thread might be from her best cloak if they were interested in that. She went back into her dwelling and showed them a threadbare blue cloak that had been patched and sewn where the weave had come undone. Wulfhere thanked her for her information and Uthric was moved to give her his own cloak which he thought might keep her warmer than her old cloak. Háthygge said she was grateful for Uthric’s gift and asked if they were sure they did not want to buy potions. All of them respectfully declined. On the way back to Verulamacæster they discussed how this information might be of help but none of them could come up with any clear way forward other than they were looking for a man with black hands. Dunstan said he had not yet noticed anyone with black hands in Verulamacæster but at least it was something positive. Wulfhere said their current information was that they had connected the buying of poison with the brown cloaked man and that he had black hands. He wondered why someone might have black hands but could not think of any reason. Uthric said that he had been thinking about small cauldrons like the ones given to Háthygge and he thought they were unusual. Most people bought larger cooking cauldrons and the smaller ones seemed to be specialist in design. He thought it might be useful to ask some of the blacksmiths who might have made them and if anyone had bought two recently. It was late when they got back and when they went to the Kings Hall they found out Wæcla had returned earlier that day but had retired early. Uthric was frustrated. He said he wanted to sort this mystery out, take Meire and return home before the weather became too difficult to travel. Wulfhere said that they were now on a course and they would need to follow it to its end if they were to get home. The next day they attended the Moot. People had come from all over the Kingdom seeking justice from Wæcla. Some had not had satisfaction at either the Þegns or Ealdorman's courts and had appealed to the King. Others had issue with Wæcla's judgements and thought they could get him to reconsider. The Hrothgarsons were impressed with Wæcla who seem to know his people and they also thought his judgments were fair. Dunstan thought this was the kind of place he would like to live. Wulfhere said that many of the Kingdoms problems arose from refugees from wars or people who had been displaced and come north. Some of them were settlers from Saxony who had arrived by boat. He also thought that while many of the judgements were for the benefit of the majority of the people, they also increased the dissatisfaction of some powerful people. He pointed out that Sperling, the Miller, was aggrieved at having to pay the King two sacks of flour for every ten sacks milled. Wæcla had pointed out that many of the new arrivals did not have enough food for the winter and he was building stocks so that he could feed hungry refugees but it increased the hostility of Sperling the Miller. Wulfhere said that there were probably more millers who felt as angry as Sperling. The Cloth merchant, Hwætmund was also angry that Wæcla had set the price for cloth and did not allow him to overcharge. Wæcla told Hwætmund that if more people survived the winter rather than freezing to death then he would be able to sell more cloth in the future to more people. Wulfhere thought Hwætmund was not that interested in future profit and that he remained angry. Uthric said that he would be more concerned that Seirhead the Chief Huscarl was at odds with Wæcla over how to deal with the iron miners that they had discovered working in the Chiltern hills. Seirhead had wanted to raid and kill the miners whereas Wæcla wanted to incorporate the miners into his Kingdom and then tax them in iron. Wæcla had pointed out that the kingdom could do with its own source of iron and he was pretty sure Seirhead or the Huscarls were not skilled in extracting iron from the Chiltern hills. Uthric thought that Wæcla’s views only seemed to enrage Seirhead. Seirhead had countered that the Huscarls had not had any chance to fight and they were grumbling about not getting much wealth from raids because of Wæcla’s peaceful attitude to everyone. Uthric said they should be aware that some of the Huscarls seemed to support Seirhead rather than Wæcla. He also thought it might increase the level of aggression over the winter if the Huscarls had been unemployed over the summer seasons. The farmers preferred peace and security but the Huscarls liked conflict because it brought them wealth and renown. They might end up fighting each other. Two leæches, Snyring and Nægel, had complained about the presence of Christians in the city. They objected that Wæcla tolerated them both as Britons and importantly they worshiped another god. Nægel said that the local spirits were angry and hard to placate because of the presence of the Christian shrine. Snyring said that it would probably satisfy the spirits and gods if they were to sacrifice the priest, Bairre, to Thunor. Wæcla said that in his opinion one god was the same as another. He thought the Leæches needed to accept that people can choose what god they worshiped and, in his opinion, it did not matter if it was Thunor, Woden or the White Christ. Uthric had felt it was important to stand and up and ask to speak on his experiences of Christians. He introduced himself to Wæcla who then gave him permission to speak. Uthric spoke passionately about the wars that the followers of the Christian god had caused in Dumnonia. He said that they had fought against their own king and Cerdic and Aelle had almost overrun Dumnonia because of their treachery. He said it was his opinion that the Christians were never satisfied and if they increased in number then they would want to eliminate anyone who worshipped different gods. He said that it might be in Wæcla's best interests to expel the priest now. Wæcla thanked Uthric for his views and said that he would talk about this later with him. After Uthric had spoken, Nægel and Snyring came to talk to him. They said they liked his views on Christians as it was in alignment with their own thoughts. They thought that Uthric and his brothers, if they held the same views, might like him to come to their dwelling and talk with another leæch called Dunric who had similar ideas on how to deal with Christians. Uthric said that he had met Dunric several times and that he did not have a high opinion of him. He thought Dunric might have a similar view of the Hrothgarsons as they had not been friends in the past. Nægel said that Dunric would not take offence about the past and he should come as requested. When the Moot finished the Hrothgarsons decided to take a walk around the walls of the City to discuss what they had observed and heard. Dunstan said that the prime suspect had to be Dunric. He noted that Dunric always caused trouble wherever he went and he for one would not be surprised if he was behind poisoning Wæcla. They should remember what he had done to Tadda. Wulfhere said that there were many people who had issues with Wæcla and after the Moot the list of suspects with a motive had got longer. He thought that they now needed to talk to Wæcla to discuss the matters with him. (1) Gerēfa1 is a Steward or King’s Reeve (2) Drýicge2 is a witch or sorceress
  9. I read some unhappiness on DTRPG with the print on demand versions of the Mythras core rule book. Are there other options? I’m thinking of getting physical copies, but if I am going to spend the money on an object vs a pdf... Also what about print runs for the German editions? Are they using the same printer the DTRPG customers complained about? Is there a difference between the print quality from the US, UK or Europe printers? I have an APO so my options are a bit flexible without crazy shipping cost differences.
  10. This blog post goes back to the topic of hypnosis, and its use in roleplaying games - and not merely Mythras, but many other roleplaying games. In this post, the focus falls once again on the Games Master, and on the fine art of telling a story, through which they can guide the Adventurers. Engagement The blog has already covered the topic of immersion. This time, the emphasis is on engagement. How can the Games Master draw in the players and make them feel involved in, and engaging in, the story or adventure? Once again, we turn back to the language used by the Games Master - specifically, hypnotic language, and how to tell a story hypnotically and compellingly. Communication Milton H Erickson once said "All successful communication is hypnosis." The Games Master's job is to communicate. As Games Master, you set up the scenario, the incidental and recurring characters which crop up in the adventure, and even the scenes where nothing much is going on beyond combat. Even in combat, the job of Games Master is to make the cut and thrust of battle compelling, enough to keep the Players on their toes, and on the edge of their seats, anticipating the enemy's actions and hopefully coming up with moves of their own that the enemy does not anticipate. But who are you communicating with? The Player's Ally Modern hypnosis is based on the understanding that the human mind is a mental iceberg. Only one ninth of it is visible: the rest of it is beneath the threshold of visibility, below the surface. That 1/9 is what is called the conscious mind. It is a filter - the place where reason dwells. Everything else, the vast bulk of human mental processing, is the unconscious mind - unconscious, because it takes place beyond the realm of the conscious mind, not because it only comes on when the person is unconscious. This is not the same as the debunked urban legend that we only use 10% of our brains. We use all of our brains, all of the time, and practically all of that functioning is going on behind the conscious mind. Which is a good thing, too, because if we needed to consciously breathe, the human species would be extinct. The unconscious is where most of the mind's real, deep mental processes come from. Lived experiences and memories are also processed and stored here, in short-term, working, and long-term memories. When a perception enters the mind, the brain processes these perceptions and draws upon the stored engrams to determine the person's response to the perception. For example, if someone accidentally stuck their hand in a fire, the brain would process the pain signals from the hand and draw upon the responses from similar pains in the past, accessing the pain response of jerking the hand away from the fire. This reaction would be as immediate as the nervous system would allow, and often too quick for the conscious mind to react. The brain also accesses engrams and responds to them, even if the input is imaginary - such as when someone is telling a story or a joke, or you are watching a TV show with an exciting fight scene, or you are daydreaming about a meeting with a person you like, or reminiscing about some remembered time. Memories, dream imagery, and creations of the imagination - fantasies - can spark real physical, physiological, and emotional responses. This is the appeal of books, media, and of course tabletop roleplaying games. Off The Peg Versus Bespoke Which are more powerful - images created by commercial artists for use in a book, or images drawn from one's own unconscious mind? Arguably, creations of pure imagination are stronger than other people's imaginations put into print or onto screens. Your own imagination is strong enough to draw on its own rich library of emotionally-laden images, and you experience the attached emotions and imagined or remembered sensory perceptions - the light touch of an ex on the cheek, the rough skin of someone who'd forgotten to shave, the smell of woodsmoke from a campfire, the chill stinging of raindrops on the head, and so on. It's the difference between watching a movie about a superhero, and imagining yourself as that superhero. The best movies use visual and storytelling cues to draw you, the viewer, into the story and see the world through the eyes of your favourite superhero. It is not the hero who is solving the crimes, punching the bad guys, and saving the day: it is you. Everybody has access to sensations such as these, transcribed into the hippocampus in the form of engrams (your experiences). And everyone's engrams are different, because they've experienced different lives and picked up those sensations from different places, under different circumstances, and so on. However, the words are symbols which trigger engrams, as a learned and common experience - so "you feel the breeze as the mace misses your head by a few inches" is a pretty universal symbol which triggers engrams in practically every player's brain, as if they'd engaged in a combat in person themselves. The Games Master's Ally You, as Games Master, have another ally, as powerful as the Players' unconscious minds: namely, your own capacity for emotion, creativity, imagination and ability to put the feelings and emotions into words. What people connect to are the emotions and meanings behind the words. Unless there’s emotion, unless there’s a person there, unless there are ideas there that really speak to you, there is no meaning. Your creativity, as Games Master, allows you to come up with situations and circumstances in your adventures which convey deep meaning to the players, their unconscious minds in particular. Unless there is a deep meaning that the unconscious can pick up on; unless there is something that the players' unconscious minds can read into; unless there is a why behind the what, who, and how; a game devolves into soulless number crunching, and you lose the interest of the players. But what if you can present them with a situation, such as a hostage situation, a heist, a raid, or a mission to locate and retrieve a missing person from some dreadful den of vice and iniquity? What if the stakes are high, such as a race against time to find a cure for a disease before a loved one dies? What if there is some emotional weight behind a scenario, such as the players entering a high-stakes big purse sporting contest against a rival team? There is an old formula much loved by hypnotists: Where attention goes, energy flows. Capture the attention - the imagination - of the players; give them stakes to pursue beyond the usual (Experience Rolls, drop treasure, a cash bounty); and you'll bring them into the game. You'll have succeeded in giving them immersion. Next week, we'll pick up on this thread, and focus specifically on one system - combat. Next week, we go to war.
  11. Stranded in a Starship Graveyard Junkyard Blues is a sandbox scenario for M-SPACE, set on a hostile world comprised of starship wrecks and strange artefacts. Players take on the roles of stranded spacers and must venture across a vast starship graveyard to locate fuel, encountering strange aliens and desperate humans along the way. Five factions are locked in deadly competition over basic resources – air, water and food. But cooperation might be the wisest choice. Only a select few will be able to leave. Who stays and who goes? A scenario for 3-6 experienced characters. https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/376189/Junkyard-Blues
  12. Skills are important to a Mythras game. Yet there is an opinion that some skills are less useful than others. Skills such as Acting, Bureaucracy, Customs, Ride, Swim, Seduction, and even Teach are regarded by some as being unnecessary, and only a handful of skills - Athletics, Brawn, Combat Styles, Evade, Endurance, Willpower - are essential for play. Even Unarmed has sometimes been neglected in the rush to make Adventurers as skilled as possible in an exceptionally narrow range of skills, suited for combat and dungeon delving. And yet there is more to adventuring than dungeon delving. Useful Skills Players want their characters to excel at their fields. And that means building their adventuring skills, preferably to at least 50%, preferably higher. For the most part, some players believe that this just means Combat Styles - and Athletics, Stealth and the resistance skills of Brawn, Endurance, Evade, and Willpower. The next most important are Perception and Unarmed. Skills such as Sing, Dance, Acting, Boating, Swim, Crafts, Musicianship, Seduction, Lore, Language, and Teach are practically ignored. What makes the "useful" skills useful? Survival Skills Of course, these skills are useful if the stories are all set in some sort of labyrinth through which the player characters must delve, for whatever reason. Each member of the party needs Athletics, Stealth, a healthy mixture of Combat Styles, and the resistance skills of Brawn, Endurance, Evade, and Willpower. Specialists within the party will also need their particular skills: locksmiths and engineers to use Engineering, Mechanisms and Lockpicking to defuse traps and open locked doors; First Aid and Healing, for the party's healer (why do they only have one?) and of course magic skills for whoever the party's magician is. Even out in the wilderness, specialists can be called on for their expertise in Locale, Navigation, and of course Survival, and Track; not to mention Craft (survival cooking). Skills such as Bureaucracy, Courtesy, Boating, Navigation, and Musicianship never seem to come into settings, and even Swim and Unarmed are not seen to be as being that popular among players, as compared to the Dungeon Survival Skills above. So let's look at some of these clusters of the more obscure skills, and see how they can come in handy. Entertainment Skills The entertainment skills are Acrobatics, Dance, Disguise, Gambling, Sing, Musicianship, Oratory, Sleight, and even Seduction if you want to go down that road. Characters who develop these skills are immensely popular in the community. They can provide a distraction, boost morale, and make people forget their woes, even if only for a little time. Townspeople are easily bored, and will pay handsomely for someone who can put on a fine show of juggling, a bit of street theatre, or recite some amusing poem or sing bawdy songs to get the crowd dancing. Stories centered around entertainers will naturally focus on their ability to entertain, which can provide a different style of adventure - one which can be as cutthroat as any courtly setting in the hallowed halls of power. But whether a character is an actor, an opera singer, a bawdy ecdysiast, an after-dinner orator, or a circus performer, the show must go on. Paper Skills How can Bureaucracy, Commerce, and Influence be useful in an adventure? Perhaps the Adventurers might need something from somewhere, and either have to haggle for it in a marketplace, bid for it at auction, or requisition it from a complex system of obscure and arcane rules. An adventure can drag the Adventurers into a place no player characters have ever been to before - a terrible nest of vipers, a den of iniquity and corruption, a bastion of treachery and betrayal simply known as ... City Hall. These skills can also come in handy if the character is helping somebody else. If they have really good Bureaucracy skills, for instance, they might get to reach the parts of City Hall that their Connections might not - and such influence can only lead to people owing the characters a favour down the road. People Skills Courtesy, Culture, Customs, Deceit, Oratory, and Influence are so useful for Adventurers in many aspects of the adventure. Adventurers can open up trade with travellers they meet; break bread with fellow travellers at night, and establish trust and good relations; they can make a good impression at court (Courtesy, Culture, and Customs can include knowledge of how to dress as much as how to act), Influence is always useful in swaying opinions, and Deceit can be useful for everything from harmless little white lies to defuse an overenthusiastic courtier's aggressive and clumsy attempt at a seduction ("Sir, I really shouldn't. I am spoken for, and my lover is both jealous and insanely violent") to outrageous swindles ("Give me money, and I shall set to work building a moat to protect this town!"). Communication Skills Language and Literacy are the primary skills, though Deceit, Sing, and Seduction have their uses here, too. In the Mythras Core Rulebook, Literacy is separate from Language because of the assumption that the default fantasy milieu is some sort of Dark Ages, where literacy rates are low - as if low literacy rates were common to cultures which were not Civilised. They don't have to be. In the historical Middle Ages, literacy began to decline when the Romans retreated and civilisation declined in their absence. In the fantasy settings of your world, as Games Master, your world's history does not have to parallel this development. Perhaps the tendency of your pre-Iron Age civilisation is to develop the oral tradition to a fine art, meaning that Literacy is as much a verbal and mnemonic skill as a written one, and alphabets of symbols could serve as mnemonic keys to remembering huge amounts of information in memory palaces. In your setting, everybody might have access to the written world. Counting, calculation, arithmetic, higher mathematics, might not be the jealously-guarded province of the church and magicians, and the printing press might have made its way from the East a thousand years before it would have been "invented" in the West. In a world of a hundred nations, there might be a hundred or more languages; and for each, there could be a Culture, a Language, a Literacy, and a Lore. Perception Skills The two main perception skills are Insight and Perception. Insight is an undeservedly underused and undervalued skill, because it can be used to sense if a person is lying (Deceit), using wiles (Influence, Seduction) or they are genuinely trying to communicate with the character. Insight can disclose a gambler's intent to cheat, or gather that violence is about to break out, from examining people's changing expressions, tone of voice, and body language; Perception can spot the subtle movement of a hand to undo the peace knot on a sheathed sword, or to spot someone palm a card before dealing it. If the characters are conducting a discreet surveillance of a target, Perception can spot other spies in the crowd and determine that they might have been made; and Insight can tell them if the person they are surveilling has made them and is about to bolt. Creative and Artistic Skills There are a cluster of these - Art, Craft, Engineering, Mechanisms, and Lockpicking. For the most part, the skills a lot of Adventurers go for are Engineering, Mechanisms, and Lockpicking, for the purpose of spotting and defusing traps, finding secret rooms, and so on. However, these skills can be used for a far greater purpose in down time; they can provide the characters with a living. A character who is an artist, engineer, jewelsmith, and so on is likely to ply their trade and earn money during down time from a stream of steady customers seeking the products of their crafts. Even Craft (cookery) can find a use in a court, working in the kitchens - and who knows what juicy gossip might float about in the dining halls of power, and come to the ears of a humble servant providing the great and the good with their daily breakfast. A creative type can be called upon to create some sort of wonder, whether it be an intricate figurine carved from a rare wood, a statue carefully sculpted from a block of marble, a city monument or an entire building. The possibilities are endless, as are the adventuring opportunities as the creative sort travels far and wide in search of inspiration, or markets to buy building materials or expensive fabrics or dyes. Knowledge Skills Lore is the main knowledge skill - but Locale is often overlooked, even though it is about a very specific, practical kind of knowledge. Knowledge is power, whether it be Mathematics, Astronomy, Astrology, or Tactics & Strategy. Many a puzzle has been solved by a player who simply declared to their Games Master "I'm useless at puzzles, but my character Trinisca is a master of puzzles with Lore (Puzzles) 90%, so I roll to see if she works out what that gibberish on the door is supposed to mean." Transportation Skills Boating, Drive, Ride, and Seamanship might not have much use in dark, narrow dungeon corridors, but outside of those cramped environs they can be essential. Campaigns set in a Nomadic culture, for instance, can involve the characters travelling hundreds, even thousands, of kilometres over land and/or water to get to the next destination. They can face many different kinds of hazards, and not just hostile people. Landslides, natural disasters such as wildfires, mudslides, hard weather such as storms, snow, and tornadoes, and even earthquakes, volcanoes and floods, might take their toll on travellers, and characters' mastery of the appropriate transportation skills might be tested to the limit under such harsh environments. Physical Skills Acrobatics, Athletics, Dance, Ride, Seduction, Swim, and Unarmed, not to mention Combat Styles, are the last category to be covered here. These are the most immediate skills, they are physical, they generally require little mental effort, and they can all be useful for the most obscure reasons. A Master of Swim, for example, might be called upon to brave a treacherous strait to make their way across to an island on the other side in order to secure a rope for the rest of the party to use; an athletic character could be the only person able to climb up three storeys to get to an open window in an otherwise locked building. Useful Skills In the final analysis, every skill is potentially useful, either in an adventure or as a source of income during down time. As the saying goes, "Jack of All Trades, Master of None - but better that than a Master of One." Spread those Skill Development Points around. The more your characters come over as Renaissance people, the more they will be in demand, and the more likely they are to survive to a ripe old age (i.e. until their retirement at the end of the chronicle or campaign).
  13. Taxes, Re-building and the Ale of Alnoth Wulfhere decided that when he returned he would travel his lands to see what changes had occurred over the year. He was met by delegation after delegation of Farmers on his travels. Many complained that there had been a bad growing season due to adverse weather conditions and many of the crops had rotted in the fields which left them with little surplus to pay their rents for the year. Others said that they had been forced by Aldfrid the Hlafweard1 to work on the fortifications at Pontes and they had not enough people to work on their fields and their farms had suffered. All the farmers said that they felt that they had been unable to complain to Wulfhere because he had been absent at wars or on business of his own. They wondered if the Ealdorman and their Þegns were absent who they should make a complaint to when they wanted a reduction in their rents similar to the last year. Wulfhere said he would take their suggestions under consideration and would look into their circumstances but he told them he would not make a decision immediately but he would give the farmers an answer in a few days when he called a Moot. Wulfhere told his brothers of the farmers requests. Dunstan was annoyed by the request for half rent. He felt the farmers wanted to have their Solmonath Honey cakes and eat them too. Uthric said that there had not been a good crop this year. He told them that he had seen for himself that heavy rain had rotted a lot of the crops in the fields and a lot of the grain had been contaminated with a white blight. He told that one of his farmers, a man called Heahmund, had gone mad after eating the grain and his family had become sick and been lucky to survive. Wulfhere asked Uthric to check what the surplus would be and they would make a decision about rents. He thought that if there was genuine hardship then it was reasonable to reduce the rents. Uthric said he agreed that the rents should be reduced as it was always more useful to have live farmers who would pay future rents rather than dead ones who might be impossible to get anything from. Cwen asked Wulfhere if he was agreeable to let her learn how to use weapons. She told him that she would never again let a man hold her as a chattel and she wanted to learn how to protect herself. Wulfhere said that it should be up to her what she wanted to do. In his view, she was now a free woman and the daughter of a former Ealdorman. He said he had realised how much she had been misused by other powerful men and it might be a good idea to learn how to protect herself. Cwen said she was grateful and accepted that she did not need to ask his permission but she thought she should ask him none-the-less in case he thought it odd that she was practicing with a spear. Dunstan had been set the task of reviewing the defences in Pontes. He was concerned about the lack of effort in building the palisade and asked Aldfrid, his Hlafweard, to account for the inaction. Aldfrid said that he had discovered that his task had been made harder because it was clear that there were two distinct groups in the districts. There were those that came from the old families who had lived in the area for several generations and then there were the newcomers. The newcomers focus had been in trying to set up their farms and produce enough food to feed their families. They had not seen the point in building defences if their families starved to death. He had got little support from them in the building. The older families had sent people to work on the defences but there were never enough of them and work proceeded slowly. Dunstan was not happy with his response and told Aldfrid that he might consider a new Hlafweard if the situation did not improve. Cwen had been listening to Dunstan’s conversation with Aldfrid and thought this was an old argument that Dunstan would lose every time. She told him he needed to look at the problem afresh and that maybe he should suggest to Wulfhere that they seek woodwrights and stonemasons and pay them to construct the defences. She said that she intended to travel to Wincen Cæster and the thought it might be a good idea to call on Cerdic as she believed he owed her a debt for his previous behaviour. Dunstan then spoke to Wulfhere and got him to agree that he would pay for wrights or masons. He said that Cwen was going to Wincen Cæster and had offered to hire the men for the task of building the defences. Æthlind, who had become friendly with Cwen, said that she and Cwen would take charge of getting the defences and Þegn's hall built as it was clear that none of the brothers had been able to organise anything significant. Cwen said that she remembered that Hildegard always used to say that it was better to not let the brothers make plans as they were not that good at arranging things on time. Dunstan said he thought that this was unfair but Cwen asked him how long they had been planning and trying to build the palisade and their Halls. Neither Dunstan nor Wulfhere had an answer for her. Beorthric and Hildegard arrived before the Horvert feast. They brought the brothers’ siblings Egfryd, Idris and Sigtrygg north also. Egfryd was now a man of 16 summers and he had been apprenticed to a Blacksmith in Cissa Cæster. Dunstan, who had always cared for Egfryd since they found him hiding from the Bannucmann in a shearing pit, made sure that he got work with the local blacksmith, Ceadda, to continue his training. Idris was now a young woman of 15 summers and was following Hildegard in her ability to organise people and tell them where they were going wrong in their lives. Hildegard said that she thought Idris would have excellent prospects for her future if she continued to learn from her mother. Dunstan wondered if he should perhaps take Idris under his wing in the same way he had helped Egfryd. However, he decided against it when Idris asked him why he had not yet managed to build his Hall yet, thinking that his task to reform Idris might not be successful. Sigtrygg was 17 summers and had been training as a warrior. Wulfhere invited him to join his household which Sigtrygg said he would be pleased to do so. Beorthric also brought over 100 sheep along with the shepherds who looked after them. Beorthric was keen to get good grazing land but the farmers were concerned the sheep would ruin their crops. Beorthric resolved the problem by offering to slaughter 50 of the sheep and hold a grand feast to feed the whole district. The farmers thought this was an excellent idea and fully supported Beorthric’s plans. Hildegard said that they hoped to recruit women for their weaving sheds to produce cloth for the next year and she would talk to them at the Hærfestlic2. Wulfhere allocated Beorthric land and Beorthric then hired men to build sheds for his wool. Hildegard talked at length with Offa. She told him she had heard that he made excellent ale and wondered if he would be prepared to brew enough ale for Beorthric's feast at the Hærfestlic. Offa said that he would be glad to help out as he appeared to have time on his hands however, he doubted that there would be enough barley available to make ale due to the poor harvest. Hildegard said that she thought that problem would be easy to overcome as Beorthric would buy enough barley to make ale for the feast. Offa said in that case he thought that if Beorthric could manage to get the barley on time then he would be able to make good enough ale for the feast. Wulfhere agreed with his brothers that they would again reduce the farmers’ rents by half. He told the farmers that the reason for the poor harvests was that they had perhaps neglected to perform the Haerfestlic rituals correctly. He told them that they may have neglected the beating of the grain to make sure the evil spirits were chased off. He informed them that this year the last grains harvested would be collected and the grain would be beaten in the time-honoured way to chase out the Blight wóddréam3 and to ensure a good harvest for next year. Wulfhere appointed trusted men to gather the last grain for he thought the hungry farmers would try to conceal the grain to eat it. He asked Hereweard to oversee the ritual to ensure it was done correctly. He told the farmers that while their rents would be reduced by half again this year, he expected full rents would be re-instated the next year. Tathere asked Wulfhere if the fishermen would also benefit from a reduction in rents but Wulfhere said he did not feel this was necessary. He said that as the fishermen had not presented a case to either him or his brothers as to why the rents should be reduced. Tathere said that he felt that the fishermen were always singled out and they had to bear the brunt of the farmers inadequacy. Dunstan, who felt strong antipathy to Tathere for his part in the FisċgúÞ, had to be restrained by Uthric. Uthric said that Dunstan needed to be careful about singling out the fishermen as they were needed, particularly when food was short. Dunstan said that he would be calm but muttered under his breath and he gave Tathere dark looks. He told Uthric that he had no longer any stomach for smoked eels. Wulfhere made a grand speech to the farmers in which he told them that in order to protect themselves, they needed to establish strong defences, grow enough crops and establish their herds. Dunstan thought these three points were a useful motto for the people of the districts to remember and he repeated them often to his farmers. Uthric spoke with Wulfhere about Lucnot. He was of the opinion Lucnot had either suffered too much in his captivity or an déaþscufa had settled in his soul. Wulfhere said that it would be better to send him to Orin. At least he would be with his own people and not likely to kill any Saxons in a fit of rage. Uthric said he would be happy to take Lucnot and make sure he was settled with the Atrebates. He said he intended to settle a sum of silver on Lucnot to help him build a farm. Wulfhere thought it might be good if Uthric also took his sons to Tadda to foster as at present he did not have much time to be a father and he thought young Wulfhere and Offa would benefit from being with Tadda. Uthric said he would be happy to arrange it and he thought Tadda would be honoured by the task. Cwen overheard Hildegard discussions with Offa about ale. She said she thought it would be an excellent opportunity if Offa set up a brewery for his ale. She had been thinking that South Pontes needed to establish a regular market as it was ideally placed between Cerdic's lands and Mierce to the north. If the peace held with Aelle, they might also attract traders from Hrof’s lands. Wulfhere said that he agreed with the idea of a market and that if successful would bring more people and power under his control. He said he thought that he could support Cwen in her venture. Uthric said that Beorthric was likely to have cloth next year that needed to be sold so if they could establish a regular market it would bring in more silver. Offa thought he might like the idea of setting up a brewery. In truth he was enamoured with Cwen and as Dunstan pointed out to Uthric when they were travelling to Calleva that he believed Offa would have followed her to Nastrønd if she had asked him. Uthric was of the opinion that Cwen had her eye on Wulfhere but Wulfhere for whatever reason seemed oblivious to her. Dunstan said that Cwen was the second most beautiful woman in the district as his wife, Æthlind, outshone her in every aspect. Uthric ignored Dunstan and his views as he knew that his own opinion would likely to start another dispute and he was weary of endless discussions about wives. It just reminded him he had not yet found Meire. At the Hærfestlic, Beorthric and Hildegard had spoken to the woman of the district about making cloth. Many of the women were keen to be involved but none wanted to work in the sheds Beorthric intended to build. They told him that they needed to be on their own farms dealing with the day-to-day business. Hildegard came up with a compromise by suggesting the woman could work in their own dwellings and when they have made the wool into thread they could bring it to the weaving sheds where it would be made into cloth. The women were pleased with the suggestion and a bargain was struck. After Hærfestlic, Cwen, Æthlind and Offa left to go to Wincen Cæster. Cwen told Wulfhere she was confident that Cerdic would give her the things they needed. Wulfhere said that he wasn't so sure that Cerdic would be so helpful, but he was impressed in her confidence on the matter. Uthric was keen to get to Colnacæster to find Meire. They intended to travel through Lundenwic and then on to the land of the Upplingas. Uthric said that they could get information from the merchants in Lundenwic to find out which way to travel as they were unsure which road to take to Colnacæster. Uthric was keen to take the horses but Wulfhere worried that they might be a target for thieves. Dunstan said that he thought they could deal with any bandits and as they were both well-armed and looked dangerous, he did not feel that anyone would attack them. Wulfhere remained reluctant but was swayed by Uthric who thought it was important to travel as fast as possible before the weather got worse and the winter came. When they arrived in Lundenwic they found that a fire had destroyed most of the buildings. The burnt area was still visible but it did not look as if it had been a violent destruction. The Way station was still in use as it was built by the Romans and stood on its own surrounded by the burnt land. The roof was newly thatched, suggesting although it might have also been burnt but the Roman built stone walls had survived. Uthric asked one of the gate guards what had happened. The guard told them there had been a fire in one of the houses that had spread throughout the closely built dwellings. Some of the people who survived left and went north. Others built their homes in the new settlement. Dunstan thought Lundenwic was much diminished from the last time they were there. It was more squalid and smelt worse. Wulfhere asked if the settlement was still ruled by the Angles but the guard told them that it was a free settlement and owned no allegiance to any lord. The Angles had been displaced by the Upplingas and Hæferingas but neither were interested in Lundenwic and left it alone. The guard said that if they were looking for a lord they should talk to the Merchants who were always keen for Spearmen to help guard their goods. Wulfhere said that they were passing through and were only interested in food and somewhere safe to sleep. The guard directed them to the Inn in the Way station. Uthric asked the Merchants in the Inn if they remembered a woman called Ealhwyn. One of the merchants remembered that a noble woman fitting her description had come through Lundenwic just over half a moon ago and said she was going to Colnacæster. He remembered her because she had not been pleasant to deal with and had made many unreasonable demands. Uthric asked if the Merchant remembered a woman called Meire and said she had a green tinge around her temples. The merchant laughed and said he might have remembered a woman such as that, however, there was no such woman with Ealhwyn's party. Uthric said to his brothers that he was worried that they might again be disappointed in their search. Dunstan said that he felt he could remain hopeful as they would at least hear some information when they found Ealhwyn but Uthric said he had a bad feeling about the future and that he was not sure he would ever find Meire. Wulfhere said that he and Dunstan would support Uthric until he decided that there was no hope. Uthric said he thought that time might be near. In the morning they left Lundenwic and they all felt better. Dunstan said that the smell in the air was bad and he thought that maybe the newer settlement was built on marshes. Wulfhere said that someone should take charge of the place and develop it properly. Uthric thought that if it were not for the bridge over the Tamyse, no-one would even bother to live there. He pointed out that it was a day’s journey at least from the sea and it would be better for trading ships to go to Hrofnacæster or Anderida. He was also sure there were easier ports to access in the Angle lands to the north. As they travelled northeast, the weather got worse. Often, they travelled in heavy rain but were able to find places to stay either at Way stations or at farms that served the Roman road to Colnacæster. They stayed a night and a day at Celmeresfort and another at Mældun because the weather was so bad. The people they talked to were known in the south as East Saxons but they identified themselves by tribes such as Hæmelingas, the Denge or the Hæferingas. Wulfhere wondered were all these people had come from. When he asked them, they said they had recently arrived and they had been so many they were able to push the Angles north and hold the lands against any retaliatory Angle incursions. Wulfhere was impressed and he guessed that Guercha One-eye was not having it all his own way. Eventually they arrived at Colnacæster. The city had been built by the Romans and many of the Roman buildings still stood and were occupied by the Upplingas for as Wulfhere noted they did not appear to suffer the usual Saxon concern that the old buildings were full of ghosts. The Upplingas King was Sæberht and he was Ealhwyn’s mother’s brother’s son. The Hrothgarsons were impressed by Saeberht’s palace which stood at the centre of the old city and was the grandest building they had ever seen. There were strange animals painted on the walls or on the stone floor and they wondered if creatures such as that still lived in these parts. Uthric said that it might be dangerous to stay in the open as he was not sure if you could kill creatures like that with iron. Dunstan said cold iron was as good as anything for killing weargas. They asked if they could speak with King Sæberht but were told that he had gone to see a ship docked at Old Hythe, the port where goods were landed for Colnacæster. Wulfhere thought they should go to Hythe but one of the warriors, who named himself as Ingweald said the king would return before nightfall and they were likely to have a wasted journey. Uthric asked about Ealhwyn and Ingweald said he thought she might be with the King as she was close kin. He said she had arrived some weeks ago and the King had spent three days talking to her in his private chambers. Ingweald thought that the King was planning some special event which he thought could mean war after the Spring planting. In Ingweald’s opinion, that would be a good thing as there would be silver and glory for all who wanted it. Ingweald was of the view that if they wanted to join as Sæberht’s oath warriors they had come at the right time. Uthric said that in other circumstances he might consider the offer but he was looking for his wife. Ingweald said that it was odd that Uthric had come to Colnacæster to find a wife. He agreed that the women of the Upplingas were the most beautiful but was surprised that Uthric could not find a woman who would be willing to marry him in his own land. He didn’t think Uthric looked that bad and he was richly dressed and looked like he could handle himself in a fight. Uthric said that he had come to find his wife who had been taken from him and he had hoped to find out from Ealhwyn where she might be. Ingweald said he was sorry he had misunderstood but Uthric's accent was hard to understand. He thought as way of compensation that they should try some of Alnoth's apple ale. He believed that it was possibly the best tasting ale he had ever had the pleasure of drinking. Dunstan said that he felt he could not pass up such a treat if it was good as Ingweald had attested. Wulfhere said that he too had a sudden thirst and that he would hate to have been in Colnacæster and left without trying Alnoth's ale. Uthric said that he might try a small amount because he wanted to speak urgently to Sæberht and being drunk was probably not a good thing when asking a King for favours. Wulfhere and Dunstan said that they could leave the asking of favours to Uthric and that they would be more than happy to give an opinion on the ale. The King did not come back until after dark and he only briefly came into the Hall to greet his warriors. Uthric did not have time to introduce himself. He said to his brothers that he had a bad feeling about this. Not only was he unable to speak to the King but he would not be able to indulge himself in Alnoth's ale for fear of being unable to speak sensibly to the King in the morning. Neither Wulfhere or Dunstan could open their eyes fully the next morning. Wulfhere remarked the light seemed to be stronger in the north and the birdsong louder. Dunstan said he had to agree with Wulfhere but he thought that this effect might have been caused by Alnoth’s ale. He noted that he had been able to learn the local Saxon dialect quickly because after five horns of ale he had found that he and Ingweald could understand each other perfectly. He wondered if the ale allowed easier learning of other languages. Uthric had meantime presented himself to Sæberht and explained his request. Sæberht said that Uthric spoke well and he was moved by his plea. Uthric was disappointed to learn the Ealhwyn was no long in Colnacæster but Sæberht was able to tell him that Meire had been with Ealhwyn and that she was well. Uthric asked the King if he could tell him where he could find Ealhwyn because he was keen to be reunited with Meire as soon as possible. Sæberht told him that Ealhwyn had gone to visit King Weacla in Veralamacæster. Uthric thanked him for the information and asked which way he would travel to get to Veralamacæster. Sæberht told him to return to Lundenwic and then travel northwest along the Roman road. Uthric wanted to set out immediately but Wulfhere said that he needed to clear his head first by dipping it in a cold stream. Dunstan was little better than Wulfhere and equally reluctant to leave just at that moment but when Uthric threatened to go by himself they packed their things and left with him. Uthric said they needed to move quickly. He noted that the year was near its ending and the weather might take a turn for the worse so as not to allow travel. (1) Hlafweard is a steward (2) Haerfestlic is the Harvest festival. A feast is held to celebrate the bringing in of the harvest. The last grain harvested holds a spirit. The grain is beaten to chase the spirit out before being planted again where the seeds will be sown in the next sowing season, thus blessing the crop. (3) Wóddréam. An evil spirit
  14. In my previous post, the creation of magic items was addressed. Various mechanisms were looked at, from the use of the sorcery skill Enchant (Object) through to the creation of religious artefacts and relics, and spirit fetishes. This blog looks at the magic items themselves, and the impact they have in game. Significance No enchanted artefact should ever be insignificant. Every artefact carries with it the power to affect the outcome of an Adventurer's skill checks, if not the storyline of the scenario. Even if the artefact carries some sort of minor "skill buff," such as automatically augmenting a mundane CHA-based skill check such as a musical instrument which offers an enhancement to Musicianship checks, it must never be discounted or glossed over, or traded up for a more powerful artefact in the next session. Every supernatural enhancement counts. Investment Enchanted items are never two-a-penny. Every artefact probably had a significant energy investment behind it, on the part of the creator. Enchanted items rarely, if ever, look like something rolled off a mass production line. They often bear marks, or artistic stylings, which identify their creators - makers' marks. This often makes enchanted artefacts unique, identifiable, and frequently irreplaceable. Cultural Impact Each enchanted artefact is the product of somebody's culture, shaped by that culture, fashioned from materials significant to that culture, and bearing the hallmarks of, and symbols of, that culture. A Barbarian might fashion a pair of boots to allow them to travel for miles non-stop, augmenting their predilections for wandering through wildernesses. A Nomad from a riverine tribe could fashion a spirit fetish from an ocarina (see? I had to bring in ocarinas somewhere!) to whistle up fair weather or to appease hostile river spirits, Loreleis, Sirens and other predatory supernatural entities which, according to the Lore, would lurk around the more sluggish stretches of the river. A Civilised sorcerer might enchant a cap and charge it with Enhance (POW) to boost their Magic Points supply, and another might create a mask which bestows the Change Gender Gift from page 202 of Mythras to whomsoever wears it. Magic swords, axes and armour are not the only artefacts of significance to a culture. The real world historical Beaker Culture of Bronze Age Europe were characterised by the beakers with which they were buried, for instance. The Mold Gold Cape, another artefact dating back to the Bronze Age, is an artefact of huge cultural significance even to the modern day, due to the mystery of its manufacture - it is a mystery even to modern archaeologists, who still only have a general idea of how such a thing could be made, but can only guess at what tools they used. Artefacts include relics, the remains of saints, or objects which are reputed to have been in contact with someone supposedly blessed by a deity. Śarīra, for example, are pearl-like spheres which have been found among the ashes of Buddhist saints who attained Mahasamadhi (the ultimate Samadhi - death). Relics have cultural significance, since they are held to be tangible reminders that those who came before, whose lives and deaths shaped the contemporary religion, actually existed - they were real, not merely the products of storytellers' imaginations. Expectation The name of Sheffield Steel, or Clogau Gold, is a brand. There is an expectation of sublime quality to any item forged from such materials. In fantasy, a blade made from obsidian, or a cutting blade forged from meteoric iron, usually has some expected power of supreme sharpness and durability. Such blades are supposedly unbreakable, never dulling or losing their edge; or they may require the spilling of blood before they can be resheathed, once drawn. Another, more modern example was the so-called "Welsh Blade" created during The Great War, when England wanted to terrify the Germans with their deadliest weaponised force ... er, Welsh people. To add to the propaganda, Welsh infantry units were issued with "Welsh Blades," on which the words "DROS URDDAS CYMRU" were etched or stamped. The propaganda painted the Welsh as some sort of mainland British Gurkha force, armed with savagely sharp "trench swords." The main power of these items was expectation. When the hero brings out their prized enchanted item, there is an expectation that the hero will surely prevail; the magic of the artefact unleashed is expected to overwhelm anything the enemy can bring to bear against the hero and their people. This has a historical precedent going back to Roman Emperor Constantine, who conquered with a sign, the Labarum, also called a vexillum or Chi-Ro, which was emblazoned on a war banner as a symbol of Constantine's divine power. Even if, like the inscriptions on "Welsh Blades," that "divine power" was merely well-distributed propaganda spread in the enemy camps to prime the pumps. The power of expectation can extend far beyond the reach of any powers an enchanted artefact may possess. A theist could possess some item, such as a Śarīra, reputed to have belonged to a Great Soul who spread peace during her life. The theist could prominently display this relic, signalling their desire for peace to the representatives of two warring nations brought to the table to sue for an end to the war. A magic mailed gauntlet worn by a king in your setting, for instance, could be endowed with the power to heal plagues with a touch, or to cause wrongdoers to crumble into ashes. A theist could indeed embody a healing Miracle, or a sorcerer Enchant the glove with Transmogrify (to Ash) - but simple rumours, propaganda, and expectation can give an artefact a blessed, or cursed air, even if the Adventurers never get to see the artefact, or suffer its touch - though if an Adventurer does come into contact with the mailed gauntlet and survive, it could work to the advantage of the character: they were not turned to ashes, therefore they are not wrongdoers, and so on. Enchantment In the end, the nature of enchantment is as much the product of rumour, legend, and the Lore skill as it is the product of skill, craftspersonship and prowess with sorcery or other form of magic. A blade crafted by a mystic swordsmaster, whose Talent of Augment (Craft) allows them to fashion master-level blades, can be held with huge fear and respect, even if it is just mundane with a few ordinary Enhancements from the manufacturing process. A violin created by your setting's answer to Stradivarius, for example, can acquire a legend through association with stories of a devilish creature bargaining for the soul of some youngster in a contest of musical skill. It all boils down to the concept of enchantments and artefacts being desiderata - objects which spark desire in those who see them. Mythras games are about the characters, and their achievements; but the existence of enchanted artefacts and relics, their legends and histories, can weave the characters into the items' stories and legends, allowing the characters to exploit those legends in an adventure, even if those items turn out to have no discernible magic powers whatsoever, but merely an association with something legendary within the setting.
  15. With this article, we begin a look at the artefacts of magic, and their influence on the cultures of the settings of Mythras. The Core Rulebook places the emphasis on the player characters, their native wit and their acquired magical powers or connections to the spirits and/or gods, rather than on magic items and enchanted treasures. Enchantments Enchantment is defined as a feeling of great pleasure or delight, as well as the state of being under a spell or magic. This blog could focus on the second definition, since this blog covers the items used by Adventurers during their escapades; but it would be a good idea to begin by looking at how the first definition can also be relevant to this topic. Enchantment as in "a state of great pleasure" can easily come from being under the effects of mundane hypnosis as much as anything else. To be enchanted by something, or someone, is to be placed in an altered state by the mere presence of the person or object. When you are enchanted, the proximity of the object or person increases the levels of oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin neurotransmitters in your body. Your attention focuses on the cause of that heightened awareness. The more you focus, the deeper you go, the more pronounced the effects, and the more the heightened presence of phenylethylamine makes you feel like swooning. And that overall feeling and focus increases tenfold when you realise, or are told, that you are the proud owner of such an object, or that the person seeks your time. The object which captures your attention, the person who seems to narrow the world down to just you and them, is a desideratum. This desideratum controls your perceptions, for as long as you remain so deeply enchanted, and your whole perceptions feel so good that the world even glows a little around the desired object or charming person. Come back in the room, a little, and let yourself imagine how that feels in the context of your Adventurers and their lives. Enchant (Object) This is the only enchantment-type spell in the Mythras Core Rulebook. As far as the Core Rulebook is concerned, this is the only means by which one can create magic items for Mythras. Of course, what makes it daunting is the heavy price one has to pay for this spell. A spell which is to be made perpetual must be Combined with the casting of Enchant. In addition, it is limited to possessing only as many points of shaping as the Intensity of the Enchant. The strain of creating the enchantment permanently reduces the sorcerer’s Magic Points attribute by the magic point cost of the combined spell. These can be recovered later if the enchantment is unwoven by the original caster or the object (or person) is destroyed. Even a POW 18 human can, therefore, only create a handful of magic items with this spell before they find themselves unable to generate Magic Points. The career of the professional Enchanter would seem to be a short one. The reason for this restriction would seem to be to limit the number of actual magic items available within the game, as well as to keep them as low key as possible. The Adventurers are forced, by this restriction, to rely upon their own native wits, talents, magic, and connections - both mundane and Numinous - to resolve the conflicts in the adventures they undertake. Actual magic items are rare, and never outshine their wielders. Adventurers must, accordingly, pay a heavy price for their Magic Swords of Damage Enhancement and Bypass Armour, or their Shields of Damage Resistance and Castback. There can only be one natural conclusion to reach: Enchant (Object) cannot be the only way to imbue artefacts with magical power. Methods of Creation Consider how many other magical items in the Mythras Core Rulebook seem to have achieved sustained magical power. The kinds of magical artefacts which are bestowed on favoured faction members in the form of Gifts, and the plethora of spirit fetishes created by animists, would indicate that there are other ways to create enchanted items. That could include theistic religious items, which could be charged with the theists' Devotional Magic Points. The Folk Magic Curse spell acts in a similar way to Enchant (Object), in that the caster's Magic Point capacity is reduced for as long as the curse is kept active. This opens a precedent for other, as-yet undiscovered, Folk Magic spells to sustain themselves on the caster's lifeforce. The following are suggestions for alternative ways for a sufficiently-motivated enchanter to create enchanted items. None of these are at all canon, but a Games Master can use these creation paths as dictated by the needs of the plot, or for the purposes of the campaign. Sacrifice A sacrifice must be made, in order to provide sufficient energies to create a permanent change within the artefact. This could be a simple burning of organic matter such as a quantity of grain, a piece of meat, a quantity of fruits, or a liquid such as milk. The amount burned is the equivalent in Silver Pieces of 2d4 x the Magic Points one would sacrifice, otherwise. An alternative to persistent Magic Point loss would be persistent fatigue. The enchanter could sustain a long-term, persistent fatigue level lasting for 1d4 days after the final creation of the artefact. An enchanter with a heavy workload could be rendered exhausted for days after all that creation, or they could space out their enchantments to around one session per week. There are other kinds of sacrifices one could make, such as applying a reverse Tap (Characteristic) to reduce one's characteristics to create the artefact, or sacrificing Experience Rolls equal to the Intensity of the enchantment. This is similar to the Experience Roll sacrifice made by an animist to create the housing for a spirit fetish (Mythras, page 136). Harnmaster Rules The Harnmaster roleplaying game uses a different fatigue mechanic, and furthermore it does not use Magic Points. Harnmaster even has a different way of creating artefacts, dividing them into two categories - Minor Artefacts, and Major Artefacts. Minor Artefacts only retain one ability, such as the "Fount of Power" spell which is the equivalent of Mythras' "Store Mana" spell. Major Artefacts require a spell called a "False Soul" (basically, this turns the artefact into a programmable "device") to hold the other component powers together (such as "Fount of Power" and "Resurge", which recharges "Fount of Power" without intervention from the item's wielder). The one rule which all artefacts, Minor and Major, have in common, is this:- the Duration of these artefact enchantments is always Indefinite (self-sustaining, but can be permanently dispelled) if they are cast over an artefact which has already been created. However, if the enchantment is cast over the artefact as it is being grown or made from scratch, the enchantment's Duration is Permanent - the artefact's powers cannot be dispelled, only temporarily suppressed. The process of creating permanent artefacts, therefore, takes as long as the artefect does to be created, which is a minimum of something like [15 - Intensity] hours, or some multiple of [15 - Intensity]. Or the Games Master could abstract the process, using the Equipment Manufacturing and Quality rules from page 65 of Mythras Core Rulebook, taking double the time to create a regular item of the same type. There is another set of rules one can use - available from Old Bones Publishing here. Again, if the enchanter takes double the time to create the artefact, and enchants it as it is being built or grown, any enchantments so created will have Permanent Duration. Unique Materials This is the whole "eight pounds of dragon scales," "the seeds of a rare flower which grows in the Elpathian Mountains," "a single ruby worth 4,000 Gold Pieces" territory. The acquisition of such rare or expensive materials or fabrics, of course, forms the focus of an entire story, possibly spread over multiple sessions. It might be easier to obtain a measure of ordinary frankincense worth ten thousand Silver Pieces, for example, by travelling to the place where it is made, and haggling for the goods. Holy Devotion Religious artefacts can be created through acts of Devotion. Theists with sufficient motivation can Consecrate an artefact and make it sacred to the deity. The Games Master can even rule that they do not even require the Consecrate spell - merely a passionate Herculean Exhort skill check and expenditure of Devotional Magic Points into the item. Some religious artefacts might not even need consecration. Holy relics, particularly body parts of dead high-Devotion saints, could have their own internal, regenerating store of Devotional Magic Points, not usable by the theist but only usable for the relic's Miracles. The Enchantment Effect - Wonders The process of creating the artefacts, relics, and fetishes is only part of the story of enchanted items. In the next post, the blog will focus on the artefacts' effects on the Adventurers and their loved ones, on the campaign, and on the game setting.
  16. Restoration and Divorce It took a week to travel from Anderida to Hrofnacæster. The Hrothgarsons had travelled along the Roman road using Way stations or staying at Steadings along the way. Northern Ceint was rich and fertile. Ruins of Roman houses were everywhere. Some had been scavenged for stone and others were intact apart from the roofs which had fallen in. Dunstan thought of himself as a builder and he was intrigued to see how the Romans had built their farms and dwellings. He discussed it with his brothers and Uthric pointed out that and seemed obvious to the Romans, withy making was not the height of building and Dunstan might want to stick to being a Þegn. As they approached Hrofnacæster they could see the still extant Roman walls surrounding the Old Roman fort and dwellings that guarded the stone bridge over the river Meduwaen which flowed into the sea. On the shoreline they could see two armies drawn up for battle. The larger army had the smaller army trapped against the shore. None of the Hrothgarsons could conceive why a battle was being fought in Ceint but they went to the top of a low hill to get a better view and to wait for the inevitable outcome. Wulfhere thought the smaller force did well to stand up to the larger one for so long but their Shieldwall was breached and the battle was suddenly over, ending in rout and slaughter for the smaller force. Uthric could see that the larger victorious Army had howling black wolves on their shields and he told his brothers they were Hrof's men. He said he had no idea who their opponents were. Dunstan was concerned that war had broken out again between Cerdic and Aelle but Wulfhere said that was unlikely. Some of the merchants they had met on the road would have told them if the situation had changed. He thought it more likely that the defeated army were raiders and probably Angles. They sat and waited for something to happen. None of them thought it was a good idea to approach the battlefield as strangers in case they were accused of belonging to the smaller army. The wait was not long. They had been seen and a party of ten warriors were sent to find out who they were. The leader of the warriors introduced himself as Baldthryth Siferthson and asked why they were sitting on a hill, armed for war. Wulfhere introduced himself and his brothers and told Baldthryth they had come to seek counsel from Hrof. Baldthryth apologised for not recognising Wulfhere. He explained he had been at the Battle of Dunum and had been with the Aethling Stuf when he had relieved Wulfhere's small force that had been holding the gate. He told Wulfhere that he had stood behind him in the Shieldwall in the latter part of the battle. Wulfhere said his memory was not what it was in his youth and besides he had been facing forward in the battle owing to the amount of Dumnonians trying to kill him. He said he had not thought at the time to look behind him. Baldthryth laughed at Wulfhere's comments and welcomed them to Hrofnacæster. Wulfhere said that he was interested the Baldthryth was now Hrof’s man having so recently fought for Stuf. Baldthryth said that he had come to Hrofnacæster because of a woman and joked why else would anyone choose to uproot and travel across the country. He said that besides that, Hrof was an excellent Lord and rewarded those who were loyal to him. He brought the Hrothgarsons to Hrof's hall and got the servants to give them food and drink after their journey. Baldthryth told them that Hrof would be some time. He was seeing to the wounded and hearing the deeds of those of his men who had died in the fight. Wulfhere said that they were in no hurry to leave since they had only got here and the ale was of such good quality to make a person want to wait longer. Dunstan asked if he could have a bowl of porridge from one of the servants. He said that he had not had a decent bowl of porridge for several weeks and his mouth was beginning to water at the thought of one. He then started an argument with Uthric about whether the porridge should be salted or honey should be added. The argument was still going on when Hrof arrived and he thought that he would give his opinion and sided with Uthric in that adding honey was best. Dunstan who had been arguing for salt was silenced for the first time in weeks. Wulfhere wondered if they shouldn't stay longer at Hrof's hall as he enjoyed the momentary peace and quiet. Hrof was a huge man although he was well into middle age. He explained he was in an agreeable mood since he had just defeated several boatloads of Angle raiders and captured their boats. He also had taken some prisoners and after they were questioned he would have them executed to deter future raiders from coming. Wulfhere introduced himself and his brothers and Hrof said that he had heard some of their exploits from Baldthryth. He told them there would be a victory feast that night and he thought that it might be interesting to hear Wulfhere's view of the Battle of Dunum. Wulfhere said that he would be glad to tell the tale for it had been an interesting battle. Hrof was interrupted by one of the servants who told him that the prisoners had been questioned and that they would be executed soon. Hrof asked the Hrothgarsons to join him in watching the prisoners’ deaths. He explained that they would be beheaded for although the crime of raiding was one where the perpetrators should be hung as lowly criminals, Hrof’s view was that they were still warriors and should die like warriors. Dunstan was looking at the line of prisoners when he recognised Offa Pendason who they had met at Danasted and who had thrown an anvil at the Bannucmann, precipitating his timely demise. Dunstan told Wulfhere and Uthric that the man near the end was their friend, Offa. Uthric thought Offa might be more grumpy than usual as he was about to lose his head but that they should seek to help him to keep him in a better mood. Wulfhere was worried about approaching Hrof with such a request as he was not sure what his standing with Hrof actually was. Uthric suggested that he offer wergild for Offa's life. Dunstan said that they better act quickly as Offa was almost at the front of the queue to face the axe wielding executioner. He did wonder how Offa might react to being saved from death when his comrades were to die. Wulfhere talked to Hrof and told him that the tall prisoner in the line was their friend and he wanted to ask Hrof if he could buy the man's life. Hrof was intrigued how Wulfhere might be friends with an Angle raider but he stopped the executions to allow Wulfhere to state his case. Wulfhere briefly told Hrof that Offa had been instrumental in helping put their father's spirit to rest and that he was sure Offa could give a good explanation as to why he was now in Ceint rather than Mierce. Hrof said that he would not usually grant clemency for raiders who he considered criminals but he knew that Wulfhere was a good man and could trust his judgement. Uthric and Dunstan were listening to Wulfhere and Hrof and both could not help but wonder if Hrof was not mixing their brother with another Wulfhere. However, they thought that questioning Hrof's judgement at this time might complicate matters, so they let it pass. Wulfhere and Hrof went to talk to Offa and Wulfhere offered him his life. Offa looked more grumpy than normal and said he was conflicted about what he should do. He thought it might be better for him to die with his comrades rather than be made a slave. Wulfhere said that was not his intention. Offa had helped both him and his brothers when they were in need and near death and they had fought and defeated the Bannucmann together. He thought that he should now return the favour for Offa. Offa asked Hrof if he could have some time to consider his options and decide what he should do. Hrof said that he was agreeable to wait until the rest of the raiders had been killed and then Offa needed to make a choice about whether he wanted to live or die. Offa thought this delay would be sufficient. Dunstan and Uthric took Offa aside and told him that he should chose life and come to Pontes with them unless he had a family he needed to return to. Offa said that he had nothing to return to in Mierce but wondered what his life would be like in Pontes. Uthric said that he would be a free man and they would ensure he was honoured. Offa thought this might be acceptable and when Hrof returned, Offa told him he chose to live. Wulfhere paid Hrof a wergild for Offa. He offered the wergild of a Þegn but Hrof accepted the wergild of a Carl. That night at the Feast, Dunstan told the story of the Bannucmann. Dunstan told the story with many flourishes and emphasised Offa's role in the death of the Bannucmann. Hrof's warriors wanted to see Offa throw an anvil and they all went outside. Offa was still a strong man but he only just managed to lift and throw the anvil. He apologised saying that as he got older his strength was slowly seeping away. However, when others tried to lift the anvil they found out how difficult it was. Offa discovered that his reputation went up and he was even seen by Uthric to be smiling during the rest of the feast. Hrof was delighted with the tale and gave the Hrothgarsons engraved silver capped drinking horns and he gave Offa some new clothes to replace his rather shabby clothing. Offa was pleased and Dunstan said to Uthric that he thought Offa looked less grumpy over the last day. Uthric thought that perhaps being saved from being beheaded might have cheered him up. In the morning they talked again with Hrof. They told him they were searching for their families and needed to go to Contaburgh to seek information. Dunstan said that he did not particularly blame Aelle for their predicament however he still harboured resentment towards Cerdic for not protecting his lands. Hrof thought that Dunstan might find life difficult if he voiced that sentiment in Cerdic's hearing. Wulfhere said that he was tired telling Dunstan that he needed to hold his tongue. Hrof said sometimes a warrior needed to say what was on his mind. He thought that they might like to return to him if they found life difficult under Cerdic. He said that he could not have enough men with good reputations. Hrof offered each brother two hydes of land if they would give him their oaths. Wulfhere said that this was a generous offer but they needed to find their families first and then decide their future. Uthric asked Hrof if he had news of his daughter, Ealhwyn. Hrof said that the last he knew was that she had rode north into Mierce with her household guard and he had not had any news from her since before the Dumnonian war, although he believed she might have visited her cousin on her mother’s side, Sigebeorht, King of Colnacæster. He thought she had had harsh words with the Aethling Wlencing and she was avoiding him. Uthric asked if Hrof had noticed Meire in her company but Hrof said he had not noticed her despite her unusual appearance and could not add anything to their current knowledge. They bade farewell to Hrof and travelled to Contaburgh. Dunstan wanted to why they were going back to Cerdic. He said that Hrof held his own lands and ruled them as he wanted. He thought that could have a good life in Ceint with Hrof if they accepted his offer. Uthric said that they had put a lot of work into the lands south of the Tamyse and he was loathe to give that up. Wulfhere said in his opinion that they needed to stop this conversation as his brothers needed to understand that their reputation depends on their loyalty to their Lord who, until they decide to give their oaths to someone else, remains Cerdic. Uthric said that Wulfhere was of course right and they should all keep their oaths to Cerdic, the Westseaxacyning. The Saxon settlement of Contaburgh was situated beside the old Roman city of Caer Ceint. Caer Ceint was said to have been abandoned since the Romans had left. The old city was now crumbling but there was still an impressive theatre and temple to the Roman War God. The local population avoided the ruins because they feared the ghosts of the city and the Roman god had a fearsome reputation. The Saxon settlement was less impressive and was ruled by an Ealdorman called Ermenred. The Hrothgarsons thought that it would be best to call with the Ealdorman. Wulfhere thought it might also be useful to get help from Ermenred and it was well known that Ermenred's ale was excellent. He thought after the journey they had that it would be good to sample it and give their opinion. Wulfhere introduced himself and his brothers. Ermenred was interested in their business and was amused that they were looking for their families, particularly since they had lost them in Aelle’s rampaging victory in the south. He said that he would be happy to give them lodging and he would give them whatever help they needed. Wulfhere thanked him and returned to one of the benches where his brothers had seated themselves. Uthric and Dunstan were discussing that they had seen Cwen in the hall. She seemed to have been well dressed so Uthric thought she had done well for herself. Dunstan was wondering what had happened to King Marc of Kernow’s bastard. Uthric said he thought that Dunstan may be trying to change the subject because Cwen was another woman Dunstan had rejected. Dunstan said he did not like to be reminded of this as it was a difficult time in his life. When Wulfhere joined them he thought that it would be best to talk to Cwen as she was likely to have some information on Gwenyth and Lucnot. Uthric attracted Cwen's attention and she came to the bench to greet them. Wulfhere said that she seemed to have done well and noted the gold and gems at her throat and gold on her arms. Cwen said that the gold meant nothing to her compared to happiness. Uthric asked her to sit with them but noticed she looked at the high table first before she sat down. Uthric tried to follow her gaze hut could see no reaction from the people gathered around the Ealdorman. Wulfhere asked Cwen for her news and she told them she was married to Ermenred. He said that he was surprised for he knew Cwen had been in Glawmæd when it was sacked and would have thought she had been made a slave. Cwen said that was exactly what happened but she had been freed by her uncle who was one of Aelle's Ealdorman having been given the title when his brother, Cwen's father had died. Wulfhere said that he had not been aware of Cwen's family connections as he had always thought of her as an orphan who had been sent to King Marc by Cerdic. Cwen acknowledged that had been true at the time but she had been nobly born. Uthric asked Cwen what had happened to Cwen's son by Marc. Cwen said he still lived and was a thriving boy of four summers. She had called him Tristan to annoy Marc because Tristan had been nice to her during her brief stay in Kernow. Dunstan said that they had come seeking news of their families. Cwen said that Dunstan will be glad to hear that Gwenyth is one of her servants and she has been kept safe. Dunstan asked after her and Cwen said she was well and had always believed that he would come for her. She said that his son Uthred, was also with her and he was well too. Dunstan was once again stuck for words and Uthric wondered aloud if there would be another night of heavy drinking complete with a troupe of dwarven smiths. Cwen brought Gwenyth to see Dunstan and she was overjoyed to see him. She told him she had prayed to all the gods for him to be safe and rescue her. Dunstan was overcome and could only mumble replies. Cwen sensed that something was not quite right and told Gwenyth to go back to her rooms and prepare to travel. She asked why Dunstan had such a poor reaction to his wife and when Dunstan did not reply Uthric spoke for him. Uthric told Cwen Dunstan had not expected to find her and had become betrothed to an Ealdorman's daughter. Cwen said that things were never simple and she suggested that all three join her in the Woman's Hall for the evening meal. Wulfhere asked if Ermenred would not mind but Cwen dismissed his concern and said that she might pay for it later but it would not matter in the end. Uthric said he did not understand what she meant but she did not answer and got up and joined her husband at the High Table. Dunstan said he was in shock. He now had a wife and was betrothed to Æthlind. Uthric said that Dunstan's problem was he always tried to do the right thing and ended up annoying everyone. Wulfhere asked Dunstan what he proposed to do. Dunstan said that he was married and that was where he should stay. He would just go home and not go back to Anderida. Uthric said that that would be unfair to Æthlind. Wulfhere reminded them that they had to go back to Anderida to get his children. He thought that Ælfrith would probably hear they had come back. Dunstan agreed and said he would have to visit Ælfrith and Æthlind and tell them he had made a mistake. He said that he needed to face this situation. He reminded himself that he had stood in many Shieldwalls and fought individual combats but was shaking because he had to tell a woman that he no longer wished to be betrothed. Uthric said that Dunstan should think carefully about his decision. Æthlind was rich, had status and would increase his renown whereas Gwenyth was a British woman with no family. Dunstan said that he felt it was his duty to stay with Gwenyth. Uthric wondered if Cwen had good ale because he felt it might be needed. When they arrived at the Woman's Hall they were surprised to find themselves dining alone with Cwen. Cwen said that she had a favour to ask them and Wulfhere said that if it was in their power they would try and do as she asked. Cwen told them that her marriage was unhappy and the wished to divorce Ermenred. She described him as a monster in the same vein as Marc of Kernow. Wulfhere said that he was sure that if he was as awful as she said, then she could divorce Ermenred according to the law. Cwen said that she was very aware what the law was but the difficulty was that she needed a witness to her proclamation of divorce and all the people who could uphold the proclamation were her husband’s men. They all feared Ermenred and would not agree to be a witness. Dunstan said that he would like to help but that as far as he was concerned, Cwen was married and she had made that choice. He felt she should make the best of it. Uthric said that they were strangers in Contaburgh and Cerdic's oath sworn warriors and had up until recently been at war with Aelle. He thought that there was no way to do this. Wulfhere said that they could not witness the divorce and that had to be the end of it. Cwen said that she could trade their help for information on where Lucnot was to be found. Uthric said that he had an obligation to help Lucnot who was his childhood friend. Wulfhere said this might make a difference but they would prefer to discuss it on their own. They bid farewell to Cwen and went back to a tavern where they could agree what to do in private. When they were alone Dunstan said that he could not see how they could help Cwen. Wulfhere said that they owed Ermenred no favours either and if he was a monstrous as Cwen said or worse than Marc of Kernow then it might be good to help. Uthric said that if he remembered correctly it had been Wulfhere that had let her on the boat when they were leaving Kernow. He thought that if Wulfhere had not done as he had advised him to do at the time, then they would not be in this mess. Uthric said he thought it was up to Wulfhere as the eldest brother and senior Þegn to make the decision. Dunstan still felt that there was no reason for them to be involved but agreed that he would abide by Wulfhere's decision. Wulfhere thought about it for a while in silence and then said to his brothers that he felt they would put their mission to find their families at risk if they helped Cwen. They all felt relieved by Wulfhere's decision and ordered some more ale. Uthric said that despite their decision he needed to find out if Lucnot was still alive and if so he was under obligation to help him. He reminded Wulfhere that Lucnot was also Wulfhere's former wife’s brother. Uthric said that he would go and see Cwen in the morning to convey their decision and to see if she would give him information on Lucnot. Uthric went to Ermenred's Hall where he asked where he might find Cwen. He was told she was in the Threshing Rooms supervising the separation of grain from the stalks and husks. Uthric waited until Cwen was available to talk with him. She suggested that they should walk and talk. Uthric told Cwen that he and his brothers had decided that they could not help her with her proclamation. Cwen was silent for a while and Uthric did not say anything either. Cwen turned to him and asked him directly to help her. She said she could no longer stay with Ermenred as he was a monster. Uthric groaned inwardly while remaining calm to outward appearances for he had a geas given to him by the dragon Níðhǫgg in that he could never refuse a request directly asked of him. He told Cwen that he was willing to help her and give his oath that he would do so or die trying. He said he would need to talk to his brothers about the details. He asked about Lucnot. Cwen told him that Lucnot was hiding in the old City having killed his Master. Cwen had been supporting him with food and clothing. Uthric asked if she could get a message to Lucnot so that when they left Contaburgh they could take Lucnot too. Cwen brought Uthric to meet a man, Mearcread, who she trusted to meet with Lucnot. Uthric gave him a message for Lucnot to arrange a meeting. Uthric then went back to his brothers and told them of the change of plan. Uthric said he thought he should tell Ermenred about what was going to happen. Wulfhere said that in his opinion Ermenred would not need to know and Wulfhere was not keen to tell him. He said that Ermenred could act in many different ways, but he feared that agreeing to the divorce peacefully would not be his chosen option. Dunstan said that sneaking around was not the Hrothgarson way of doing things and he agreed with Uthric that Ermenred should be told. Wulfhere said that his brothers had misunderstood him. He said that according to the Law the proclamation of Divorce has to be done publicly and therefore it has to be done in the open and to be above board. However, he thought that whatever they chose to do, it did not have to be a challenge to Ermenred and thus provoke a response that none of them would want. Wulfhere said that if they completed the proclamation according to the law then that would protect them and presumably Cwen also. Therefore, the plan should be brazen without being a challenge. Uthric wondered that if Cwen was comparing Ermenred to Marc, how would he react when his wife divorced him and how that would go for the Hrothgarsons since they were aiding Cwen’s actions. Dunstan said that he did not want to think of that. He said that he still had nightmares about their time in Kernow. They went to see Cwen again and asked her how she thought Ermenred would react. Cwen said that however he reacted it would probably not go well for them if they were still within striking range. Wulfhere said that in that case Offa would take Gwenyth and Uthred and leave early. Uthric said that he wanted his brothers to leave at the same time. He thought that he would prefer knowing that they were safe with only Cwen and himself taking the risk. Wulfhere said he was in favour of this and Uthric thought that fast horses might be useful in the situation. Wulfhere bought horses for himself, Uthric, Dunstan, Gwenyth and Offa. Uthred was still very young and they thought he could ride in front of Gwenyth. Cwen wanted to bring her son Tristan too and it was agreed he could also travel in front of an adult. Cwen had her own horse and was the only one of the group who was reasonably competent on a horse. Uthric went to meet with Lucnot in the Old City. He was concerned about the change in Lucnot. He thought he might have been driven half mad because of his experiences and Uthric thought he detected a mad gleam in his eye and his talk was about killing as many Sais as he could. His plans were reckless and unlikely to get anyone killed apart from himself. Uthric calmed him down and Lucnot agreed to abide by the plan for his rescue. Uthric later told Wulfhere that they needed to be careful of Lucnot as he might challenge any Saxon he saw. Wulfhere agreed that this may be so but they would still need to give Lucnot weapons and horses in case it came to a fight and so it would be up to Uthric to keep him calm. Cwen had discovered that Ermenred was going to a nearby village in two days time to gather his rents. She thought that this might be the time to make the proclamation. Uthric said that as soon as Ermenred left they should act but Cwen thought it better to allow him to get to the village that was a quarter of a morning’s ride away. She thought that one of the HusÞegns would ride to let him know that she had made the Proclamation of Divorce and that way they would have half a morning start on Ermenred. Later that day, Cwen publicly declared that she was releasing Gwenyth’s oath of servitude and she was free to travel wherever she wished. The Hrothgarsons formally thanked Ermenred for his hospitality and now told him that now Dunstan had found his wife they would be travelling home. Ermenred said that he was glad their task was successful and wished them a good journey. Early on the next day, Wulfhere led his party out of Contaburgh. They set off early and collected Lucnot from the Old City and they gave him new clothing so that he would not look like an escaped slave. Uthric waited in Ermenred's Hall until he thought the sun was at the right height. He went to Ermenred's private chamber where Cwen opened the door. She had gathered some belongings in a cloak and then stood by the bedside and proclaimed her divorce from Ermenred. Uthric then proclaimed that as a Þegn he witnessed her divorce. Cwen went to the entrance of the private bed chamber and made the same proclamation which Uthric again witnessed. Finally, she completed the proclamation at the door to the Hall and Uthric repeated this witness confirmation almost as a challenge. One of the HusÞegns came over to bar their exit but Uthric said that he did not want to spill blood and that he should stand aside. The HusÞegn looked at Uthric and then at Cwen and thought better of his actions before he stood aside to let them pass. Cwen and Uthric went to get their horses and left as soon as possible. As they left Contaburgh Cwen pointed to a horsemen hurrying north in the direction where Ermenred was. She told Uthric they needed to hurry in case Ermenred chose to follow them. Wulfhere was having difficulty controlling his horse. It appeared to want to spend its time eating the grass at the side of the road and showed no interest in what Wulfhere said. The result was they made slow progress. Offa was rather gloomy and said that he would have thought Wulfhere might have bought a less strong willed horse if he did not really understand them. Wulfhere did not comment but got off his horse and led it forward. Dunstan said that at least they were moving even if it was at walking pace but thought if Wulfhere wanted to walk home it might have been cheaper just to buy new shoes rather than an expensive horse. Just after midday, Uthric and Cwen caught up with the rest of the group. Uthric was frustrated as he thought Ermenred could be coming after them and their pace was not enough to get out of his lands. His frustration increased when just before the time for the evening meal Dunstan saw dust on the road behind them that was likely caused by fast moving horses. They tried to get their horses to trot faster but it was clear that the dust cloud was getting closer. After a while, Offa said he thought he could see horsemen in the distance. Wulfhere said that they needed to get as far as possible in the hope that they could get into Hrof's lands. He thought Ermenred might not pursue them if they could cross the border. However it became clear that they would be overtaken. Wulfhere told Cwen to leave them and ride fast. He thought that Ermenred would not be interested in them and Cwen had a greater skill in horse riding. Dunstan and Uthric decided that they would stay behind and delay the pursuit. They put Tristan on Offa’s horse and they went to a farmhouse and dismounted and put on their war gear. The first horsemen to reach Dunstan and Uthric did not attack but remained on their horses, surrounded them and lowered their spears. Uthric said to Dunstan they may have made a mistake as they were now hemmed in by horsemen. Dunstan said that if this was the day of their death at least he had found Gwenyth whereas Uthric still did not know what happened to Meire. Uthric said that Dunstan should be more optimistic because they were only facing ten men on horseback and that they had faced much greater odds. Dunstan said that may have been so but generally they had also been backed by an army. However the men were content to just watch them and no-one said anything. The group that had gone past Dunstan and Uthric overtook Wulfhere and only slowed to check Cwen was not with him. Wulfhere still thought it likely that Cwen was skilled enough at horse riding to stay ahead of the pursuit and escape. He stopped his horse and tried to see or hear what was happening with his brothers but gave up when neither he nor the others could hear anything. Uthric spoke with the leader of the horsemen who named himself Alerid Swintheson. Uthric asked what Alerid intended to do as if nothing was going to happen Uthric thought he might like to continue his journey. Alerid said that this was a matter for Uthric and he allowed both Uthric and Dunstan to get their horses. Alerid signalled to his men and they rode off. Dunstan said he was a bit bewildered but Uthric said that it was likely they had wanted to delay them from being present at whatever was happening ahead. Wulfhere continued after Ermenred and found him ahead. It appeared Cwen's mare had gone lame and when he arrived Cwen was on the ground, knocked down by Ermenred from a blow to her face. There was already bruising around her eyes. Ermenred was standing over her and shouting that he would rather see her dead than divorce him. Wulfhere came over to Ermenred and asked him if he shouldn't like to fight an armed warrior rather than punch women. Ermenred said that he thought it better that Wulfhere stay out of this argument. When Wulfhere replied that he might have to stop Ermenred with his spear point the Ealdorman turned to meet him. His men moved forward to surround Wulfhere but Ermenred waved them back and said that he would deal with Wulfhere on his own. When Dunstan and Uthric rode up they found Wulfhere facing Ermenred and both men were readying their weapons. Uthric asked Offa what had happened and Offa said that Wulfhere had challenged Ermenred because he had hit Cwen. Uthric did not like the look of what was happening but Dunstan said he had full confidence in his older brother. Both men fought with spears and shields. Ermenred had better armour and looked the more experienced warrior. After a few attacks, Ermenred thrust so hard it would have pierced Wulfhere's shield and drove into his chest if Wulfhere had not moved suddenly the other way. As it was his shield was split but was still usable. Wulfhere had trouble getting close enough to Ermenred to get in a good strike. Ermenred was able to easily parry Wulfhere's spear. It seemed to Dunstan Ermenred was playing with Wulfhere and he expected a lethal thrust that would end his brother’s life. Ermenred again lunged suddenly and Wulfhere only just managed to get his shield in the way. The fight was going badly for Wulfhere and everyone watching thought that it would end swiftly. When the Ealdorman struck again it looked as if it would catch Wulfhere in the throat but he twisted to the right and brought his shield up to hit Ermenred’s outstretched hand causing him to drop his spear. Wulfhere moved forward and Ermenred retreated slightly, drawing his seax. Wulfhere now had the advantage with his longer spear. They both stood and watched the other for both were breathing heavily from the exertion. Ermenred moved suddenly inside Wulfhere's spear but Wulfhere again used his shield to stop the blow. The collision knocked both men backward and both fell. Wulfhere had a cut on his arm that bled heavily but Ermenred had lost his seax in the collision and fall. Ermenred attempted to get up but he someone had placed a foot on his chest and he found that he was too exhausted to get out from underneath the force holding him down. When his sight cleared he could see the Ealdorman Hrof standing with his foot on his chest and his feared Great Axe, Widuwanwyrcend poised to strike. Hrof said to no-one in particular that before anyone decided to fight on his land he always insisted that they ask his permission. He said this was particularly relevant whenever someone invaded his lands and attacked his friends to whom he had extended guest nights and he looked hard at Ermenred. Ermenred said that he had not meant to offend Hrof and had only been seeking to get his property and wife back. He asked if Hrof would mind letting him get up as he felt it was undignified to remain lying on the ground. Hrof ignored him and asked Wulfhere what had happened. Wulfhere said that they had been escorting Cwen after she had divorced Ermenred when they had been attacked by the Ealdorman. Hrof asked if the divorce had been proclaimed according to the law and Uthric said it had and that he had been the witness. Cwen came forward and said that it had all been carried out properly and she confirmed that she still had the view that the wanted to divorce Ermenred. Hrof noticed the bruises on her face and asked how she had come by them as he thought they looked recent. He wondered perhaps if Ermenred had caused them. When Cwen confirmed it has been caused by Ermenred, Hrof grew more angry. He pulled Ermenred up by putting his fingers in the Ealdorman's nostrils. He asked Ermenred why he should not hang him from a tree for the crime of armed invasion. Ermenred was in pain but managed to say that if he had offended Hrof then he was more than happy to leave. However, he thought that he should insist that Cwen forfeit all of her possessions as they were in fact his and she had not brought anything as a dowry. Hrof said that in his opinion the disputed possessions were compensation for Cwen's bruises. Hrof said he also thought that Ermenred needed to pay wergild to Wulfhere for the wound to his arm. Hrof thought that Ermenred’s black stallion might be a reasonable wergild. He asked Ermenred if he had a different opinion but the Ealdorman could only say that he thought it was fair. Hrof released Ermenred and told him that it would be best for him to leave his land immediately. When he had gone Hrof greeted the Hrothgarsons and asked them if he could accompany them on their journey as far as his Hall. Wulfhere thanked him for the intervention and said he thought that things had not been going well for him and he was glad Hrof had come. Hrof said that they had both made an enemy of Ermenred that day but he was of the opinion that Ermenred was unlikely to bother him whereas the Hrothgarsons should think carefully before going back to Contaburgh. He thought it best to tell that Ermenred was known to be vindictive and took great pleasure in making life awkward to people he considered weaker than him. Hrof guested them for two days and when they were strong enough after their recent exertions, they left to return to Anderida. They parted on good terms with Hrof saying that he would be glad to have them as guests whenever they came this way again. Dunstan was having a difficult time deciding how to tell the Ealdorman Ælfrith and Æthlind that he was going to break the marriage contact. He sought advice from his brothers. Uthric was amused that there was any doubt about it and said his opinion was to divorce Gwenyth and marry Æthlind. Wulfhere said this was a more difficult decision. He thought they had already made enemies of one Ealdorman in Aelle’s kingdom and making an enemy of one so close to Aelle might not be all that good for their future prospects. Uthric said they should also remember they were responsible for humiliating Cœlfrith and for exposing him as a traitor. He thought that at this rate Aelle might be running out of Ealdormen. Wulfhere said that it might be that Aelle thought they were targeting his Ealdormen if he was suspicious about their motives. Dunstan did not like Uthric’s advice and thought maybe Wulfhere was over-complicating matters but he agreed to be tactful and sympathetic and not cause an incident that left hard feelings. When he told Gwenyth what had happened she was tearful and went to Wulfhere to tell him that he must not let Dunstan supplant her with Æthlind. Wulfhere said that while he had no say in Dunstan’s decision, he was sure that he would make the right choice. While Wulfhere went to get his children, Dunstan went alone to meet with Æthlind and her father. When he arrived Æthlind greeted him warmly and explained all the plans she had made. It was quite a while before Dunstan could interject and tell her that he had found Gwenyth. Æthlind talked to him for most of the morning and the end result was that Dunstan agreed that as he had contracted marriage with her, they would get married and he would set Gwenyth aside. Dunstan then left Æthlind and went to tell Gwenyth. She was upset at the decision and Dunstan was unsure how to console her. Uthric thought he should help and talked to Gwenyth and reassured her that Dunstan would make sure she was provided for and she would not be disgraced. On the way back to Pontes, Æthlind spoke at length with Gwenyth and it seemed to Dunstan that Æthlind was able to win her over with kind words and friendship. He was grateful for his new wife’s diplomacy skills.
  17. [Image is "Summoning," by Joseph Springborg] Here is how Mythras, page 113, defines sorcery:- Sorcery is the manipulation of underlying laws that directly control the very fabric of creation. These formulae are complex equations: a mixture of mathematical, psychological, existential, and supernatural principals [sic] that allow the sorcerer to grasp a portion of reality and bend it to his will. Sorcerers do not need to rely on gods for their powers; nor do they need to engage with spirits to achieve their effects. Their manipulation of these metaphysical equations makes sorcery very powerful and very flexible. The powers of sorcery are potentially vast, and they are terrifying. They can remove the very souls from people, topple palaces, and summon freakish forces, all at the whim of an individual's will. The most powerful sorcerers can unleash dreadful storms, spy on people kilometres away, or weave phantasms to confuse and beguile even the wisest of people. Oh, and they could also turn people into frogs, pillars of salt, blocks of ice, or into solid gold at a touch. But what is it like to be a sorcerer in Mythras? Viewed With Suspicion The Mythras Core Rulebook outlines one possible downside to sorcery, namely that society does not approve of them:- However, it also means sorcerers are viewed with suspicion, and even fear and hatred by those who come by their magic through less direct means. And, because sorcerers have little need for gods or spirits, it is not uncommon for them to develop a certain degree of arrogance and disdain for those who choose to venerate such entities. That is one way of viewing sorcerers. There are others. You are not, as a GM, forced to consider this as canon. Your setting's views on sorcery do not have to be the same as they are in anybody else's settings. Solitary Calling Your Adventurer could be called to perform sorcery as a Solitary - without the aid of a group, Order, Tradition, or cult. Solitaries are, by definition, leaders of their own Traditions, and as such they are beholden to no higher authority within the group. Your Adventurer is free to define their own Tradition, its Vision, and its Methods. That means that, in effect, they are writing their own Grimoire, including inventing their own spells. As a GM, you can work with the Player to establish which new spells your Adventurer character invents, usually during down time, and then let them spend the requisite Experience Rolls to inscribe their new spell into their Grimoire. In some settings, these spells may be new and unique: nobody else may have access to them. Similarly, the sorcerer may be responsible for developing their spells' Intensity and broadening their access to Shaping Points, as well as creating the Shaping factors for use with their spells - Duration, Magnitude, Range, and so on. Initially, they may only know how to extend the Durations of their spells, and be forced to have to operate at Touch Range until they learn how to apply Range to their spells, and so on. Later on, they can learn how to Combine spells to take advantage of the Range and Duration - and then discover how to use Targets on more than one object or person. The life of a Solitary could be one of experimentation and exploration. They can bring in the Alternate Shaping Components from page 165 of Mythras, inventing and developing them as if they were brand new - and they may indeed be, in the setting. Found Objects The sorcerer-to-be may discover their talent for sorcery through a Grimoire, a found object covered in a strange inscription, even a book of magic squares or a text like the Codex Seraphinianus or Voynich Manuscript. Studying the object can turn out to be the catalyst which awakens the Adventurer's abilities as a sorcerer (in other words, they can spend a single Experience Roll to unlock each of Invocation and Shaping during down time, rather than the usual heavy toll as described in Mythras, pages 118 and 119). Guided to Power Animists are not the only beings who are touched by the spirit. Spiritual beings may recognise their fleshly brethren and guide the fledgling sorcerer through dreams and visitations until they discover the Willworker within and unleash their Legacy of sorcery. Such beings are as much spirit as flesh, and are highly likely to learn, stumble across, or even invent Evoke as their first sorcery spell - along with Imprison, Protective Ward, and Spirit Resistance. Peer Recognition The Adventurer may be approached by a member of an existing sorcery Cult, and presented with an offer. The Adventurer may be plagued with terrifying dreams, signs of their impending Awakening. Perhaps they belong to the group through a family connection - The Legacy may have skipped a generation or three, but the Adventurer's so-called Black Sheep from two or three generations past might have been a prominent member of their Order, and your Adventurer stands to inherit the Grandmaster's ceremonial sash, though they'd have a long journey to obtain it. And perhaps they may be drawn to the Cult through the symbols in their dreams ... just as their counterparts within the Cult may be drawn to the newcomer and potential Initiate through strange, symbolic dreams of their own. Tolerance By The Community Your sorcerer Adventurer may also be involved in some way with the community of ordinary people in which they live during down time. They may have an acceptance of, and tolerance for, sorcerers in their midst, and call upon them to heal wounds through their healing magics, or to protect individuals from harm. Some sorcerers may only have a limited repertoire of sorcery spells, or low levels of Invocation and/ or Shaping; but what they lack in magical power, they may well more than make up for with knowledge of a vast range of Lore, Culture, Language and Literacy skills. Because Knowledge is Power, and not all knowledge needs to be magical - a sorcerer with sensory spells (see below) can be called upon to seek out missing children, lost herd animals, or even sources of water in a drought; and a mage with Transmogrify (to Water) can likewise prove to be a lifesaver if they can transform barrels of dry dirt into lifegiving water during the same drought. Birth of A Cult Your Adventurer may, given sufficient Charisma and experience in Influence skill, advance both in power and in leadership in the community. If they come from a Solitary Tradition, they can develop their mundane Influence, Insight, and Teach skills to begin to teach others the power of sorcery, imparting their wisdom (or their folly) on fresh minds, and spreading The Word abroad. And not just Invocation, Shaping, and spells - that Teach skill can help impart the Adventurer's experiences with Lore, Languages, Customs, Locale, Culture, Insight and so many other skills at which the Adventurer excels. Your sorcerer can become a great teacher, and if their teachings include spreading messages of love, light, tolerance, and community, their reputation for enlightenment might spread further than their sorcery prowess. Craft of The Wise Magic is called "The Craft of The Wise" for a reason, and the Adventurer's career delving into ancient tombs and infiltrating rival mages' towers can pay off in their later years as new Adventurers approach the former tomb delver for wisdom and advice. If the sorcerer emeritus has learned anything, it is that some cultures need to be approached with respect and treated with dignity, lest they turn on the arrogant and tear their souls to pieces. The Four Pillars The real world's practitioners of magic each learn of The Four Pillars long before they are exposed to their first workings. The Four Pillars are:- To Know; To Will; To Dare; and To Be Silent. In a Mythras game, often enough those Four Pillars are never mentioned, or even heard of, and sorcerers fling their fire spells willy nilly, in the street, in front of crowds. The average Games Master and Player may not have heard of the Four Pillars, and sometimes come away feeling that their showboating lacked something. Here's a clue: showboating lacks something, all right - mystique. The Fourth Pillar, the caution to remain silent, is there for a reason. It is through subtle means that a sorcerer can exercise their greatest power. People respect what they fear; and when they do not know what a sorcerer is capable of, they can learn to greatly fear that sorcerer - but also to respect them, because of their experiences and because of their reputation for having done so many things normal people can never do. Respect is the most effective form of protection a sorcerer can possess. If they show wisdom in their actions, and kindness, and empathy, and their philosophy is honourable, the sorcerer will be viewed as one who is above suspicion in the community. The Most Useful Spells What are the most useful spells a sorcerer can learn - or invent? Damage Resistance / Spell Resistance / Spirit Resistance - This suite of spells can easily and quickly be cast, or enchanted into a sorcerer's magical tools for instant casting, first thing every morning. They can be given an extended Duration to last all day, or - with sufficient Shaping factors - be extended to last for a number of days, requiring that the caster only need to recast them once a week or so. Banish - Useful to cleanse a possessed person, or an animal, object, or place which houses an unwanted spirit. Banish has its limitations, so exorcisms must be creative and occasionally involve deception and trickery to convince the possessing spirit to let go of its host. Acting and Deceit are highly recommended. Phantom (Sense) can be invaluable. Mark - So useful in many ways. The sorcerer may Mark someone and track them down over the Mark's Range, summon them, or target them at a distance. Mark can target the focus of Project (Sense) so the sorcerer can sense what is happening in and around the vicinity of the Marked person or object; and Mark can, of course, be used as the destination for a Portal spell to allow the sorcerer to safely travel immense distances in the blink of an eye. Sensory Spells - In my settings, sensory spells are among the first to be taught to any sorcerer, even before the trio of protectve spells of Damage Resistance, Spell Resistance, and Spirit Resistance. Four of the five kinds of sensory spells are Mystic (Sense), Perceive (Sense), Project (Sense), and Sense (Object or Substance). Each, in their own way, expands the sorcerer's perceptions beyond the mundane, allowing them access to knowledge they could not possibly know if they were mundanes. Sensory spells can be combined with Mark to discern the vicinity of Marked objects or people, or selected areas - a sorcerer who has enchanted a Mark on top of a mountain, for instance, can Project (Sense) and scout the horizon for distant changes in the weather; an urban sorcerer can similarly Mark the top of a tall tower and scan the streets of the city below, or Mark a trained bird and use Project (Sense) and Project (Sense) to see the world below through the literal eyes of a hawk. And the fifth sensory spell is possibly the most profoundly useful spell of them all. Intuition. This spell functionally enhances Insight skill to the point where a sorcerer can instantly, immediately, and accurately, gauge a person's feelings, motivations, Passions, even their flaws, hubris, and hamartia. Something they can learn through building up their regular Insight skill to mastery, but which can be done in a few seconds through this spell. The effect of this spell can be described as kind of like the flashback scenes in a detective drama, where the lead character explains how the killer did the crime, only the spell more or less grants the vision without the need for the target to make any kind of a confession - it is all laid out before them like clues before a Poirot or a Horatio Caine: scuff marks, stains on clothing, a quaver in the voice, a sudden dilation of the pupils, a shift in epidermal capillary blood distribution and body posture, laying the target's soul bare before the sorcerer's eyes. The sorcerer can use this along with Project (Sense) or Mark to read people long before they ever meet the sorcerer, granting the sorcerer an advantage for when they do meet. Forces Beyond Mortal Ken Besides the sensory spells, of course, sorcerers can learn spells from Animate (Substance) and Sculpt (Substance), to terrible spells such as Transmogrify (to Substance), Suffocate, Palsy, Shapechange (to Creature), Dominate (Creatures), Enslave (Creatures) and so on. There are several gamebreaking spells listed in Mythras Core Rulebook, and I do not mean Wrack. The spells include Trap Soul, Switch Body, and Hide Life. They are among the darkest spells one can encounter, because of their potential for use. A dying sorcerer may use Switch Body to swap out their own soul for their enemy; or they may escape death by temporarily hiding within an amulet, only to return to life in a new body some time down the line. A sorcerer may send one of their minions into an enemy's establishment, riding along in the body of some servant or similar minor character, to perceive what they perceive. Though they can use Mark and Project (Sense) to do the same, turning the hapless functionary into an unwitting, unwilling, moving surveillance device. Another spell to fear is Tap (Characteristic), which is not as efficient as Enhance (Characteristic) but which can be devastating enough to a group of enemies, because Tap temporarily drains the enemies of their targeted Characteristic. Again, not as efficient as Diminish (Characteristic), but a half-decent sorcerer can use either to reduce a team of bad guys to helplessness by depriving them of their STR, or DEX, or POW, or make them look like fools by suppressing their INT and/or CHA in a social setting. Undeniable Power The true power of sorcery is not the spells they learn, but rather what they do with those spells. Sorcerers are agents of change, wherever they go; and the more powerful the sorcerer, the less likely they are to show off what they can do - or even to feel the need to show that they are sorcerers at all. The currency of sorcery is enigma. The more enigmatic they are, the greater their command of the powers, both real and imagined. It is this currency which marks the Art of sorcery as the most profound of the magical Arts, if not the most feared. But if the Art is handled with bravery, and courage, and subtlety; and if the sorcerer always remembers their roots, and keeps their connections with their humble, mundane origins and community, they can be treated not with suspicion and fear, but with deep respect and loyalty, as Bringers of Wonder to their people - the meaning of the word thaumaturge.
  18. The Disappointing Meeting The Hrothgarsons returned to Hambladensted and set the lands in order. Dunstan’s steward, Aldfrid, had done a good job in collecting the rents and administering justice but he had been unable to convince the farmers to work on the fortifications. Dunstan said that he was concerned that the building of the stockade at Pontes was not going as quickly as he would have liked. He discussed it further with his farmers who said they would do what they could. Dunstan thought that he might have convinced them but said to Wulfhere that it might take an extended period when they were both present to get full co-operation. Wulfhere said that they needed to leave soon before winter to find their families. He did agree to speak to the farmers himself. Uthric showed the Iscans the land and asked them to choose where they wanted to live as a reward for their part in the Battle of Dunum. As a Dumnonian, Idwal was not keen to live near the Artrebates as they had a long history of conflict and despite Uthric’s encouragement to do so, Idwal and his men chose to settle near the southern bank ruins at Pontes. They started to build their farms and Uthric thought they would be content. There was disagreement among the Hrothgarsons about the best way to travel to Anderida. Uthric thought the quickest way was to go to Lundenwic and then south. Wulfhere thought while that would definitely be quicker, they should really go to Cissa Cæster and see Hildegard and Beorthric. He thought that Beorthric might have found more information, which would be useful in their search for their families. On the trip south, they stopped overnight in Glawmæd and were guested by the Þegn Wictred. Dunstan said he felt a bit depressed as he thought of the many good memories associated with Cædering and Glawmæd. When he discussed it with his brothers, they advised him to think of the future rather than the past. Uthric told him to remember that nothing lasts forever. On the journey to Hamafunta, Dunstan again became angry saying, and not for the first time, that he still believed Cerdic was partly responsible for the destruction of the three villages and capture of their families. Uthric and Wulfhere said that Dunstan must remember that Cerdic was their King and holder of their oaths but they let Dunstan continue to complain. They decided to skirt Hamafunta and took the forest road from Cælctun. Wulfhere thought it was best not to look for trouble and he thought the people of Hamafunta would not particularly be happy about their presence due to their very active part they had taken in the downfall of the Ealdorman Cœlfrith. At Cissa Cæster they met with Hildegard and Beorthric. Uthric and Wulfhere said that they needed to resolve the conflict with Beorthric and put the blood feud behind them. They acknowledged what he had done for their mother and the gifts he had given them. Wulfhere thought a small symbolic gesture would close the issue. Uthric said that he had looked forward to this day when they could work together. Hildegard hugged her sons and said that she thought at last they could be a family again. Beorthric presented each of the brothers with a new set of clothes. Wulfhere thanked him and Uthric was delighted with the quality of the clothes. He said they would look very splendid when they went to Anderida. Wulfhere said that he thought it was best if they did not go to Anderida looking prosperous. If they had to buy back their wives then they would be better not to look too wealthy. Beorthric was pleased that they liked his gifts. Hildegard said that they were made from their own weaving rooms. She said that she would be keen to re-unite the family and had wondered what their sons thought if she and Beorthric came north to live. Wulfhere and Uthric said they would both be welcome. Dunstan had not said anything throughout the exchange as he still did not trust Beorthric but both for his brothers’ and mother's sake he said nothing. Beorthric gave them information and told them to contact Wayard the Merchant in Anderida. He told them he had a lot of dealings with Wayard in the past and he would be helpful. They left Cissa Cæster and travelled on to Anderida. On the way to Anderida Uthric and Dunstan nearly came to blows. Dunstan had been telling Uthric that Gwenyth was the most beautiful woman he had met. Uthric said that Dunstan had been hit on the head too many times and in reality Gwenyth was rather plain if you compared her to Meire or even Bronwyn. Dunstan was not amused by Uthric’s point of view and had to be restrained by Wulfhere. When the Hrothgarsons arrived in Anderida they went to visit the Ealdorman Ælfrith. Ælfrith had been indebted to the Hrothgarsons for bringing his daughter back to him after Þegn Garm’s death. Ælfrith had also been helpful and had supported them at the Cyningmoot when they had accused Cœlfrith of acting illegally against Osberht. Ælfrith bade them welcome and listened intently to their tale of searching for their families. Ælfrith said that he would help them whatever way he could. He offered them rooms in his house but Wulfhere said he was unsure how Aelle would view their stay if he came to hear of it. He thought it best to stay in one of the taverns by the quayside. He asked Ælfrith if he knew Wayard the Merchant but Ælfrith said that he could add nothing to what they already knew of him. While they were talking, his daughter Æthlind came in to the room. She welcomed them and asked for their news. She paid particular attention to Dunstan but he tried not to encourage her. He said afterwards to Uthric that he needed to find Gwyneth before he dallied with other women. Uthric thought his younger brother might regret not returning Æthlind’s advances. Uthric reminded Dunstan that he had already ignored her obvious interest when they had previously travelled to Anderida. Dunstan said that he would rather get drunk than try to think of the intricacies of another relationship. Uthric reminded Dunstan that she was also the only child of a rich and powerful Ealdorman and that it would improve his standing. They stayed overnight in a tavern and agreed that in the morning they would meet with Wayard the Merchant to see if he had any news. Dunstan said that he found himself in a reflective mood and that the best ale in Anderida helped him recall all the bad things that had happened. He still blamed Cerdic for most of the events and neither Wulfhere nor Uthric tried to stop him from talking too loudly. Dunstan wondered if had been a mistake to put trust in anyone other than his brothers. He grew so melancholy that he almost got into a fight with a man called Osbryght. It was fortunate that Wulfhere was not as drunk as either Dunstan or Uthric and he managed to calm everyone down before getting Dunstan to bed. In the morning Wulfhere woke Dunstan and told him that they had previously agreed not to draw attention to themselves but Dunstan had nearly started a fight which would not have ended well. Dunstan could only mumble apologies. He told them that there was a high possibility that a whole gang of dwarven smiths were using the inside of his head as a smithy. Uthric by comparison was feeling good about the world and when he told Dunstan he needed to eat, his brother could only vomit in the empty hearth. Wulfhere told them he had found where he could find Wayard the Merchant from the Taverner. Wayard owned a shop near the Saehinwearf where he also had his storehouse. They went through the streets of Anderida and were amazed by the old Roman buildings that still stood. Some of the houses were three or four stories high and most were still occupied by families or businesses. Uthric tried to get Dunstan interested but Dunstan was still suffering from hammering dwarves inside his skull and had little capacity to listen and barely opened his eyes beyond a squint. Wayard welcomed the Hrothgar sons and told them that their father had told him that they would be looking for information from him. Wulfhere wondered how Hrothgar had been communicating as he had been dead for ten summers but managed to refrain from asking what might have been difficult questions when he realised Wayard was talking about Beorthric, their step-father. Uthric removed Dunstan before he said anything about Beorthric by making an excuse that Dunstan had the need for air. Wayard said that he had spoken with his friend Deorling Siredson who was married to Rhedyn. Rhedyn had originally come from Glawmæd and had been aware that Cenbeorht Earnwulfson had originally bought Bronwyn. Cenbeorht had given Bronwyn to his tenant Æwulf the Tanner and Æwulf had made Bronwyn his wife. Wulfhere thanked Wayard and offered him a gift but Wayard declined. He said he was happy to help since their father, Beorthric, had always been helpful to him. Wulfhere got directions from Wayard to Leðerwyrhtan Lanen and he said they should then ask for Æwulf by name when they got there. Wulfhere joined his brothers who were in the middle of a heated argument. Dunstan's dwarf smiths had calmed down for him to be able to raise his voice above a whisper. He was furious that Wayard had referred to Beorthric as their father. He reminded his brothers that Hrothgar was their father and that no-one else could take his place. Wulfhere said that they needed to be more pragmatic and sometimes being known as the Beorthricsons might be useful. Dunstan would have responded but the Dwarves started hammering again inside his head and he started retching. Wulfhere took them in the direction of Leðerwyrhtan Lanen where the tanners worked. They smelt the stink before they got there and reckoned that they would not have to ask for directions. The smell was overpowering and Dunstan thought that it would be impossible for him to live somewhere like this. Dunstan said that he disliked the fact that he could taste it in the air. Uthric said he thought that if Bronwyn lived here she would be only too glad to come back with Wulfhere. Wulfhere said that that remained to be seen and asked someone where he could find Æwulf. The man pointed to a yard that had one gate off its hinges. The courtyard was built of Roman walls but the house was a typical Saxon building. They could see a boy of about ten summers stir a pool of murky water with a pole twice his size. They stood watching at the gateway unsure what to do. Uthric said he thought that the smell would not get any better the longer they waited. Wulfhere went in through the gates and saw a man shovelling manure into another pool. He had been hidden by the walls of the yard. The man asked if he could be of help and Wulfhere introduced himself but stopped in mid-sentence when a heavily pregnant woman came out of the house. She was scolding some of the children who ran around her but stopped when she saw Wulfhere. She screamed and crumpled to the ground and both Wulfhere and the man ran toward her. The man reacted slightly before Wulfhere and he cradled the woman's head. Wulfhere was unsure what to do so he patted her hand. The two men stared at each other while the woman opened her eyes and said that as usual Wulfhere had come back too late before clutching her side in pain. The man cradling her head asked if the baby was coming early but the woman shook her head. The man and Wulfhere both helped her to her feet and the boy who had been stirring the tanning pit brought out a bench for her to sit on. Uthric was trying not to notice the awkward scene and when he had examined the tanning pits for some minutes, he went over to a crowd of grubby children that were clustered around the door of the house. He thought two of them might be young Wulfhere and Offa. He spoke in Brythonic and introduced himself as their father's brother, Uncle Uthric. The boys looked at him curiously but showed no sign of understanding him. The smaller child asked in Saxon if Uthric really was a warrior and that if so he might have been a bit bigger. Uthric said he thought size did not matter if you could use a spear properly and showed his skill by skewering the thatch. The boys did not seem very impressed. Dunstan noisily vomited in the corner of the yard drawing the attention of two dogs. Uthric said afterwards that Dunstan had obviously been sick because of the open affection Wulfhere was trying to convey to Bronwyn. Dunstan denied Uthric's assertion and said it was a combination of skull-hammering dwarves, the smell of the tannery and too much of Wiglac's best ale. Wulfhere was trying to talk to Bronwyn but she was not prepared to listen. She told him that as ever he was late in returning. She should have listened to Hildegard in this matter. Wulfhere told her that he had spent almost a year searching for her and had only just learnt where she was. He had come straight away and would like to have her back. Bronwyn said that while she would think over the matter he should not hold out too much hope. She told him that she was tired having to stay at home while he went off to wars. She was never sure if he would come home at all, whether she would be a destitute widow and never knowing what had happened to him. Bronwyn said that dealing with that uncertainty was not easy. She reminded him that he had told her when they married that he would be there with her. She said that they were lucky to spend more than one moon together throughout all of their marriage. Wulfhere said that he had now put things in order and they now had rich lands where she would be a KingsÞegn's wife. Bronwyn said that she was not interested in status but would rather have stability and someone that would be there for her. Æwulf might not have high status but he was a good man and didn't run off to wars every time his Lord said so. Æwulf was a little awestruck by three Lords and warriors in his yard. The mightiest seemed to know his wife well and he wondered what was going to happen. He thought it might not end well for him. One of the warriors was scaring the children and the other was amusing the dogs by vomiting on the wall. He asked the Lord if they wanted some ale and some of the stew his wife had prepared however no-one paid him any attention. Bronwyn was deep in conversation with one of the Lords. He was going to tell her to be less shrill but the man looked forlorn rather than angry, so he held his tongue. Wulfhere was pleading with Bronwyn to come with him but she put her hands over her ears and said that it might be best if he left as she did not want to hear his arguments anymore. Wulfhere said that he was heartbroken and had hoped that together they might have made a dynasty. Bronwyn said that this talk was now in the past and she thought it better that he should talk of dynasties with someone else as she had no interest in going to the north and she would remain with Æwulf. Wulfhere said that he was disappointed in her response and would have preferred a different outcome. He did think if that was her final decision that they should then discuss their sons’ future. He said he would prefer if his sons came with him. Bronwyn said that this would not be her choice but agreed that they might have better prospects as the sons of a KingsÞegn rather than the sons of a tanner. Uthric came to stand beside Wulfhere as he thought Wulfhere had run out of words and he wanted to know if Bronwyn had any other information on either Meire or Gwenyth. Bronwyn said that both Lucnot and Gwenyth had been taken to Contaburgh but she had no message from them since they were separated. Uthric thanked her for the news and wished her well. Wulfhere said that he would come back in the morning for the boys and he left. Uthric thought he should help Dunstan who seemed to be resting with his eyes closed in the shade of the yard wall. One of the two dogs was playing with his cloak and the other was chewing his shoe but Dunstan did not seem to notice. Uthric took Wulfhere to a tavern as he seemed unable to make decisions himself. He forbade Dunstan to order ale and made him drink beer instead. Dunstan tried to cheer Wulfhere by telling him that if any woman chose urine pits and a tanner to a KingsÞegn then perhaps he had not chosen so well in the first place and she lacked ambition. It might be better to think of a different future. The conversation became rather morose even though Dunstan felt better after they ate some food. He thought that perhaps it was a mistake looking for their families and that they should move on with their lives. Uthric said that he needed to know about Meire before moving on. Dunstan thought that it wasn't worth it. He thought that he might go and talk to Æthlind as he really had no hope that Gwenyth had still any interest in him. Wulfhere said very little and the brothers hoped that he would get back to his usual self soon. They talked to him about horses but Wulfhere's demeanour did not improve. Uthric and Dunstan thought that maybe they should go back to the Ealdorman Ælfrith's house as it would be safer and they worried that Wulfhere would pick a fight in the tavern. When they arrived at Ælfrith 's house they were told by the servants that he was out at the Wittan but Æthlind was in the house and she welcomed them. She arranged food and made them feel welcome. When Æthlind sat close to Dunstan he responded to her overtures. After they had finished eating and it grew dark she took him to her chamber. In the morning Wulfhere told Uthric that he had made a decision. They would travel to Contaburgh and seek out Gwenyth and Lucnot. If they travelled to Lundenwic they could take the east road through Hrofnacæster and ask Hrof if he had news of Ealhwyn and Meire. They would leave Wulfhere's children with Bronwyn for the time while they tried to find out what happened to the others. Dunstan was late to arrive for the morning food and he looked as if he had not slept. He said that while Wulfhere arranged things with Bronwyn he would be asking Ælfrith for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Uthric laughed and said it looked like dwarves hammering in the skull had at last made Dunstan see some sense. Wulfhere was surprised but offered his congratulations. Dunstan said that he had come to the point where he could take no more. This had not been his plan but he thought it was now time to face reality and that it was highly unlikely that Gwenyth would want him back. Too much time had now passed and he felt it better to make new arrangements. He said that he had had time to think about his situation and that he should have married Æthlind when they first came to Anderida. After the arrangements were made with Ælfrith and Bronwyn the Hrothgarsons left to go to Hrofnacæster.
  19. One of the most potent storytelling techniques in anybody's arsenal is immersion. Without it, your players cannot really appreciate the setting you have laid out for your characters. Immersion is, in short, a state of mind in which the players are so invested in the unfolding game that they can forget they are in a game at all, and actually live out the adventure in character. Immersion is the reason why some game settings just take off, and others fall flat on their face. The Power of Immersion The most important point about immersion is that it starts with the game author - whoever is designing the scenario for the players. This might not becessarily be the Games Master who will be running the game, but often enough it is. If the writer of the game creates a compelling enough setting, or campaign, or even just a single scenario, for the game, they will feel the power of immersion while writing it. It can be so powerful that writers who immerse themselves in the setting can become lost in it - whether they are writing fiction, designing a setting, or creating a game within that setting. The secret to immersion is to present that feeling of being drawn in and lost in the setting, in such a way as to draw in the Games Master (if they are not the game setting's creator) and also to draw in the readers or players. Creating Immersion Engaging Characters In a work of fiction, a character must be presented as sympathetic, somehow, possessing qualities of heroism or benevolence which mark that character as a protagonist to the reader. In a Mythras game, the character can be created with appropriate powers and abilities - but more importantly, they must come across as being the sort of exceptional person to whom the community turns; a member of the only group of characters who can solve the problems presented to them by the Games Master. Similarly, a character is more likely to be an enjoyable figure to work with if their abilities and personas jibe with the rest of the group. A combat-orientated character might not get along with a team predominantly composed of investigators or social climbers in a game of political intrigue. Engaging Setting Likewise, the setting must be something that is not only appealing to the players, but a place worthy of being defended. Immersion in the setting, in a game, is pretty much the same as it is for a written work - the players must feel as if they are living there, letting the place surround them and bring them to life. The players must want to live in the setting, whether it is the setting of Perceforest, or Lyonesse, or Worlds United, or Fioracitta. Sensory Immersion This is probably the aspect of gaming immersion that most strongly involves hypnotic elements. It is not enough to tell; you must show. Examples:- 'You've been marching through this forest for so long. You come across a tree which looks so familiar, and you feel a chill of apprehension as you begin to suspect you may have been walking in circles.' 'You can't identify the stench coming through the now-opened door of the laboratory. Perhaps you don't want to.' 'Candlelight, and incense, and a low, indistinct choir singing somewhere nearby. The sandstone of the walls feels pitted, smoothed down - countless hands must have rubbed off on this darkened spot on the wall, smoothing down the stone. This is the place all the pilgrims wanted to come to; the smooth spot on the wall, supposedly the place where their Saint laid their hand and performed some miracle. But it just feels like smooth, cold, eroded stone to you.' Sustaining Immersion Once you've created a sense of immersion, you must sustain it throughout the adventure, possibly the campaign. Engaging Plots What makes a plot engaging? For the players, it could be the promise of treasure, or a desperate need to stop some bad guys. Which means you have to make the antagonists compelling, too. This does not mean that you have to add new tricks to old undead, making zombies leap about and climb walls for instance. It means having an antagonist whose scheme poses a credible threat, if not to the characters, then to their way of life. The protagonist is doing something bad, and only the player characters can stop them. The plot becomes engaging if the characters want to stop the antagonist, possinly without needing to be prompted by the Games Master. Plausibility There is no greater power of verisimilitude in a story than plausibility. Is the antagonist believable? Are their goals achievable? The fact that they are not remotely desirable is irrelevant; if the antagonist can destroy the characters' whole town and only home, and they demonstrably want to do so, the Games Master can ramp up the threat by having to characters work out how and why. Stakes The most important hook to keep the player characters in the game is stakes. The characters must have a stake, and they must want to do whatever it takes to protect that stake. Examples of stakes include family and loved ones living in the characters' town; the characters' town or neighbourhood; a neighbourhood which will pay for the characters' protection from some marauding force; a rich financial reward from the patron who needs the characters to see a task through which they cannot do. Or something less tangible, such as the characters' reputation, or a rescue or escort mission, or the completion of a diplomatic, trade, or courier mission. Sometimes, the stake can be something owed to oneself, and a need to know that a character can still perform a task they once could do routinely - for example, Athletics after having been injured during a fumbled Athletics check. The Payoff of Immersion The whole aim of immersion is to draw in the players with the promise of a memorable experience that is as much lived and enjoyed as a real life experience. The Games Master must be able to immerse the players into the game, and the only way to do this is to immerse yourself into the game; to run the game out in your own mind, both from the viewpoint of protagonists and the antagonists. The best sort of immersion is so deep that players can find themselves dreaming about the characters and the setting. Of course, as the Games Master you could find yourself dreaming out the adventures yourself, living in the setting, running the scenarios in your dreams. But that's all part and parcel of giving the players a memorable game, one which will stick in their memories, possibly for years to come.
  20. Of all the rules of Mythras,the chapter on Theism has the potential to provide the greatest contention, because it covers the topic of the player characters' religion. Devotion is one of two non-mundane skills used by theists. The other skill, Exhort, is used to invoke Theistic Miracles. But what exactly is Devotion about, anyway? Holiness Can people really measure someone's holiness by a number? Could a religion's Pontiff really throw down some badass righteous smiting from on high? The Mythras Core Rulebook would seem to maintain that it is so. Mythras Core Rulebook says this about Devotion:- The ‘skill’ is more accurately a relationship the theist has with an individual god, a small faction or family of divine beings, or indeed an entire pantheon. This makes Devotion a little different to the magical skills such as Folk Magic or Invocation. It also makes Devotion very different to the skills used by the closest thing to Theism, namely Animism. With Animism, the two magical skills are Trance and Binding - neither skill involves a relationship with the spirits, and animists are obligated to make their own relationships. There is one class of rated traits which does resemble Devotion, and it is not skills. It's Passions. Devotion, in the end, is a form of Passion. Divine Love Like a Passion, Devotion can be used as a resistance roll - Devotion is a measure of one's faith to withstand psychological or physical torture or coercion, according to Mythras Core Rulebook:- Devotion can potentially be used to resist various psychological attacks, tests of faith or contests of competing passions. A character who has Devotion can draw upon their Faith to look at the worst the world has to hold, and come through their trials "bloody, but unbowed," to paraphrase Henley's poem "Invictus." This is true, even if they do not possess the other Theist skill of Exhort, which is used to call upon the deity's portfolio of Miracles. Divine Grace The Core Rulebook describes Devotional Pools of Magic Points, offered up by the Theist (who spends their Magic Points, but who can recover them) to power their Miracles. Theists must keep these Pools topped up in order to pay for the Miracles. This is where one of the Laws of Games Mastery comes in, and it is this. There is no such thing as a Law of Conservation of Magic Points. Exactly where those points come from is irrelevant. They can come from the Theists themselves (who may fill up their Devotional Pools before retiring to bed), from other Adventurers who donate their Magic Points ("Hey, guys, I know we're trapped in this dungeon, but I can call upon my god to help out, so can we have a quick Black Mass to my Dark God before we go on? I can find a small animal to sacrifice, so nobody needs to cut their wrists much, but ... where are you going? Guys?") or they can come from a congregation at a site sacred to the deity, such as a shrine or a Temple. This, by the way, is where the rule comes from that the Theist must return to a place of worship to "top up the tank" (which makes it sound crass and tawdry, like returning to their bank's ATM to withdraw cash to fill up their wallet). It is so much easier to hold a Mass in a Temple, surrounded by light and incense, and the echoing choral music from the nave, than trying to slit a rat's throat in the middle of a foetid midden. This is where it's far more advantageous to worship light gods than Dark Maggot or Demon Ganglion or whatever: such gods provide greater societal acceptability, and greater access to Devotional Magic Points donated by the much larger congregation (when you have 150 lay congregants donating 1 Magic Point each to the deity, your Theist's Devotional Pool can get filled up very quickly. Consider it like receiving a 10% commission on sales). Acting Divine The box text on page 179 of the Core Rulebook, Acting Like Your God, is an optional rule which ties the Theist more closely to their deity. As Devotion increases, a combination of peer pressure and society's expectations demand that Theists with high Devotion act more and more like their deities, somehow. The inspiration for this comes from a book, Thomas Kempis' The Imitation of Christ, which basically stated that Christians should become more like Christ to show their devotion to the Faith. Again, it is very difficult to imagine Theists rising very high in Devotion to Dark Maggot if that were the case. An alternative mechanism to Devotional Magic Points pools, outlined in Fioracitta, the Heart of Power, is Divine Grace Points. These represent divine favour, and they are bestowed by the deity (for which, read "the Games Master") to followers who make sacrifices and perform devotional acts pleasing to the gods, ranging from attending regular Masses, donating to charities, giving one's time and energies to helping patients in hospitals and so on. The higher one's Devotion, the greater the Divine Grace Points bestowed - though a deity who is particularly pleased by their human child may well bestow a full load of Divine Grace Points to a barefoot lay member who just crawled up to the altar, while bestowing a mere 1 Grace Point to the dazzlingly-vested High Priest looking down upon the ragged beggar at his feet. Such are the ways of deities. Behavioural changes can take the form of new Passions, as the Devoted follower begins to acquire traits favourable to their deity such as Charity, Honesty, Lust, Humour, Honour, Wisdom, or Courage. I avoided counting Chastity as a virtue, because seriously, Chastity gets you nowhere. The Mundane In Service to The Numinous Theists could work their mundane Standard and Professional Skills in service to their deities. A deity of strategic warfare might reward leaders who advance in Lore (Tactics & Strategy), and a god of commerce could bless a follower with a high skill in Commerce and Bureaucracy. A Goddess of Wealth (such as Harnworld's Halea) could reward Theists who invest their own money (rather than Church money) in local businesses. This reward could take the form of increased opportunities for Commerce and Bureaucracy, and even the occasional (somewhat hot) Behold Miracle to show the Goddess' favour. In contrast, the god Agrik (a war god from Harnworld) could show his favour to a Devoted priestess, before a battle with the uptight goddess Larani, with a (really hot) Behold Miracle to show the priestess the throne room and battle room which await her in the fiery fortress of Balgashang, in the Agrikan Harnic afterlife, if she wins. You don't want to know what he shows her if she loses. If a Player of a Theist declares that they are performing a Church-approved mundane skill as an act of dedication to the deity (for instance, a Theist of a God of Labour using Crafts (Tailoring) to create a priestly vestment to donate to their Church, or (for example in Fioracitta) a worshipper of Verdia who goes off to the forests in the foothills of the Millagra Mountains to use Locale to look for forage to feed the homeless people of Outer Gioconda), they are likely to fulfil the deity's demands on their time, the payment for the Divine Grace Points (or Devotional Magic Points Pools, if you are using the Theism rules from the Mythras Core Rulebook). The key is selflessness. The gods favour selfless Devotion. Deities depend on their congregations believing in them and showing virtuous behaviour (which depends on the deity - what is virtuous to a goddess of wisdom, knowledge, industry, and war is very different to a goddess of love, lust, hedonism, and commerce), so grand acts which benefit the congregation (such as defending a village of the faithful, or leading a congregation of the Goddess of Lust through some rite of mad abandon) will benefit the Theist far more than selfish behaviour. Politics versus The Divine This is the part that Mythras Core Rulebook tends to get dead wrong. More often than not, in any organised religion the fancier robes are not always worn by the most Devoted or pious. More powerful even than market forces are the forces of politics, and Churches are hotbeds of politics, cowboy diplomacy, corruption, and betrayal. Devotion has little room at the upper echelons of ecclesiastical power. It is highly likely that the highest Masses are little more than an exercise in Oratory and Customs, the greatest charitable acts are mere exercises in Courtesy, and the wealth of the Church is nothing more than the exercise of Commerce skill as the supposedly-holy shrine skims 10% off the top of the proceeds of sales of all the tawdry trinkets and "holy water" flasks being sold by all the vendor stalls surrounding the entrance to the shrine. In truth, the Devotees with the strongest visions, or the more powerful miracles, are not often well-regarded by their Churches. A Devoted Theist who has access to some powerful Miracle such as Propitiation can be useful to the Church - but if they begin to rail against institutional systemic injustice, or protest that the Mother Church is exacting too high a financial toll on the peasantry, the Church is often likely to arrange for the martyrdom and beatification of the Devoted Theist and the construction of a shrine to draw the pilgrims, and their money. Fioracitta I have to make a personal pitch for Fioracitta, The Heart of Power here, because part of the heart of the book and setting is Faith. Tamaggia, Venea, and Tazar all meet in Fioracitta, along with Ellah, Schiova, Vecsu, Hirouar, Isaa, Shai-Hebul and so many others. The city is bustling with so many different Faiths, and this was a deliberate choice on my part because Fioracitta, as it is, is a kind of Renaissance-like Babylon for Adventurers. The city's setting, and its rules, are aimed towards sandbox play, meaning that Adventurers can explore whatever their Faith means for them, and for those who surround them. One Adventurer's pious Tamaggian Theist might find it difficult to get along with their wild, Pagan Venean counterpart, but she might learn to accept the Venean's less-inhibited attitude to life, as the Venean might also pick up some restraint and propriety from her Tamaggian friend. This would not affect either Adventurer's Devotion in the slightest - but both could grow during the campaign as their characters mature and become more tolerant. Faith In The Game In the end, Theism is about each Adventurer's Faith in their deity. That Faith can help them to progress within their Church's hierarchy, but it is more likely that Adventurers will encounter politics and Machiavellian shenanigans within their Church, meaning that in the end, the Adventurers' Faith is entirely personal. Not that it makes their Miracles any less powerful - but when an Adventurer's life contains an element of Faith, their story arc is going to be about how much meaning that Faith gives them - and whether or not their Faith Manages.
  21. This article is about spirits, and animism, and animists, and about animists in a Mythras game. Here's what the Mythras Core Rulebook has to say about animism. Animism is magic worked through communion with spirits and the spirit world. It is the magic of shamans and spirit walkers. Such practitioners do not treat with gods or learn their abilities from books or tomes; instead their powers come from the myriad spirits that inhabit the spirit realms, and interact occasionally with the mundane world. As far as Adventurers go, what ever is the point of animists? They take up to an hour to get into the right trance state, they just sit there chanting while everybody is fighting, and when they bring back a spirit ally it's an invisible, intangible presence which might as well not be there. What good is an animist if they can't pick up a sword or fire off spells? World of Spirits To an animist, the whole world is sacred. Every part of the world - rocks, plants, the sky, the rivers - is alive, and their souls are the spirits. An animist has only two powers, to speak of - Trance skill, and Binding skill. Unless they also moonlight as sorcerers or Folk Magicians, or they also worship a deity as theists, an average animist has no access to spells. Relationships and Connections Animists' power comes from the connections they make with the spirit reflection of the earthly realm. As intermediaries, their job is to bridge this world and the other one; to intercede between people and the spirits. They are medicine people, because most of what they bring to the world is medicine - cures and healing of physical, emotional, and even mental ailments, injuries and wounds. The animist makes connections with the spirits. They know the spirits by name. Their traditions allow the animist to call upon those spirits for aid, or for divination, and so on. This is important enough to describe below. Animist Traditions Every nation has its own animist traditions, and examples of such include real-world animist practices such as shamanism. The word "shaman" possibly comes from a Tungusic word saman, meaning "one who knows." In Mythras, animist traditions can be created which bear a resemblance to real world animist traditions such as Shinto, and hopefully these analogues can be created with a little cultural sensitivity so as not to offend people for whom their local animist tradition is of real cultural significance. Real world animist traditions have often very different mythologies, ways, practices, and taboos. It is not as if every animist is cut from the same cloth, all around the world. Strengths An animist's power comes from their relationships and connections with the spirits. The strength comes from the understanding that the spirits mark aspects of the world - the winds, tides, water currents, mountains, storms, fires, animals, plants, and landscape features of nature, and the hearths and streets of human cities. Nature's Power The power of spirits can be called up to attack the animist's enemies in the form of storms, tsunami, rip tides, animal attacks, curses and diseases, spirits of a location (genius loci) attacking interlopers, crop failures, infertility, and technological failures, failures to communicate and even financial disasters in the human realm. The most versatile abilities of spirits include Comprehension - the ability to converse with creatures associated with the spirit, such as wolves to a wolf spirit, or cats for a cat spirit; Demesne - the control of a spirit over a location with which it is associated, such as a natural glade, a street corner, or a hearth; Domination - the ability to command all associated creatures; Passion - the ability to infuse powerful emotions, usually in people; and Puppeteer - the ability to possess and manipulate a body, usually a person's body. Echoes In a city, the reflection of the spirit world can take on some of the features of the original nature spirits which it replaced. A street built over what used to be a meadow can acquire some strange characteristics from the original meadow spirit which used to dwell there. The street might be known as Meadow Street; there might be a florist on the corner; and the locals might all have gardens full of brightly coloured flowers, or flowerboxes hanging over balcony railings. A bend in the road which is notorious for accidents might have hungry death spirits lurking nearby to feast off the corner's deadly bounty. They may not be the cause of the black spot, but the locus itself might be generating a large, deadly spirit of its own. Possession Spirits may also, in some cases, possess a being, occupying their bodies overtly or covertly through Covert Possession or Puppeteer. Spirit possession may allow the spirits to communicate to the people either through the body of the animist who channelled them, or through someone whom the spirit possessed, in order to utter prophecy or to communicate. Exorcism The animist can be called upon to remove a possessing spirit from a person, by discorporating and entering the spirit world, then engaging with the spirit in combat. This is one way that an animist can help solve a possession - the other way being to use a bound spirit to do the job for them, such as a fetch, or a Medicine Spirit to attack a Disease Spirit. Animists In Game An animist can do their best work if they can call upon the spirits of an area to help out. An animist can ask for help from a spirit of nature, who can guide them to safety through a hazardous environment. They can ask the spirits to help in the hunt by channelling a wolf spirit, permitting the animist to think and hunt and track like a wolf. The spirits of medicine can possess the animist, granting them the spirit's healing abilities. Ancestor spirits can be brought in to help bless a family lineage; spirits of a specific beast, such as a beast of burden, can be brought in to a farm or similar establishment to bless the herd with fertility during the breeding season, or the spirit of a wild beast summoned to aid an animist against their enemies by driving those animals to turn and attack the animist's enemies. On the street, a spirit of humanity (street spirit, park spirit, hearth spirit, business spirit) can help provide an urban animist with knowledge of the area - which street corners see the most accidents (usually marked by clouds of death spirits hanging around them); whether an area is good or bad for a business (animism could be verging on a kind of feng shui); and whether or not a business is entirely legitimate or has some secrets in its back rooms. Animists work best with the environments they are passing through. And if a local spirit is not handy, animists can still help out, by bringing in spirits bound into fetishes to unleash upon the area, causing such strange events as fish falls from the sky, odd animal sightings, unexpected business collapses, or even extremely localised fires or flooding. A swamp spirit released from a fetish into a field on the eve of battle could turn that battlefield into a deadly mire of soft mud for any cavalry and infantry advancing through the area. A fire elemental could wreak havoc for that enemy, who would be sitting targets unable to advance or withdraw due to the cloying mud underfoot. The Animist As Protagonist A movie, The Emerald Forest, focused on a non-local American boy who became involved with an animistic tribe in the rain forest. The movie explored the boy's gradual learning of their customs, ultimately to the point where he brought down a dam by causing an intense rainstorm to build up the river's levels beyond the dam's ability to hold back the waters. Animism in the real world may not have such profound effects (we can only wish), but in a fantasy game the power of animism can do incredible things. As a player of an animist, you just need to know how to respect and venerate your spirits, and the land which creates them. Animism In Your Game As a Games Master, you get to choose what the local spirits are in the environment, and where they can be found. If every place has a soul, the animist can call upon their Trance skill to see the spirit echo of the material world, and to call upon them and petition them for aid. From helping them with Locale, Navigation, and Streetwise skill checks, to obtaining knowledge they could not obtain through Perception alone, an animist can make themselves valuable assets to the adventuring party. More than being able to scout out a battlefield or to attack the shadows; given enough time to prepare, the animist can marshall those shadows and turn the very battlefield itself against the enemy. Just give the team's animist time to get a feel for the lay of the land. That is all the adventurers need to assure victory.
  22. This article takes a look at an aspect of each Adventurer's makeup which is rarely used, except in dire circumstances as an "extra save roll" when the resistance skills have failed, and before the player uses up a Luck Point to make the problem go away. This article is about Passions. Core Rulebook Mythras, page 282, has this to say about Passions. Bolded parts highlighted by me. Throughout all kinds of fiction, and especially in fantasy, passion drives the plot. The desire to save the world from the evil dark lord; to pursue and gain power; to quest for glory and lost wisdom; to defend, find or avenge love. The variations are limitless and the Passions system is capable of handling them all. Every individual is driven by some sort of passion. Passions both inform and cloud choices. The heart governs the head, and rational thinking is replaced by that overwhelming compulsion a true passion brings. There is nothing we will not do to save our loved ones. Our loyalty to leader or country drives us to selfless acts. Passions impel us, and in Mythras the Passions mechanics can help drive an entire campaign. Passionate Themes How and where could Games Masters and Players implement Passions in a Mythras game? - Passions can drive an individual's choices. An Adventurer who has a loved one back home, and a Passion to love that person, will move mountains to see that person again at the end of the adventure. Another Adventurer, for instance a Fiorese from the time of the Bragoni Occupation, might find their Passion clouding their decisions, such as the Adventurer being forced to rescue a hated Bragoni from the people who had conquered his beloved city of Fioreste (which would be renamed Fioracitta). - An adventure can be themed about a single Passion. An Adventurer could learn, at the conclusion of a story, that their beloved father, who'd died when the Adventurer was young (during a Background Event), had in face been murdered: his death had been ordered, and it had been covered up to look like an accidental death. The Adventurer might find themselves with a new Passion, Identify (My Father's Killers) or Avenge (My Father's Killers) - and this could lead them into an adventure further down the line when the Adventurer learns that a fugitive from the law has fled the city, and that the fugitive can identify who had arranged for the death of the Adventurer's father. The Adventurer, driven by this Passion, could argue with their Ally that the Adventurer should go with the posse comitatus, over the express wish of the Ally that the Adventurer keep their nose out of this. The Adventurer could be torn by the need to keep the fugitive alive until the Adventurer can extract what they need to know. This could lead to conflict with a Patrol member (possibly even the Ally) who wants to bring the fugitive home dead, rather than alive. - Passionate Character. What if the Adventurer's Passions were all greater than their highest skills? What if they did what they did out of their Passion of Love, rated at 103%, 30% more than their Art or Craft skills, or Unarmed, or any of their Combat Styles? An Adventurer might only have mediocre levels of characteristics and skills, but their Passion might drive them to win at all costs, whether that Passion be to Love (a recurring loved one) or Prove (aliens exist) or Identify (whoever abducted my sister). Say hello, Fox Mulder. - Augmentation. Passion can boost even the most mundane skill check. It might make all the difference if an Adventurer's 45% Athletics check were boosted, in a chase, by the driving need to catch up to the fleeing quarry in order to beat the living daylights out of them for what they just tried to do to the Adventurer's sister. Passionate Settings What is it about a Passion that can transform what sounds like a mundane setting into a high-stakes story that keeps the players on the edge of their seat? How can a Passion transform a game from a simple exercise in number-crunching into a legendary quest, or a story of deeds of valour worthy of song? Let's look at some examples of popular media settings themed around Passions. Star Trek is driven by the need "to explore strange new worlds. To seek new life and new civilisations. To boldly go where no-one has gone before." Babylon 5 was "our last, best hope for peace," until it failed in the year of the Shadow War, where it became "our last, best hope ... for victory." Doctor Who is driven by the need for compassion and urgency - "Never be cruel. Never be cowardly." "Hate is always foolish, and love is always wise." "Always try to be nice, but never fail to be kind." "Just show up, and don't be horrible." No, wait - that's Peter Capaldi's advice, not The Doctor's. Ignore the bit about the pears. Pears are great. When other people are eating them. Farscape's Passions, too, changed. In the beginning, the monologue was:- Help me. Listen, please. Is there anybody out there who can here me? I'm being hunted by an insane military commander. Doing everything I can. I'm just looking for a way home. However, from the third season on, the monologue had changed, revealing the new underlying Passions of the show:- If you can hear me Beware If I make it back Will they follow? If I open the door Are you ready? Earth is unprepared Helpless For the nightmares I've seen Or should I stay Protect my home Not show them You exist But then you'll never know The wonders I've seen Driven by so many needs: the need to go home; the need to stay with his partner and found family; the need to help his partner and friends; the need to survive a coming war; the need to keep Earth safe; even the need to get a terrifying secret out of his head. No wonder the protagonist seemed to be more than a little mad, in the end - all those Passions kept tearing him apart. Impassioned Play A Passion can define an Adventurer more than their highest skills. An Adventurer with, say, Love as their Passion can become renowned as a Great Lover for their deep Passion for another - even if they could have higher renown as a Great Warrior (with a really high Combat Style) or a Great Magician (with Invocation and Shaping both over 100%). Even if the Passion were only hovering around 50%, that Passion could be what defines the Adventurer, simply because more of their adventures are themed around that Passion than any of their other qualities, skills, or resources. A Great Lover could be driven by the need to experience and share that Love Passion, possibly in a number of people's bedchambers or only in the eyes and heart of one. An Adventurer whose core Passion was Fear (Enemy) could be forced to confront and overcome that terrible Fear in all kinds of situations, to the point where they acquire a new Passion of Bravery. Epic Ingredient Passions bring an epic element to a setting, campaign, and individual stories. A scenario set in some dungeon disconnected from the world, little more than an exercise in crunching numbers, can never match a scenario with an attached Passion such as Avenge (My Father's Killer). A Passion can lead to a major showdown with the lead antagonist, not to simply reduce the enemy to zero Hit Points or to ensure a victory condition and end the scenario, but to satisfy a driving need to defeat this particular foe, to avenge a loved one, or to overcome a lifelong fear of this enemy which has plagued the protagonist for most of their life. In other words, victory can mean something crucial for the Adventurers. It can be personal. And it can be epic. Final Thoughts From The Core Rulebook The Core Rulebook has this to say about Passions. Games Masters can use Passions in a variety of ways, designing entire scenarios around the feelings that a character holds for a particular subject or antagonist. These can be very fulfilling for players, especially when they begin to vicariously experience the emotions gripping their characters. This is a lesson for every Games Master and Player. By including Passions which are close to the Passions the Players have, the Games Master can create scenarios which give the Players as much of a sense of fulfilment as their Adventurers would feel. Passions, therefore, make their exploits in the game world memorable and worthy of long discussion - because even if the Adventurers' Passions are only as real as the Adventurers are, the Passions experienced by the Players are real. And that includes the Passion Care For (The Adventurers).
  23. [Cover image is from https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b6/Atelier_von_Rahmenmachern_und_deren_Werkzeuge_im_18._Jahrhundert.jpg] One of the more overlooked issues about Mythras adventuring is what equipment the Adventurers are carrying while out on a campaign. The basic tool lists on pages 60, 61 of Mythras and page 88 of Fioracitta are good guidelines as to what one could expect to take on an adventure, but there is still a need to plan in advance for the adventure. The equipment an Adventurer would be expected to carry depends on the environment, and on the nature of the adventure. This article's purpose is to get the Games Master and Players to think about the logistics of adventuring, and to provide a sense of immersion as the Players enter into the Adventurers' spirit, as they trek through the countryside on their adventures. Standard Armour and Weapons Just to make things easier for each Adventurer, have the players choose their primary melee weapon (e.g. staff, sword, rapier, axe, hammer), secondary melee weapon (e.g. club, dagger, hand axe), and one ranged weapon if their Combat Style includes it (e.g. dagger, bow, crossbow). No more than those three weapons. Those are included in their kit. It is also a good idea to have every Adventurer wear the same type of armour, such as a 2AP Quilted / Padded armour. Each piece is made separately, and put on once they reach the destination. Each such suit provides the same AP protection to all Hit Locations, costs about the same, and has a standard ENC load. Pack Each Adventurer needs the following, for adventures which require travel. Backpack Bedroll Flint and Tinder / firemaking kit Knife (cutting tool, not a weapon) Lantern, basic Lock picks Mirror (hand glass) Mug/Beaker/Dish/Plate (wood or ceramic – double price for metal) Oil flask Razor, folding Rope (hemp), 10m Waterskin or Canteen (holds 2 litres of liquid) Rations - Feeding The Party Every adventuring party is going to have to carry food, particularly if they are travelling cross-country and in environments where foraging is expected to be poor. It is generally accepted that 1 kg of trail rations (biscuits, dried vegetables, cured meat) will sustain someone for two days. With the Preserve Folk Magic cantrip, that food can be kept practically indefinitely if some form of attempt at preservation is made (and yes, carefully wrapping them up in greaseproof paper counts). Here is where Survival and Locale skills become essential, naturally - but Craft (Cooking) is also overlooked.All of the above basically amounts to the bare minimum kit needed of an adventuring party in the wilderness. The rations should last for one to two weeks before running out; supplemented by forage, they could last for a month's travel. That presumes that the Adventurers will be hiking on foot to their destination. There is a listing for feed for one's mounts listed on the table on page 60, but assume that beasts of burden are going to need to eat a lot more than one kilogram of hay per day - again, they would need to find something to graze. Toolkits Adventurers may require specialised toolkits to perform their work, not counting weapons. Many of the items in the table on pages 60 and 61 of Mythras presume that each Adventurer may wish to bring along their favourite trade tools, if those tools are relevant to the situation. An actor's elaborate theatrical kit, with wardrobe, might weigh several hundred ENC and be impossible to move around - but a small stack of basic cosmetics, enough for one attempt at Disguise, might only weigh 2 ENC at most. The basic list on pages 60 and 61 is only a rough guide. Articles such as a chess or backgammon set (1 ENC, 10 - 1000 SP), burglary kit (grappling hook, crowbar, lockpicks - 1 ENC total) and so on should never encumber the characters. Every character should have some small, lightweight travel version of their primary work tools. Never more than about 10 ENC. Preferably no more than 5 ENC. A burglary specialist's toolkit is very different to a journalist's writing kit. Urban Adventuring Urban adventuring may require Adventurers to dispense with much of the equipment they take for granted out in the wild. Nobody needs to carry forage around in the city; and nobody needs to carry around a bedroll (or their weapons, in general). It would be awkward indeed for Adventurers to attend an upper class soiree in the cultured section of the city, dressed in full armour and carrying a full armoury of weapons and adventuring kit. While in the city, less is decidedly more. How can the characters get away with carrying along full kit? Work Of course the Adventurers can carry their heavy tools around, if they have to carry their own work tools to and from the job. Training The Adventurers could sign up as trainers, and go off on wilderness drill training to teach members of the public the basics of Locale, Survival, and Track. Rescue Force Adventurers could convince people of their advanced understanding of the locality (Locale skill), enough for them to form an amateur rescue group whose job is to patrol regularly, looking for people who get lost in the wilds. Deputised The local law can give the Adventurers a badge of office, then order them to go on patrol around the perimeter of their city and its condato, looking for brigands, providing protection detail to passing caravans, and so on. Signing Up The Adventurers could even join the militia, or at least sign up for their regular public drills. Some towns and cities require all able adults to attend at least some sort of mandatory training to defend the city in the event of an invasion. Their adventures could happen to them while they are on their way home from a training session - or while en route to training. Inspiration The above should provide some measure of inspiration to players. The journey to a destination can be made as memorable as the adventure itself, providing scenes which allow for dialogues between Adventurers, minor problems for the party to solve together, and all the experiences (and Experience Rolls) of surviving in the rough. And back home, the players should never feel that their characters are underequipped if all that they have on them is the clothes on their back, and maybe a single dagger or concealed weapon hidden somewhere on their person.
  24. The Adventurers are the core of all games. As games have developed, adventure modules have been less about pre-packaged mazes full of hazards and more about dramas and conflicts, with the Adventurers at the heart of driving the changes. As adventures have developed from their implausible "mazes full of traps and horrors" to more nuanced scenarios and dramas, so too have Adventurers. Modern Adventuring parties now more closely resemble bands of roaming mercenaries, military units or hunting parties - even posses, rounded up by the local law to track down and apprehend fugitives. Adventuring parties show structure and purpose, and there is a definite lifestyle pattern to Adventuring. Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing Every party begins life during Session Zero, where the Games Master allows the players to introduce their characters. This generally just consists of the player introducing themselves, their character, and something about who their player is (what species they are, where they come from, what they are most famous for). In certain older games, it's all "name, species, class" and everybody would know what the character can do; but, this being Mythras, things are not nearly so clear-cut. The player may use their background, or their career, or their culture, to explain why they are Adventurers, or add a detail out of whole cloth. It might be a good idea for Games Masters to note down any player additions to their GM character notes. Games Masters, it's a really good idea to get a copy of the player characters' sheets, so you can tell at a glance what each is good at and where they are weakest. Players, work with your GM on this. It makes things so much easier when both you and the GM are aware of your character's 90% Track skill and grasp of the Pathway Folk Magic cantrip, for instance, especially if the other players forget these details about them. An example - in the adventure "A Race Through Dark Places" which I ran during GenCon 2021, each pregenerated character had one thing in common - some sort of connection to the spirit realm. Only one of the characters was an actual animist; the others had some sort of exceptional ability or experience which connected them to the spirit, and which allowed them to interact with spirits in some way. This was, of course, important to the scenario, which required characters who were capable of defending themselves against spectral assaults. Another adventure might have the characters united by a common theme - they are all theatre entertainers who lost their job, or they are all competitive fighters who are out training, or they are a patrol of guards securing the condato of a city (the country beyond the city walls which grows the crops the city needs to keep its population fed). The real point of Session Zero, beyond introducing the characters to the other players, is to allow the players to let the character bond with one another. They will be working as a team, soon enough. First Time Out There are many ways to start an adventure going. The Adventurers could be drawn into an ongoing story, unfolding before their eyes; or they could be brought together by a friendly Connection ("I'm puttin' together a team"). The party leader could well seek to form a team of people, based on their already-existing renown (The Seven Samurai, The Magnificent Seven, The Dirty Dozen, Hawk The Slayer, Krull, Battle Beyond The Stars, The ABC Warriors) and lead that team in person, rather than send them out on a mission. However the team forms, they must spend their first few days together. This is the time where the players get to form the team's dynamic. Which characters are early birds; which ones are night owls; and how effective the party leader's Oratory skills are. It is okay for the players to have trouble integrating the team at this point. Every team of veterans began as raw recruits, and there is no such thing as Adventurer Boot Camp in most fantasy milieux (unless a member of the party comes up with the idea as a long-term ambition, but that's for a later blog). Every new team has to start learning to fit in, to work well within the group, and to complement everybody else, filling in the weaknesses in other characters' skills while hoping other team members will support their weaknesses, and so on. An example is a party whose first adventure takes them deep into the wilderness, for example looking for the driver of a trading wagon who disappeared during the night. Characters need to have access to a variety of wilderness skills to make sense of the adventure - but while every character may have access to Athletics, Boating, Locale, Ride, and Swim, not everyone has access to Navigation, Seamanship, Survival, and Track. It is reasonable, however, to have at least two characters show a mix of at least two relevant skills (Navigation and Survival or Boating, Seamanship and Swim, Locale and Survival) in order to ensure that the party has access to all of the relevant skills between them. This allows each character a chance to shine - the Survival expert to build shelters, the Track expert using Navigation to determine where the prey is going, and so on. The players should work out for themselves how to allocate the best tasks to the best players - such as getting the Folk Magician with knowledge of Ignite to help start the fire built by the Survival expert, and getting all the party members to help one another out with pitching tents, foraging, finding clean water, preparing the food, establishing a camp perimeter, and so on. The concept of standard kit should be brought up before play ever begins. Every character must have access to a minimum amount of kit to help them to survive. This will be covered in the next blog post. Games Masters: What To Do Give the characters tasks suited to their needs. Let the party leader know what needs to be done, and allow the leader to negotiate with the players as to what tasks they ought to do. This is the best time to iron out any conflicts and complaints about leadership style, and allows the leader to get a feel as to how the team can work together. Remember, this is the first time for these Adventurers. They will have been torn from their cosy lives by the call to adventure, and they are bound to make mistakes. Games Masters: What Not To Do Their mistakes should not, however, cost the players their lives, or even injure them. Humiliate them, sure. The Survival expert might put together a perfect campfire, but the wood might be green and non-inflammable without the team magician's Ignite spell; the Navigation expert might get turned around and be unable to find his way back to the camp until somebody finally gets the campfire lit, and so on. Never put the starting party in jeopardy of any great or permanent injury. And never have them face a combat encounter on their first ever trek out - not unless the combat was the point, such as teaming up to fight brigands camping out in the woods, or kobolds driven down from the mountains to raid a village, and so on. And even so, never soften them up with a lethal combat encounter, first thing. Even an adventure involving tracking down and punishing miscreants should end with the battle, not have the battle take place in the middle somewhere. No, it is a stupid idea to have them face a random giant, passing dragon, or lich on their first night under the stars. You know they couldn't cope. They know they couldn't cope. Handing the party a TPK (Total Party Kill) in their first session is a guarantee that you'll never have a second session with those players. First Night Rewards The first day and night of adventuring should end with the characters being rewarded for their efforts. Either their skills (or spells or other abilities) can bring them some physical reward (such as an Ophidian's superior sense of smell detecting truffles, or a Bestia hunter discovering a perfect site to set up camp), or they can learn something (such as discovering tracks leading away from the site where the wagon was found abandoned, indicating that the wagon was indeed attacked and, judging by the bootprints mixed among the bare footprints in the soft dirt, the driver abducted). Always give each player a chance to feel that they made a difference to the whole team, before their first period of rest. Assigning Watch Details Part of the fledgling party's duties may include watches. Who gets to sleep for four hours first; who has to stand watch for predators of all descriptions in the small hours; and who gets to be woken in the middle of a lovely dream, with hours to go before sunup. There is no need to play out each watch as its own scene, unless the Games Master has something planned for the party on their first night out. Not an ambush; something unexpected. Examples:- - The old ruins were once a thriving town, until it was abandoned by everybody but the ghosts. The night the Adventurers camp out in the ruins is the anniversary of the town's desertion, and this is always a night for the ghosts to come out and play. - The legend of a Parliament of Wolves in the area happens to be true. All the wolves gather nearby this night. Not all of them come on four legs. - The miscreants were from a non-human species (e.g. Bestia or Lili'tri). Most of the time, humans stay away from the communities of these non-human beings, but these raiders are outcasts from their communities, and the characters' activities have attracted the attention of a patrol of members of this species, who are basically doing the same thing they are. - An object falls from the sky, waking everybody up with a tremendous explosion nearby. The characters desert their camp to investigate. The First Real Conflict The Games Master should not drag out this first adventure. Its point is to bring the party together and unite them, allow the players to give the team an identity. Scenarios run in conventions are always one-shots, self-contained and designed to last no more than, say, four hours, wrapping up with an ending for each character; but even if you are planning a long campaign, this first adventure should not last more than one or two sessions, of four hours each. The first session establishes the party; the second pits them against their first ever antagonists, and the characters should have acquired enough information about the antagonists in the first session, or first half of the session, to know who they are up against in the second half, or second session. When pitting the characters against the antagonists, injuries on the players may hurt, but always stop short of Serious or Major Wounds or outright death. Characters may expect wounds, but nothing grievous. They should always come home, grinning and telling onlookers "You should see the other guy." Wrapping Up The First Scenario The Games Master must always challenge the characters with each scenario or story in their campaign, assuming you are running a campaign instead of a one-shot. The challenge of the first session of actual play must always be to get the player characters to play nice with each other and to have each other's backs when the inevitable conflict occurs. There will always be other challenges; but the first challenge should always be to turn a bunch of disparate heroes into a team, for the first time.
  25. [Featured image taken from Monster Wiki - https://monster.fandom.com/wiki/Dragon?file=DragonRed.jpg] This post is a hard one to write, and not for the reasons you might think. Dragon slaying, noble questing knights, castles ... they are all such staples of fantasy, it's hard to get away from such tropes. From Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern, through to more modern incarnations in popular media such as Kilgarrah (voiced by the late, great John Hurt) in the TV series Merlin, the dragons in the movies The Last Dragon and Reign of Fire, Skyrim, the Eragon series, and the "How To Train Your Dragon" animated movie franchise, dragons are as iconic to the fantasy genre as robots and rayguns are to science fiction. Big, Scaly, Breathing Fire You're all familiar with the trope. Dragons are house-sized, sometimes palace-sized, reptiles which fly with the aid of huge, leathery wings, They have long, flexible necks and tails, and breathe fire (or ice, or electricity, or acid, or cold, depending on the colour of the scales). They live to prey upon villages, carrying off sheep and cattle, and the occasional peasant girl. They can be lured by tying a princess to a rock, then striking at it in the one vulnerable spot on their bodies, which is typically where they are ticklish *cough* some spot just under a forelimb, in its armpit. Oh, and let's not forget the pile of gold it's supposed to be sitting on. There's one problem with this image of dragons. Symbolism and Parable Dragons aren't actually supposed to be literal big flying fire-breathing reptiles, you know. They just symbolise an even more horrible beast. Feudalism. A dragon is actually some kingdom next door. It takes a tithe from each village (it's called taxes), it sits on a hoard of gold (again, taxes), it is destructive (armies), and it has a penchant for princesses and virgins (droit de seigneur - look that up. It is not nice). Of course dragons are just symbols for that nasty feudal kingdom next door. Painting the king next door as being a greedy, gold-hungry reptile is about as low as propaganda can get. But what does that mean for dragonslaying quests? Well, if the adventurers are off to slay a dragon, that makes them mercenaries hired by the local government. It makes their quest an invasion. Their mission - to slay the king next door (assassination, regime change) and retrieve its hoard (plunder the nation's already-stolen wealth and extricate it from its country of origin) in the form of the spoils of war. This is sounding more and more like a mediaeval Crusade to the Holy Land, isn't it? Invoking The Draconic How can a GM invoke a dragon as a threat force in a fantasy, without going down the tired old Tolkien / Arthurian road, following the well-worn tropes trodden by so many identikit heroes of literature and tabletop? In other words, what does the dragon represent in the story, if it is not a literal fire-breathing flying kaiju lizard? Blatant Symbolism The dragon's treasure might not be gold - after all, that is mere matter, the coffers of the plundered nation next door. The real treasure, the dragon's strength, could be political power. The adventurer who conquers a dragon, or rather conquers a nation, can take on the might of that dragon, assuming the mantle of rulership. They can talk about war with the kingdom they came from, and spend their nights sleeping with one eye open for the next adventurer to come along with an eye for slaying the dragon ... Magical Symbolism What can a dragon symbolise, other than political power? The power of magic, tamed by a human will. The quest to master the dragon can symbolise nothing less than the character's quest to Awaken to a legacy of magic and power, invoking its essence into the soul and transforming the protagonist into a sorcerer on the level of a Merlin or a Dr Strange. Power of The Elements The dragon can be a symbol for raw elemental power - the untamed power to raise earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, ice storms, tsunamis, lightning and thunder, or volcanic eruptions. The antagonist could be summoning a dragon to evoke such a threat and devastate an entire region. First Contact The entity being faced by the adventurers is so alien to their perceptions that they literally see what amounts to a dragon, because their minds cannot process the cosmic horror of what is actually there. Dynastic Legacy The dragon could well be a genetic legacy - a bloodline of nobles, Old Blood, coming from the Old Days - perhaps from some chthonic former kingdom now claimed by Earth and Time and Fire, but still surviving, in the genes of this one clan. Snake People / Lizard People The dragon could indeed be a bloodline - in this case, a species of ophidians. The dragon may be metaphorical, but the serpent people in your story might definitely be real, very ancient, and very alien. Running A Dragon-Themed Adventure But what if you, as Games Master, really want to run an adventure where your player characters are out to literally slay a fiery flying magic lizard the size of their village? What can you do to prevent your characters from just grinding over a bunch of tactics and combat tricks like some ho hum run of the mill combat scenario? What can you do to make the adventure the scariest, most exciting, most immersive story ever for your players? Make It Mean Something Make the story a confrontation, rather than a straight combat against a big boss level beast. Your characters' goal is to stop the dragon, not try to kill it. You can't kill something with the power of the living Earth running through it. Skin In The Game Have something at stake. The dragon has something - or, rather, someone - dear to the player characters. A loved one, a Connection, a ruler to whom they owe undying loyalty, a mentor, a loved family member (or even a hated one - family is family), or someone loved to the nation such as a High Priestess. Whatever, or whoever, it is, the dragon has them as a hostage - and it is up to some of the characters to confront the beast long enough for the rest of the party to bust that loved one out of the dungeon. Yes, there's the dungeon. Follow The Leader The characters aren't there to kill a literal dragon, but rather to disband its human cult of mind-enslaved pets. Your dragon could be a human, with all the charisma of a Thulsa Doom, but - in a devious twist - actually ruling with wisdom and benevolence, preaching peace and offering diplomacy to bring war to an end. She could be uniting the squabbling nations, and the characters are part of a coalition team of mercenaries sent to assassinate this guru because it's cutting into their business of selling weapons to the warring chiefs. Regime Change Here's where the symbolism comes into its own. The adventurers are mercenaries sent to the nation next door to raid its coffers, kill its king, and bring back the wealth of a plundered nation to satisfy their king's draconic (draconian?) dreams of conquest. The only visible dragons are the banners of the human enemy soldiers. My Boss, The Dragon The final twist is to have the characters actually work for the dragon. She's too big and old to go flying about, and the characters are her guardians and protectors, perhaps even diplomats, making trade agreements with nations to keep her fed in her dotage in exchange for the dragon's incredible wisdom and knowledge (dropping hints about such innovations as the mouldboard plough, springs, the compass, and timepieces governed by mechanical escapements, but somehow avoiding the invention of gunpowder for some reason ...) Dreams of Dragons From literal flying kaiju reptiles, to the banners of kingdoms and cults, to ancient noble or even royal bloodlines, to the thundering nuclear power source of magic itself, there are so many ways to bring dragons into your fantasy campaign. Just don't fall into the one dreadful pit that ruins it for everybody - making them a cliche, running dragons as just plain old boss level monsters without putting a little thought behind them to understanding what dragons really mean, in terms of their symbolism and the sheer power that they epitomise and represent. A power that the players could potentially acquire for themselves, whether through conquest ... or legacy. In short - don't let your dragons get stale.
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