Chasing The Sunset & The Cure

Chasing the Sunset is a West Marches-style exploration game using Fellowship 2nd Edition‘s Horizon rules.

The party: Dryden of Conwall the Collector, Averiela the Elf, Lucia the Brave the Heir

Last time, Averiela joined Dryden and Lucia and they found a secret underground tunnel and talked their way past an armored crocodile. Now that the crocodile has left, they can either go back the way they came from or press on. Of course they go forward into the unknown!  Dydren, Lucia, and their companions ride on the back of a giant pod turtle. Averiela is walking on the surface of the water (a perk of being an Elf) and carrying her wolf (Knows too Much) across her shoulders. Her unicorn (White Sand) is on the surface, awaiting magical communication from Averiela to know where to go. They travel quite way down the dark tunnel, following the current caused by the slight slope in the tunnel.

They come upon another tunnel that joins theirs from the right. The water in that tunnel is stagnant. It slopes up away from them, but there’s no more water coming down. Eventually, the slope of the tunnel will rise above the water level. There’s light at the end of the tunnel, but too far away to make out what it is.

GM note: False choices are bad, but I ended up giving the party two in a row. Do you want to see a new thing that might be fun, or not have fun?

Lucia wants to investigate the side tunnel, so Dryden has to come along, because they are on the same turtle. As soon as they enter the side tunnel, Lucia is struck by metal spike, and half a second later, they hear an echoing “thunk” like a giant bottle of wine being opened, and some scrambling and clattering of stone.

Roddy (Sharpshooter) Eagle Eye: damages Lucia’s Wisdom

Lucia sighs, because she should have expected that. Dryden picks up the “supersonic knitting needle” and puts it in his cloak next to the other one. Averiela (who didn’t see Roddy in action) is shocked and concerned for Lucia.

Lucia: Hello, Roddy! I’m so happy to see you again. Hoping to come find you. Do you want some tea?

Roddy (Sharpshooter) Social Anxiety: retreat from people talking to him

Averiela sends Knows Too Much down the tunnel to scout and report back

Knows Too Much (Wolf) Pack Hunter: advantage, gather information from afar

Averiela Look Closely 7-9

Knows Too Much swims to the end of the water, and walks up the tunnel. The ceiling has collapsed, so there’s a pile of rubble and a hole open to the sky above. Knows Too Much climbs up and sees a flat plain with a few trees and bushes scattered around. One of the nearby bushes smells like meat and has a long metal tube sticking out of it. Roddy retreated from the tunnel, but is covering the entrance, so if a person sticks their head up, Roddy will shoot them. A good distance away, a group of Platypeople spot Knows Too Much and move aggressively towards him. They are specifically hunting wolves! Unlucky! Knows Too Much runs back down the tunnel and tells Averiela what he’s seen, but those Platypeople won’t be far behind.

Dryden tells Tammeas, his giant turtle, to come out of the water and take a nap. Everyone is on the dry floor of the collapsed tunnel.  Dryden readies the wands they are using for light for their alternate use as one-time flashbangs!  He got this idea from New Year’s party supplies and used it to escape detection back in the palace. The key is that the the projectile makes a ‘pop’ sound that makes people look shortly before exploding in a blinding flash. Dryden gets close to the tunnel exit and fires the wand up to blind Roddy.

Dryden Keep Them Busy 6-

The wand goes off prematurely and Dryden blinds himself!  Two Platypeople climb down into the tunnel, close enough to menace Dryden with a torch and pitchfork.

Meanwhile, Averiela has sent Knows Too Much far down the tunnel to avoid the hunters.

Averiela Elder Arts Camouflage: become invisible

She walks invisibly past the Platypeople coming down into the tunnel. She knows where Roddy is hiding and sees him turning to aim at the other two Platypeople still above ground. He wasn’t expecting people to approach from that direction!

Averiela Finish Them (Grace) Advantage: invisible 10+ Taken Out

She takes a moment to determine the location of Roddy’s neck through his ghillie suit, then gives him a nerve pinch that knocks him out instantly!

Back in the tunnel, Lucia hails the Platypeople.

Lucia: Hello, Platypeople! We are friends! I am Lucia the Brave of the Forgotten Lands, and I’m exploring these lands with my companions.

Lucia Symbol Of Royalty: grants an audience with anyone

Platyperson hunter: You must go to the Mayor. And quickly. Night will be here soon, and with night, the Werewolves!

Averiela: Werewolves? You two drag me into the worst situations!

Two of the hunters will escort the party to the nearby town of Bogden, and the other two will continue to hunt for the wolf they saw earlier. Dryden fears for the safety of the other animal companions.

Dryden: How do you feel about giant turtles?

Platyperson hunter: I hear some grow so large they can fit a castle on their backs!

The party continues to be shifty and try to prevent the hunters from going down the tunnel and finding Knows Too Much.

Averiela: Can’t we just come clean?

Dryden: There is a wolf on my turtle’s back.

Averiela: Wolf, not Werewolf.

Dryden: I have never known a Werewolf to ride a turtle

Dryden Talk Sense (+hope for Averiela’s assistance) “Don’t kill our wolf” 7-9

The Platypeople won’t kill him, but they will place Knows Too Much in custody for the night, just to be sure. That’s what they are doing to the other suspected Werewolves. As they all walk towards the town, Dryden and Averiela provide glowing character references for Knows Too Much. Averiela carries the unconscious Roddy and signals White Sand to come to her.

Averiala Elder Arts: Whisper On The Wind. Send a short message

The town of Bogden

Fairmeadow is a town that contains a fairground, but Bogden is a fairground that contains a town. Platypalooza is a huge event for Platypeople everywhere and the population quadruples during the yearly celebration.

When they reach town, the hunters put Knows Too Much in one of six cells that are set up outside the stadium. One contains a Platyperson, one contains a Human with two other Humans visiting. Roddy and Knows Too Much are placed in the next two, and two more are empty. Each cell is about 2 meters on a side, made of bamboo jammed into the ground, and covered with a roof.  Each cell stands alone, several meters from the next cell, so if any of the occupants do turn into Werewolves, they won’t be able to grab and bite their neighbors.

Mayor Belvo greets Queen Lucia The Brave and her companions, and prepares a banquet for them. Alas, Platypalooza last month was disrupted by Werewolf attacks (the reason for the increased vigilance tonight) and all the vendors fled prematurely. Usually Platypalooza buys all the leftover food, but now they are regretably a bit short.

Bogden location stat: Famine. When the party Fills Their Belly, one character must pay a price

Dryden Pay A Price: 1 food

Dryden contributes some of his food so that everyone has enough. He also works on his magical collections a bit

Dryden Workaholic: spend 1 food to restore or switch gear

Bogden location stat: Famine. When the party Fills Their Belly, one character must pay a price

Dryden Pay A Price: 1 food

He sees a small Platyperson child looking at his extra portion with big sad eyes, and he can’t resist.  Using his knowledge of traditional Platyperson food, he selects a Fried Giant Spider Leg On A Stick to give to the child. Dryden insists that the Giant Spider Leg is still “squeaming” and his companions insist that “squeaming” is not a word at all, and it’s certainly not the action that makes people “squeamish”

Belvo explains that Platypalooza is the biggest Platyperson cultural celebration around, and last month it was disrupted by Werewolves! The Werewolves were all slain, but three people were bitten, and all the festival-goers fled in a panic. Two of the bite victims were locked up in the cells outside, and the third victim is missing. Maybe they were one of the vistors and fled in the confusion.

After this useful story, Belvo won’t shut up, but Lucia corners him in conversation, matching each of his stories with a story about her travels.

Belvo Mixed-Metaphor-a-Minute: will damage Sense by talking

Lucia Keep Them Busy 7-9

GM note: I ruled that, instead of distracting Belvo temporarily, Lucia was able to limit the damage to herself, which is more like the 7-9 result of Overcome (pay a price to take the 10+ result) It made sense in the fiction.

Averliela wants to know more about the Werewolf situation and seeks out a wise Platyperson. She finds Anter, a village elder. She tells Averiela that when the full moon rises at sunset, which is quite soon now, normal people who have been bitten will transform into Werewolves and rampage. The webs on their hands pull back, revealing big claws!  Their bills thicken and spout horrible fangs!  A bite will cause a victim to turn into a Werewolf on the next full moon, if they survive. Not everyone survives a Werewolf attack.  She also points out that Belvo is excusing himself from the dinner party, supposedly on official business, but really to hide in his home from the werewovles. Belvo’s a coward.

Dryden ponders how to cure a Werewolf. He does have a unicorn sword with healing powers. Unicorns are creatures of healing, opposed to Werewolves, creatures of destruction. A Werewolf’s bite pierces and injects a contaminant unwillingly. If a victim willingly took a healing potion, then was pierced by a unicorn’s healing horn, the healing in the horn could combine with the healing in the victim’s system and overcome the curse!

GM note: It’s clever and costs a lot of resources, including both charges of the Unicorn Sword, which are not easily regained, plus Dryden has to fight Werewolves to administer the cure, so I was convinced that this was an appropriate solution.

While Dryden explains his plan and gives his healing potions to the two prisoners, Lucia looks around for sources of evil.

Lucia The Forgotten Lands unique feature: Detect Evil

The prisoners seem kind of evil, but not really, like the evil is hidden or overlapping with something. She detects evil clearly from a large Platyperson pacing back and forth at the entrance of the town, spoiling for a fight. Also at the entrace of the city, White Sand arrives.

The sun sets and the two prisoners in the cells turn into Werewolves! The human prisoner’s friends are close to the cage one is grabbed by the Werewolf!

Lucia Get Away 7-9 bring someone along

Lucia grabs the human and pulls her free, but the Werewolf slashes Lucia with its claws.

Werewolf damages Lucia’s Blood

Averiela Elder Art Stardust

Averiela blows a puff of stardust from her fingertips into the Werewolf’s face, and it collapses in magical slumber.  Dryden asks the humans were their friend was bitten, and stabs he sleeping Werewolf in that same spot with the Unicorn Sword.

Dryden Finish Them Sense (advantage: asleep) 10+Taken Out!

When the healing energy of the Unicorn sword enters the Werewolf and meets the healing energy inside, there’s a flash of brilliant light that momentariloy makes the entire circulatory system glow through the Werewolf’s fur.  It’s hruts for a moment, then the monster’s body shrinks into its normal human form.

The group moves to the next cell, where the Werewolf is tearing at the bars.  Dryden sets up a dart trap pointed at the cell, and Averiela tries to interfere with the Werewolf’s escape.

Averiela Keep Them Busy 6-

She gets too close and the Werewolf’s claws catch her and pull her against the bars. Lucia rushes in and together they overpower the wolf and pull free

Averiela Get Away (+aid Lucia) hope 10+ avoid harm

Dryden fires the dart trap. Inside the small cage, the were wolf can’t really dodge

Dart Trap poison: Werewolf is sluggish, giving Hope to deal with it.

Dryden Finish Them (sense) advantage: poisoned in a cage. hope 10+ Taken Out!

Dryden steps in and stabs the Werewolf with the Unicorn Sword. Again, the two healing energies meet, mix, and dispel the curse. As the last of the healing energy in the Unicorn Sword is spent, it releases a pulse that smells like warm spring grass.  Both Werewolves in the cells have been cured.

The group hears screams from elsewhere in the village.  The third Werewolf victim was hiding here all along!  Averiela wants Knows Too Much released, so Lucia gives the order, and it is done!

Lucia Yes, My Liege: those of lower rank obey Lucia without question

They run towards the source of the sound, and see an injured Platyperson stagger out of a house. The Champ, the large and evil Platyperson Lucia noticed earlier, is also running towards the house.

GM note: I linked the floor plan of a house in the teleconference

Dryden and Champ enter the Great Room via the south door.  Lucia enters the Great Room from the east door. Averiela enters the Studio Bedroom, also from the east porch. Averiela geussed correctly, and sees a bed with broken restraints, a Werewolf, and Sally (a Platyperson) in imminent danger!  Stardust is no good, since Sally is panicing and her screams would wake the werewolf as soon as Averiela put it to sleep.

Averiela Keep Them Busy 6-

Averiela whips out her bow and fires several arrows to deter the Werewolf. One nicks the creature, but not enough to distract it from grabbing and biting poor Sally.  Lucia is next to arrive, running in through the bedroom door, reversing her grip on her longsword and aiming a knock-out blow with the pommel towards the Werewolf’s skull

Lucia Finish Them (Sense) +despair 7-9

Werewolf damages Tough As Nails

The Werewolf staggers and drops Sally, then stands up and turns to attack Lucia. The Champ enters the room at high speed and delivers a vicious tail slap to knock the Werewolf away.

Dryden’s knockout bolas (Melee, Dangerous, Clumsy) + Magical Collection (+Ranged tag) + Curious Curios: Fast (-Clumsy tag)

Dryden prepares his space-warping knockout-gas bolas for a quick strike from outside the room.

Dryden Finish Them (Sense) advantage: kicked by The Champ 10+ Taken Out!

The bolas entangle the Werewolf and spew debilitating gas, knocking the Werewolf unconscious. The cloud of gas spreads, threatening everyone in the Studio Bedroom: Averiela, The Champ, Lucia, and Sallet. Lucia warns Averliela and they dive out the door together onto the porch.

Averiela Get Away (+aid Lucia) hope 10+ avoid harm

The Champ and Sallet both collapse.  Quiet settles over the village. The Werewolf attack is over. Dryden leaves the bolas out for the rest of the night, until the Werewolf turns back into Sallet: the son of Sally and Froob (the injured Platyperson who fled the house)

Averiela wants to find Patient Zero and figure out this Werewolf curse. She tries to get information out of Froob, who was clearly hiding a bite victim and put himself and the whole town at great risk.

Averiela: We need you to be honest. We’re not trying to get you in trouble.

Averiela: Speak Softly 6- Ask 3 questions. 1 untrue answer, 1 unhelpful answer

Averiela will not be able to gather any clues from the Werewolf that bit Sallet. It was killed by a high-speed flaming log, which completely destroyed the body.  Froob is only thinking about his son and finding a cure.  Averiela notices potions and chemistry equipment in the house. Perhaps Froob is turning to dark magic in his obsessive quest.

GM note: The players intend to stay in Bogden to Recover, and foiling the Werewolf attack gives them the Fellowship of the Platypeople, which will grant everyone a fellowship move, and unlock a few Destiny Playbooks. Too much to deal with at the late hour. We agreed to handle this at the beginning of next session and said good night.

GM note: This session could have been a lot more interesting! Stuff I missed, or which was overcome by accident

  1. Dryden’s Unicorn Sword is an atrocity. People should have reacted to it.
  2. Didn’t push the personalities of the Werewolf prisoners
  3. No investigation for the missing third Werewolf victim
  4. Werewolves are easy to defeat when locked in small cages
  5. Champ was going to kill all the infected, but Dryden unintentionally knocked him out before he could try.

Chunky procedural generation

When making a procedural generator, instead of letting a parameter vary across the entire range of possible values, considering breaking that range into sectors.

EDIT: I used to call these limited ranges “chunks” instead of “sectors” but procedural generation in chunks makes people think of Minecraft, so I changed the name to avoid ambiguity.

Sectors

Not overlapping isn’t enough. Sectors should have space between them. This reduces the total number of possibilities, which seems bad, but each value will have greater meaning.

A number line from 0-4, labeled "height (meters)" Four ranges are marked. tiny: 0 to 0.5 meters. small: 0.75 to 1.25 meters. medium: 1.5 to 2 meters. Large: 2.5 to 4 meters.
Figure 1. Height parameter separated into four chunks

If the Small and Medium height sectors met at 1.5m, artifacts could be generated whose height is ambiguous. I can’t tell the difference between 148cm and 151cm at a glance, so if I see creatures with those heights, I won’t know if they are Small creatures or Medium creatures. Stopping Small at 1.25m means there’s 25cm between the tallest Small Creature and the shortest Medium creature, enough to remove ambiguity.

A number line from 0 to 12, labeled number of legs. four chunks are marked. Orb: 0 legs. Biped 2 legs. Beast 4 to 6 legs. Bug: 8 to 12 legs.
Figure 2. Number of legs parameter separated into 4 chunks.

Sectors don’t have to be the same size. They need to be different enough that observers can tell them apart. Counting 10 or 12 legs will take a while, but I immediately know they are both “a lot” and thus bug-like. The range for biped has no variation at all, but that’s valid too.

Limited sectors promote identity

For example, Hunter clothes come in desaturated earth tones to help Hunters blend in with natural surroundings.  If all clothing was available in all colors, Hunters would have less of an identity. Choice of clothing tells viewers something about the person wearing the clothing.

A grid of 21 stars on a black background. The stars vary widely in size, color, thickness, and number of points.
Figure 3. Stars generated with maximum randomness
A grid of 21 stars on a black background. The stars are roughly the same size, with 5 to 7 points, and red to yellow coloration.
Figure 4. Stars generated from sectors of parameter ranges.

Figure 3 the output of a star generator with the ranges on size, color, spikiness, and number of points opened up. It’s easy to associate to the two green spiky stars at top right as being kind of the same thing, but why would I think the red diamond on the left edge is the same kind of thing as those other two? The class of “stars” is so diverse that it loses cohesion.

In Figure 4, I tightened the colors to warm, autumnal colors, and reduced the amount of variance in size, number of points, and spikiness. These stars seem more related to each other. It’s easy to mentally group them as the same kind of thing, but there’s still quite a bit of variance between each star.

Perceptual differentiation

A grid of 21 stars on a black background. Half the stars are grey, very spiky, with many points. The other half look like the stars in Figure 4: red to yellow, 5 to 7 points.
Figure 5. Autumnal stars and grey spiky stars

Perceptual differentiation is the ability to tell two things apart.

In Figure 5, I’ve mixed the autumn stars with spiky grey stars. Even though each star is different from all the others, it’s easy to see that there are two different kinds of stars, and to sort each particular star into one of those two groups.

Individually unique objects that are easily sorted into groups are a nice way to ensure perceptual differentiation. If the two classes uses disjoint chucks of the parameter spaces, two objects from different classes are sure to look different from each other.

Even if you end up with 10,000 bowls of oatmeal, if you also offer 10,000 slices of toast, 10,000 waffles, and 10,000 cups of yogurt, you have a better breakfast buffet.

“Perceptual differentiation” and “10,000 bowls of oatmeal” are both terms from Kate Compton’s excellent blog post So you want to build a generator…

The sector becomes information

If a certain feature of an object is not completely random, it can tell us something about that object. In ARPGs like Diablo, a potion with blue liquid will restore my energy, no matter the size or shape of the bottle.  blue potion = mana. if a tree has a conical crown and needles instead of leaves, I know those leaves won’t fall off in winter, because conifers are evergreen. Live oaks are also evergreen, but their leaves and crown are shaped closer to deciduous trees than conifers, so it’s easy to mistake them for deciduous trees.

The next section shows how one class of object can have multiple parameters that each have some meaning, so an observer can quickly recognize many features of

Layers of differentiation

Every object will have multiple parameters, and each parameter can be divided into multiple sectors. By giving different objects the same or different sectors, you can create a hierarchy of relationships between objects. I’ll use Starcraft as an example.

Races:

  • Protoss:
    • colors: pale yellow, glowing blue
    • shapes: smooth curves
  • Terran:
    • colors: shades of grey
    • shapes: rectangles & circles
  • Zerg:
    • colors: reddish to purple
    • shapes: tubes, sacs, claws, and teeth

Unit types:

  • Buildings
    • size: huge
    • number: solitary
    • features: immobile, grounded
  • basic units
    • size: small
    • number: large groups
    • features: mobile
  • elite units
    • size: large
    • number: small groups
    • features: mobile

Terran Infantry:

  • All infantry:
    • small
    • humanoid
  • Marine
    • big shoulders
    • long gun
  • Firebat
    • backpack
    • twin weapons
  • Medic
    • white armor
    • shield

Seeing these patterns helps me recognize objects quickly, and make good guesses about new objects I haven’t seen before.

If I see a mass of Terran Infantry (small, humanoid, grey, large numbers) I can pick the Firebats out from the Marines by looking for the backpacks, because that’s the feature they DON’T share.

If I see a weird purple creature with big teeth, I know it’s Zerg, because that’s what Zerg look like. Protoss and Terrans don’t make things like that.

If I see a huge, immobile, radially symmetrical object, it’s probably a key building, like a Town Hall, because that’s what all the other Town Hall buildings look like.

Notice that the relationships can be hierarchical (Terran Infantry is a subset of Terran) or cut across groups (buildings share characteristics across races)

Use an interlocking system of similarities (objects that share the same parameter sector) and differences (objects use disjoint sectors of a parameter) to create objects that are all unique, but are easily sorted by an observer into multiple overlapping groups.

Summary

  • Consider if you really need the full range of a certain parameter for a class of artifacts
  • Divide a parameter range into sectors that:
    • are thematically appropriate for the artifacts that use them
    • are disjoint from other sectors of the same parameter range
    • allow enough variation between artifacts that use the sector
  • Use those sectors to:
    • allow observers to remember features of the artifacts
    • relate artifacts to artifacts that share that sector
    • separate artifacts from artifacts that use different sectors

Chasing The Sunset & Adventurers’ Club

Chasing the Sunset is a West Marches-style exploration game using Fellowship 2nd Edition‘s Horizon rules.

The party: Buckle the Beast/Heart of Earth, Stella the Halfling/Pack Leader

Last time, Buckle & Stella flew into Vieport on the back of a giant turtle. A whole city to explore! The river meets the ocean in the center of the city, which extends past the shore onto the seafloor. The land portion of the city is surrounded by tall towers with lightning flashing between them. The underwater portion of the city is mostly populated by Mer-Folk, and the dry portions have a mix of terrestrial species. The palace of the Sea Viper, ruler of the city, starts on an island in the middle of the city and extends down into the water.

A map of Vieport, showing the lightning barrier, palace, Adventurer's Club, and Bertha.
A map of Vieport, showing the lightning barrier, palace, Adventurer’s Club, and Bertha.

Buckle isn’t sure about Mer-Folk. He remembers being hunted by one in another city. Stella is curious about the lightning barriers.

Stella Look Closely 6-

The towers are an effective barrier around the city. Anything trying to cross the lightning barrier would be electrocuted. The towers are 40 feet tall, higher than the buildings, which are mostly 3 storeys tall. Cables from the top of each tower go over the buildings toward some central point, probably a power plant.  Stella notices that a brick chimney on a nearby building is leaning on a power cable, straining it. A broken cable would open a gap in the barrier around the city and threaten everything near the live end of the broken cable!  Stella wants Buckle to fix the wire, but the upper storeys of the building are wood, so Buckle would set the building on fire if he climbed to the roof.

Stella knocks on the door of the building. An Elf opens the door and is amazed by Buckle, who glows. Buckle shrugs. They warn him that his chimney is threatening a power cable. He’s worried that he’s be an appetizer for ghosts, and runs to get help, following the cable deeper into the city.  Neighbors hear the commotion and start looking out of windows to see what’s going on.  Buckle examines the building to see what their options are.

Buckle Look Closely 10+

It’s a three-storey building. The ground storey is made of stone, but the upper storeys are wooden. The top storey has double doors and a stout post with a pulley. If they had rope, they could access the third storey directly from the street.  The chimney is crumbling from disrepair. Trying to push it away from the cable or prop it up might make it collapse entirely. Getting close to the power cable risks electrocution.

Stella: So what am I supposed to do? I’m not electricity-proof.

They consider waiting for the Elf to come back with help. This is a major infrastructure project. Surely the city has engineers that are trained to make repairs. On the other hand, their brand new Siege Tank has many experimental one-time-use weapons, and one is a big grappling hook that could pull the chimney down from the relative safety of the street.  Stella takes the controls!

Stella Overcome 7-9 (pay a price for 10+)

The Siege Tank’s grappling hook hits the chimney and retracts, pulling the chimney down away from the cable. Bricks fall from the roof into the street, causing some collateral damage, but the power cable is intact!

Stella: Buckle, did you see that! Did you see that?

Buckle: Well done. That was a little scary.

Three Engineers arrive from the direction that the Elf homeowner fled in.  One is a Lantern, an inter-dimensional creature that projects a humanoid hologram to interact with the material world.  Her name is Lucy, and she transforms into a rainbow bridge from the street to the roof for her two colleagues to access the roof.  They see that the threat has been dealt with, and Lucy bridges down to talk to Buckle and Stella. She thanks them for protecting the city, and says there is an Adventurers’ Club that welcomes reckless but mostly effective do-gooders like themselves.  They ask if she has done any adventuring herself, but Lucy says that keeping the Ghostlands out is more important than fist-fighting a dragon or whatever.  Buckle suspects that this creature of light with an artificial body is somehow involved with all the robots and giant mirrors they have encountered recently. Stella is split between finding the Dwarves who used to own the mine they just saved, and investigating the Adventurers’ Club. She asks Lucy some more questions.

Stella Speak Softly 7-9

Lucy doesn’t know about metal dwarves, but a giant mirror did just arrive in town, floating down the river from Sugar’s Crossing. After Lucy wraps up safety checks her, she’s going to get down before sunset to avoid the werewolves.

Buckle: More werewolves?

Lucy: More?

Buckle: We had to throw a log through one at Platypalooza. It was on fire.

Stella and Buckle take their leave. Stella wants to find the Oolite Dwarves, but Buckle convinces her to go to the Adventurers’ Club for food and a place to stay. The Adventurers’ Club is on the west side of the river. They cross a bridge and are sassed by a Naga guard. The guards in Sugar’s Crossing on the night of the jailbreak were guards from Vieport, so Stella and Buckle know what to expect.

The Adventurers’ Club is a large stone building with a grand entrance. Inside, there are canals running alongside the hallways, because this is an amphibian building for both terrestrial and aquatic creatures. The person who greets them when the enter is a Mer-Folk names Fred. His fish half is like a Betta fish, so his scales shift from deep red to purple, and he has long showy fins and hair.  He asks if Stella has captured Buckle. He’s embarrassed to learn of his error, that Buckle is a fellow adventurer. He impresses on them the elite status of the adventurers, and says they must complete a great and difficult quest to join.

Buckle: We’ve released the prisoners of a Sorceress, captured a changeling who was ruling a town in disguise, killed a Kraken, deactivated an army of metal dwarves, and just destroyed a superlaser.

Fred is very impressed, but he needs proof of their accomplishment.  Buckle offers the Kraken beak that he collected as a trophy of the battle.

GM note: that’s from the very first session. He’s been carrying that the entire time!

Fred adds the Kraken beak to the wall of trophies and welcomes Stella and Buckle to the Adventurers’ Club. There’s a new member’s handbook, supper is being served in the cafeteria, and they can claim a room to stay overnight. There’s even valet parking for the Siege Tank.

Prominently displayed in the middle of the Adventurers’ Club is the Bounty Board, which lists difficult tasks worthy of mighty adventurers.

  • A Dragon to the north is challenging all comers to single combat.
  • Far to the Northeast, a dinosaur is troubling a town.
  • Scout the Dead Forest, from which none have returned
  • Uncover the mystery of the lights by the moon
  • Standing reward for any source of power

Stella starts to comment on the Source Of Power job, but Buckle shushes her.

Buckle: I’ll be tossed in a bag again!

They go to the cafeteria to eat and to meet the other Adventurers. Only two are at the Club tonight. Most are out doing great deeds for glory. The Exterminator is human-sized, but completely covered in armor made from the exo-skeletons of large insects. They wears a gas mask and helmet, and are drinking a smoothie through a port in the mask.  The other adventurer is Theona the Giant, standing outside the second-storey window and reaching inside through a large open window to the table on which her large platters of food rest.

Buckle: Should we call you Termie or Nater?

Buckle Speak Softly 6-

The Exterminator is not amused, but Theona has some information for Buckle. Tonight Theona and The Exterminator will go out at night to hunt the werewolves that plague the town. As far as they know, there are about four werewolves, although that can change, since lycanthropy is contagious.  Theona recommends that Stella and Buckle come out and fight with her tonight. No need to worry, the Adventurers’ Code forbids acting against other members of the Club. Buckle checks the Handbook, and sees rules against poaches quests, and other rules to keep Adventurers from clashing.  Dinner is over and the sun is setting.

Buckle: Should we hole up or go wreak havoc?

Stella: The werewolves at Platypalooza were an unpleasant encounter. How bad is the werewolf situation in Vieport?

Theona: There are only a handful of the creatures. More glory for us if you don’t fight. Sleep wlth with your night light.

She points to Buckle, who constantly glows with volcanic heat.  Theona and The Exterminator gear up for battle and head out to patrol the streets, while Buckle and Stella retire to a room. The divide the night into five watches: Buckle, Stella, Gus, Rose, and Ugg. Near dawn, during Ugg’s watch, Theona’s giant hand crashes through the window!  Ugg leaps into action!

Ugg’s Bigger ‘n’ You pins Theona’s arm for a moment

This gives the rest of the team time to wake up and react.

Buckle Get Away 7-9 (avoid harm)

Buckle flees out the door and hides in the corridor, but he glows, so his position is obvious.  Stella wishes she had more time to pick a tactic, but she has to act now before Theona gets free.  She jumps on Silk’s back…

Silk Wall Crawler

…and crawls up the arm that Ugg has pinned to get in Theona’s face.

Stella’s Pack Leader: hope to Finish Them when advantage comes from allies

Stella Finish Them (Wisdom, show error of their ways) Advantage: Theona can’t get away and must listen. 10+

Stella: Stop! We’ve already saved you and the city from ghosts. We let you have the glory from hunting werewolves. We don’t want to use more force.

Theona has a very hierarchical worldview based on power. The strong overpower the weak, like she thought she was doing to these tiny newcomers. Restraint is almost alien to her. If Ugg (a goblin who comes up to Theona’s knees) is able to pin her arm, and the Stella thinks she doesn’t need to prove her superiority with violence, these people must be unthinkably powerful! Theona is glad she wasn’t immediately killed.

Stella forms a bond with Theona. Theona becomes Stella’s companion

GM note: Oh wow, Finish Them with Wisdom is very powerful. Stella earned it, though!

Stella: Why did you attack us?

Theona: The Sea Viper offers a bounty for any Source of Power, and Buckle is clearly a Source of Power.

Buckle slinks back into the room, still glowing, not subtle. Theona apologizes profusely.

Buckle: You’re not the first. you won’t be the last. At least you didn’t put me in a bag.

Theona replaces the window she smashes with a section of fence. The groundskeeper is not going to be happy about this. Ugg’s watch was the last watch before dawn, so everyone just stays awake until dawn.  Now they can work on their reason for coming to this town: finding the Oolite Dwarves.

Stella: Point me to some dwarves!

Theona: Do you want me to bring you some dwarves?

Stella: No! No kidnapping! Just tell me where they hang out in this city.

Vieport is cosmopolitan so there are communities of most of the species in the city, but there’s now Dwarf ghetto where all the Dwarves live together.  However, there is a Dwarf Cultural Center, which is a good place to start.  Theona leads the team to a field cows and sheep grazing on it. The Dwarf Cultural Center is underground, of course.  Once inside they meet Klaus, an old Dwarf with a long white beard. He tells them about the history of Dwarves in Vieport and how they dug the foundations of the lightning towers that surround the city.  The Lightning Barrier is necessary to keep out the Deadlands. Anything that dies out there turns into a ghost that attacks the living. it’s a problem that exacerbates itself, and there’s not much left alive in the Ghostlands now.  Ghosts can’t pass through the Lightning Barrier, and they can’t swim, so the river is safe for traffic.

Stella: Is everyone from around here?

Klaus: I don’t know what you mean.

Stella: We’re looking for a family of Dwarves called Oolite.

Klaus: I can’t just give out addresses to strangers, but I can pass a message along.

Stella: Tell them, “We stumbled across your mine. Metal Dwarves had become aggressive and taken over. That situation has been remedied.” They can find us by looking for Theona.  Also, do you know that Halfing that lives in Vieport?

Klaus does not know a Halfling, and does not understand the message, but will relay it.

Stella’s foreign coins (Precious)

Buckle buys a Dwarven Dictionary with Stella’s money and they leave the Dwarven Cultural Center. They see the sights for a while, then another Dwarf rushes up to Theona. It’s Flint Oolite!

Flint: Is it true? Is the mine safe?

Buckle: It’s true, and my glowing eyes are the proof!

Flint is very confused. They explain their adventures in the Oolite Mine.

Flint: If only Opal were here. This was her dream.

Flint explains that Opal was ambitious and made it her life’s mission to restore the clan’s former glory, when the rest of the Oolites were resigned to living in obscurity. The last Flint knew, Opal was in Fairmeadow, north of here and east of Sugar’s Crossing. Stella, a completionist, doens’t know which quest to pursue. Her mission is to find all the Halflings, but she also wants to find Opal. Opal needs to know she can go home, just like the Halflings need to know they can return home.

Goatriders session 3

GM note: Blades In The Dark is player-driven. The crew decides what scores to attempt, but the game and the GM can offer assistance:

  1. Try to capture Turf (the Crew Playbook suggests a score)
  2. Ask around for jobs from NPCs (the GM suggests a score)
  3. Do something that’s important to the characters (the players invent a score)

I prepared several scores for the crew to choose from based on the excellent Twitter feed of HumanTheFixer, a Shadowrun role-play account. Lots of creative, inspiring runs for ambitious scoundrels, even if I have to remove the cyberpunk elements and change all the names.

The Goatriders meet to plan their next score in their hidden lair: in a sewer under Junker’s family business.

Moth: I’m down for whatever, but if you don’t do anything, I’m going to go party.

What if the Goatriders had their own party spot? Moth can’t get thrown out of her own party. They ponder how to seize a party spot for their turf. What are the good party spots around here? Moth could ask Telda, who lets Moth crash at her place when she gets tossed out of parties.  Junker knows a Blood Dealer who might have some leads.  Moth and Junkers are keen to find a brothel susceptible to hostile takeover.

Skellington: Parties mean brothels? Are those the same?

Moth: Tavern is for drinking. Brothel is for lots of things. Like DRUGS!

Everyone is yelling ideas. Somehow owning and operating a brothel seems like a lot of work, so maybe they acquire a brothel and let someone else own it, so long as the Goatriders get to use it whenever they wish. Or maybe they own it, and rent it out.

Junker goes to ask Jul if he knows of any suitable brothels they can lean on. Jul is a shrewd Akorosi man with a wild look.

Junker (+ Skellington aid) Consort fortune 2d 6

Jul has quite a bit of information about a vulnerable vice den, but it’s not quite a brothel. Traven’s Smoke Shop in Coalridge is claimed by Ulf Stormborn, Ulf is a Skovlander who is new to Duskwall and is making quite a name for himself. He picks a lot of fights, so his hold on his turf is weak. Skovlanders are a mistreated underclass in Duskwall, and Ulf won’t tolerate any mistreatment of his people.

Moth: He doesn’t have many friends because he’s from that [actual IRL slur] country!

Moth learned such language from her Dad, who was in the military when Skovlan finally fell to the Empire.

Skellington: Don’t mention your military dad.

The Goatriders decide to make Ulf their friend, and convince him to let them use the smoke shop. That’s almost enough to start a score!

  • Target: Traven’s Smoke Shop
  • Plan: Social
  • Connection: ??

They need an in, someone to introduce them to Ulf on good terms.  Moth considers going to party at the smoke shop, and consults her friend Telda, an expert at parties and schmoozing. Moth asks how to party with Skovlandians and make them like her.

Moth Consort fortune 1d 2

Telda: Call them Skovlanders, not Skovlandians. Those mean signs on some buildings says “NO SKOVS” so don’t call them Skovs either.

Telda doesn’t know Ulf or any of his friends. She recommends they go to Coalridge, where many Skovlanders live and work.  They find Traven’s Smoke Shop, a narrow storefront jammed between two other shops on a crowded, dirty street.  The front windows have two layers of glass, and different kinds of smoke waft up between the panes.  This demonstrates the variety of wares the shop offers, and adds a bit of privacy to the store’s customers. Skellington wants to schmooze a worker, and finds Hix, a wiry Skovlander man wearing a smoke shop apron, sitting on a box in the alley behind the smoke shop, turning a pipe over in his hands.

Skellington: Get a new pipe?

Hix: Better, an old one!

Hix is eager to show his new item off. He explains how the shape of the bowl and style of carving gives a good estimate of the pipe’s age. The pipe was well-cared for, indicated by the relative lack of tooth marks. Hix is a collector. He knows his stuff!  This pipe was for sale in the shop, and he was able to pick it up with some of his wages, because people didn’t recognize its value. Skellington chats with Hix a bit, just bros broing out over some chewed pipes.  Skellington asks when the shop closes.

Skellington Sway controlled standard 2d 4

Hix is suspicious, since that information would be valuable to thieves.

Skellington: I don’t want to overstep. I’m going to go.

Getting a connection with an employee didn’t work. What now. Maybe they go in as customers and snoop about.

Moth: I’m taking the shipping manifest. Do you want anything?

Junker: Something clovy.

Moth Finesse risky standard 2d 6

Moth manages to swipe a delivery schedule while the clerk is dealing with another customer.

The Goatriders have lost track of their plan.  Moth’s head is empty. That’s where she hides contraband.

Junker: The plan is an agile beast. It’s evolving every sprint, but we’re on top of it!

Are they robbing the smoke shop? The delivery schedule would certainly help with that.

Could they get Ulf in trouble with another faction, then support him as an underdog to gain his trust? What factions operate in Coalridge? The Goatriders spend most of their time in Crow’s Foot.  The Lost are a Tier I faction, about as much power as Ulf, but they are dedicated to protecting the downtrodden, and the Goatriders support that mission. The major power in Coalridge are the Sparkwrights, who maintain the city’s power generators and the lightning barriers that keep the horrors of the Deathlands out of Duskwall. The Sparkwrights have more influence in the city than the Bluecoats! The Goatriders aren’t definitely not ready to mess with them!

Will they can throw a party and invite Ulf? People like parties, right? Coalridge has lots of big factories and crowded apartment buildings and not many party venues. The rail lines that used to transport coal (the city runs on Leviathan blood now) are disused, and rail cars lie all over in various states of disrepair and neglect. Some of the poorest residents make homes inside them.

Junker: Would it be respectful to throw a party in a boxcar?

Moth: It’s like a house party!

House parties are off-limits for Junker. She lives with her parents.  The Goatriders wander the streets of Coalridge. Moth looks for a Skovlander to chat up.

Moth Survey fortune 1d 2

Moth: I’ve been buzzed this whole time. I woke up next to a half-empty bottle of wine.

Skellington: This is the third time we’ve passed this business of, umm, accountants?

Junkers: Accountants and brothels go together!

GM note: Apparently this is a TikTok meme.

Moth: So we’re turning the smoke shop into a brothel?

Junker: That was your plan!

Skellington: We could throw a block party!

Junker: The real score was the plans we made along the way.

Moth: Focus! We need to throw a party! I want to party! We throw a party and Skellington steals the deed to Traven’s Smoke Shop.

Skellington: You should steal the deed.

Moth: I’m not skipping the party.

Junker: I can tinker my way inside.

Skellington: Don’t say racist things to Ulf!

Junker: Don’t mention your dad!

  • Target: Traven’s Smoke Shop
  • Plan: Deception
  • Method; Block Party

Engagement roll 2d 6

The Goatriders set up a block party in the street in front of Traven’s Smoke Shop. People gather around to eat barbeque, play music, dance, and have a good time. Some of the smoke shop employees come out and join the festivities.  Ulf arrives from off-site and pushes through the crowd to get to his shop. He seems bemused by the party.  Skellington tries to get HIx to convicne Ulf to stay outside and party.

Skellington Sway 2d controlled standard 3

Maybe not Hix. Skellington tries another approach. He greets Ulf himself, and offers to get him a drink.

Skellington Consort 1d risky controlled 2

Ulf insists that he has business to attend to in his shop.

FLASHBACK: Skellington asked around to see how Ulf was crushing on, to make sure that person attended the party.

Skellington Survery (fortune) 1d 3

Ulf seems completely focused on his mission, and has no time for personal entanglements. Skellington considers flirting with Ulf, but instead exploits Ulf’s aggressive reputation. Skellington tells Ulf that there will be a boxing tournament later, and he should sign up!

Skellington Sway risky great 2d 5

Of course Ulf wants to fight! His enthusiasm is infectious and before he knows what’s happening, Skellington has also pledged to fight in the tournament. Hopefully the heist will end before Skellington has to fulfill that foolish promise.

Meanwhile, Junker quietly opens the back door of the shop and peers in from the alley. There are no customers in the shop, and only one clerk half-heartedly manning the counter and looking at the party outside. The office door is off to the clerk’s side, but he’s not likely to look over.

Junker Prowl 1d controlled standard 2

That’s not good! Junker takes a Devil’s Bargain. The clerk was about to look over and spot her as she crept up to the office door, but a customer approaches the front door. It’s Timothe, Junker’s cousin! He takes the clerk’s attention, but he’s been burned by Junker’s lawless ways before. He won’t be happy to see her. There’s also a mirror that Junker didn’t see from that back of the shop that makes the office door more visible from the counter than she thought.  Junker tries to pick the lock to the office door with her fine lockpicks.

Junker Tinker risky standard (+push) 3d 5

She pushes herself to work as quickly as possible.  Just as she gets the lock open, the clerk glances at the mirror and spots her!

Outside, Moth intercepts Timothe. She knows that Timothe wants to be treated like an adult, since he just turned 18.

Moth: Hey, I feel bad for how you were treated. We owe you another chance. Do you want to join the boxing tournament with the real men?

Moth Consort risky standard 1d 3

Timothe brushes her off and goes into the smoke shop, because that’s for grown-ups too. Inside, Junkers has the office door open, but the clerk is coming for her!

Junker Prowl controlled standard 1d 6

She slams the door behind her and locks it before the clerk can get there.  He pounds on the door, but he can’t open it immediately. Inside the office there’s a desk with some papers on the top, drawers on one side, and a small safe built into the other side. Junker lays into the safe with her drill and crowbar.

Junker Wreck risky standard 1d 5

She pries the safe open. Inside she finds:

  • A stack of official documents
  • A stack of signs or various sizes and materials that all say some variation of “NO SKOVS”
  • A collection of signet rings and lockets. Nice jewelry, but all tied to a particular person’s identity

Junker determines that Ulf finds racists who put sup “NO SKOVS” signs, kills them, and keeps these trinkets as proof. Yikes! Also, these very personalized trinkets would be hard to fence, so she leaves them and takes only the official documents.

GM note: Instead of “No, you can’t fence these” I should have said “You can take 1 Coin for 1 Heat, but to 4.” because letting scoundrels make trouble for themselves is thematically appropriate!

The clerk stops pounding on the door and goes to fetch Ulf.

GM note: This clerk have become important. Let’s define him some more.

Wester is a plain-looking Skovlander man. He likes teamwork, but is dishonest, and also a member of a secret society. He rushes out the door of the shop and is intercepted by Moth. She tries to hide behind him and says that some creeper is following her around, and can he block for her?

Moth Consort risky standard 1d 3

Wester advises her to be upfront and just tell the man that she’s not interested.

GM note: This is the WORST advice. Do not do this to anyone!

After brushing Moth off, Wester approaches Ulf. Skellington has to act fast to prevent Wester from alerting Ulf to the robbery in progress! He shoves Wester and tries to start a fight right then, claiming the boxing tournament has started.

Skellington Command desperate standard 1d 5

Wester is distracted from his mission, but Skellington attacked Wester without warning, and Ulf cannot tolerate poor sportsmanship. As Skellington leans forward to jab Wester, Ulf grabs the end of Skellington’s belt and yanks it out, spinning Skellington in the air like a top. Skellington’s about to take a nasty wreck on the cobblestone street!

Skellington Resist Level 3 Harm (Broken Ribs) Prowess 1d 4 stress

Skellington manages get his arms around his head, and roll on impact, avoiding injury.

GM note: We workshopped a few ways Ulf would inflict Level 3 Harm, and I only thought of the cool way after the session. Downward chop to the neck as Skellington leans forward. Faceplant onto the street and take Level 3 Harm (Fractured Skull).

Ulf: Dishonorable!

Skellington grovels and Ulf picks him up and sets him on his feet. All will be forgiven if Skellington competes honorably in the ring.

Back in the office, Junker is escaping through the window.

Junker Wreck controlled great 1d 6

She pries the entire pane of glass cleanly out of the frame, sets it neatly on the desk, and wipes her fingerprints off the edges. She hops out the window into the alley and walks away. Now to signal the others that the heist is complete.

FLASHBACK: The Goatriders decide on a signal.

Junker leans on the wall of a nearby building and casually squawks.

Moth hears the signal and goes to extricate Skellington. She tells Ulf that she has to redo the bracket to separate Skellington and Wester and also that she will scold Skellington for his terrible breach of protocol.

Moth Sway (+aid Skellington) risky standard 2d 5

That seems plausible to Ulf, and she takes Skellingont and drags him out of the party and around a corner. They meet up with Junker. They’ve done it! They can slip away before anyone can stop them. Skellington wants to do one more thing first.

Skellington Compel risky standard 2d 5

Skellington summons the ghost of a worker killed in a coal mining accident decades ago, and tells it to walk up to Ulf and says “The Crows did this!” The ghost moves to obey in the most direct way possible, right through the corner of the building they are hiding behind. The Goatriders exit the scene, with screams and the sounds of panic echoing behind them as the crowded party is interrupted by a terrifying ghost!

Junker did grab the deed to Traven’s Smoke Shop, and the Goatrider’s deliver it to the Red Sashes. They aren’t very clear on what they get in return.  It’s up to the Red Sashes to take Traven’s Smoke Shop from Ulf, either with their superior numbers, or with the help of the law. With the deed, they are the legal owners.

We skipped the downtime phase, since most activities in downtime are preparation for future events, and this is the last session with this crew. They have no future.

Chasing The Sunset & Averiela

Chasing the Sunset is a West Marches-style exploration game using Fellowship 2nd Edition‘s Horizon rules.

The party: Dryden of Conwall the Collector, Averiela the Elf, Lucia the Brave the Heir

GM note: A player had been recounting stories from our adventures to a relative for a while, so I invited that relative to join.

Introducing Averiela the Elf. Her name means “Truth Seeker”.  She’s 1,300 years old and lives in an ancient realm hidden in the deep forest.  She’s 5’10” and has deep eyes, like looking into time itself.  Those eyes, and her braided hair, are hidden under the hood of her color-changing cloak. Usually the change in color is decorative, but she can empower it with her Elven magic to perfectly match the surroundings and make her invisible. She travels with a pet wolf, Nose-Too-Much, and a unicorn whose true name is untranslatable, so she calls it Whitesand. She and her people only venture from the forest rarely, but on a previous outing, Whitesand met Dryden when he was coming to this continent and searching for Lucia. Dryden took a mold of Whitesand’s hoofprint in the clay of a riverbank, and Whitesand touched the hoofprint with its horn, adding a sparkling star-shape to it.

GM note: 1,300 years old? I don’t have notes that go that far back, but I have to reveal the obvious things that happened 100 years ago that even a secluded Elf would notice, like the disappearance of the Dragons, and the appearance of the Moon.

Last time, Lucia and Dryden stumbled into a hunting expedition which spread into a confused melee, but everyone retreated and they were left alone on the battlefield. Dryden and Lucia search for the pieces of Dryden’s flying disc, which was destroyed with a flick of Haku’s powerful tail.

Lucia Look Closely 6-

Lucia sees a piece near the lake that Roddy retreated into, but she kicks it down the hill in front of her and chases it until it falls in the water and disappears. Out in the middle of the lake, she sees bubbles rise to the surface. The bubbles stop, but reappear after a few seconds. Their timing is regular. Suspicious.  Now that she’s down by the shore, she’s on the other side of a chest-high boulder and sees a hole in this side of the rock that leads down into the ground.

Averiela is over the next hill. She sensed a deep evil and set out to make it right. Nose-Too-Much indicates that familiar people are nearby! She and her pets come over the hill and see Dryden and Lucia. Averiela greets them from afar. Dryden returns the traditional hunter’s greeting. (It’s the Vulcan salute)

GM note: Seeking a deep evil? I have several to choose from! Please integrate your personal quest into my lore!

Lucia explains that they were just in an interesting battle. Averiela heard that battle from across the Singing Hills.  Unfortunately, the pieces of the flying disk are lost. Dryden will have to start from scratch to build a new one.

Lucia: That flying disk has gotten us out of many a sticky situation.

The three humanoids have gathered at the mysterious boulder.

Dryden: There’s a poorly misguided but very talented sniper down this hole.

Dryden explains the battle, and the unicorn sword he recovered from Lady Elizabeth Eleanor Eadwynn. Making a weapon from the healing horn of a peaceful creature is an atrocity, so Dryden has to be careful about how he shows it to people. Whitesand is right there! Dryden explains that he unlocked the healing potential in the horn, so it can be used for good now.

Dryden: In order to heal the wrongs of the world you must pierce something!

The hole in the boulder leads to a stone spiral staircase that goes down into darkness. The humanoids and the wolf can fit easily, but it would be a tight squeeze for Whitesand. Averiela tells Whitesand to wait in a nearby forest. She can Whisper On The Wind to tell Whitesand where to meet up with her later.

Dryden Strange Curios (useful) – light sources

None of them can see in the dark, so Dryden reaches back into his cloak and pulls out some simple items that he made when he was a young boy. Wands were popular back then, so he made several different kinds of luminous wand: a narrow spotlight, an all-around glow, even some that flash or change color. Now they can see their surroundings. A room cut out of the rock. Ten by twenty feet, and six feet high. Low stone benches. The wall opposite the staircase is open to the side of a round tunnel that’s as wide as a two-lane road, and half full of water. Pointing the wand one direction down the tunnel, they see water flow in from above at the same interval as the bubbles in the lake above. Pointing the other way, the tunnel stretches a long way into the darkness.  This looks like a bus stop, but everything seems old and disused. It’s mostly stone, so decay is very subtle and slow.

Averiela Look Closely 10+

Averiela Touch The World Lightly

Averiela takes a wand and walks on the surface of the water down the tunnel a ways. She feels the motion of a large underwater creature through her feet. It does not notice her, and she returns to report to her companions. Despite the threat of the large hidden creature, they all want to continue down the tunnel.

Averiela: Is there anything for you mortals to float on?

Dryden is excited. He’s just figured out a problem that he’s been working on for three and a half months! When he reaches back into his cloak, he’s not pulling objects out of hidden pockets. He’s actually teleporting items from his collection back home. So far he’s only been able to bring magical items through, but he’s cracked the puzzle of safely bringing living creatures through his cloak.

Dryden Strange Curios (useful) – flotation device

Dryden reaches into his cloak and pulls out a giant pond turtle! In the turtle’s language, his name is “Ancient One” Dryden and Acnient One have developed a system over the years. Dryden stands on ancient One’s back and skips a stone in the direction he wants Ancient One to go. Ancient One will go to the stone and retrieve it. Dryden can tap on Ancient One’s shell to signal him to continue in that same direction, or he can skip the stone somewhere else.  Lucia and Dryden ride on Ancient One’s shell. Averiela walks on the surface of the water, carrying Nose-Too-Much across her shoulders, because he doesn’t like getting wet.

As they travel down the tunnel, the underwater creature reveals itself, rising up and blocking the whole width of the tunnel. It’s a huge armored crocodile. It’s helmet comes to a sharp point at the end of its snout, perfect for ramming ships,

Armored Crocodile, Boss of Underground Waterways

  • Teeth and Screaming
  • Armored Platform
  • Threat To The World

Dryden: There’s not much meat on me!

A man emerges from an armor-plated howdah on the Crocodile’s back to challenge them.

Brainiac, exiled Vizier of Thaumatown

  • Chess Pieces: allies take hits for them
  • Part Of The Plan: When something goes wrong, damage this stat to make a Hard Cut
  • Too Clever For Their Own Good: while monologue when things go well

Brainiac: I am the ruler of this subterranean labyrinth!

Dryden counters by hyping up Lucia’s royal status.

Lucia Royal Treatment: rulers will offer a room and a meal

Brainiac bows formally and asks them to come aboard. The Armored Crocodile lowers its head so they can step up to it. Lucia and Dryden go to the armored howdah, but Averiela prefers to stay outside with Nose-Too-Much and Ancient One. The Armored Crocodile sniffs Ancient One in an uncomfortable, but not immediately threatening manner.

Brainaic’s quarters inside the howdah are simple, but high-tech. It’s lit by softly glowing cylinders. Brainiac knows protocol, and treats Lucia how royalty should be treated.

Lucia Speak Softly 7-9

In the conversation, Brainiac reveals that the underground tunnels are a secret transportation network. He is not from here originally, but is on a quest to regain his former position.  He must claim a Source Of Power.  From the way he talks about his quest, and his determination to fulfill it, Lucia gets the sense that Brainiac is ruthless, and if he determines that they have something that is useful to him, he’ll take it by force! Dryden tries to make friends.

Dryden: You know, I’m trying to collect magical artifacts as well!

Brainiac is very interested in what Dryden has found. Dryden backpedals, saying he hasn’t had much success. Dryden wants more information from this guy.

Dryden Talk Sense (+Grace, dazzle) 10+

Dryden asks for more information about the quest Brainiac was sent on, and commiserates about difficult quests. Dryden himself was sent on a difficult by a vampire! Brainiac reveals that he was sent out as punishment for not handling a crisis to his master’s satisfaction. His master is the great Wizard Allan A Zham! That name doesn’t mean anything Lucia or Dryden. He was sent to find a Source of Power under a volcano, but there are two volcanoes! Lucia and Dryden share a worried glance. They found a lost library from the Forgotten Lands inside an extinct volcano. They don’t want this ruthless, intelligent person to get his hands on all that knowledge.

Dryden Finish Them (+Wisdom) advantage, relating to his experiences 7-9

Dryden commiserates. The vampire that sent him on a quest also didn’t give good information, so he wasn’t able to find what the vampire wanted. He can only tell Brainiac where not to go.  Brainiac wants to do something nice for his guests, so he prepares milkshakes. He opens a small metal box that releases fog like it’s very cold, and puts the ingredients in a little electric blender. He flavors the milkshakes with fruit from crates that show signs of violence. The machines are no doubt his, but he stole all this food from other people.  Brainiac asks if they know about the two volcanoes. Lucia says there’s a dragon living under the smoking volcano.

Brainiac: Aha! Great! Useful!

He makes ready to set out, and grants the group free passage through his realm for their help. Lucia and Dryden return to Ancient One, and the Armored Crocodile sinks under the water and disappears. They recount their conversation to Averiela.

Averiela: I’m a little concerned about the information you youngins passed along.

Lucia: We didn’t tell him about the library.

GM note: No end of session move. I checked in with Averiela’s player to make sure they didn’t feel left out, since most of the action was a conversation that Averiela was not present for. They assured me that they are an observer, so low participation is OK. I’ll continue to check in, since they are such a new player. I want them to have a good experience!

Data-driven item generation for Equipment Explained

Equipment Explained is mostly practice for clear, accessible UI, but I still made an overly-complicated system to generate items.

The parts of an item

  • base item
    • item quality
    • (optional) prefix
      • prefix quality
    • (optional) suffix
      • suffix quality
    • (optional) requirements

The base item is either armor or a weapon.

  • weapon
    • type (axe, sword, hammer, etc.)
      • which stats the item boosts
    • slot (main hand, off hand)
      • where the item can be equipped
    • tier (0-3)
      • magnitude of bonuses
  • armor
    • slot (feet, body, head, etc.)
      • where the item can be equipped
      • magnitude of bonuses (a breastplate provides more armor than gloves)
    • tier (cloth, leather, plate, etc)
      • which stats the item boosts (leather boosts DEX, plate boosts HP)
  • item quality
    • probability of prefix
    • probability of rare prefix
    • probability of suffix
    • probability of rare suffix
    • probability of requirements
    • multiplier for magnitude of
      • item bonuses
      • prefix bonuses
      • suffix bonuses
      • requirements

Common affixes only boost a single stat, but rare affixes boost several stats

  • prefix
      • quality
        • multiplier for bonuses of prefix only
      • stat bonus
  • sufffix
    • quality
      • multiplier for bonuses of suffix only
    • stat bonus
  • requirements
    • lower limits for a set of thematically linked stats that must be met for an item to be equipped.

Simplifications

Because I’m not making a whole game, I was able to skip some constraints that most RPGs use.

Thematic Affixes

Some games limit certain affixes to certain types of items, such as

  • “of Fleeted-footedness” only appears on boots
  • there are no poison resistance rings
  • helmets tend to boost INT.

The base items in Equipment Explained specialize with only a few stats, but affixes can affect any stat, and any item can have any affix. So a sword is sure to boost Slashing Damage, but sometimes cloth gloves will boost Slashing Damage even more!

Balanced Requirements

Most RPGs will give more powerful items higher requirements, and thematically appropriate ones. So a magic staff may require a lot of INT or MP to equip, while a small hammer would instead require a bit of Strength. In Equipment Explained, higher quality items are more likely to have requirements, but those requirements are chosen randomly and aren’t associated with the bonuses the item provides.

Playtesting/Balance

Equipment Explained doesn’t have combat, experience, loot drops, or an economy.  I don’t have to worry about items being fair. Is it reasonable to scale Health from a base value of 100 to 2700, or to 125? I don’t care. I do care that it’s very obvious how much those boots will increase your Health, how much you need to increase your Magic Resistance to equip those boots, and which items will help you reach that goal.

Implementation

I created an LibreOffice spreadsheet with a sheet for each type of data. The first row in each sheet is human-readable labels for each column, which the game engine has no use for, so I don’t use LibreOffice’s built-in CSV exporter, which will export every cell in a sheet.  Instead I drag-select the sheet (except for the header row) copy and paste into a text document.

So the 10 sheets of one LibreOffice spreadsheet become 10 .txt files, which I place in the resource directory of my Godot project.  I write a custom function to read each file, and save all the information about items, affixes, requirements, probabilities, etc. into data structures.    affix.txt contains information for both prefixes and suffixes, since they are so similar. The function that reads affixes.txt can also read affixes_rare.txt, which uses a similar format. Weapons are armor are defined by a two-dimensional array of type and tier, and CSV files are good for one-dimensional lists, so armor and weapons need two CSV files each to completely define the space.

When I create an item, I pick from the list of items & the list of qualities. The quality specifies the probability of requirements, prefix, and suffix, so based on those odds I may pick from those lists as well. Pretty basic stuff once all the data is loaded from the files.

Manually copying data from spreadsheet to text file is error-prone busywork, so if I continue developing this, I’ll need to automate that step.

State of the Virtual World

2020 disrupted our lives and ruined everyone’s plans, some permanently. How did Chasing the Sunset fare in this terrible year?

January 2020

At the beginning of the year, Chasing The Sunset had 13 total players, but only 8 were playing regularly.  I always ran games in person, so the three players in another time zone had no opportunity to continue their adventures. Other had fallen away because of IRL concerns, like a long commute or a newborn baby, but the campaign accounted for that. No one player was necessary. People can leave if they like.

I was also running Fairmeadow Fair, a Dungeon World campaign, for another pair of players. I started that game back in February 2018, so it was pushing two years already! These players were geographically and socially distant from the Chasing The Sunset players.

Diagetically, what was happening? Most players were still near Port Fennrick, where they arrived from the old country to make a new start.  Players saw the consequences of actions taken by players in sessions they did not attend.  A group were attacked by mobsters in the night and planned to take revenge, but before they could, a different group stumbled on those same gangsters and sent them packing. Players could look backwards and see that they had effects on the world, but looking forward was more difficult. They were newcomers in this strange land and had little motivation beyond seeing what’s over the next hill. They didn’t understand the bigger picture of the new continent and didn’t have any long-term goals.

Calm before the storm

From January to March 2020, I ran 3 sessions of Chasing The Sunset and 3 sessions of Fairmeadow Fair. I introduced the first hint of world-spanning conspiracy, based on backstory hints from several players. Platypolooza was scheduled for a full moon, and that’s when the first werewolves appeared! I don’t think my players realized that werewolves were a problem they could track down and solve, instead of just one more fantastical element native to this new land. Not even the fate of the bitten victims was enough of an incentive to investigate the werewolf problem. The party just skipped town.  So as a long-term plot thread, it was ineffective.

I was having so much fun with Chasing The Sunset and the idea of multiple parties sharing the same world, that I asked the Fairmeadow Fair group to join Chasing The Sunset. They agreed, and at the end of February I brought over blank Fellowship character sheets for them to choose from. Lucia translated pretty easily from a Dungeon World Paladin to a Fellowship Heir. Both are noble knights.  There’s no Fellowship equivalent for the Dungeon World Druid’s shapeshifting powers, and Gleador’s player loved shapeshifting shenanigans, so I worried that they would be reluctant to leave Gleador behind. They jumped right into the Fellowship Collector, and we planned to send Gleador off and bring in Dryden the next time we met. That was the last time I saw them in person.

Lockdown

In March 2020, this coronavirus turned out to be a big deal, then turned into the biggest deal: the defining event of the year. I hoped for a while that things would go back to normal soon, but here we are in December and the pandemic is worse than it has ever been. Once I realized that I had to deal with it instead of waiting for it to go away, I made preparation to run Chasing The Sunset online.  I made a Discord server for voice-chat, and made a Roll20 account for dice-rolling and maps.

Worlds collide

Chasing The Sunset was on hold for almost three months. That’s not the first interruption my campaigns have endured.  I started Chasing The Sunset right before disappearing to work on Atlanta Fashion Police for several months.  Fairmeadow Fair has suffered that same interruption twice.  In addition to adapting to the new technology, I had to connect the world of Fairmeadow Fair to Chasing The Sunset.

Fairmeadow Fair is a vaguely Tolkien or D&D fantasy world with Dwarves, Elves, Halflings, and Humans.  The origin of a “living statue” (no one knows the word “robot”) is worthy of a long quest, and the existence of a single shape-shifter throws a large city into turmoil. The party looks for non-violent solutions and has never taken a life.

Chasing The Sunset contains only (mostly) the races claimed by players, so there are no Dwarves, Elves, or Humans! There is an entire race of gooey shapeshifters, a town full of clockwork robots, a ghost, and a member of an extinct race. Players in this campaign are willing to kill people who threaten or annoy them, and don’t mind skipping town to avoid cleaning up messes they make.

Connecting the worlds geographically was easy. Fairmeadow Fair was mostly a pointcrawl: roads or paths between towns or interesting sites. I converted those points into Fellowship’s Locations and connected that set of Locations to the southern edge of the Chasing The Sunset map.

So in the final session of Fairmeadow Fair, I had to transition from one ruleset to another, prepare my players for the more gonzo tone of the world they were joining, and also say farewell to a player character! As a GM, I’ve had players drop out and their characters just disappeared in between sessions. As a player, I’ve had a character leave the party for unresolvable philosophical differences, and it was a traumatic experience, inside and outside the game. A planned, amicable separation was a new experience, and my players did great! One player played both Dryden and Gleador, rolling dice for different rulesets in the same fictional scene. Lucia’s player just swapped Lucia’s Dungeon World playbook for Lucia’s Fellowship playbook.

Attrition

I lost most of my players in the transition to playing online. After struggling to get people to respond to scheduling requests on Discord, I contacted each player and asked if they wanted to continue playing. Playing remotely is new and weird, and the multiple concurrent disasters sweeping the nation in June were enough to consume anyone’s attention.  One person formally resigned from the campaign, citing a lack of long-term goals to hold their interest. We did a little free-form roleplay epilogue over Discord to turn their player character into the boss of the location it was in. Another said they valued the in-person social aspects of role-playing, and playing online was not for them.  Several players said they were still in, but after they didn’t respond to several attempts to schedule games, I stopped asking.

Long-term goals

Right after losing a player for lack of long-term goals, I really started putting in hooks for big, old, important plots.  A mad scientist wants to blow up the Moon. The Moon is only 100 years old.  A character teleported to the Moon! (I checked the exact wording of the skill, and it does say “regardless of how far away it is”) Turns out the Moon is artificial and staffed by Kobolds for an unknown purpose.  Also Vampires exist and hate dragons!  Dragons should be extinct, but one has taken over a city & is challenging all comers in single combat!  The Vampires probably have a complete manual for the operation of the Moon, which seems super-dangerous. Too bad the player responsible for that stopped showing up. No one else knows what that character saw on the Moon, but they have seen giant mirrors fall from the sky, and know those mirrors can be turned into weapons by reflecting sunlight. Earth-shaking implications, but no one has all the information.

Legends of the Past

Last year I ran three one-shots set in Chasing The Sunset’s past. People who couldn’t join the campaign proper could have a fun afternoon and contribute to the ongoing story.  Win, lose, die, or flee, their actions would have lasting consequences. I just have to show those consequences to the players.

  • Two heroes fought an army attacking a library hidden inside a volcano, while magicians inside prepared a barrier spell. Almost everyone has searched for this library, but most people were distracted by the city hidden under the next volcano over. Lucia found it, and her people had a hidden library in their backstory, so of course this was that library! The ghostly librarian’s information was out of date because she’d been locked away from a long time, but that untimeliness was eye-opening by itself.
  • Platypeople were slowly abandoning a town threatened by a strange underwater building and its guardians. A couple of adventurers kicked those guardians out, and saved the town. That fight was supposed to be the first act of a mystery, but we ran out of time, and I have to respect the players’ victory, so the town is thriving now. Some players found a Platyperson from that town and almost escorted her home, but they were held up with other business and she was impatient, so they didn’t follow her to her unusual home.
  • A Vampire & a Dragon fought in an ancient forest, aided and confronted by various characters. Players later entered that forest and met the victor, but I missed my chance for them to see the grisly trophies taken from the loser.

Burnout

I like spending time with friends and I love playing TTRPGs. Normal social activities were destroyed by the pandemic, so I leaned into online TTRPGs for social time.  In August & September I scheduled games as often as I could, including playing in a D&D 5th Edition game, and running a couple of Blades In The Dark sessions. I discovered that playing online is not the same as playing in person. Even though I enjoy running games, it’s a lot of work. I am performing the whole time. As a player I can wait my turn and let other people take the spotlight, but when I run games i have to react to everything, move pieces that the players can’t even see, account for things that happened to other players they don’t know, and take notes at the same time. I discovered that in-person games had other activities that recharged me, making the overall experience less tiring.  People feed me supper, or at least we all bring and share snacks.  Before and after the game we have some unstructured social time to just be around each other, whereas online we disconnect when we aren’t playing. I only noticed these benefits by their absence, and by the end of September I was burned out! I intentionally cut back to monthly sessions with each party.

Conclusion

The summary page for Chasing The Sunset promises a large rotating cast and player-driven scheduling, but neither of those are true anymore. I have two parties, each a married couple IRL, and each meets once a month. Circumstances were very different when I wrote that page, and my players and I have adapted. Going forward, I think I have some more bandwidth for running games, so I’d like to add one or two more parties to Chasing The Sunset. I won’t push mixing parties, but I do want more information sharing, just so someone can eventually figure out the Moon’s deal. I have a mechanic for leaving notes in a location for other adventurers, but I don’t remind players about it, so they don’t leave notes. I love the shared world and the consequences of one party’s actions affecting another party. I want more of that.

Chasing The Sunset & EEE

Chasing the Sunset is a West Marches-style exploration game using Fellowship 2nd Edition‘s Horizon rules.

The party: Dryden of Conwall the Collector, Lucia the Brave the Heir

Last time, the party came over a mountain pass into the Singing Hills, and were formally but violently told to get lost by a note delivered via high-speed projectile. This just makes them curious.

Dryden takes the projectile, a long metal spike like a thick knitting needles, and hides it back in his cloak.  They know roughly where the shot came from, since they heard a sound like a giant cork popping a few seconds after Lucia was hit. Lucia waves a white flag and they head towards the sound.  They don’t see anyone in that direction. They go down into a valley, and when they come up the next hill, they see a shining figure ahead of them on top of the next hill, near one of the singing stones. It’s a knight in shining armor standing proudly and waiting for them to approach. As they get closer they get a better look at the knight. Her armor shines like chrome, and is unicorn themed. The visor above her face is shaped like a unicorn’s snout, there’s a unicorn horn on her forehead, and a bubblegum-pink mane on the back of the helmet. Her helmet leaves her face uncovered, and it looks like those artists’ references for ideal proportions. She’s as conventionally attractive as possible.

Lady Elizabeth Eleanor Eadwynn: Oh, you are bold!

Lucia detects that she is evil.  Dryden & Lucia introduce themselves. The knight introduces herself as Lady Elizabeth Eleanor Eadwynn. And also Roddy. She points over her shoulder at one of the scrubby bushes on the hilltop. A different bush shifts and gets taller. It’s a person wearing a ghillie suit to disguise his shape. He’s holding a long tube connected to his back with a pipe, probably the weapon that fired the metal spike.

Dryden: You stand in the presence of a queen!

Lucia: Are you the ruler of this place?

Lady Elizabeth Eleanor Eadwynn: No, that is!

She points to the white line in the sky that has been visible since the party came down the mountain, twisting and wandering across the sky.  Taking a closer look, Dryden and Lucia can tell that it’s a flying snake: a Sky Serpent. EEE explains that she is here for the glory of hunting and killing that Sky Serpent. She’s cut the Singing Stone next to them to change its pitch and confuse the Sky Serpent.  Dryden says he doesn’t see much glory is killing such a little thing.  Roddy hesitantly speaks up, avoiding eye contact even though his wide-brimmed hat has a mesh veil that makes his eyes hard to see at the best of times.

Roddy: It’s, uh, actually quite large but it looks small because, uh, it’s, it’s so far away.

Dryden thanks him for the explanation and congratulates him on his excellent shot to deliver EEE’s message.

Roddy’s Social Anxiety make him flee people who talk to him

This makes Roddy very uncomfortable and he shrinks away. The Sky Serpent does seem to be swerving more than usual. Snakes curve back and forth all the time while they move, but these turns look less regular and intentional.

EEE’s Arrogant stat lets people Keep Her Busy by praising her.

Dryden tells EEE that she’s thought up an ingenious plot! A brilliant plot! Surely the bards will sing songs of this day for generations! EEE eats up the attention and starts explaining more details about her plan when a knife lands in the ground between them! It’s clearly a throwing knife, with its hollow hilt and pinky loop, but it’s three feet long!

Lady Elizabeth Eleanor Eadwynn: Such trinkets won’t work on me!

EEE looks up and draws her sword. It’s a rapier, but the blade is a unicorn horn!  Unicorns are known to be peaceful creatures with healing powers, so turning one’s horn into a weapon is perverse! No time for that right now! Look up! Somoene has jumped from the back of the Sky Serpent overhead and hurls another throwing knife while plummeting downward.

EEE’s Counter Spell makes her immune to ranged and magical damage

EEE strikes the second throwing knife with her sword, and the knife explodes into pink feathers. The figure lands in a shockwave of debris, because she’s a 20-foot-tall giant!

Fee, giant

  • Crushing Blows: deals 2 damage
  • Like Flies: anyone who fails a roll or pays a price while on a Giant is flung off, in addition to usual consequences
  • Proper Weapons: She carries throwing knives (ranged) in wrist holsters, like Mai from Avatar: the Last Airbender

Dryden Get Away 10+ (avoid harm, bring Lucia along)

Dryden tackles Lucia out of the way, so they avoid being injured by Fee’s dynamic entry.

Fee: How dare you tamper with Haku’s Singing Stones?!

Fee flings more throwing knives at EEE, who turns them into feathers, dust, glitter, with flicks of her wrist. Dryden gets out the mirror shard (most recently used to kill some vampires) and holds it up so EE can see herself in it.  He yells about how glorious this battle is, and how tales will be told.

Lucia goes over to Roddy, who is preparing to fire on Fee, and starts asking a bunch of questions.

Lucia: Why does Triple-E want to hunt this snake anyways? So you’re a marksman, huh? What’s in this for you? What are you getting paid?

Roddy flees.

GM note: At this point, I thought I’d made it too easy. EEE is a jerk and obviously evil from using a unicorn sword, even without Lucia’s special power. Of course the party will fight her. Also the Sky Serpent’s forces will fight against her too. And both EEE and Roddy has easily exploitable weaknesses, which my party is exploiting! This will be so one-sided.

EEE is only half paying attention to Fee’s attacks. She looks over to watch herself in the Dryden’s mirror, striking proper fencing poses as they magically deflects each of Fee’s attacks. Dryden keeps up a running commentary of EEE’s greatness.  Lucia sneaks up from the other side, hoping to disable EEE, but at the same time, Fee realizes that the throwing knifes won’t work, and she is 64x EEE’s size, and charges in to grab her. by focussing too much on avoiding EEE’s notice, Lucia has unknowingly put herself in Fee’s path!

EEE’s Mage Knight forces those who get close to her to pay a price (put on the spot)

Lucia Finish Them (sense, knock her out) 7-9 damage Arrogant

Lucia lands a solid blow, and EEE realizes the folly of listening to flatterers. Dryden activates his Flying Disk to rise up to Fee’s eye level

Dryden Talk Sense (wisdom, emotion) 10+

Dryden: Fair giantess! We don’t wish to fight you! Someone so evil as to use a unicorn sword must face justice!

Fee is convinced that Lucia and Dryden are not threats. She shifts her weight as she runs, stepping over Lucia (instead of trampling her) and snatching EEE up in one giant fist. EEE reverses her grip on her unicorn sword and brings it down with both hands into Fee’s wrist!

EEE damages Fee’s Proper Weapons

Fee screams in pain and flings EEE away, down the hill.

Fee damages EEE’s Counter Spell

Lucia has lost track fo Roddy and sends Will, her bodyguard to look for him.

Dryden Scooby Snacks to Overchage Flying Disk, even though Overcharge is marked

Dryden flies after EEE and throws his gravity-warping knockout-gas bolas!

Dryden Finish Them (sense, knock out) advantage: thrown down a hill 6-

Roddy fires his weapon just as Dryden is about to throw. The sudden noise disrupts Dryden’s aim, and the bolas land beyond EEE. Roddy does not miss. He just shot Haku!

Haku, Sky Serpent, Boss of The Singing Hills

  • Threat to the World
  • Drop-Off: Haku can deploy Giants into the battlefield
  • Mostly Peaceful: Although Haku is huge and powerful, he avoids attacking little folk directly.

Roddy damages Haku’s Mostly Peaceful

Haku bellows with rage and dives towards the ground.

Lucia’s Symbol Of Royalty grants her an audience with whoever she shows it to.

Lucia holds aloft the brooch in the shape of a silver flower that proves she is Queen of the Forgotten Lands. She starts to formally great Haku.

Fee: You fool! He’s blind!

Haku can’t recognize the Symbol of Royalty, so Lucia can’t claim Royal Treatment! 

Fee blows a whistle around her neck and runs away from Haku’s projected impact point. EEE recovers and targets Dryden for tricking her. He mocks her for thinking she can fight a great Sky Serpent when she got tossed like a piece of trash by a Giant. Haku crashes to the ground, knocking over the Singing Stone at the top of the hill. He’s 100 feet long, and his coils are so thick that Dryden and Lucia can’t see over them.

Dryden Get Away 10+ avoid harm, bring Lucia along

Dryden swoops in and carries Lucia away from the shackwave.  A second giant dismounts and heads towards Roddy. This giant wields two ship anchors, and has ship chains wrapped in a an X over both shoulders.  EEE switches to fight Haku, now that he is within reach.

Lucia: We could leave.

Dryden: We need to take out Triple-E.

They turn to Fee. Dryden floats at her eye level.

Dryden: We want to stop the crazy pink knight and not die.

Lucia: We are but peaceful-ish travelers. We have no ill will towards you. We have no desire to fight and bring violence.

Fee explains that Haku is blind and uses the sounds of the Singing Stones to navigate. This Singing Stone was altered to sing the wrong note and disorient Haku. Now he’s furious, and you little people should stay out of reach.

Dryden: Keep to the air, right.

GM note: I need to make sure that Dryden’s player knows his spells and gadgets are limited-use resources. He sure uses that Flying Disk often.

Dryden flies over the fight between Haku and EEE and fires his Ranged Rope at EEE’s left ankle

Dryden Finish Them (sense, disable) advantage: fighting a giant Sky Serpent 7+

The rope grabs EEE’s leg and trips her up. She faceplants and drops her sword.  Dryden attaches the rope to the Flying Disk and tells the Flying Disk to drag EEE into the gas cloud from the bolas. Since the Flying Disk can only carry one person, he drops to the ground near Haku, who has not calmed down.

GM note: See? Can the Flying Disk be Overcharged and Autonomous at the same time?

The Flying Disk drags EEE across the ground in a most undignified manner, one leg up in the air, head dragging on the ground. Her helmet comes off, revealing that only half of the pink mane was built into the helmet. EEE has long, beautiful bubblegum-pink hair, which is now full of dirt and grass.

Roddy’s Trick Shot causes a Finish Them roll to fail

Roddy shoots the rope holding EEE to the Flying Disk, so she stops short of the knock-out gas.  She had to think hard about her situation. All stats damaged. Her Sharpshooter is still active, but harried by a giant. Her quarry is on the ground and injured, but Fee, Lucia, and Dryden are all between her and him. She flees.

Lucia sees that Dryden is in danger from Haku’s lashing and writhing.  She thinks about reasoning with Haku, but he’s just been disoriented, led into a trap, and shot. Seems like a bad time to talk.  She scoops up EEE’s helmet instead of helping Dryden. Dryden is slammed to the ground by one of Haku’s coils.  He lands on EEE’s Unicorn Sword, but his innate magic and good character activate a bit of the healing magic within the sword.  He gets up and pulls the sword out and the Unicorn Sword heals his wound as it leaves.

Fee tries to calm Haku, and Dryden does too. Since Haku can’t see, he’ll use other senses.  He holds the Unicorn Sword and tries to imitate the nuzzling motion that Unicorns use when healing with their horns. Long ago, when testing out his Flying Disk, Dryden broke both is legs, but he met a Unicorn foal. The foal used this motion and both Dryden’s femur and tibia healed perfectly.

Pay a price to roll against Threat To The World: Flying Disk

Finish Them (Wisdom, show error of fighting) advantage: assistance from Fee 6-

Haku is unconvinced. He lashes out with his tail and hits Dryden’s Flying Disk. Dryden hears a crunching sound, and his soul crunches within him. Haku bellows a signal, and Fee jumps on his back.  Fum is across the valley swinging her anchors on the end of chains at poor Roddy. She hears the signal and blows a whistle in response.

Lucia wants to call out to Fee before she leaves, but doesn’t want to yell because that’s anxiety-inducing, and she wants Haku to be calm.

Lucia: Fee, I hope we meet again under better circumstances!

Haku flies towards Fum and she also jumps aboard.  Haku flies into the sky to disengage. Roddy, abandoned by EEE, doesn’t continue the fight and runs down the hill and disappears into a lake in the valley. Suddenly the only sounds are the constant humming of the Singing Stones. Did they win? EEE did not achieve her goal of killing Haku, but she got away. Haku survives, but has no good memories of them. they do have EEE’s sword and helmet.  The three-foot horn used for the sword was clearly from a full-grown Unicorn. The smaller horn on EEE’s helmet is not he tip of a larger horn, but the full horn of a young Unicorn. What a terrible person. The Unicorn Sword has turned the healing horn into a weapon of destruction, but the healing powers are still present, just suppressed.  Dryden uses the vials of Living Water and Living Ice he collected from the mountain spring to bring these powers forth.

Unicorn sword: melee, piercing, healing (2 uses) Good people who know about unicorns will hate anyone who carries it.

GM note: End of Session move. Heal, restore Gear (food, for more healing), level up. The characters reached level 5. I explained Destinies, but the players chose to advance in their Playbooks instead of taking Destinies, at least this time.

When the battle heated up I thought it would be a one-sided stomp, but no side definitively won. No one was Taken Out.

Chasing The Sunset & Bertha

Chasing the Sunset is a West Marches-style exploration game using Fellowship 2nd Edition‘s Horizon rules.

The party: Buckle the Beast/Heart of Earth, Stella the Halfling/Pack Leader

Last time, Buckle absorbed the Heart of Earth, a source of power that caused a mine full of mining robots to go rampant. He accepted the Heart of Earth in a desperate moment: pinned under the red-hot body of the Robot King and the Heart of Earth dangerously unstable without containment.  When Stella shoved the Heart of Earth down his throat, a burst of energy rippled through his body, empowering him to shove the giant metal husk aside. He stands up and opens eyes that glow like fire, no pupils or irises. He looks down at his burning hands, then up at Stella.

Stella: Buckle, are you OK? You’re on fire.

Buckle. That was a rush. I feel fine though.

GM note: Heart of Earth is a custom Destiny that replaces Buckle’s Apex Destiny. It’s mostly the Firebrand Destiny, but with advantages & disadvantages like the Remnant, and a few life-related moves, since the heat of the earth brings life as well as fire.

Buckle’s body is hot enough to ignite flammable objects with a touch, and he shines like a campfire. Stella considers carrying a “Buckle Bucket” around to douse anything he accidentally torches.  Buckle considers getting a non-flammable leather coat to hide his brightness. Such a coat would allow him to literally flash people.  Camping out discreetly in the wilderness will also be difficult. Stella considers throwing a chain over a tree branch and hoisting Buckle aloft to pretend that he is the moon. That’s too similar to hanging for Buckle’s comfort.

OK, but what’s going on here in the mine? After the destruction of the King Robot, the group of mining robots that were guarding it and attacking the party have turned to collect ore.  They don’t speak or respond to speech.  The robots are finely crafted to look like metal dwarves, but without the influence of the Heart of Earth, they seem capable of only simple actions. Stella and Buckle explore the mine to figure out what happened here. The tunnels twist and branch, but Buckle’s excellent sense of direction prevents them from getting lost.

Stella Look Closely 7-9

Stella can see two distinct styles of excavation. Up to the chamber where they found the King Robot, the tunnels seem like a normal mine for metal ore, but after the Heart of Earth awakened the King Robot, the robots started mining in different patterns, ignoring the directions of the living Dwarves, who apparently fled. There are no signs of recent living Dwarf activity. The only control or interface to the mining robots is a dial on the robots’ back, under the backpack/hopper in which they collect ore.

The hidden switch on the mining robot.

Buckle reaches for the dial on a robot. Stella thinks smacking his hand away would be insufficient, and tackles him out of the way. Stella thinks they should talk about it before messing with anything.

Stella: Which glyph is your favorite?

Neither of them can read Dwarvish, so they have to guess at the glyphs’ meanings. Buckle likes the arrows. Maybe the robots pass each other.

Stella: OK, smarty-pants. What do the other glyphs do?

Buckle thinks the left glyph might make the robot put everything down. Stella decides to try it out on an isolated robot. She tells Buckle to stand some distance away in case of trouble. She reaches out to turn the dial to the left, and the robot, sensing her approach, reaches back to swat her away!

Stella Overcome 7-9

After knocking Stella a few paces back, the robot returns to its task. She decides to leave it alone.

Stella: Buckle, wanna give it a try?

Buckle: Maybe it’s good I didn’t touch it.

They look for the living quarters of the missing Dwarves.top view of the Oolite mine. A shallow funnel with three spiraling paths leading to a flat bottom. Entrances to mine tunnels along each of the three paths.

Dwarves prefer to live underground. The depth of one’s dwelling is a sign of privilege.  The living quarters of the working class Dwarves who used to operate this mine are right below the flat bottom of the shallow-funnel-shaped mine. The furniture and items in these barracks look quite old. The mining robots did not go rampant recently. New tunnels cut through the barracks, not with intent to deface or destroy them, just because that was the most efficient route. The rampant robots drove the Dwarves away, but did not seem to have any particular antipathy towards them.  Buckle finds a manual and picks it up. It bursts into flames from his super-heated touch. He drops it and stomps on it, but that only makes more flames! He decides not to touch any more books. Stella looks around at the books and posters that survive, but she can’t read Dwarvish.  Ugg’s a technical fellow. he has to maintain his robotic arms.  But Goblins don’t usually mingle with other cultures, so he doesn’t read Dwarvish either. Also, he almost died in a fight just a few minutes ago. He squints at some diagrams through a swollen eye, but he’s in no shape to help.

Buckle Look Closely 6-

Buckle tries to find some kind of command center, and falls through a weak patch of floor!  Stella assumes that he burned through, but that area had been undermined by a rogue tunnel. He did land in some sort of command center, and when the party joins him, they discover a log book (in Dwarvish, of course) and a regional map! They can’t read the place names, but they recognize places they’ve been recently.

An old map of the area surrounding the Oolite mine.

The X represents the mine. The circle due north must be Templeton, and the square to the west of Templeton must be Sugar’s Crossing because it’s on a road (grey line) and river (blue line) There’s a road leading from the mine to this port city that they haven’t visited. Maybe the Dwarves fled there, and they can go find them.

They prepare to leave the mine, and check in with the giant Dung Beetles before they go. The Beetles don’t recognize Buckle. He’s changed so much!  The Beetles are grateful that the robots will no longer break through and threaten the Beetles’ caverns, and offer the party the choice of several gifts:

Fellowship of the Beetles earned!

  • a big pile of nutritious mushrooms
  • knowledge of other Dwarven tunnels that lead to new places
  • An old Siege Tank, found in an abandoned tunnel

Besides the obvious benefits of armor and weapons, an enclosed vehicle can conceal Buckle’s bright glow.  The party accepts the Siege Tank from the beetles, and they all pile in and set out for the port city.

New companion: Siege Tank

  • Spikes And Steel
  • Heavily Armored
  • Secret Weapon

The road to the port has not been used in a longtime and has fallen into disrepair.  Parts are washed out. Bushes grow in the path. Tree roots distort what pavement remains. The Siege Tank rolls over all of it easily. It’s not much faster than walking.

Near sunset, as Stella drives the tank toward the pink and yellow horizon, Dark shapes appear on the road, silhouetted by the setting sun. There are about five of them, but they are backlit and hard to see.  They demand the vehicle halt, although their bearing doesn’t quite match their authoritative demand. Stella tries to think of a plan and the tank slowly approaches the dark figures. Silk is too weak from the last fight to help now.  Buckle opens the top hatch and climbs on top of the tank. With burning eyes, from the top of a war machine, he tells the figures on the road to move.

Buckle Talk Sense (impress with Grace) (Stella gives Hope by not stopping) 7-9

The figures shrink back into the brush on either side of the road.

Figure: We were only trying to warn you. Stay low!

The tank proceeds unhindered. Sometimes the next day, the tank crawls through a pleasant landscape.The sun is shining. The birds are not singing. There are no birds. Weird.  Up ahead, one of the hills is missing its top.There’s a flat scorched area where the rounded apex should be.

Buckle: Look at that former mountain.

Stella: It had a bad day. Or a bad haircut.

Stella drives the tank towards the hill to investigate, with Buckle on top as a lookout

Stella Look Closely (+Hope from Buckle) 7-9

Clearly whatever sliced through the hill was very powerful and very hot. Buckle’s immune to heat, so he’d be fine, but everyone else would avoid it, whatever it is. As they drive around the damaged hill, they see a castle made of ice! Getting closer still, they see the castle rests on the back of a giant turtle, flippers spread out across hundreds of feet, eyes closed.  A turtle’s chest won’t rise and fall with its breathing. Their ribs are fused solid to form their shell, but the party can tell its breathing by looking at its nostrils. This enormous creature is asleep.

A giant turtle carrying an ice castle, hiding behind a burned hill.

Buckle: Do you think the king is home?

Stella: That’s presumptuous. I’m sure the queen has it under control.

Buckle: Wanna find out what burned the mountain?

Stella: It’s not the craziest thing we’ve done recently.

They leave the tank and their companions a polite distance away and walk up to the castle. They are greeted at the gate by Gertrude, a beautiful woman made of clear, sharp crystal. With her every movement, little rainbows shimmer and dance around. Stella elbows Buckle.

Stella: Told you. Queen.

Gertrude is happy to see them. They ask about the hill. Gertrude says it’s fortunate that the hill is there, since it provides for Bertha (the turtle) so she can sleep in safety. Gertrude is trying to put a cheery spin on everything, but it becomes clear that Bertha and Bernard’s castle were forced down by a powerful beam weapon fired from nearby. Buckle elbows Stella.

Buckle: Bernard’s castle.

Gertrude invites them in for an audience with Bernard. When buckle steps onto the castle, he starts melting the icy flagstones, leaving webbed-foot-shaped puddles. Gertrude gasps and fires a high-pressure jet of water from her body, pushing Buckle back outside in a cloud of steam. She’s embarrassed by her outburst and very apologetic, but Buckle’s fine. Stella will go meet Bernard, and Buckle will wait outside.  The other inhabitants of the castle are also humanoid-shaped, but seem to be made of ice or snow. Bernard is a large man, all polished facets of ice, with a crown of ice crystals (probably part of his body) on his head. He is formal but direct, a strong contrast to Gertrude’s customer service voice.  He explains that they were flying over the land (It’s always nice to explore new lands) when they saw a glint or shimmer from the ground, It was bright, almost a second sun. That’s the source of the beam weapon that hit Bertha, and forced them to take shelter behind this hill. Stella agrees to check it out.

Stella: Anything else?  Are you urgently leaving the planet?

Bernard: Ha, we only arrived a generation ago!

Also, Bertha is taking a nap, and won’t wake up for a day or two, so the castle can’t move before then.  Stella asks for a token of goodwill to give to whoever owns the beam weapon, to show that Bernard & his people are not a threat. Bernard thinks for a while, then produces a gem. It’s smooth and clear, like Gertrude, and rainbows shine on his hand as he holds it. There’s a slight enchantment on it. When Bernard opens his hand, the gem rises slightly and floats an inch over his palm, but it’s easy to hold. Stella takes the gem and goes back out to Buckle.

GM note: Bernard isn’t as friendly and helpless as he appears. He sent stealthy assassins out with orders to kill whoever Stella gives the gem to, since she’s going to give it to the person who shot down the castle. I didn’t the players about the assassins.

Stella asks Buckle to go look over the top of the hill, since he probably won’t get burned. Buckle pokes his head over the crispy edge of the hill. Nothing happens. He stands on top of the hill. Nothing. He jumps around, but still does not draw the ire of whatever is out there. he does see a shimmer about a mile to the north, roughly where Bernard described the beam weapon firing from. Since it’s apparently safe, Stella joins Buckle at the top of the hill and also sees the shining light.  She explains the plan she and Bernard discussed, and shows Buckle the gem. Buckle reaches out to grab it, but Stella snatches it away.

GM note: That was close!

Buckle and Stella return to the Siege Tank and drive it over towards the site of the beam weapon. As they approach, they see an huge hexagonal mirror, 100 feet across, suspended between two giant crabs, each the size of a house. On the ground behind them, a humanoid Spider (segmented exoskeleton, walks upright on two legs, six arms) pulls on reins for the crabs, and a series of wires connected to metal girders on the underside of the mirror.  Stella and Buckle leave the tank a polite distance and approach on foot. If this does not go well, blasting things with the Seige Tank’s secret weapons is a fallback plan.

They are about to introduce themselves when the Spider (his name is Agate, pronounced uh-GAH-tay) spots a bird and excitedly motions them to watch. With the reins, he directs the crabs to aim the mirror towards the bird, then pulls the wires attached to the mirror to focus the reflected sunlight into a deadly beam. Poof!  The poor bird is destroyed.

Stella: Impressive.

Agate: Thanks, I’m great.

Stella clenches her fist in frustration. They ask about his contraption. He’s been practicing with it ever since he found it. As far as he knows, this mirror fell out of the sky. They mention that they saw a similar mirror on their travels.

Agate: There’s another? You left it? You gotta take whatever you can get!

Stella: Why do you attack flying things?

Agate: Because I can’t reflect sunlight down. Sun shines down, beam bounces up. But if I had two mirrors… Where did you see that other mirror?

Stella: We’ll get to that later. But first, do you hate Bernard?

Agate doesn’t know what she’s talking about. She starts to talk about the flying castle and he interrupts. Shooting the castle was so cool. He cut off a whole tower before it dropped below the horizon. It’s not every day a target like that presents itself, so he jumped at the opportunity.

Stella: You like reflecting the sun. What about refraction?

Agate: It’s all good. Whatever works.

Stella shows him the gem. It’s beautiful! Agate fires a webline to snatch it away from her.

Stella Overcome 6-

She tries to close her hand, but he’s too quick!

Buckle Overcome 10+

Buckle grabs the webline, which burns instantly. The gem falls to the ground.

Buckle: First you have to promise not to shoot down the castle. You’ve heard of a deal, right?

Agate: Yeah, yeah. A deal is for people who aren’t strong enough to get what they want, so they have to trick people into getting what they want.

Buckle: Well, here’s how you trick us into giving you the gem. Promise you won’t shoot down the castle.

Buckle Talk Sense (sense, a plan) 10+

Agate promises. Stella picks up the gem.

Buckle: You get the gem after they fly away.

Agate: Fine. Hurry up!

Stella and Buckle return to the castle, where Gertrude and Bernard await them.

GM note: The assassins were so very close to attacking, but no one ever took the gem except Stella. True to their orders, they stayed hidden.

Stella explains the giant mirror weapon to Gertrude and Bernard, and how Agate doesn’t even care them. He just wants things to shoot at, but the gem has enticed him to promise safe passage. Buckle suggests that the castle could produce a lens of ice to counter Agate’s beam weapon. Gertrude is offended by the suggestion that the principle that makes her sparkle and brings joy and hope to all around her, should be harnessed as a weapon of destruction! Buckle reassures her that it doesn’t have to be a weapon. It could be used defensively to disperse or refract Agate’s beam weapon.  Stella is impressed by Buckle’s vocabulary and knowledge of optics. He shrugs. They have science class in the Platyperson village. Bernard assigns some people to work on a lens. He is surprised that Stella did not give Agate the gem.

GM note: You know, so his assassins could kill him.

Stella says that Agate is untrustworthy, and perhaps Bernard should drop the gem as the castle flies away.

Stella and Buckle return to the Siege Tank

Stella: How do you feel about that Spider having access to mirros? Maybe we play a prank on him.

Buckle: Pranks are fun.

Stella: maybe more serious than a prank.

They are still half-dead from fighting squads of invulnerable robots earlier, so Stella serves a feast to heal herself and her companions, while Buckle goes fishing to get food for himself and Ugg. They wait until nightfall before making their move.

Stella: It concerns me that a being so careless and egotistical could have so much power.

They will destroy the mirror! But how? It’s a huge structure of metal and glass. Buckle can scorch the reflective surface, or heat it until it warps, but he can’t blow it up. The tank could blow it up. They could try to steal it, but they’d have to steal the giant crabs as well. It’s too big to carry otherwise. Buckle can talk to any beast. Maybe they talk to the crabs and set them free. They’re not sure where Agate will be when they arrive, but Buckle’s electro-sense will be able to find him at close range. To use electro-sense, Buckle will have to exit the tank, so he’ll light up the area, alerting Agate.

Stella: We need a plan. When Buckle sticks his head out, We’ll have to go quick.

Stella drives the tank to within shouting distance of the giant crabs. Buckle pokes his head out of the hatch, shining bright light all around. He senses agate in a hammock on the underside of the mirror. He’s stirring, but he won’t be able to act for a moment. Buckle tells Stella that the Spider is in a hammock, then tells the crabs that he’s come to set them free and return them to the ocean.

Buckle Talk Sense (sense, desires) 10+

The crabs like that idea, and start cutting the webbing that secures the mirror to their backs.

Agate: No, no, no!

Agate runs upside-down on the underside of the mirror firing webs to replace the ones being cut by the crabs.

Stella Keep Them Busy 7-9

Stella rides Silk up the leg of a crab and barrels into Agate, knocking him down to the ground.  Buckle climbs up onto the mirror, throwing black powder around, setting fires, and trying to warp the mirror with his burning footsteps

Buckle Finish Them (sense, disable) 7-9

The mirror flexes and warps, but it’s basically still in one piece. Agate sneaks up on Stella, running on the underside of the crab’s shell and appearing behind her with a flurry of blows from his six fists!

Stella Overcome 7-9

She grabs one of his arms and uses his momentum to throw his past her, but it was a scary attack, so her Courage is damaged. Agate tumbles forward, then throws a webline and swings to the other crab. The crab that Stella is on finishes freeing itself from the mirror and shoves the mirror off its back, threatening everyone in the area! Stella and Silk flee back to the Siege tank

Stella Get Away 7-9 avoid harm

Buckle is on top of the mirror and rides it down, jumping off at the last moment, rolling through a cloud of debris, and running back to the tank.

Buckle Overcome 7-9 -> Survivor -> Get Away 7-9 avoid harm

The mirror is bent out of shape, and the other crab is close to freeing itself. Agate can feel his glorious beam weapon slipping away. But there’s still a precious gem, and that glowing Platyperson has got to be important. But these enemies have destroyed his great weapon and he’s barely touched them. He can’t win this fight, not now. He grabs a hidden webline prepared for just such an occasion and is whisked quickly away. The other crab throws its side of the mirro down, completing its destruction!

The Siege Tank leads the two giant crabs back to Bertha and Bernard’s castle in a triumphant procession. Bernard thinks Stella was very shrewd to break the deal and attack Agate at night.  He asks for the gem back, since they don’t need to give it to Agate anymore.Stella wants to keep the gem to commemorate the achievement.

Stella: Isn’t it good to do things for the greater good?

Bernard: Ah, an altruist! How generous and unselfish!

Stella: I mean, it’s so beautiful. It would make me happy to look at it.

Stella Talk Sense (wisdom, emotions) 6-

Bernard keeps the gem. The party plans to continue on to the port. Bernard says Bertha can carry them, if they are willing to wait for her to walk up. That sounds like a good plan.

Several days later an amazing sight appears over the rooftops of the port city. A huge flying turtle looms overhead, gleaming spires of ice on its back. It lands, and the gates of a castle open up. Out come two huge crabs, flanking a secret war machine of the Dwarves. Atop this war machine, a mighty beast, eyes glowing, flaming with the heat of the Earth’s core!

Buckle is sitting down like a dog, unaware of how cool he looks, and asks amazed onlookers where to find a tavern.

GM note: End of session move.  Three boons. Level up. Heal. Heal. Buckle takes Dragonfire, which lets him kill or destroy anything that’s not a Threat To The World. Stella takes Queen Of The Wild, so all Beasts are her Companions. These are very powerful abilities!

Chasing The Sunset & Mountain Pass

Chasing the Sunset is a West Marches-style exploration game using Fellowship 2nd Edition‘s Horizon rules.

The party: Dryden of Conwall the Collector, Lucia the Heir

Last time, Lucia & Dryden fought Doctor Diana MacLeod, the mad scientist vampire who spent 60 years turning a mountain into an anti-moon weapon. It was the first time that Lucia & Dryden ever killed a person.  They fled after striking her down to avoid fighting every single person employed on the mountain.

GM note: Lucia’s bloodline ability “Make people forget the past five minutes” proved too powerful and useful. Lucia’s player suggested adding some limitation, like limited uses or a cooldown, but I demanded a completely different ability. Lucia’s player decided on reinstating an ability that Lucia lost in the transition from Dungeon World to Fellowship. She can pause for a moment and ask, “What here is evil?” 

Now they catch their breath and wonder what they are trying to do. Stopping MacLeod’s schemes was good, but how did they get mixed up in all this? Long ago they found evidence of a werewolf attack in a small farming village, and one thing led to another. They aren’t welcome back in that village, and they didn’t figure out how to stop werewolves either.  They really don’t have anything to follow up on.  The world is open to them. Dryden quotes a famous adventurer who said, “Adventure is out there!” He wants to strike out in a direction and see what they find.  From their high vantage point they look around.

To the north, the foothills that MacLeod’s mountain rises above grow steeper and higher, becoming an imposing snowy mountain range. To the east, Lady Evelynn’s estate. To the south, the village that was attacked by a werewolf, and the hot springs inhabited by “trickster demons” who just don’t realize that not everyone is immune to heat.  To the west, two forests. The northwest forest is huge and old. The southwest forest looks sickly. After some consideration, they decide to head north and cross the treacherous mountains.

Travelers know that mountain ranges usually have high passes and low tunnels. Dryden figures that a river’s path up a mountain will be easy to follow, and uses his flying disk to scout for such a river.

Dryden Look Closely (+hope for good plan) 12

He finds the river that eventually flows through Sugar’s Crossing. It’s much smaller up here in the mountains, of course.  The finds a path for them to follow. The mountains are very high, reaching into the clouds. It gets cold and snowy. The path will be dangerous, with steep drop-offs on one side and unstable snow everywhere. Dryden also spots some beast dens, although he doesn’t see the beasts that live there. They may face hungry predators along the path.

  • Treacherous Mountain Set Piece: The Mountain Pass
  • The Narrow Pass
  • The Creatures Above
  • The Long Road

With the path ahead scouted, Dryden, Lucia, and their companions start walking. Eventually they reach the headwaters of the river. A spring burst from the mountain into a dish-shaped depression, so it forms a small pool. One side of the depression has a spout shape to it, releasing the river to flow down the mountain, join with rainwater and other streams, and eventually become the mighty river that carries so many people and goods through Sugar’s Crossing.  The spring is so high and cold that most of the circular pool is frozen over, but the motion of the spring keeps the center of the pool melted, so there’s a ring of ice with a hole in the middle where water bubbles up.  Such a location is special, perhaps magical.  Dryden reaches back into his cloak and pulls out two vials: one for water, one for ice. He can’t walk out on the ice to reach the liquid center of the pool. The ice gets thinner and thinner towards the center, so he’d break through before reaching the open water. He gets a long branch from a nearby tree and secures the vials to the end, using the branch to extend his reach. He scoops up some spring water, then waits for a piece of ice to break off and flow towards the pool’s spout so he can grab that too. He won’t disturb this sacred place by breaking a piece of ice off.

Lucia: You’ve learned much in your travels.

When they were growing up together in the palace together, Dryden was more impulsive and less respectful.  They stop to eat a meal and rest before moving on. Dryden bends the branch that he used to grab the water into a circle, applies some secret material, steps back with a flourish, and the branch bursts into flame. It provides all the heat & light of a campfire from only one branch.

They continue uphill. This was a trail at one point, but it hasn’t been maintained in a long time. Here a log props up a dangerous overhanging rock. There a few flat stones are placed to form a stable road surface. These signs of civilization are few and far between ,and most have succumbed to the assaults of the elements.  Lucia & Dryden are walking on a narrow path on the side of a mountain: steep rocky slope rising above on their left. On the right, a steep descent with occasional trees. If they fell off this path, instead of plummeting hundreds of feet to a sudden rocky stop, they’d slide and tumble over rocks and gravel, and perhaps manage to stop themselves on a tree. Ahead, the path turns a sharp corner around a ridge. A chunk of the ridge is missing and the path goes through the gap. Two logs should hold up the overhanging rock, but one had fallen down, and the other is weakened: chewed and scratched by sharp teeth and claws. Lucia & Dryden check their gear for items that might help in this situation. Lucia has piles of cash, but the mountain does not accept money.  Dryden defers to “your Highness.” It’s a chance for her to build her leadership skills.

Lucia approaches the overhang to get a better look, very wary of falling rocks.

Lucia Look Closely 7-9

She notices a traveler’s pack on the far side of the fallen log, but a section of trail gives way under her feet and she starts to slide off the edge!

Lucia Get Away 6-

She grabs for something to catch herself and grabs the remaining support log! It falls over and now the overhang begins to come loose. Lucia is still sliding off the path, but now Dryden is also in danger!  Dryden reaches into his cloak and retrieves his Dwarf-made hammer, a two-handed weapon with a long, unbreakable handle. He moves in to the base of the crumbling overhang to prop it up with the unbreakable hammer.

Dryden Overcome 2

Most of the overhang is still unsupported & continues to collapse. A smaller rock strikes and injures Dryden, and a rock the size of couch completely flattens the traveler’s bag.  Lucia pulls herself up and runs through the overhang to the far side.

Lucia Get Away 6

She isn’t struck by falling rocks, but a rock that rolls down onto the path trips her and she falls again.  But she’s around the corner, and on the path ahead she sees about 15 hungry wolves.

  • Group Of Wolves:
  • Group
  • Pack Hunter
  • Loyal

The wolves notice her and start to approach. They are a fair distance away, so there’s still time for the party to be crushed flat or thrown down the mountain before the wolves have a chance to eat them.

Dryden Get Away 12

Dryden uses his flying disk to grab Lucia and zoom out away from the slope as the overhang totally collapses. He must return to the path quickly, since the flying disk only works for a short time. They have escaped the danger of the collapsing overhang, but now it’s a wall behind them and the pack of wolves approaches from the front!

GM note: Dryden’s player selected the option “bring someone else with you” for Get Away. Dryden’s Flying Thing gear option allows him to fly, and can be Overcharged to double the effect. Did Dryden need to Overcharge the Flying Thing to Get Away with Lucia? I ruled that the Get Away move let Dryden carry Lucia and Overcharge wasn’t needed.

Treacherous Mountain: The Narrow Path defeated.

Dryden sets a bear trap on the path in front of himself. The wolves see him do it, so they know where the trap is, but it’s still area denial, and on this narrow path, that’s important. Lucia throws rocks at the wolves, which just angers them, so they target her.

Lucia Keep Them Busy. automatic failure against Group

Some approach on the path, some clamber on the slope above.  Dryden uses the harpoon gun he stole from Lady Evelynn to grapple some rocks on the slope above and pull them down on the wolves.

Finish Them with Courage (advantage: unexpected rockslide) 7-9 damage Pack Hunter

The small landslide disrupts their formation and knocks a few down the slope, but the remaining wolves don’t flee. A large rock lands on the path, and Lucia climbs it so the wolves will have trouble reaching her. She succeeds in making herself a hard target, so the wolves switch to Dryden. He tries to evade them, but is grabbed and dragged to the ground.

Dryden Get Away 5

Lucia leaps off the rock with a battle cry!

Lucia Finish Them with Courage (advantage: Plunge Attack) 10+

Her plunge attack kills one wolf and sends most of the pack fleeing!  Two wolves stop and return, determined to get a kill.  As individuals, they are easier to fight.  Dryden remembers some literature he once read and places something on the path in front of him.  A wolf carefully steps over the bear trap and lunges at Dryden. Just as Dryden expected. The object he placed just in front of himself is a “mirage” prank weapon, which appears to burst into sudden flames! The wolf stumbles back in shock, right into the bear trap. Snap! The wolf is immobilized.

GM Note: The Distraction spell let Dryden Get Away or Keep Them Busy with 10+ Given the fictional situation, I offered Dryden’s player another option: the wolf steps in the trap. That damages the wolf and gives the characters advantage over it (it can’t move) so it’s more powerful than the options in the rules, but Dryden planned & spent resources to create the opportunity, so it seemed appropriate.

Meanwhile, Lucia keeps the other wolf at bay with her sword.

Lucia Keep Them Busy 7-9

Dryden looks around to see how he can assist Lucia. His prank weapon is spent and his Dwarven hammer is buried in a landslide, but Dryden is Fully Armed and carries an entire arsenal. He selects his multi-cursed gladius. Why carry lots of cursed weapons when one weapon can contain several curses?  The gladius has a flat disk built into the crossguard. Dryden rubs his thumb across the disk in a counter-clockwise motion, then taps the symbol on the left side of the disk to select the Curse of Bees.  Collecting the Curse of Bees is a painful memory.)  He strikes the wolf fighting Lucia with the sensation of a thousand stings and the wolf flees in panic, sliding down the steep gravely slope with all four legs pushed forward to try to keep its speed down to a survivable level.

Dryden Finish Them with Courage (advantage: Lucia Keeping Them Busy) 7-9

All the wolves have been vanquished, except the one caught in the bear trap.  Dryden approaches with soothing words, but the wolf snaps and growls at him.  Dryden offers it some food from his pack.  He remembers the wisdom of several people he met on his journeys who were good with animals. The Druid Gleador, and expert on animals because he had become so many of them, said to look the wolf in the eye and tell it it’s a good boy.  Mr London says that the deep desire of all dogs is fire, so Dryden reaches in to his cloak and pulls out a heat ball. This is another way to quickly make a camp fire. He ignites it and tells the wolf that if it sticks with them, it will never be cold again.  Dryden carefully pulls the jaws of bear trap open, releasing the wolf in a third show of good will.

Dryden Finish Them with Wisdom (advantage: spend food, spend Useful item, wolf is immobilized & must listen) 7-9

Alas, the wolf flees as soon as it’s free.  Lucia & Dryden sit down for another meal before moving on.

Treacherous Mountain: The Creatures Above defeated.

Now they are past the highest mountains and can look out over the location they are approaching. The mountains flatten out into rolling hills.  When the wind blows up from the hills they can hear faint constant tones, like musical notes.  There’s also a tiny white line curving around on the hills. As they continue to walk down out of the mountain range, the musical tones get more constant and louder. Different tones seem to come from different directions.  The hills are grassy, with no trees because of the constant winds. There are some scrubby bushes, and rocks protruding from the grassy hills. Now that they are lower, they realize that the white line is moving through the air, but they were so high earlier that they were looking down on it. They stop for another meal.

Treacherous Mountain: The Long Road defeated.
Treacherous Mountain Setpiece defeated.

Lucia investigates the source of these constant musical tones.

Lucia Look Closely 6-

Standing stones on top of some hills have slits carved through them, and the wind whistling through the slits produces the different notes. Lucia walks up to one such stone, which is about 12 feet tall.  The stone was placed and carved intentionally. Up close some decorative  engraving around the slit is visible. Yet care was taken by the unknown creator to keep most of the stone’s natural shape, and to place the stone so it fits with its surrounding. While pondering this, Lucia is knocked to the ground and injured! Two seconds later, they hear something like an enormous bottle being uncorked, far away across the valley.  There’s something stuck in Lucia’s metal armor: a metal spike about a foot long, like a thick knitting needle. There’s a piece of paper wrapped around the projectile. Lucia opens and reads the note.

Stay away. This hunt and its glory are mine.
-EEE

GM note: We end with the introduction of a new location and a new threat. The Singing Hills are actually one of the first locations I created when I started Chasing The Sunset in July of 2019, and I’ve been hoping for my players to find it for over a year. I’m excited for them to meet EEE and the other characters that live here.