Photobook recommendations: Look at all the people!

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I love people! Each person is unique and individual, and as a group humans are wildly different from each other in every way imaginable. Atlanta Fashion Police uses “diversity via repetition” to reveal this. The project has a very specific theme: people in costume at Dragon Con holding a mugshot sign. The individuality of the people in the photos contrasts the sameness of the photographs.  Here are some photobooks from my collection that also show diversity via repetition.

A tragically necessary disclaimer

  • To the best of my limited knowledge, none of these photographers are abusers.
    • Some the people pictured are!
  • No art justifies cruelty to actual human beings.
  • Don’t tolerate any artistic collaborator who doesn’t respect you.

Athlete by Howard Schatz

Schatz’s lineups of Olympic athletes from different sports are so famous that you’ve probably already seen stolen copies floating around the internet. Buy this book to see the legit, full-size images.  Another meme says “this is what peak performance looks like” but Schatz shows that peak performance looks different depending on what’s being performed. Even in the extremely rarified environment of world-class athletic competition, bodies are very different. The pinnacle of human physicality does not exist. It’s a mountain range.

Breaking All The Rules by Ger Tysk

Tysk pairs photos of cosplayers with short interviews. Despite the range of ages, locations, professions, skillsets, and fandoms, all these people are united by their love of making and wearing costumes.

Cosplay In America & Cosplay In America V2 by Ejen Chuang

Ejen’s a fellow cosplay photographer and I’ve enjoyed hanging out with him at conventions.  In Volume 1 he photographs cosplayers with a single light and a grey backdrop. In Volume 2 the grey backdrop returns, but he increases the scope of the book significantly, photographing cosplayers in their homes as they build the costumes, and at conventions as don the complex costumes and mingle with fans and other cosplayers. I see so many of my friends in these books I can’t help but feel good when I look through them.

DPBBBV 2020 aka Daily Portrait 5 by Martin Gabriel Pavel

A massive book for a massive project spanning several years and countries and over 400 people.  Pavel photographs nude people doing odd things in quirky locations: places that may soon be revitalized or gentrified into clean conformity. Pavel’s eye for uniqueness extends beyond the people in his photos to the spaces they inhabit or visit.

Hips by Patrick Roddie

Roddie’s website is gone, but archive.org loans out a virtual copy of the book, and used copies are available. The most rigorous implementation of “diversity via repetition” in this list. Every photo is framed the same way: a hand, a hip, and a belly. Each pair of hips on a spread shares some commonality: pop-tab chain-mail, pregnant bellies, matching tattooes, walkie-talkies, leopard print (fabric on one, bodypaint on the other). All the hips belong to attendees of Burning Man, so there’s significant nudity, emphasized but not sensationalized by the framing.

Humans by Brandon Stanton

A popular street photography blog traveled around the world, photographing people and listening to their stories. Many stories are sad or poignant, so I only flip through a few pages at a time. Street photographers can easily treat people like props, but Stanton takes time to respect their individuality and learn specific details that aren’t obvious from a photograph.

The Nu Project, Volume 1 and Volume 2 by Matt Blum and Katy Kessler

The goal is to show “beauty in every body” by photographing “normal” women (not models) nude in their homes.  Pets and babies and housemates are also welcome.  The light is so soft and pleasing. Everyone seems so happy and comfortable. Blum is a wizard for getting strangers and non-models to open up like this. So many open smiles and big laughs.

The People of Burning Man by Julian Cash

Alas, the book is out of print and the author’s website is gone. Cash photographed people at Burning Man against a white background, often with a fish-eye lens.  Like the festival it’s based on, this book is full of surprises:  Yogis forming every letter of the alphabet with their bodies, paper dolls to cut out and dress, match the faces with the tattoos, hugging, bodypaint, dancing, nudity. An explosion of color and creativity and fun.

Chasing the Sunset & Caramel

Chasing The Sunset & Caramel

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/Hunter

Yearly Check-In

I asked if my players preferred “dungeons” with dense maps that the characters were stuck in, or loose verbal descriptions. My players said some very nice things:

  • They’ve all worked really well because they’ve been at the level of detail that’s appropriate for the narrative.
  • I like the ability to create long-term companions, but also focusing on a guest character for a time. There’s enough depth that it feels like they could come along with us. It’s a loss when the NPC is removed, or it’s time for them to go. It’s that much more powerful when someone does decide to come along with us.
  • I appreciate the diveristy of characters, getting to know what beings exist and having the world continue to expand as we go to different parts of the maps.

Stella was Taken Out after fighting for three sessions straight.  Do the players find excitement in the possibility of losing? Do they rise to a challenge, knowing that they need to leverage all their Moves effictively to avoid defeat? The players said:

  • I enjoy the possibility of not winning.
  • It’s nice to have some tough battles sometimes, but not all the time because that would be stressful.
  • Buckle’s player relates being a very powerful character to Doctor Who. The Doctor gets in situations that are stressful. He’s such a powerful being that success is different for him. The conflict they likes most isn’t when they’re not sure if they can overpower their opponent, but where the best outcome is a tricky narrative to wander through. We’re going to have a chat, but then Buckle decides he’s going to burn the world down. Buckle has Dragonfire which can vaporize an enemy with no roll. It’s interesting to have conflicts that need to be resolved differently than violence. When you could just burn the world down it’s much more interesting to resolve conflicts in a way that’s productive.
  • Finish Them with Wisdom is always a possibility. Try to lead with that. Like when Theona tried to kidnap Buckle and Stella intimidated her into joining up.

i asked about plots and quests. Did they like the plots that they found? Did they feel comfortable setting their own goals? I intentionally don’t include world-ending threats, athougt the Moon could have gone very badly. A sandbox can’t have any world-ending plots because then the players must do that, or they don’t get to play. The players said:

  • Buckle’s player is missing an over-arching goal. They are going where the wind takes them.
  • The Moon was a compelling narrative arc, but now it feels like we’re not involved anymore. We played a part, but it’s not part of our over-arching goals.
  • Why is Buckle doing anything instead of just going home? There’s not a specific thing we have to accomplish for the good of the world.
  • A long-term goal and a goal with high stakes aren’t the same. Buckle’s player likes high-stakes goals that are episodic, but the long-term arcs being personal.
  • Buckle might seek out more Artifacts of Power.

I want his player to feel empowered to pursue that, instead of only responding to plot hooks that I throw out. I don’t think Fellowship has a good move for figuring out mysteries. The Dwarf has a move that’s close: it allows them to understand a artifact they handle. The players rely on me to scatter enough pieces of information for them to put together into something cohesive. That’s a challenge, because mental image to verbal description to hearing and understanding to mental image is lossy at every step.

Does Stella need a goal to strive for? Her player said:

  • Stella’s initial goal (calling the Halfling refugees back home) is out the window because there are populations of Halflings here who are not refugees and don’t need rescuing.
  • Stella’s player is letting Stella stumble on a new goal based on what happens in the world. Right now Stella is making sure Buckle doesn’t die, which should be easy because Buckle is very powerful.

Buckle’s player enjoyed being part of a larger narrative, but not the main character. Another distinction, the scale of a narrative is not the same as the amount of time we spend on it in-game. The Vampire Plot against the Moon is interplanetary in scale (very large), but we only spent a few sessions on it (not that large).  I’ve made a point to show the effect that other Fellowships have had on the world, but I didn’t think of showing a Fellowship what effect they have had on the world.

Mixing big world-shaking events and local squabbles is fun. Both players agree they like side-quests, like last session was just three short vignettes of the Fellowship passing through and helping out with the power of friendship.

I keep the tone pretty light, like a PG-rated family adventure movie, but have a I overlooked any phobias or triggers? Do the players have arachnophobia? No! There’s been a Giant Spider in the Fellowship this whole time. It’s fun for characters to be in trouble and worried, but players should be safe and comfortable. The players do not report any discomfort.

I’m very happy that the players have said so many nice things. It’s important that we line up our expectations so we direct our efforts to make sure everyone has a good time.

Let’s start creating fiction in a dense, linear fashion.

Back to the story

Last time, the Fellowship set out on a continent-spanning quest to return Kitty the T-Rex to her home in the Cracktooth Wastes. They are approaching their first big challenge, getting through Vieport, where they are Public Enemy #1, 2, and 3.

Buckle, Stella are Most Wanted for attacking the Sea Viper personally. Hamfast, who used to live in Vieport, will be recognized as a collaborator. if any of these three are spotted in Vieport, the guards will be summoned. The other Companions aren’t recognizable. To avoid trouble, the Miranda shouldn’t do anything suspicious. Also, the river gets more crowded with ships as they approach the city. The Fellowship wonders how to avoid suspicion. Kitty is a huge dinosaur, Buckle glows, and several people are fugitives.

The Miranda has a cabin that fits human-sized characters, but Kitty is 40 long, most of the length of the boat, so she won’t fit. Buckle conceals himself in the shower, curled up around the Phoenix egg.  The shower won’t burst into flames from Buckle’s touch because it’s covered in tile and if it overheats, he can turn on the water. The Companions will operate the boat.

A trireme (a Roman-era ship propelled by three rows of oars) comes upstream and will pass the Miranda.

Lookout: There’s a dinosaur on that boat! Ahoy! Are you OK? It doesn’t seem to be eating you.

Buckle opens the porthole in the shower and looks out with blazing white eyes.

Buckle: Yup, we’re all fine.

Stella shakes her head. The boat has a schedule to keep, so it keeps going, but anyone who isn’t busy comes to the side to stare. Stella calls out, asking where they are going. This ship is delivering pearls, coral, and fish to Sugar’s Crossing. Stella notices that this ship is much bigger than the Miranda, and wonders if they could conceal the dinosaur and the fugitives. The ship is going up to Sugar’s Crossing, so the Miranda would have to follow them and wait for them to turn around.  Buckle doesn’t want take Kitty back to Sugar’s Crossing, since they already had trouble with the local bureaucracy. Perhaps Stella could hail a large ship heading downriver. Lots of traffic on this river. The trireme moves on.

GM note: I don’t know how ships work, so I opened Wikipedia in another tab to find other types of ships that might be on the river. Some Roman ships had 300 oars in five rows! Very interesting, but I need to concentrate on the game.

Buckle remembers that Emmett (the Sea Viper’s metaphysical advisor) said that the Heart of Earth has the power of life, and might be able to cancel the power of death in the Deathlands. They are passing through the Deathlands now, so maybe buckle should investigate that “power of death”. He looks to the shores and sees the ghosts that fill the Deathlands: vague transparent outlines with glowing eyes. They line the shores, unable to enter the water, hoping a boat will come ashore so they can consume the crew. The river is slow and calm this close to the ocean, so it’s not cutting a sharp channel through the land.  Pulling a small boat up on the shore would be easy. Off to the east there’s a weird purple glow.

The Miranda overtakes a ship that resembles a galleon (those ships from Pirates of the Caribbean) but with a steam engine for propulsion when the wind isn’t favorable. The steam engine doesn’t turn a screw, it just blasts a steam jet out the stern, so other ships are following far behind it. Buckle is staring at the ghosts on the shore and the purple glow in the distance. He thought ghosts only came out at night. He doesn’t notice the steam-powered ship.

Stella steers the Miranda alongside this galleon, named the Hibernia. The ships lookout is a Goblin named Okk.

Okk: Ahoy! Stay clear of the steam jet!

Stella: Thank you for that advice!

She doesn’t want to be snarky, but the steam jet is obviously dangerous. She asks about their cargo and destination.  The Hibernia is carrying fresh fruit (from the orchards near the Fire Pits) and sugar (from the mills in Sugar’s Crossing).

Okk: Are you some kind of circus? Are you selling exotic animals to collectors?

Stella: You could say we like to put on a show where ever we go.

Stella wonders if the Hibernia could carry Kitty through Vieport and rendezvous with the Miranda in the ocean. Okk can’t make those kids of decisions, so he calls for the captain. The captain is an older human man, a bit chubby, with a big hat and a handlbar mustache. He orders the first mate to throw a line over so Stella can come aboard and discuss business arrangements. Stella mounts Silk (the Giant Spider) and Silk climbs the rope, hoping to show she’s not someone to be trifled with. If Captain Frost is intimidated, he doesn’t show it. He gestures towards the ship’s cabin with his right hand, which is a prosthetic with two metal hooks for gripping.  The hooks stick a bit when he opens the cabin door.

Frost; Hmm, I need to get this adjusted. Now we can talk business. What is your proposal?

Stella was going to pay for Kitty’s passage with her purse of foreign coins, but now she wonders if Buckle’s engineering background could help Frost fix his artificial hand.

Stella: I see that we both have things to be done and we are both busy people. I have a large friend who needs safe passage through Vieport and you have a hand that would serve you better if it were more easy to control.

Frost: Yes, once we’re out on the sea and don’t need the steam jet, the Tinker can take a look at it. Right now she needs to operate the engine.

Stella: How confident are you that she can fix it?

Frost: She built it. Who would be better to maintain it? So you want to transport this creature that looks a bit dangerous and avoid attention from the Vieport authorities. Why? That’s your business, but I wouldn’t assume a risk to my ship and my cargo for personal gain. Getting my hand fixed would be selfish.  A captain must think of his ship first.

Stella: What does the ship need? How can we help you?

Frost: Goods that are valuable for trading. Money is always welcome.

The steam jet burns a lot of coal and sounds like a huge, angry jacuzzi.  Vieport doesn’t allow the steam jet in town because it’s a danger to other ships, so the Hibernia usually hires a tug to get through Vieport. Stella offers two solutions to the Hibernia’s propulsion problem. First, the Miranda can tow the Hibernia through Vieport so they don’t have to hire a tug. Second, Kitty has a big tail, so maybe they can rig it so she can paddle with her tail from the stern of the Hibernia and propel it.

Stella Talk Sense (+sense, a plan) 7-9 owe them a favor

Frost accepts the bargain. He leads Stella out to the deck and orders the first mate to take Kitty aboard with the cargo crane. The first mate attaches the cargo net because one loop of rope around Kitty would be painful. Stella snaps Buckle out of his reverie so hecan explain to Kitty that these nice peoplee are goingto conceal and she should not eat any of them. Fortunately

Frost calls the Tinker up from below deck to see about using Kitty’s tail for propulsion. Tinker is a Goblin covered in coal dust. She pulls up her goggles, revealing two green circles around her eyes. She excitedly bustles around Kitty.

Tinker: Oh, yes, yes. The tail has a round cross section. We could attach a fin. Increase power output 40. 40? 70% Oh yes, very interesting!

The first mate is not excited and concerned only with practical matters. He orders deckhands to re-arrange boxes to make room for Kitty below decks.

Buckle volunteers to stay on the Hibernia with Kitty. He looks Stella straight in the eyes, very serious.

Buckle: Take care of my egg.

Stella had forgotten about the egg.

Kitty sees something on the ghost-infested shore and bolts after it. Perhaps the strange purple glow is calling to her.

Frost Leadership: give orders to crew members and characters with damaged Courage

Frost orders Kitty to stop, but she doesn’t listen and jumps off the Hibernia and splashes to shore. Buckle goes after her. Stella runs back to the Miranda to protect the egg. If she forgot about it, maybe her Companions forgot about it, and Gus (the food-loving chef) might cook it! She figures Buckle and Kitty are going overland and calls out to Buckle to meet her on the eastern edge of the city.

GM note: Kitty should follow Buckle’s orders since she is his Companion, but that’s not narratively interesting, so something is overriding their Bond. Story first!

When Buckle jumps off the ship to follow Kitty, he tries to land on her back.

Buckle Get Away 7-9 avoid harm

Kitty and Buckle enter The Deathlands, an unnatural wasteland, where everything is out to kill you! Kitty is immediately confronted by a Specter, a strange ball of blue energy with tendrils that pick up rocks and bits of debris and hurl them at Kitty.

  • Specter: These ghostly spirits like to cause trouble, but they are mostly
    harmless. They’d rather scare you than kill you.

    • Spooky: Specters want you gone. If your Courage is damaged while you face a Specter, temporarily replace all of your Agendas with Run Away.
    • Poltergeist Powers: Specters can lift and throw anything they can see, no matter how heavy it is. Specters can float, and move through walls. Specters do not take damage from weapons of any kind.

GM note: I described the Deathlands’ ghosts as hungry for the living and unable to pass water, then picked a Threat that can float and forces enemies to flee. Completely wrong!

Buckle uses his new magical powers to grab the rocks out of the air and throw them back at the Specter!

Buckle Wizardry: Touch, push, or grab as if you were somewhere else
that you can see.

Buckle Keep Them Busy 7-9

Buckle keeps the Specter at bay for a moment and tries to convince Kitty to retreat. A group of transparent, red-eyes ghosts slowly approach!

  • Group of Deathlands Ghosts: This undead is endlessly hungry, always looking for its next meal.
    • Hungry: Ghouls are always hungry and will eat anything they can catch. If your Grace is damaged, a ghoul’s Cuts against you are Hard Cuts.
    • Tough As Nails: The first time a ghoul would be damaged or destroyed, damage this stat instead.
    • Group: Can affect two characters at once. If this stat is damaged or the Ghosts are destroyed, replace these Ghosts with two Deathalnds Ghosts

Buckle Talk Sense (+Wisdom, appeal to emotions) 7-9 owe a favor

Buckle implores Kitty to return to the boat. She was transfixed by something, but snaps out of it.

Kitty: I heard a familiar voice. I heard a family member that I hadn’t heard in years, that I though was gone. I heard them!

Now she notices all the undead surrounding her and turns back to the river. The Specter changes tactics and lifts Buckle himself! The Specter throws Buckle in the river, creating a steam explosion! Buckle hits the bottom and starts walking towards the Hibernia with a column of steam above him.

Tinker:  Ahhh! An unprecedented source of steam power! The most amazing thing I’ve ever seen!

The first mate attaches a metal bucket (used for loading bulk sugar) to the cargo crane and scoops Buckle out of the water. When Buckle is aboard, the bucket is replaced with a cargo net for Kitty. This takes a while, and passing ships stare at the spectacle. Tinker is very excited to examine Buckle. She puts on big welding gloves.

Tinker: OK, I’ve got the bar of brass and I’ll hold it to you and time how long it takes to start glowing, hen reverse-engineer your surface temperature times surface area … total joules per second, no! watts!

Buckle recommends using a thermometer.

Frost: Our opportunity for subtlety is gone! We are surely the talk of all the ships that have passed us.

Stella: Ugh.

Ugg: Yes, ma’am?

Stella thinks Kitty will cause less trouble than Buckle, so her priority is hiding Buckle. Tinker wants to put Buckle in the engine, boosting their top speed to unheard of levels! She gest a piece of slate and starts writing figures. Buckle looks over her shoulder and corrects some arithmetic errors.  Buckle calculates that if he’s in the engine, the Hibernia could outrun any ship in Vieport even with the added weight of the Miranda. Alas, a boat towed behind a ship driven by a powerful steam jet would be shredded by the steam jet.  Maybe the Hibernia could push the Miranda by putting its prow between the Miranda’s twin hulls. Buckle calculates where Kitty should stand to adjust the center of gravity for maximum efficiency. Buckle and Tinker were to excited to notice, but Captain Frost points out that their new plan is very dangerous and illegal, much worse than the smuggling he agreed to.

Reducing travel time on the river is one thing, but running a checkpoint and incurring the Sea Viper’s wrath will prevent them from making the reliable, safe money that keeps the ship going. Stella catches on “running checkpoints is bad” and not “safety and reliability are good” and suggests re-configuring he sails to act as wings. They won’t have to go through the checkpoint if they fly over the city!

Frost: Fly? Like some kind of giant turtle? That’s ridiculous! We have a hold full of cargo and we can’t heave to to retrofit without being eaten by ghosts. This is the worst time.

Buckle wonders about using ground effect to make Hibernia hover just above the water, thereby not technically being a boat, and avoidng the requirement to stop at the checkpoint. Frost thinks it’s much simpler and safer for his ship, cargo, and reputation, to not smuggle Kitty.

Buckle: The cargo is not a dinosaur. The cargo is a giant piece of candy shaped like a dinosaur. There was an accident with steam jet and the candy fell overboard, but you managed to save it.

Frost: How will we convince the guards of this story?

Buckle: We’ll let them see the dinosaur, which is covered in caramelized sugar.

GM note: This reminded me of the scene from The Iron Giant when the Army shows up at the junkyard and the Iron Giant is disguised as a sculpture. Buckle’s player somehow has not seen The Iron Giant but confirms “We’re totally Iron-Gianting this.”

Frost agrees, but Stella pays her purse of foreign coins for the sugar that will be used in this scheme. Kitty goes below deck and lets Buckle cover her with caramelized sugar, melted by his hot touch. Buckle then hides on the Hibernia under the metal bucket that scooped him out of the water. Stella goes below deck on the Miranda and hides behind the Phoenix Egg. Gus, Hamfast, and Silk are also below deck. Rose is on deck, acting as captain while Ugg operates the helm.

The Miranda and Hibernia reach the checkpoint to enter Vieport. They have to wait for a few ship in front of them.

  • Vieport
    • Most Wanted: If Buckle, Stella, or Hamfast are spotted, the guards will be called.
    • Papers Please: Convince the guards there’s no contraband aboard, or they will search the ship.
    • Heavy Traffic: Whenever the Fellowship maneuvers their boat, they must Overcome the risk of a collision with other boats.
    • That’s My Boat: Secret: de Rolo realizes he was swindled and wants the reclaim the Miranda.

The Miranda pulls into the checkpoint first. Rose has papers for the ship, so they go through without being challenged. The guards have already decided to search the Hibernia, since previous ships told them about the trouble it got into upriver.\

GM note: What is the “hide in plain sight and have NPCs tell convincing lies for you” move? We decide that Buckle will roll Talk Sense. in the fiction, Captain Frost is lying to the Naga Guards, but he’s repeating the plan that Buckle invented.

Buckle Talk Sense (+Grace, trick them) 7-9 owe them a favor

Naga Guards: How do we know that it’s really candy?

Frost: You can lick it if you want.

Kitty doesn’t flinch at the Nagas’ forked tongue, but Buckle owes her for making her do this.

Now the Miranda will tow the Hibernia through the crowded channel.

GM note: Buckle’s player is a poet: “Here in the ship, with all she’s got, here comes Stella pulling a yacht!”

Stella Overcome 10+

Ugg and Rose safely move through the traffic, but de Rolo spots his yacht. He runs down the dock alongside the Miranda.

  • de Rolo, he/him. human.  Millionaire Daredevil
    • Sea Patrol: He can fill in for any role on a ship’s crew. He also has a pressurized air tank on his back with a propeller on the bottom, so he can propel himself through the water and breath underwater.
    • Risk Taker: The Daredevil can never have Despair. At any time, they can
      damage this stat to succeed at an impossible, high flying stunt, in spite of all
      odds against them.

de Rolo: Hey! You cheated me! That’s my ship! Give it back!

Rose: Which ship? What does it look like? We can help you look.

de Rolo fumes and storms away.  A few minutes later, there’s a commotion from the dock. Tires squeal, bystanders yell and jump out of the way. de Rolo weaves between stacks of cargo, does a cool jump off a ramp, between two masts of a docked ship, and lands this car on the deck of the Miranda!

de Rolo damages Risk Taker.

de Rolo: You sold me a piece of junk and I’m coming back to claim what’s mine. And I’ve brought people to make sure!

de Rolo’s not good at speeches. He’s a man of action! His people pile out of the car. How did so many fit inside a sedan?

  • Killer Klown Gang: Mercenaries who dress like clowns, but scary clowns!
    • Ruthless: Mercenaries have the Dangerous tag.
    • Bet You Five Coins I Can: When you offer them something Precious if
      they do something stupid, a Mercenary will always take you up on it.
    • Group: can act against two people at once

GM note: It was gettign late, so we ended on a cliff-hanger. Next time, millionaire Jackie Chan and his team of slasher villains will fight a candy-covered dinsaur!

END OF SESSION MOVE

  1. Did we thoroughly explore a new location? They explored the emotional landscape of Samantha’s swamp. YES.
  2. Did anyone find what they were seeking? Buckle found an egg to care for. YES.
  3. Did we discover something new about the world and its people? NO

Two boons:

  1. Restore Gear
  2. Heal companions

Chasing the Sunset & Edna

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

GM note:The “story” won’t start for a while. We talked as players (not as characters) about the game and made some changes to the structure.

Year in review

It’s the beginning of the year, so I checked in with my players about how the game was going, what they liked, what they disliked, what they wanted more of.

Lucia’s player started playing TTRPGs with Fairmeadow Fair in 2018 and said that this past year was the most fun they’ve had. At the start, they didn’t really know how to pretend to be an imaginary person based on some rules, so engaging with the fiction was a challenge, but a good challenge. It’s like driving a car. Once they have the experience to reach for the proper controls by habit, they can easily make the car do what they want. Similarly, this past year has been the most fun because they can concentrate on what Lucia wants to do, instead of on how to make Lucia do things.

The players really enjoyed “dungeons” — complicated self-contained areas that the characters can’t easily escape, like the science labs back in Fairmeadow Fair, or the Robotics Facility under Thaumatown.

Challenge is not a strong motivator. The players don’t need to feel like efficient tactics and good rolls are required to avoid total defeat. The fight against Doctor MacLeod at the Anti-Moon Weapon was the perfect level of challenge.

The players don’t draw strong borders between negotiations, fights, and investigations. Their preferred style of interaction is scrambling, or shenanigans.

All players, not just the GM, are authorized to add to the world.  Dryden’s player obviously loves that, and has a story for every gadget. Lucia’s player doesn’t do it much, but doesn’t feel excluded. Averiela’s player worries about being quick enough to think of things to add when the situation arises.

Averiela’s player loves mysteries, but Lucia’s player prefers a small, self-contained puzzle, like the elevator in Thaumatown’s Robotics Facility.

The party is satisfied with the companions they have accumulated. Meeting new people is nice, but adopting new friends and pets is not a priority.

Everyone, but especially Dryden’s player, like surprises: going new places and seeing new sights.

I said that I like Chasing the Sunset so much that I wish I could play a character myself. In fact I already knew which playbook I’d use, and what the character’s personality and style would be. I’d need another person to help referee if I joined as a player. Dryden’s player, who did a great job running Lasers & Feelings a while back, offered to step up to co-GM. I’m so happy! I worried that changing the structure of the party like that would be too much of a disruption, but my players — my fellow players — were supportive. I printed out a character sheet and created:

Edna Crusher-Harcourt, the Ogre

Meme references for Edna: Lady Dimitrescu, Dolly Parton, “How to Talk to Short People”, Big J from Worthikid’s “Wire

Edna, like all Ogres, is much taller than any human. I think somewhere between 15 (3x a 5′ woman) and 19 feet (2x Lady D’s height of 9’6″) tall, but I haven’t nailed it down. If she’s too big, she won’t even be able to crawl through Halfling, Dwarf, Goblin, or Platyperson buildings. She’s entering middle age and has lines on her face, especially laugh lines, because she laughs and smiles a lot. She wears an expensive but practical dress and fancy jewelry. She has broad shoulders and a powerful build, but is soft, not ‘cut’ like a bodybuilder.

She wanders where she likes because she’s so strong she does not think that she could be in danger. Enemies do not deserve her full strength, and she prefers to bully them into retreating. If they earn her respect or hurt her loved ones, she’ll draw a weapon and fight to kill! She can lift almost anything, throw anyone, jump anywhere, normal weapons only inconvenience her, and she’ll break things if she doesn’t move carefully.

She is a “mom friend”: affectionate and loyal to the “little ones” that she takes in. Receiving a gift is always very special to her, even though she’s rich, and she can heal a loved one that she holds in her arms. She travels with Ol’ Jardiner, a weird little Halfling man who was always puttering around her family estate on some vague duty. Turns out he’s a wizard!

Let’s begin

The fellowship: Dryden of Conwall the Collector/Hunter, Averiela the Elf/Elven Elite, Lucia the Brave the Heir/Halfling Sheriff, Edna Crusher-Harcourt the Ogre

Last time, the Fellowship said farewell to a companion and found the aftermath of an important battle.

Averiela has camouflaged the whole party, so they will not be harrassed by evil Fairies as they investigating the smoking cave. Averiela wants to retrieve the book visible withing the wreckage, since it’s probably involved in the Vampire’s plot to destroy the Moon as part oftheir ancient war with the Dragons. Lucia wonders if there ever really was a dragon. Averiela recalls the Swallet Fight Club, but Lucia says that “dragon” was really a giant Alligator. Dryden says the Alligator was a fake, pretending to be the real dragon that used to run the Fight Club.  Dryden reminds them that he just called to a herd of Wild Unicorns, and the ground will shake to signal their arrival.

GM note: Thanks, buddy, that’s a great segue to introducing my character!

The ground does shake, and into the clearing bursts not a herd of Wild Unicorns, but an extremely large woman! It’s Edna Crusher-Harcourt, the Ogre.

GM note: We started our introductions, then remembered that everyone except Edna was invisible! Oh no! As players, we know that these characters will meet and be friends, but the fiction is set up to prevent that! Lucia’s player thinks quickly.

Lucia is allergic to the tree that grows over the entrance to the tree and sneezes, breaking her camouflage. Edna stops short before stepping on her.

Edna: Hello, I didn’t see you there. Wait, you’re Lucian!  No, Lucky!

Lucia; I am Lucia, Heir of the Forgotten Lands.

Edna: Yes, Lucia!  Helen mentioned meeting you a while back.

Dryden appears and offers make make tea for Edna. She’s delighted.

Edna Loves Friendship: forge three Bonds when someone gives you a gift

Dryden uses the flask of scalding hot water that he took from Helen’s geothermal pit to prepare the tea. Edna travels with teacups, so she gets out her cup, made of fine china and the size of a serving bowl. Dryden sees the huge cup and uses more water.  Edna also pulls back her travelling cloak and puts down a small Halfling man that she was carrying. This strange man, wearing grubby clothes and beat-up pointed hat with a wide brim, is Ol’ Jardiner. He has his own plain ceramic mug. Dryden introduces the Fellowship over tea. Averiela stays camouflaged, since she’s not sure about Edna. Roddy isn’t using Averiela’s magical camouflage, but his ghillie suit still makes him hard to pick out from the other bushes around.

Lucia wants to retrieve the book form inside the smoky cave, but the rough terrain and thick smoke make that dangerous. She uses her cloak to fan the smoke out of the cavern. Edna assists with a hand fan that’s not much smaller than Lucia’s cloak.

Lucia Overcome (+hope, Enda’s assistance) 6-

They fan the smouldering embers back to life and flame rushes out of the cave’s mouth!

Edna Protect The Little Ones: take harm for allies within arm’s reach

Edna quckly pushes Lucia behind her and takes the brunt of the flames

Edna damages special Armor

GM note: Actually, two characters work together with Hope only if they have Bonds with each other. Since Edna and Lucia just met, they should get in each other’s way and roll with Despair.

The evil Fairies notice the commotion and move in to menace the Fellowship. Lucia dashes into the cave to retrieve the mysterious book.

Lucia Overcome 10+

She grabs it and gets back out safely.  The Fairies and taunt her and throw leaves and twigs.

Fairies: If you like dead trees so much, here’s some more wood!

Lucia Symbol of Royalty: grant an audience with whomever you show it to

Lucia displays her symbol of royalty and the Fairies are very impressed! Edna is also impressed. The Fairies emerge from hiding in the branches and crowd in to meet Lucia. It seems like half the leaves in the forest were actually Fairies. More sunlight reaches the clearing now. The Fairies assemble themselves into a group in the shape of Lucia.

Lucia Speak Softly 6- Ask three questions, one answer is false, another is unhelpful

  • Tell me about the book.
    • It’s an outdated volume. A failed wizard tried to use it and blew up the cave
  • What are the Fairies doing? What will they do next?
    • The Fairies came to see who made all the noise. Soon they will enjoy some entertainment
  • What would you have us do? How can we help?
    • You will be the entertainment!

Finally, the Wild Unicorns arrive! White Sands (Averiela’s tame Unicorn) is suspicious and stands aloof. The Wild Unicorns are terrifying and beautiful. They have twigs caught in their flowing manes, but each twig is perfectly placed. They are hesitant to trust outsiders, so they eye the strange collection of people in the clearing with suspicion. The evil Fairies don’t hesitate. They hate the Wild Unicorns and swarm to attack them. Edna whips her travelling cloak off her shoulders and interposes, waving the cloak around to block the group of Fairies.

GM note: Actually, two people are required to deal with a Group. If Edna used equipment with the Giant tag, she could keep a Group busy, but she herself does not have the Giant tag.

Edna Keep Them Busy: 10+ their attention is all on you

The Fairies see Enda approaching and reform into a rude word just before getting tangled in the cape.

White Sands recognizes the grand-mare of the Wild Unicorns, an ancient creature whose name in Elvish is “Her Majesty”. Long ago Averiela traveld with Her Majesty for a time, even saving her from a swamp. Averiela took a foal from Her Majesty (with permission, of course) and founded the herd of Unicorns of which White Sands is a member. White Sands rushes to meet her ancestor and they touch horns in the traditional Unicorn greeting. Her Majesty bestows a blessing on White Sands so her horn can shine with light.

Edna: I’m a little busy here!

Lucia draws her sword and shouts to the fairies, telling them that they are fools to fight these wonderful. pure creatures.

Lucia Finish Them +Wisdom 7-9

Group of Fairies damages Trickster

The Fairies are convinced that the Wild Unicorns are magnificent creatures, but not that they should join the forces of Good. They retreat to find reinforcements.

Lucia What Here Is Evil: the Fairies are evil

GM note: I thought it would be funny if Ol’ Jardiner was evil, but a player pointed out that one of his stats is “No Sense of Right and Wrong” so he must be amoral, not evil.

Edna: Do we have any further business here? Let’s adjourn before those Fairies return.

Lucia recognizes her Majesty as royalty and wants to cement friendship between their peoples.  She offers Her Majesty a lock of her hair. Her Majesty (translated by White Sands and Dryden) suggests they rendezvous in a secret place ofthe Wild Unicorns, where the Fairies cannot bother them. Her Majesty leaves directions, and the herd of Wild Unicorns gallops away. The Fellowship follows along. The path reaches a river, and they walk along the bank. They see a horrid trophy suspended above the river: a Dragon’s Skull with a sign reading “So much for the power of dragons”

The Unicorn’s special place is hidden behind a waterfall. The small Fairies can’t fly through the waterfall without being knocked down by the force of the water. Looking through the waterfall, the Fellowship sees not a cave, but tall grass in a sunny meadow. The Unicorns’ magic created a portal to another place. Dryden is not surprised. He adapted his transporter cape from unicorn magic. Dryden doesn’t actually hold all his gadgets under his cloak. The underside of the cloak is a portal to his workshop back in the Forgotten Lands. That’s how he can carry so many things and alway pull the right item quickly from under his cloak.

As the Fellowship walks through the waterfall, Infinite Windows reacts to the portal! Dryden must keep Infinite Windows in his backpack because it can’t travel through his transporter cape. The Unicorn’s portal dissapates and the Fellowship is in a small dark cave behind the waterfall. Most of them anyways. Edna was walking just ahead of Dryden and she’s gone!

NO END OF SESSION MOVE

GM note: Nobody knew that about the Unicorns’ portal until we got there, but it and the established interaction with Infinite Windows provided a great diagetic reason for Edna to show up somewhere else, so I can play with another group and co-GM. I’m so happy that my fellow players are taking more responsibility so that I have space to play this character, who I really enjoy. I’m reather embarrassed that I rolled twice in this session and broke the rules both times. I’m supposed to be the expert!

Chasing the Sunset & Letting Go

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

The fellowship: Dryden of Conwall the Collector/Hunter, Averiela the Elf, Lucia the Brave the Heir/Halfling Sheriff

Last time, the Fellowship was teleported across the world. They determined that the Artifact of Power they carry is Infinite Windows, which can open portals to other places.

The City Junkyard

The Fellowship stands on top of the tower (which used to be the side of the tower) and surveys the area. A few humanoid figures shamble around the ruins, intent on whatever they are doing, ignoring the Fellowship.

Dryden investigates the coral fortress. The fortress has a few small windows, two feet across, but there’s also a big hole, seven feet across, recently drilled through the thick walls. The Fellowship walks through the drilled hole.  Inside, sunbeams from the portholes on top of the fortress make warm, inviting patches of light on the floor. Furniture and equipment has been re-arranged to form a huge table and chair, implying that the giant mentioned on the message board stayed here. As the Fellowship looks around, one of the humanoids from outside crawls through a porthole and approaches the huge table. This humanoid is a Ghoul!

  • Ghoul
    • Tough as Nails
    • Hungry

The Ghoul brings a handful of wilted vegetables to the huge table. Having accomplished its task, it reverts to its usual “Walk, walk, hungry” thought pattern.  Dryden was close by, trying to figure out what the Ghoul was doing, and thus is the Ghoul’s first target. The Ghoul clumsily tries to grab Dryden.

Dryden Get Away 10+ avoid harm, bring Averiela along

Dryden retreats through the porthole that the Ghoul used to enter the fortress. The Ghoul walks past the rest of the Fellowship in its single-minded pursuit.

Averiela Look Closely (+hope, Dryden assistance) 10+ ask three questions

  • What do my senses tell me?
    • Averiela already got a good look at the scans the horizon. To the south, tall trees from an ancient forest. To the east, giant snowcapped mountains. A big storm covers the northernmost mountain. To the north, sharp, steep hills. To the west, shrubby hills and something floating over them.
  • Is something hidden or out of place?
    • Two more Ghouls emerge from the Halfling villa. They have sad plants and tubers, and are approaching the coral fortress, which will take them past Averiela and Dryden. Also, Giant footprints lead southwest from the coral fortress.
  • What will happen if I attack the Ghoul?
    • The other Ghouls will notice and come to the its aid.

Averiela wonders if there are more Ghouls hidden inside the buildings. Dryden was going to attack the Ghoul chasing him, but Averiela figures the Ghouls are delivering food to the Giant, and she doesn’t want to disrupt that. Lucia and Dryden shout through the walls of the fortress to discuss plans. Lucia thinks they could just leave the area.

Dryden: There is a giant. The story of Odysseus tells us he’s not friendly and will probably try to eat us, but I kinda want to meet him.

Averiela: The ancient trees are calling to me. I would love to run south.

Dryden: Hey, are these Ghouls evil?

Lucia: Oh yeah!

Lucia Heir of the Forgotten Lands: What here is evil? Undead Ghouls are evil.

Lucia: If they’re keeping the Giant fed, seems like a nice symbiotic theng they’ve got going on. Why mess with a good thing? It’s not like the Goblin city, where we needed to right a wrong, which is my goal always.

GM note: Is Swallet actually better off then when the Fellowship arrived?

The Ghoul is slow, but the Fellowship has been standing around chatting for a while. It finally reaches the porthole and starts crawling through to attack Dryden. Dryden strikes with the flat side of his axe while it is constrained by the narrow porthole.

Dryden Finish Them (+sense, knock out) 7-9 damage one stat

Ghoul damages Tough as Nails

The Ghoul shrugs off the blows and keeps coming. Dryden hops on his Flying Device because he loves his Flying Device.

Dryden Get Away 6-

The Ghoul grabs the Flying Device to keep it down and bites Dryden on the leg!

Dryden damages Blood

Lucia runs out to join the battle. Averiela pulls out her bow and fires at the Ghoul, which is pretty immobile because it’s holding Dryden.  Averiela wants to scare the Ghoul away, but its too dumb to get scared. She doesn’t want to kill it because she doesn’t understand the socio-economic sytem it’s part of.

Averiela Finish Them (+Sense, knock out) 7-9 damage one stat

Ghoul damages Hungry

Ghoul TAKEN OUT

The Ghoul lets go of Dryden and falls to the ground. The other two Ghouls drop the sad produce they had gathered and prepare to fight. Lucia runs around the corner and whips out her throwing knives.

GM note: Lucia’s player argues that Lucia is fast enough to throw both knives and have the element of surprise to Finish both Ghouls. I have been quite generous already, but that seems like too much. I’ll allow a surprise attack on one.

Lucia Finish Them (+sense, knock out) 7-9 damage one stat

Ghoul damages Tough As Nails

Averiela is in danger from both Ghouls. Dryden flies up and swoops down with his Dwarven Hammer to smash one of the Ghouls. Averiela rolls away from the approaching Ghouls towards Lucia.

Averiela Get Away 10+ avoid harm, avoid notice

Averiela Poetry in Motion: pick another option from Get Away: bring the plants the Ghouls dropped

Averiela and Lucia duck back around the corner so the Ghouls can’t spot them. Dryden flies up to look around for Beasts that he can control.

Dryden Look Closely 6- Ask one question, find out the hard way

  • Tell me about nearby animals. What are they doing. What will they do next?

GM note: Dryden’s Queen of the Wild move allows Dryden’s player to Command Lore about animals in the area, so I thought I didn’t have to answer this question. Dryden’s player wanted to know more about the location so they could fill in animals that made sense.

  • The eastern section of the City Junkyard is swampy. To the west, there are lots of bugs, including Giant Spiders. (Not the Spiders that are people, the Giant Spiders that are spiders, but really big)

Dryden makes some animal calls and regroups with the others inside the coral fortress. They share a meal and heal.

Fill Your Belly: Spend Food to heal a stat

Averiela Elder Arts Camouflage: any number of allies become invisible

Averiela conceals the Fellowhsip and they follow the giant’s footsteps to the southwest. The Ghouls can’t see them. They can see the Giant before he sees them, just in case he’s dangerous. Most of the City Junkyard is unstable, but the Giant only walked where the ground could support his weight, so the Fellowsip are able to follow without fear. Sometimes there’s a building in the way, and it has been bashed open and thrown aside so the Giant could pass.

As they travel, they see a big mosquito, really big, too big! Several feet long.

Dryden Queen of the Wild: all Beasts serve him

Out of the sky, two Green-Backed Razorbill Herons swoop down to stab the Mosquito with its famous razorbill. The Green-Backed Razorbill Herons were almost hunted to extinction because their bills were prized as weapons. They’re seven feet tall. They stand in the water and wait, then stab fish with their razorbill. They are mossy green on their backs and light blue below for camouflage. They are easily offended.

  • Green-Backed Razorbill Heron
    • Eagle Eye
    • Go for the Eyes

GM note: I clarify that the Memory Mosquito is an Abberation, not a Beast, but Dryden’s player heard “Apparition” and thought the Heron could go right through an insubstantial illusion.

Green-Backed Razorbill Heron damages Go For The Eyes to give Fellowship an Advantage over Memory Mosquito

The Heron tangles with the memory Mosquito. Averiela could take a shot with her bow, but doesn’t want to kill something for no good reason. She nudges Lucia.

Lucia Heir of the Forgotten Lands: What here is evil? Memory Mosquito is just weird

  • Memory Mosquito
    • Memory Munch: eats and steals Bonds from nearby creatures

Memory Mosquito steals bond “I serve Dryden as long as he is in my territory” from Green-Backed Razorbill Heron

Averiela wants to protect her collegues, so she pulls out her bow and arrow and fires at the Memory Mosquito.

Averiela Enemy At The Gates: Finish Them with Grace from hiding.

Averiela Finish Them (+Grace) 10+ kill

Averiela Enemy At The Gates: Remain hidden on a 10+

Memory Mosquito TAKEN OUT

Splat! The arrow destroys the Memory Mosquito!

Memory Mosquito gives bond “I serve Dryden as long as he is in my territory” to Averiela

The Herons fly away, since they no longer have a bond to serve Dryden.  The Fellowship moves on and reaches the border of the City Junkyard and the Fairy Forest. The Fairy Forest is creepy and dense, with vegetation from the canopy all the way down to the ground. Any number of watching eyes could be hidden in those leaves, except the Fellowship is camouflaged, so watching eyes cannot perceive them. Getting lost is very easy in this dense forest, so travelers would be wise to stay on the path. Even the Giant’s footsteps get lost in the forest. The Fellowship finds a trail and a magical mesageboard at the trailhead.

Fairy Forest Message Board:

Stella: Fairies are trying to blow up Moon. Don’t help them. If you find Seeker, off to take him with you please!

Buckle: The Dragons made the Moon to kill Vampires. Didn’t work. I blew up the teleporter to stop them killing Dragons and Kobolds.

Lucia figures that the teleporter they carry (Infinite Windows) reacted with the other teleporter being blown up, and that’s why they ended up in the City Junkyard. They did find Seeker! It’s with them right now! It does not want to go back into the Fairy Forest.

Seeker: I just came from here. The awful Fairies are here. They’re so mean to me. I’ll have to find my own way. I’ll go to the West, through these hills.

Dryden considers sending Seeker through Infinite Windows to friends that the Fellowship made elsewhere. What artifacts do they have that can open a portal to an appropriate place? Dryden collects a stick from the Fairy Forest and some rubble from City Junkyard. Dryden suggests Shasta and Helen. Seeker doesn’t know those people, and isn’t sure it will enjoy staying with them. Dryden remembers that Helen made sure he ate when he was working. Dryden feels that the answer to so much of what he’s been seeking is inside the Fairy Forest: the Moon, the Fairies, and so on. He’s determined to explore it. But he doesn’t want Seeker to go off on its own and get eaten by a Giant or a Ghoul.

Dryden Speak Softly (+hope, Lucia’s assistance) 7-9 ask three questions, one unhelpful answer

  • What can you tell us about the Fairy Forest?
    • I don’t remember much before that robot gave me a name and told me to be my own person, but since then the Fairies were very mean to me, tricking me, getting me lost in the forest. They would say, “Here it is! I have your identity!” but it’s a stinging insect or something.
  • What do you want and how can we help you get it?
    • Whenever I tell people what I want, they tell me how to do it, and it ends up helping them instead of me. I’m done telling people what I want.
  • If you leave us, what will you do next?
    • I think I’ll go west. (There are scrubby hills covered in brush to the west) That’s seems like a good way for me to go.

Lucia: A part of your journey of learning who you are is learning who you can and cannot trust, and you know you cannot trust the fairies. This is an opportunity to put into practice what you have learned, and gain some self-confidence. We will be there to help you.

Lucia Talk Sense (+WIsdom, appeal to emotions) 6-

Seeker: People keep tryingto tell me what to do, but I’m pretty sure that making my decision is making a decision that’s mine, and not someone else’s. So, I’m leaving.

Lucia: Go in peace!

Dryden reaches behind his cloak and pulls out a parchment and quill. On one side, he draws a map of the world, and on the other side he writes “Seeker is my friend. -Dryden” He gives the parchment to Seeker. Seeker squishes the parchment into its body and leaves.

GM note: Can Dryden tear off a scrap of parchment and feed that to Infinite Windows to open a portal to Seeker and the rest of the parchment? Is the scrap “from” the larger piece, or is is “from” Dryden’s cloak, or is it “from” the place that made the parchment? I’m reminded of an earlier quandary about who owns pets and their items.

Averiela wonders if they should go to the Fairy Forest or follow Seeker. Lucia says that Seeker chose to leave and they should respect that. Averiela also wonders if it’s wise to bring a teleporter into the Fairy Forest, since another Adventurer blew up a teleporter that the Fairies were using for evil. They write on the City Junkyard’s message board, then head into the Fairy Forest.

City Junkyard Message Board.

Averiela: Boo! Beware the undead of you might lose your head!

Dryden: Unstable ground is easily found. Tread in the step of the Giant because he is reliant upon stable ground. Seeker went west.

Lucia: Watch out for the Shadowmaws. And keep the balance in the symbiotic relationship between the Giant and the Ghouls. Don’t get in their way.

Averiela Elder Arts Camouflage: the Fellowship is still invisible

Averiela Wood Elf: cannot be followed while in woodlands.

The Fellowship travels through the Fairy Forest undetected. Leaves and branches move all around them. Maybe the wind. Maybe hidden creatures. High-pitched voices complain about the explosion, plans being ruined, a bad situation. the trail leads to a clearing. A tree grows over a large rock, and under that rock is a hole with smoke pouring out. It looks like there used to be a lot of activity in this clearing, but no one is there now. The Fellowship recognizes this as the cave visible through one of Infinite Window’s portals.  Averiela and Lucia look around.

Averiela Look Closely (+hope, Lucia’s assistance) 10+ ask three questions

  • What is going on here? What do my senses tell me?
    • The area smells like fire. Inside the cave, the rock surface is glitchy and spiky, as if every particle of rock was teleported one foot, but not all in the same direction.
  • Is something hidden or out of place?
    • A large book with a white cover is deep inside the cave.
  • Tell me about the Fairies? How could they hurt or help me?
    • Fairies are cruel pranksters and will get the Fellowship lost if possible. They are working with the Vampires to blow up the Moon. The Fellowship isn’t sure if they are pro-Moon or anti-Moon. Fairies know the secret paths through the woods and never get lost.

Dryden wonders if the book is worth breaking camouflage or risking the dangers of the smoky, spiky cave. Dryden feels something that he hasn’t felt in a logn time. It’s almost like a song that moves through the ground and fills the air silently. It’s the hoofbeats of a Unicorn. White Sands recognizes that these hoofbeats are from a different herd. She sniffs the air cautiously.

GM note: A herd of horses in a forest? I get all my information about fairy tales from the movie Legend, starring Tom Cruise and Tim Curry, and that definitely had unicorns running through a forest, so I’ll allow it.

These aren’t the pure white, immaculately-groomed Unicorns like White Sands. These are wild Unicorns. They are free, not subject to the Fairies. This was their land since before the Fairies came. Dryden reaches back and pulls out a long strand from a Unicorn’s tale. He blows on the taut strand and produces a note that calls the unicorns.

Lucia Heir of the Forgotten Lands: What here is evil? Small evil signatures all over in the surrounding trees and brush!

GM note: We had to end there because of time constraints. We’ll pick up next time with the Wild Unicorns arriving.

NO END OF SESSION MOVE

Chasing the Sunset & Lucy

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

The fellowship: Vestri the Dwarf, Yuri the Outlander

Last time, the Fellowship dealt with a lycanthropy outbreak in the Platyperson town of Bogden. They destroyed a horrible weapon and intend to throw its ashes into the ocean.

Vestri wonders how fellow adventurers came into possession of a sword made from the horn of a peaceful Unicorn. Truly an evil weapon. Now the Fellowship must travel to the sea. A river flows out of Bogden and joins the Mighty River which enters the sea at Port Fennrick. Another option is the ancient Dwarven tunnels that the Fellowship used to reach Bogden. Yuri does not trust those tunnels, since they all nearly drowned down there. Hundrin specifically does not want to go down there. He’s mostly recovered from being swept away, but he’s a little bit mad.

GM note: I was really hoping that Vestri the Dwarf would go down the Dwarven tunnels and find some important Dwarven things, but the players chose something else! I’ll respect their decision, and not move the interesting thing into their path. I’ll make exceptions for tone and player comfort, but mostly I want to let consequences play out believably. Not realistically, because this is a fantasy world, but I want it to feel believable.

Vestri suggests walking along the river until they find a town, then buying a boat. Yuri wonders how much money Vestri has. Maybe renting a ferry or working for passage is more practical. They walk to the Mighty River and see a town upstream, to the west, and a port downstream, to the east. A cargo ship approaces, heading downriver. Vestri figures they won’t be able to get Gurtin (the Dwarven Drill Tank) onto a ship if they aren’t at a port, so they let the ship past and hike upriver to Thaumatown.

Map of Thaumatown. Wizard's Tower in southwest corner. Water treatment plant in northwest corner. Mighty River flows west to east o nthe north edge of town. Civic Center in the center of town.
Map of Thaumatown

Thaumatown is a creepy, crowded, and ramshackle city with narrow streets and tall buildings looming over them. There’s a port here. The cranes for loading cargo are sleek, metal structures, but they are surroundede by wooden scaffolding and ropes connected to teams of oxen and donkeys. The cranes have recently been converted to animal power.

Yuri: This reminds me of Moscow. I like it.

Vestri checks the Adventurers’ Message Board immediately.

THAUMATOWN MESSAGE BOARD

  • Lucia: There may be complications if Brianiac or Redstone return.
  • Dryden: FYI there is a maze below with recycling bugs
  • Averiela: Allan a Zham is dead. Walter is a friendly fool. Let the people believe.

Both Yuri and Vestri want to see the maze. Gurtin and Hundrin really want to see the maze as well.

Yuri: We should requisition a boat first, before we go spelunking.

Vestri: We don’t know how long we’ll be down there, so we should do that first, then get a boat.

Yuri: I would like to get rid of this *looks around* Unicorn Sword.

Vestri reassures him that it’s a bundle of ashes, so people won’t immediately recognize it. He also plans to leave the bundle at the mouth of the maze, so it won’t get lost in the maze. But where is the maze? It’s not an obvious tourist attraction. Yuri goes to the docks to ask for directions.

Vestri: Just be sure to secure everything before you go to the docks. What if it breaks under you and you fall into the water?

Yuri: What if the ground fell out from under our feet and fell into, um, space?

Vestri: Stop! You know these humans. Sometimes they build right over the water and then you just fall.

Yuri: You know these dwarves. Sometimes they build right under the ground and you could just fall.

Vestri: Yes, but I hate water!

Yuri: I hate falling deep into the earth.

Vestri: Well I can’t breathe underwater and I can’t swim. I’m quite massive.

Yuri:Then you should stay on hard ground.

Thaumatown is crowded. The docks are full of people and cargo and the cranes with teams of animals. No one has fallen through into the water. Foremen shout and teams of workers get in each others way. Vestri can’t see over the crowd. Yuri considers putting Vestri on his shoulders, but Vestri weighs 350 pounds, so that won’t work!

Vestri: I’m depending on you to do the navigation!

Yuri looks for someone with nice clothing who is not bustling around. He spots a fancy-looking blonde human woman named Lucy. She wears a suit, not a dress. She’s waiting for her luggage to be unloaded. Yuri walks up to intoduce himself, followed by Vestri, then the Drill Tank, then Hundrin in a little line so they don’t get separated in the crowd.

Yuri: Hello, my name is Yuri. It is wonderful to meet you. What is your name? We we wondering if — two things. If you knew a way of travel that might be work for, some kind of work that we could do on the ship, and also if you knew about mazes somewhere in this place. But with the luggage I am seeing I realize you might not be from this place.

Lucy: Oh, I travel a lot. I’m been a lot of places. I can tell you about this town. There’s quite a complex under the Civic Center. Look at the clock tower. It’s under there.

Two towers dwarf the other buildings in Thaumatown. A hexagonal clock tower in the center of town, and another tower in the southwest corner of town, far from the docks.

Yuri: Are you in need of employees? You seem very important with your suit and all.

Lucy: I am very important. Are you going very far? I’m always ready to make a deal.

Yuri: It’s very opportune meeting you. How far are we going?

Vestri: We are planning on going all the way to the eastern sea.

GM note: I realize that I never named the sea on the eastern edge of this continent. The players and I brainstorm names.

Lucy: The Joterkuvain Ocean? That’s just straight down the river. You can just get on any of these boats.

Yuri: Is it that simple? Can I work for those boats? Do you own those boats?

Lucy: No, I don’t want to get tied down to that. That would be boring.

Lucy was expecting a cooler and more difficult request, and now she’s disappointed by these boring people with their common problem.

Vestri:  If you’ve traveled a lot. Perhaps. You know a story. About a dagger. That looks like this.

Vestri opens his coat a little to reveal the Redrock Dagger, whose twin he is questing to recover. He doesn’t pull the dagger out, because he doesn’t trust the crowds of humans with this artifact. Lucy is intrigued!

Lucy: Oh, a rare and valuable item! This is very important to you? You seek to gain this item?

Yes! Obviously. It has its twin, therefore they belong together. It has my family crest on it.

Lucy: Yes. Yes! This is very important. I can help you with that. We should talk in a more private place. These goons are delivering my stuff to the best hotel in town. Come with me.

Vestri: I just had a thought. You are very interesting and you clearly like strange places, from observing you in these last moments.  We wish to visit the labyrinth. Perhaps we could speak in the labyrinth. Would you join us in this maze?

Lucy gets really excited when Vestri says “wish”. She agrees, yells at the dock workers to take her bags directly to the hotel, and gives them a few extra coins for the trouble.

Lucy leads the Fellowship to the Civic Center. It’s a hexagonal building with entrances on each side. The entrances have metal roller doors propped up by wooden frames. The interior is being remodeled. Signs boast about “democracy’ and “the council” There’s an informational poster: “What do you do when the all-powerful wizard who solves all of your problems decides to leave? We’re going to step up and do it ourselves!” Lucy scoffs at the poster, leads the Fellowship through a service entrance, down some tunnels, and into a wedge-shaped room.

Lucy: OK, let’s make a deal! Let’s talk business.

Lucy drops her human disguise. Her skin turns reddish and she runs her hand through her hair, revealing small horns on her forehead that curve back along her skull.

  • Lucy: Business Devil
    • Strictly business. Only forges Bonds that are promises. Will never break a deal first.
    • Sell your Soul. Will take a Move or Stat in exchange for your heart’s desire.

There are Dwarf fairy tales about contract demons. You could do it, but it’s not a good idea. It’ll go badly. It doesn’t stop most people, but the stories are there. In Vestri’s family, there’s a story about a great-uncle that was entombed alive because he made a deal with a demon. Yuri figures this is just a weird thing that happens in this weird new world. Vestri conceals his discomfort, but Hundrin is shaken and turns around to pretned to fix something.

Vestri: Hold on one second!

Vestri brings Yuri into a huddle. Yuri crouches very low.

Vestri: Come here. Ok. Come talk. This young lady belongs to a species of Demon-kind.

Yuri: Da, Is this bad here, or?

Vestri: They like to make deals with you. They will cost a lot more than you think and will probably end badly for you. But they can do some really cool stuff, I hear.

Yuri: So we want to be friends with them, but not make deals with them.

Vestri: I’m not sure you can be friends with them.

Yuri: Let’s find out.  So why are we making deal with you again?

Lucy: Vestri here seeks the other dagger, and I can get it for him.

GM notes: I omit a tangent about Dwarf gender, reproduction, and poop.

Lucy: I can get this for you. I can take it from the person who stole it from its hiding place.

Vestri: No, no! It’s fine! It have time to find it. I want it to be an epic journey I can tell my great-grandchildren.

Yuri: How do you have all these powers? I am — curiousity mostly.  How would you grab dagger? How do you know where it is?

Lucy: I have friends everywhere and I can call in favors. It gets complicated sometimes, but that’s my specialty.

Yuri: I’m incredibly impressed.

Lucy: You should be.

Yuri: It’s not just the suit. You’ve got something there. Luci Fur. I like it.

GM note: The players guessed where the name came from! Quick, pivot!

Lucy: Actually, my last name is Van Pelt.

GM note: The players thought that a pelt was made of fur. I guess newspaper comics from the 1950s aren’t as popular as they used to be.

Yuri: I have no real use for — well actually, could you take me back home?

Lucy: Yeah, yeah, let’s see where you’re from.

Lucy puts a hand on Yuri’s shoulder and stares at him. Yuri is fine with this.

GM note: Does Yuri have a crush on Lucy? I only notice this now, when I’m typing up my notes. Also, it is within this character’s power to remove Yuri from the campaign, which Yuri would like, but none of the players want.

Lucy: Oh. OH. You do need my help to get home.

Yuri: Da, da, da! OK, Luci. There is some things that I am in desparate need of doing on this plane. But I would really like to keep your contact information. I think that we really have something here and I would definitely like to make a deal with you at a later date.

Luci’s always ready to make a deal. The payment for travel home woudl be a part of Yuri, as normal, but she’d also really like Yuri’s sword. It’s very interesting to her.

Yuri: When finished with my quest, I will bring the sword and I can almost guarantee that I have no idea what will happen, but I maybe will have the sword, so I will give it to you if I have it.

Vestri: What’s your quest again?

Yuri: To save the world? I saw so much pain when I touched the sword. Lots of pain.

Lucy: Oh, don’t worry about visions. You can’t trust these items.

Yuri: I feel it in my bones that I need to do this. I will definitely get back to you. This is a hard yes, but we need to put it on hold for a few months until I have righted this place. Then you know, whatever you want, we can do it.

Lucy: Is that a promise?

She offers a handshake to confirm the deal.

Yuri: I think we can just have a gentlemen’s agreement. A lady’s agreement? Being a medical professional I’m very into clenliness. Also I’m from a different plane. I don’t want to give you smallpox.

Lucy: Ugh. if you’re in a big city, look for the best hotel and I’ll probably be there. Come find me when you’re ready to deal.

Lucy walks off, annoyed that Vestri and Yuri both obviously need her services, but refuse to actually employ her.

Yuri: I am sorry, Lucy! Thank you for bringing us down here though.

Vestri is glad to be rid of her, worried that she would steal his dagger. Yuri makes the important distinction that she’s a swindler, not a thief. This is the entrance to the maze they read about on the message board, so Vestri looks for a place to stash the ashes of the Unicorn Sword. He can’t speak to the earth to make a hidey-hole because this facilty has metal walls. There are some chairs along the wall, so Vestri puts the bundle under a chair.

Vestri: I was hoping for something more earthy, but are you ready?

Yuri: Would you like to make a deal on it? Ha, ha, ha, I hope she’s not behind us.

A map of Thaumatown robotics facility, level 1. Four rooms around a central elevator. North: repair bay. West: entrance hall. South: control center. East slick chute going down.
Thaumatown robotics facility, level 1.

Gurtin the Drill Tank is too big to fit through the doors in this room, so Vestri leaves it in the lobby and puts the ashes inside the Drill Tank cabin. Yuri is worried about Gurtin being stolen, but Vestri isn’t concerned. An adult human could not fit in the cabin, which barely fits a Dwarf.

They open the double doors at the point of the wedge-shaped room and find a curved metal wall right behind them. No way through. Yuri bangs on the wall. It sounds hollow, but sturdy enough to that going through the wall would be a pain.  Gurtin could go through this wall, but Vestri considers that cheating at the maze.

Yuri tries the door to the right. There’s a room with chairs and metal desks. Cut wires and wear marks indicate that these desks used to hold equipment, but that equipment has been removed.  This room is also pie-shaped, with a door at the point. They open that door and find a small round room with another set of doors opposite the doors they just opened. There’s a control panel on the wall of the round room. There’s a card in the slot under the red button.

Cryptic controls. Red button (with slot beneath), green button, and blue button.
Cryptic controls.

Yuri wonders which button to press. Vestri presses the blue button. The control panel makes a sad beep. Yuri looks through the open doors and sees the room with desks is still there. The elevator hasn’t moved. Yuri presses the green button. Sad beep. Vestri removes the card and presses the green button. Angry beep. Yuri inserts the card and presses the red button. Sad beep. Vestri presses all three buttons at the same time.  Angry beep. Yuri presses green, blue, red sequentially. Three sequential sad beeps.  Yuri wonders if taking the stairs would be easier. Vestri removes the card, then inserts the card and presses the red button at the same time. Sad beep.

Yuri Look Closely 10+ ask 3 questions

  • Tell me about this elevator? How could it hurt or help me?
    • An elevator gives access to other levels of the facility. It would be quite dangerous for the elevator to move with the door open.

GM note: The players only needed one question to realize why the elevator didn’t work.

Yuri, Vestri, and Hundrin enter the elevator, close the door, insert the card, and press the green button. The room shakes! The elevator did something. No stomach-dropping feeling like moving up and down. They open a door and see the entrance hall and Gurtin the drill. The elevator has rotated 90 degrees. Yuri wants to rotate as much as possible before trying the other buttons. They close the door, press the green button to rotate again, and open the doors again. The elevator has doors on opposite sides, so the Fellowship can check two rooms per rotation.

The room to the north has stalls along all the walls and rails on the ceiling where machinery used to go. Like the room with desks, this room has been stripped. There’s a square opening on the east wall that’s covered in caution tape. That’s a trash chute that leads to the eastern room, a slick funnel leading down.

The Fellowship returns to the elevator, closes the doors, and presses the blue button. Sad beep. Red button. The elevator moves. Yuri opens the north door.

A map of Thaumatown robotics facility, level 1. North room, shielded robots. East room: swarms of recycling bug robots. South room: factory. West room: robot assembly room.
Thaumatown robotics facility, level 2.

In this room are a stack of robots that have fallen on each other. They are refrigerator sized with armro plates and weapon arms bolted on, like they’ve been retrofitted.

Vestri: Well, I’m glad we didn’t have to fight those!

Yuri wants to examine one, but Vestri wants to close the door. A compromise: Yuri will drag one robot into the elevator, then they will close the door. The robot weighs several hundred pounds, so Yuri can’t move it. Yuri looks for access panels, hard drives, something that he can take and research later.

Yuri: Earth is not this advanced to make robots that move like humans. I think this would be a boon for Terrans.

Vestri: For Mother Russia?

Yuri: Mostly for Mother Russia. Yeah, thank you! You are learning!

GM note: After we finish Chasing The Sunset, we could play a D20 Modern game where Russia rolls out with fantasy tech and the players are Western Europeans who have to survive. It’s all Yuri’s fault!

Yuri Look Closely 6-

Yuri Fool Me Once reroll one die 7-9

GM note: We weren’t sure what roll was appropriate here. Yuri only had one question he wanted answered. I fell back on basic Powered by the Apocalyspe design: a 7-9 means a success with complications. So we didn’t really play the Fellowship move “Look Closely” but the fudging was done in the open with agreement form the players. Consequences were also tricky. The elevator can’t be called away, because the door is open. The robots can’t re-activate, because the power source is gone.

Yuri pulls open access panels and finds something useful, but something bangs on the roof of the elevator! There’s someone up there! The Fellowship’s first instinct is to take the evelator to the top floor, but they don’t wnat ot harm the person on top of the car.

Yuri: Get out of — we need to be succinct. Move! Please.

Vestri: Move. Or. Get. Squished.

Voice: Don’t tell me about safety regs. You’re the ones violating them. Bring the car up.

Vestri: I’ve never ridden a car. Usually I use a lift.

Yuri: What is car? We will talk when — move or we will squish you. We will be right up.

Yuri conceals the hard drive he took from the robot in his Medkit. They close the elevator door and press the blue button, which does move the elevator up. There’s a team of six Humans with backpacks and heavy tools.

Shift Leader: Who are you?

Yuri: We are looking for Labyrinth. This is what we were told.

Shift Leader: This isn’t a tourist destination. I thought we, didn’t we lock the service doors? You’re supposed to be upstairs in the Civic Center.

Yuri: We saw no signs. Wonderful woman led us down here. Thank you for the rescue? I’m confused as you are.

Vestri realizes that Lucy leads them down here was quite suspicious. Several of the salavagers approach the Drill Tank.

Salvager: I haven’t seen this model of robot, but I guess we tear it down like the rest of them?

Yuri: No, no, no! Do not touch.

Vestri: That’s mine. That’s mine!

Yuri: It is a car. It has a name.

Vestri: It’s a drill. It’s Gurtin.

Shift Leader: Are you trying to take stuff out of here? We have an exclusive contract for salvaging this.

Vestri: We just wanted to explore the labyrinth. We heard there was a labryinth. We thought it would be fun to explore.

Yuri: Would you need extra hands, so we can explore the labyrinth and help you salvage things? Kinda of win-win? I am not taking day wage, I am just looking.

This salvage team is unionized, so they find people trying to work for free very suspicious. The Fellowship doesn’t want to meticulously strip a room of all resources. They want to explore. Maybe they can go ahead and find something valuable that the salvage team can have.

Yuri Talk Sense (+Sense, detail plan) 10+

Vestri gets to run the elevator and Yuri will carry loads with the rest of the salvage team. Yuri wants more opportunities to take robot parts so he can figure out how to build his own.

GM note: We’ll follow Vestri for a while, but he has a time limit to bring up the load of salvage. Then we’ll go back to Yuri and see how he’s able to work with the team and sneak some pieces for himself.

The salvage team is working on the room rull of deactivated robots. They show Yuri how to pull of the armor plates and put them in one bin, then mechanical parts go in another bin. The weapons are dangerous. The union has trained and certified two team members, and they’re the only ones allowed to touch the weapons. Yuri is happy to avoid the weapons.

Vestri takes the elevator and presses the red button until the elevator stops going down. It goes down one more time, to level 3.

A map of Thaumatown robotics facility, level 1. East of the elevator, a powerplant. Six fuel tanks, fed from above by pipes, feed into a ceramic pillar. A window in the ceramic pillar glows from the fire inside. North of the elevator, a control center with windows overlooking the powerplant.
Thaumatown robotics facility, level 3.

Vestri opens the north door and finds a control room. This room has not been salvaged. The tables have instruments with gauges, and all guages read zero. There’s a thick glass window looking to the east into a large circular chamber. There’s a ceramic pillar in the center of the chamber. Six metal tanks (for holding fluid) surround the pillar. pipes run from the ceiling into the tanks and from the tanks into the pillar. There’s a door into the ceramic pillar which is dark.

Vestri shuts the north door and opens the south door, revealing a wall. Vestri presses the green button and rotates the elevator. He saw what was in the east chamber already, so he opens the west door, also revealing a wall. He goes up one floor and opens the door to the west. This room has tracks in the ceiling that moves things from the south room into this room. Three robots lie one the floor. Two are all spikes and knives. The third has a tank on its back and nozzles under its arms.

Vestri rotates the elevator and looks in the south room.  Conveyor belts, not much of a floor. A dangerous assembly line with crushers and saws, but everything is turned off and nothing is moving. If this room were active, parts would come in from the east, get  assembled into components here, then be sent to the west room.

Vestri rotates the elevator and looks in the east room. The door opens and the room is full to hip-level (for Vestri) with thousands of tiny robots, no bigger than a fist. Like everything in this facility, they are deactivated.  They flow into the elevator like the side of a ball pit was split open. Vestri tries to close the door, but it’s partially blocked by a pile of little robots.

Vestri Overcome 6-

GM note: Wait, what is the threat Vestri is overcoming? The consequence of “the door doesn’t shut” does not chance the situation. The players admit that they are just messing around and poking things, and are lucky that all the robots and dangerous machines were turned off by another party. I brag a bit about how dangerous the facility used to be.

Vestri gets the door closed, but there’s a pile of little robots inside the elevator and the Shift Leader pounds on the door. It’s time to pick up a load of salvage. Vestri presses the green button to rotate the door to the north, opens it, and some littel robots fall out of the elevator in front of the whole Salvage Crew. Embarrassing!  There’s Vestri shin-deep in little robots. The Shift Leader is disgusted.

Salvager: See? This is why we need union workers with training. What a mess!

Yuri: In his defense, the elevator has three buttons. It is a little confusing. Especially when you are a colorblind Dwarf. Colorblind!

The Salvage Team isn’t going to accuse someone of faking a disability! That would be so rude!

While Vestri was exploring, Yuri tried to sneak out some more robot components.

Yuri Overcome 10+

Yuri knows he’s going to steal some parts. Not steal! OK, it’s stealing. He feels a little bad about stealing from union workers, but it’s not his world, so he gets over it. He puts his medical bag in the bin that he thinks will contain the important bits: not armor plates or servos, but computer bits. Each time he delivers a pile of parts, he dumps them into the bin, but half fall into his bag instead. At the end of the shift, he grabs his bag and just walks out. Smooth.

The union won’t stiff them on their wages and won’t force them to work overtime, but they’re upset at the Fellowship for making a mess. Vestri cleans up his mess by scooping up the little robots and throwing them down the trash chute, which actualyl leads to where they came from. As they all leave, the salvage team talks about increasing security on the Robotic Facility.

Vestri: It wasn’t that interesting actually. We could have done something cooler today.

Yuri: You were the one who wanted to come down here! We can buy ship fare now, because we have done an honest day’s work.

Vestri: I thought it would be more exciting.

Yuri: There was so much! There was a whole science laboratory down there where they manufactured robots. Is this not exciting to you?

Vestri: I mean it’s fine, but nothing beats a good old pickaxe against rock.

Yuri goes to the best hotel in town and asks for Lucy. Vestri follows Yuri, but waits at the end of the hall. He doens’t like Lucy and wants to make sure Yuri is OK. Lucy opens her door and Vestri thanks her and puts a silver coin in her hand. She puts it in her coin purse, making sure that Vestri can see she has a lot of more valuable coins inside so he knows that his gift is a pittance.

Yuri: You are very still impressive woman each time I meet you. All right, talk to you later.

GM note: Yuri’s player has decided what Yuri will do at the end of the campaign when he finally makes a deal with Lucy. Their excitement is contagious!

Yuri and Vestri buy passage on a ship and set off for Port Fennrick.

END OF SESSION MOVE

  • Did we thoroughly explore a new location?
    • Yes, the robotics facility
  • Did anyone find what they were seeking?
    • No, they both had the opportunity but declined.
  • Did we discover something new about the world and it’s people?
    • Yes, Yuri didn’t know about demons or advanced robots. Also unions.

Two boons: Level up. No gear or stats to heal because they recovered in Bogden recently.

  • Vestri gains All That Glitters
  • Yuri shares Fool Me Once with Vestri
  • new bond: Vestri feels protective of Yuri
  • new bond: Yuri feels he must parent Vestri
  • new bond: Yuri is weirded out by Hundrin

Chasing The Sunset & The Power of Friendship

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/Hunter

Last time, the Fellowship uncovered a plot by Vampires to teleport to the Moon and wipe out the last remnants of the Dragons. Buckle destroyed the teleporter for the sake of his old friend Fafnir, causing wide-ranging side-effects.

The Fellowship returns to their boat, the Miranda. They’d like to bring Kitty (the T-Rex) along, but Stella’s Queen of the Wild power doesn’t allow her to bring animals outside of their territory. Buckle has a chat with Kitty

Buckle Speak Softly 7-9 ask three questions, one unwelcome answer

  • What does Kitty want?
    • Kitty longs to return to her home in the Cracktooth Wastes, far to the east.  She wandered west in search of food and found a place teeming with Brontosaurs to eat, but she was driven away by little folk and got lost.
  • Tell me about the Fairy vampires.
    • The Fairies found her and fed her, as long as she did what they asked of her.
  • What should I be wary of when dealing with Kitty?
    • Kitty needs to eat a lot. She doesn’t have much brain, and hunger fills it up and pushes out any other thoughts, like friendship and long-term goals. Failing to keep Kitty well-fed will be very dangerous.

Buckle wants to help the big dragon-thing, who reminds him of Fafnir. He has never been to the Cracktooth Wastes, but what he does know of the world suggests that they will have to travel over land. When Stella hears this, her eyes narrow and her pupils dilate.

Stella: And my boat?

Stella is only willing to travel over land if they find some place that will take care of Miranda while they are gone. Their understanding of this continent’s geography is limited. They could follow this river all the way to the sea and go east along the coast, but that would take them through Vieport, and they are not welcome there. They decide to go downriver at least as far as Sugar’s Crossing, then reconsider. Maybe they take the highway east from there.

Buckle Forges A Bond: “I promise to bring Kitty home”

  • New Companion: Kitty the T-Rex
    • Crushing Jaws
    • Gigantic

As they sail downriver through the Fairy Forest towards the former Anti-Moon Weapon, Buckle’s hears a low growling from Kitty. She’s not angry. it’s her stomach! She needs food.

Buckle: Do you like fish?

Kitty: Are they made of meat?

Buckle: Absolutely. It’s been a long time since I caught some, but they are all around the boat. To catch them, jump into the water and wiggle all around. they’ll swim all around you. Just take a bite of water, then squeeze the water out without letting the fish out of your mouth.

Buckle Talk Sense (+Sense, explain plan) 10+

Kitty leaps off the side of Miranda, causing the boat to rock violently. Stella is soaked by the huge splash Kitty makes entering the water.

Buckle: Fishing! Yay!

Buckle stands near Stella so his body heat dries her off. Kitty thrashes around in the water and comes up with a mouthful of fish. Buckle’s instructions were effective. Kitty can’t climb, so she walks onto the riverbank, and Miranda comes ashore so Kitty can walk aboard.

The Anti-Moon Weapon slides by on the starboard side. The sun sets, and Miranda approaches Lady Evelynn’s estate. The Fellowship watches the Moon rise through the broken clouds. A beam of moonlight shines onto Lady Evelynn’s manor, high on the hill. Birdlike shapes fly away from a frightening silhouette on the roof. Stella shudders. One of the shadowy winged shapes is coming towards Miranda. It’s a Corrupted Phoenix, a smoky, skeletal bird that was unable to properly burn and complete its life-cycle. Normal fire can’t hurt it, so now it seeks fire powerful enough to ignite it.

Buckle: It’s coming straight for us!

Stella: Light up the sky!

Buckle Firestarter: always able to produce fire

Buckle launches flares, which light up the terrible bird of smoke and bones. The Corrupted Phoenix eats the flares and coughs up thick clouds of black smoke.

Stella: Buckle, this thing likes fire!

Buckle: Me too. Maybe we can be friends. I give people fire all the time.

The Phoenix is clearly targeting Buckle. Stella has a plan, but needs her scarier friends to execute it. She steers Miranda to the river bank.

Stella: Kitty, get off the boat! Buckle, light this tree on fire after Kitty rips the tree up.

Kitty uses Crushing Jaws

Buckle uses Firestarter

Kitty runs ashore and uproots a tree growing along the bank. Buckle lights the top of the tree on fire. Hopefully the Corrupted Phoenix will focus on this new fire and Kitty can smack it, using the tree as a club. Buckle scampers for safety behind the Kitty’s bulk.

Buckle Get Away 6-

The Corrupted Phoenix is as big as Kitty and just lands on both of them, talons first! A huge cloud of black smoke envelops the area.

Buckle damages Courage

Kitty damages Gigantic

Stella: Will Buckle be OK if the Phoenix eats him? Buckle! You’re going to let it eat you!

Buckle: Let it what?

Before Stella can clarify, the Corrupted Phoenix’s huge beak strikes down, enveloping Buckle.

Buckle Overcome 7-9 temporary solution

Buckle misses the sharp edges of the beak and goes straight down its throat into the gizzard. Sure, he may soon be crushed by giant rocks, but for now, he’s unharmed. Stella sees some of the black, crispy feathers on the Corrupted Phoenix’s neck soften and turn reddish-orange. She gets Kitty back on the boat.

Buckle: I want to share the fire with this bird!

Buckle uses Dragonfire: vaporize anything except a Threat To The World

Buckle aims his Dragonfire where he thinks the creature’s heart is, and it burns as purely, cleanly, and lovingly as he can muster. The Phoenix bursts into huge, wing- and feather-shaped flames. The glow is visible all the way to Lady Evelynn’s estate. All the trees and vegetation on the riverbank also ignite from the intense heat. Stella steers the Miranda away. After about 30 seconds, the Phoenix burns out. The secondary fires keep burning, but the huge skeletal bird is reduced to ashes. In the middle of the ashes stands Buckle, filled with hope and holding a huge glowing Phoenix egg.

Buckle Heart Of Earth: immune to heat

Buckle Pyromania: when everything around is fire, you have Hope

Buckle is a new parent again! (This is the second time he’s incubated an egg that’s not his. The first was Fafnir the Dragon) Stella is concerned, but Buckle is happy, so she doesn’t say anything. Buckle comes aboard carrying the egg in both arms, and the Miranda sails away before Lady Evelynn’s forces can arrive.

They sail down to Sugar’s Crossing without further incident. Sugar’s Corssing is back to normal. The bridge over the river has re-opened. The garrison is back to normal after the fire.  This month, the garrison is staffed by Elves. Some Elvish guards stand out on the river directing boat traffic. The Miranda is guided into a berth.  The crew rests and shares a meal.

Fill Your Belly: When you share a meal with friends, heal one extra stat

Buckle heals Courage

Kitty heals Gigantic

A Customs agent comes over to check their cargo. Kasca is a tall, slim, Elven woman. She’s 6’2″ with straight blonde hair down to her hips. She sees Kitty on the deck and pulls out stacks of papers. She says the Miranda will have to stay in town for weeks to Kitty to be quarantined and to get all the proper licenses and approvals to transport such an animal.

Buckle: What if we leave the dinosaur with you and go on without her?

Kasca: The boarding fees are significant, and you’d be liable for the cost of the food your animal eats. It can add up quickly!

Stella: Kitty gets really hungry and will eat anything. Are you sure you want to deal with that?

Stella Talk Sense (+hope, Buckle’s aid. +Wisdom, appeal to desire for smooth operations) 10+

Kasca decides that Kitty and the Miranda are more trouble than they are worth. She lays a document on top of a blank piece of parchment and casts a minor spell to copy the document. She explains how Buckle and Stella can sign here, show this form to that official, and quickly be on their way.

The Fellowship still hasn’t decided which way to go from Sugar’s Crossing. Buckle shudders at the thought of facing the Sea Viper again, but it’s better than customs. They decide to continue downriver and get through Vieport somehow.

When the Miranda reaches the fork in the river that leads into the swamp, the crows that keep watch recognize Buckle.

Crows: Wait, come here! Samantha needs your help!

Buckle: What’s your game? I don’t believe you.

Crows: You better help. If Samantha’s not happy, no one’s happy!

Buckle and the crows bicker for a bit, then one rises into the air, surrounded by magical energy. Poof! The crow is replaced by a short Human woman with pale skin and chin-length black hair.

Samantha: These crows are so inefficient! Please come with me and I’ll epxlain everything.

Buckle wants to be teleported, but Samantha’s magic doesn’t work like that. She guides the Miranda through her swamp. The Fellowship eye the moss and gunk in the swamp suspiciously. Buckle wonders if this goop will climb onto the boat and attack, like that swamp in the north. Samantha hides a pained expression.

Samantha leads them to a ring of willow trees. They disembark and duck under the drooping branches. Inside is a shallow round pool, a secret space, Samantha’s home. There’s a big black bull lying on some cushions under on of the willow trees.

Samantha: Ferdinand is stuck as a bull.

Buckle: I don’t understand.

Samantha: There’s nothing to understnad. He can transform, but he won’t. Since you can talk to beasts, I need you to talk to him and find out what’s wrong.

Buckle: Oh, my friend can transform into an apple and a chair.

Buckle Speak Softly to Ferdinand 7-9 Ask 3 questions, one answer is unhelpful

  • What can you tell me about refusing to transform?
    • Being a bull is easier than being a person, so Ferdinand will stay a bull.
  • What do you want?
    • Ferdinand wants life to be simple
  • What should I be wary of?
    • Dealing iwth Fairmeadow is so complicated now. It used to be that the only people who came into our swamp were thieves and we just chased them out, but now  we’ve been into town and some people like us, but they don’t know us, so maybe we shouldn’t let them spring the traps, but the people who don’t like us don’t like us even more, and I don’t want to deal with any of it!

Buckle: Ferdinand needs a vacation. He’s overwhelmed and needs to get away for a bit.

Samantha: Yes, that wacky shapeshifter really stirred things up.

Buckle: A shapeshifter? From Templeton?

Samantha: I’m not sure. He and his friend the knight came into town for the fair and disappeared afterwards.

Buckle: Do you have a place Ferdinand can go to get away? A cottage in the woods?

Samantha: This is my isolated getaway. I’m connected to the land. I don’t travel. I don’t want to send Ferdinand off by himself. I just worry about him. People might take advantage of him, especially if he’s a bull.

Buckle: Perhaps we could add another to our rag-tag band.

Samantha: We can’t impose! Where are you going?

Buckle: The Crack-Tooth Wastes.

Samantha: Seems dangerous.

Buckle: Maybe there’s some way we could keep in contact, like that teleport tirck you did earlier.

Samantha: I can only teleport within this swamp.

Buckle: What about his folks?

Samantha makes an ugly face.

Buckle: I’ve been through that.

Buckle gets quiet and stares into the distance. Stella jumps in to lighten the mood.

Stella: We should play a game! Ask Ferdinand an Elven childhood game. Something simple and fun!

GM note: Do not add a traumatic childhood to your light-hearted adventure game. DO NOT add a traumatic childhood to your light-hearted adventure game.  Aha! Minoan Bull-Leaping!

Buckle asks Ferdinand what games he played as a child, and Ferdinand excitedly tell him how he’d run at his friends and they would leap away with specatular Elven grace. He gets so excited remembering this fun game that he demonstrates, charging at Buckle!

Buckle Overcome 7-9 temporary solution

Buckle evades Ferdinand’s charge, but Ferdinand comes around for another pass.

Stella On a Mirror’s Edge: start free-running and gain 2 Speed points

Stella spends speed to leap over Ferdinand

Stella Keep Them Busy 7-9

Stella runs at Ferdinand and leaps over him, placing one hand on his head for a little boost. She’s good at this! Ferdinand is so happy and turns to follow Stella.

Buckle Finish Them (+Wisdom, show them the error of their ways) 7-9

Buckle: Ferdinand, stop!

Ferdinand damages Shapeshifter

Ferdinand is shocked back into his Elf form!

Buckle: You gotta face life. This is isn’t childhood anymore. Things are bad, and complicated. I understand. I just fought Vampires that were trying to teleport to the Moon, which is full of Dragons. The Viper King wants to kill me. As long as you have people who love you, you can face these things. But not if they can’t hear you. If you retreat into bull form, you can’t stand together.

Ferdinand: You’re right. Samantha is always there for me. It was selfish for me to withdraw.

Samantha: Ferdinand, I’ll always take care of you.

Buckle senses that Samantha does not see Ferdinand as a peer. She thinks her cunning and her magic make her superior to him.

Buckle: You gotta let him show you the power he has inside. You cna always take care of him, but let him take care of you too.

Buckle Talk Sense (+Wisdom) 10+

Samantha: It’s not often that I learn from an outsider, especially about my own family. Thank you!

Fellowship of Samantha’s Swamp gained!

Samantha offers to share some of her magic with the Fellowship. Buckle and Stella learn the Wizardry move. “Touch, push, or grab as if you were somewhere else you can see.” Buckle can ignite flammable items with a touch, and now he doesn’t even need to get close to do that.

NO END OF SESSION MOVE

Chasing the Sunset & Infinite Windows

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

The fellowship: Dryden of Conwall the Collector/Hunter, Averiela the Elf, Lucia the Brave the Heir/Halfling Sheriff

Last time, the Fellowship left Swallet in arguably better shape than they found it, and sought out the Hidden Library to learn about the Artifact of Power they took from Thaumatown.

GM note: Whenever the teleporter terminal under the Fairy Forest is activated, something unrelated is teleported to the City Junkyard. In action movie tradition, blowing up a high-tech device counts as activating it.  I asked the players if they were willing to be completely derailed by events triggered by other players. For my players, that’s the purest expression of adventuring in an unknown world with other characters, so they agreed.

Averiela, Dryden, and Lucia finish their meal at the rim of the volcano that conceals the Hidden Library. They hear a cracking noise and see puffs of dust on the ground around them. Suddenly, they and a section of the volcano are inside a large dark chamber! The chamber is formed by many buildings of different types and construction all packed together. Even the roof is formed from the walls of two buildings on their sides. It’s quite unstable. These buildings are not meant to be here. Rubble litters the floor. The Artifact of Power hovers in midair in the center of the chamber, and since it’s in Dryden’s backpack, he’s also suspended in midair! Two portals flank the Artifact of Power. One shows a sunny sky, and light from that sky illuminates the chamber. The other portal shows fire and darkness.

Dryden is content to wiggle around in his backpack straps and look around at their new surroundings. Averiela also investigates with her keen Elven senses.

Dryden Look Closely (+hope, Averiela’s assistance) 10+ ask three questions

  • What do my senses tell me?
    • The chamber is definitely unstable. These buildings are all damaged and sections may collapse at the slightest disturbance.  They see movement in the dark corners where the light from the portal does not reach. These are Shadowmaws, creatures who move through shadows, cannot exist in bright light, and eat the living. They also hear a voice from inside one of the buildings, “Travelers? Where are you, Travelers?”
  • Tell me about the portal with fire. How could it hurt or help me?
    • The portal will let them escape this dangerous chamber immediately, but they don’t know where it leads. The danger on the other side may be worse.
  • Tell me about the speaker. What are they doing? What will they do next?
    • A door in the wall of the chamber opens, swinging downwards, because that building is on its side. A figure emerges that looks like a humanoid hastily sculpted from clay. Yet it lives and moves and speaks. It sees the Fellowship and waves, but a Shadowmaw approaches along the outside wall, where the figure can’t see it!

Lucia calls out a warning, and Dryden pulls out the Mirror Shard and bounces sunlight from the portal onto the Shadowmaw.

Dryden Keep Them Busy 10+

The Shadowmaw must flee before the sunlight, allowing the clay figure to run over to the Fellowship and introduces itself as Seeker.

Lucia introduces herself and shows her Symbol of Royalty. She has many questions. Where are we? How did you get here?

Seeker explains that it met Mr. Buckles Traveler (Seeker shrinks and changes shape into a Platyperson) and Stella Traveler (Seeker transforms into a Halfling woman) and they were in Fairy Forest looking for a teleporter, but when they found it, it exploded, and Seeker found itself here.

Lucia Speak Softly 10+

  • What should I be wary of when dealing with Seeker?
    • Seeker seems incredibly naive, so it could easily be tricked, or do something foolish out of ignorance. It can also shapeshift to perfectly imitate anyone it sees! First it forms a basic shape, then fine details, then it changes color to match tthe original.
  • Tell me about the Teleporter.
    • Seeker doesn’t understand how it works, but Marigold and Mr. Buckle Travelers thought it was very important. It was a big red stone pyramid.
  • Tell me about the other side of the door you came through.
    • It has a bunch of metal sticks, like that (Seeker points at Lucia’s sword) and there’s a cozy little ceramic room on one side.

Dryden calls down from from where he hangs in mid-air, asking of Seeker knows anything about Artifacts of Power?

Seeker: Who are you?

Dryden: I’m Dryden of Cornwall, the Mirror-Wielder.

Seeker: Pleased to meet you, Dryden the Mirror-Wielder.

Dryden: The second name is concrete and temporary. The first is more abstract. It was given to me, then I inhabited it myself.

Averiela runs over to the door that Seeker came from to investigate its odd description. Dryden used the Mirror Shard to shine sunlight on her so that Shadowmaws avoid her. She looks in and sees a Blacksmith’s shop on its side. the metal sticks are brooms, hammers, poles, various mundane rools, and not a trove of magical weapons. The ceramic room is a forge, long-cold. The back wall of the shop is stone, not the bricks that form the rest of the shop.  The stone is unnaturally jagged. If Averiela knew about computers, she might think the surface of the stone looks like videocompression glitches.  Averiela ducks into the dark blacksmith shop long enough to grab a lantern so she can create her own light. She considers also grabbing a broom to clean up after Dryden, but decides against it and returns to the Fellowship.

Dryden is trying to figure out how the Artifact of Power works.

Averiela: Remember in the robot factory? Your hand went through the Artifact into another robot, that had a pane of glass from the Artifact. It’s a teleporter.

GM note: The party figured out that the Artifact (named Infinite Windows) connects one place to other places through windows, so I revealed the custom moves to operate Infinite Windows.

Ideas and conjecture flow quickly. Lucia realizes that they can’t use Infinite Windows to escape and take it with them, because it won’t move while any windows are open. Dryden wonders about sending most people through and leaving someone behind to close the window. Averiela can Whisper On The Wind to tell that person where to rendezvous. But who knows how long and dangerous the path would be? Averiela thinks the Teleporter that Seeker saw may have had a pane from Infinite Windows in it. How many other panes are out there, linking them to know knows what bizarre devices? Dryden wonders if the uncontrolled teleportation could happen again.

Dryden: A very useful thing, now that we know what it is!

Averiela: Can we prove we’re on the same planet right now?

Lucia: Seeker is from our world. He knew Platypeople.

Lucia calls Dryden “Light-Wielder” and Seeker is amazed.

Seeker: You can change his name?

The Fellowship decides that they should get out of this chamber through mundane means and see where they are. Averiela wonders if she should get Dryden down, but decides to scout ahead and find a route first. She leaves the safety of the sunshine from the portal and ventures into the tangled of smashed buildings to find the surface, armed with a lantern. She’ll have to deal with Shadowmaws, but the unstable surfaces won’t bother one who is light enough to walk on water.

Averiela Overcome Shadowmaws 7-9

Averiela Pay A Price: Lose Lantern

Averiela Look Closely 10+ ask three questions

  • Tell me about the route to the surface? How could it hurt me or help me?
    • Averiela ducks through doors and windows, from one partial building to another, stepping lightly over unstable rubble and remembering where the safe paths are for the others. Eventually, she opens some shutters on the “ceiling” and light streams through. She’s reached the surface. She sees more buildings strewn about, including a fortress made of coral. A big hole has been drilled through one of the fortress’s walls. From the position of the sun, Averiela determines that she is far to the northwest of the Hidden Library.
  • What is hidden or out of place?
    • One of the structures on the surface is half of a Russian apartment, from Earth, probably built in the 1970s. Of course, Averiela doesn’t know what Russia is.
  • What are the Shadowmaws doing?
    • The Shadowmaws tried to attack Averiela as she moved through the dark interior. She evaded them all, but she did draw them to the route that she intends to lead the Fellowship through, so they will threaten the slower members.

Averiela returns swiftly along the same route, parkouring over obstacles. Around a corner, a Shadowmaw startles her. She rolls away from its jaws but drops her lantern. She keeps running, angry at her self. Imperfection is unacceptable!

Averiela: Should practice more.

She reports to her friends. Are they her friends? She reports to her traveling companions that she found a route through the buildings, and they are on the same planet. Ever cautious, she warns that if dimensional travel is possible, time travel is also possible, so they maybe in a different time. When warning about hte monsters on the way she has trouble remembering their names. Sloth monsters? Night? Stalkers?  “Shadowmaw” does not translate well into Elvish. Dryden wonders how tough these Shadowmaws are. Some still lurk around the edges of the chamber, but htey can’t approach the Fellowship in the beam of sunlight from the portal. Dryden dabs at one of the Shadowmaws and Roddy blasts it with his pneumatic cannon. They aren’t that tough, although in the dark where they can fight back may be a different story.

The two portals must be closed before Infinite Windows can be moved, and that will make the chamber dark, allowing the hungry Shadowmaws to move in. Averiela returns to the blacksmith’s shop to get some coal, so she can make a glowing path for people to follow. She does not have her lantern, and Dryden can’t bounce sunlight inside the shop, so she’ll have to go into darkness and risk the Shadowmaws.

Averiela Overcome 10+

She pauses at the doorway and senses a creature within, She takes a deep breath, then steps into the darkness. She senses the Shadowmaw’s attack and strikes with her Titanium Sword. The Shadowmaw makes a high-pitched scream and retreats. She quickly stuffs some coals from the forge into a bag. She feels horrible breath on the back of her neck and dives away before the second Shadowmaw can strike. She runs back into the chamber and out of danger.

Dryden ponders how he will close the portals, and what he’ll do when Infinite Windows comes loose and they both fall. Perhaps he could land on White Sand, Averiela’s Unicorn. Instead, he ties his Ranged Rope around himself, then orders it to connect to a wooden beam projecting from the ceiling of the chamber. When Infinite Windows drops, he’ll swing on the rope, order the Ranged Rope to release him at the right time, and zoom straight into the path to the surface. If all his calculations are correct.

Averiela lights the coals and lays out a path to the door that leads to the surface. Lucia makes sure each companion has a traveling buddy so no one is left behind. What will Seeker do? Averiela suggests sending it back through the fiery portal where it came from. The Fellowship realizes that Seeker must choose for itself.

Averiela; It’s an important part of your identity to know what you want.

Dryden: We could send you to a lonely volcano. There’s a libr . . . uhh, no one is there. You might enjoy the climate better.

Averiela: Identity is more than a home. It’s a true sense of self.

Dryden: You can journey with us as long as you like.

Seeker decides to come with them.

Dryden is ready go! He grabs the sides of the fiery portal and pulls them together.

Dryden Close Window 10+ window is closing on him!

He quickly moves from one portal to the other.

Dryden Close Window 10+ window is closing on him!

Drdyen Ranged Rope Autonomous: respond to simple verbal commands

Dryden Get Away 7-9 avoid harm

With all portals closed, Infinite Windows is no longer fixed in place. It and Dryden drop, then swing on the rope. Dryden orders the rope to release and he flies forward, rolls through the door and stands up with a flourish!

GM note: In hindsight, Dryden shouldn’t have escaped the closing portal by falling away from it. The portal has to finish closing before Infinite Windows is free to move. Oh well, it was a really cool moment!

Drdyen realizes he’s in a dark room with two Shadowmaws! He spins his bo staff to give himself a bit of space. Drdyen Ranged Rope Autonomous: respond to simple verbal commands

Dryden Get Away 10+ avoid harm

The Ranged Rope is still tied around his waist. He orders it to attach to sometime in the main chamber and it flies to obey, yanking him out of the room as a side-effect. He lands on top of White Sand.

Dryden: The glow of the unicorn’s horn led me to safety!

Now it’s time to move out. Averiela explains the route to everyone. First there’s a room with Shadowmaws, then a tight squeeze that should be fine for most of them, but tough for White Sand, then a chamber of unstable rubble. The lgiht from the line of coals provides some safety in the main chamber, but as soon as they go through the first door, Shadowmaws are waiting, as Dryden discovered. Lucia goes first, sword ready for battle. The Shadowmaws engage, and Lucia runs through, swinging wildly.

Lucia Get Away 10+ avoid harm, bring Dryden along

Dryden follows, swinging his 2-handed Dwarven hammer.

Averiela Camouflage: make an number of allies invisible

Averiela turns everyone else invisible: Seeker, White Sand, Knows Too Much, Roddy, Will, and Mara. They quietly slip past the Shadowmaws. They regroup at the small window. Lucia leads Seeker, Knows too Much, Roddy, Will, and Mara through the window to the next chamber. Averiela and White Sand stay on the near side of the window, and Dryden stays on the far side.  Dryden and Averiela use their weapons to smash the wall around the window so White Sands can fit through.

Dryden Overcome (+hope, Averiela’s aid) 6-

Falling Block Trap: Hidden Trap. When someone must Pay A Price, trigger this trap instead

Falling Block Trap: Pile of Rubble: Nearby characters take 2 damage and are trapped

Dryden sees the wall start to collapse and dives towards it, not away!

Dryden Get Away 10+ avoid harm, bring White Sand along

Drdyen slides along the floor, sticking his Dwarven hammer up vertically to slow the falling debris just a bit. As he comes out on the near side, he kicks White Sand in the nose so he rears back, out of the way fo the falling debris.

Averiela Get Away 7-9 avoid harm

Averiela leaps away elegantly. Now Averiela, Dryden, and White Sand are separated from the rest by a pile of rubble. Lucia and Mara run and start to clear rubble away to dig out their trapped friends. Dryden taps on the rocks.

Dryden: Lucia, I have a trap. Just stand back! Averiela, you and White Sand need to back up pretty far away.

They trust his wacky schemes, so they all move away from the rubble. Dryden pulls out a small black pellet. Dryden acquired this from an old friend who has a telescope that captures small pieces of distant objects. He places the pellet on the rubble and backs up.

Dryden: Don’t get caught. It took quite a while to recover my friend.

In 30 seconds, the pellet melts and reveals a tiny black grain of sand. The entire pile of rubble is sucked into the grain of sand and disappears!

Dryden Explosive Trap: clear or block a doorway

Dryden, Averiela, and White Sand join the rest of the Fellowship in the next room. Lucia recommends collecting objects from every location, so they can use Infinite Windows to return. Dryden scoops up some dirt and considers all the objects he has collected from various locations already. He is a Collector after all.

Now the Fellowship must cross an unstable room to reach the surface. Lucia and Dryden run ahead, leaving their companions behind again. The companions are still camouflaged, but that won’t prevent them from falling through the floor.

Lucia Get Away (+hope, Dryden’s assistance) 7-9 avoid harm

They reach the exit safely. Averiela advises Seeker to spread out into a flat sheet to distribute pressure and avoid collapsing any weak sections in the floor. That will allow the others to step safely over on Seeker and avoid injury. Seeker will save everyone and be a hero!

Averiela Talk Sense (+wisdom, appeal to desire) 6-

Seeker: I think Buckle said something about not letting people walk all over me.

Seeker does spread itself into a thin sheet, but slides over the ground on its own, escaping the dangerous room.

Lucia looks around the surface for ways to help her companions escape

Lucia Look Closely 10+ ask three questions

  • What do my senses tell me?
    • On the surface, she sees piles of buildings smashed together carelessly. The coral fort is the largest building in view, with the hole drilled through the thick wall.
  • Tell me about stuff that could hurt or help me escape the unstable room?
    • Lucia identifies some long boards in nearby buildings that could be laid down to provide stable footing
  • Is anything hidden or out-of-place?
    • That weird half-apartment of unknown construction

Lucia and Dryden get to work extracting the boards and building a bridge for their companions. Lucia is the brains and Dryden does the grunt work.

Lucia Overcome (+hope Dryden’s assistance) 7-9 Pay a Price for 10+ result

Dryden spends Ranged Rope to tie the boards together

With a secure bridge to walk over, everyone is able to cross the dangerous room and reach the surface!  Lucia ponders the strange landscape. Maybe this place used to be underwater! The coral fort was certainly built underwater. Buildings might have been built in all directions, ignoring gravity’s demands, then the sea drained and all the buildings fell like this.The appearance of the Moon may have changed the tides. If the Moon goes away again, this city may be restored.

Lucia: We have a piece of the Moon!

GM note: Wow, That’s even better than the real explanation!

Others note that the buildings are all different styles and sizes, not built by one civilization. They were teleported here, like the chunk of mountain that they were standing on when they were teleported. Why would Infinite Windows teleport everything here. Is this Infinite Windows’ home?  They ponder thier place in the world, and their ability to travel around it.

END OF SESSION MOVE

  • Did we thoroughly explore a new location? YES, the City Junkyard
  • Did anyone find what they were seeking? YES, Dryden seeks progress and magical artifacts, and he now has control of Infinite Windows, an Artifact of Power
  • Did we learn something new about the world and it’s people? YES, we understand Infinite Windows and met Seeker.

Three boons

  1. Restore Gear
  2. Level Up Lucia & Dryden
  3. Level Up Averiela (Elven Elite destiny)

Chasing the Sunset & Family Medicine

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

The fellowship: Vestri the Dwarf, Yuri the Outlander

Last time, the Fellowship saved a dinosaur ranch from a disaster that they caused, and were not greeted as heroes. They set out via old Dwarven tunnels, accidentally flooded the tunnel they were in, and took refuge in the nearby town of Bogden to recover.

They read the many messages on the Bogden Adventurer Message Board. Lots of stuff about werewolves! Vestri looks to the moon. It’s a half-moon waxing. Vestri relaxes, sure they have two weeks before the full moon brings out any werewolves. They actually have about eight days, still enough time for them to Recover and leave.

GM note: I asked the players some questions to let them fill in some lore about the world.

Yuri remembers the moment he was teleported from his world to this world. It was very sudden. He heard a cracking sound and saw cracks appear in his apartment walls, then he and half of his apartment were instantly in the City Junkyard. Fortunately Steven the cat came along with him.

Vestri looks at his family’s prize dagger, whose twin is the object of his quest. The hilt and blade are one piece, made in a style specific to the Redrock family. Some gems are mounted to the hilt with runes carved in the undersides. The runes are hard to notice unless one is specifically looking for them and shines a light on the gems at the right angle. The runes give luck for battle. The pommel bears the crest of the Redrock family, a very specific shape of rock. Anyone who really knows their rocks would know what mountain it came from! Yuri does not know rocks that well. He is not from this world.

Bogden is a party city built on an artifical marsh.  The river has been dammed and the area behind the dam is level and saturated with water, especially now that it’s raining so hard. Platypeople like marshes, so they built one for their town  Much of the area within Bogden’s palisade walls is festival grounds for Platypalooza, the yearly Platyperson festival. There’s a Fluming stadium, various stages, and many boothes, all packed up and empty. During Platypalooza, the town’s population triples! The permanent residents and their permanent dwellings only take up a corner.

Every morning, Vestri walks outside and circles the town, looking in the river and what washed ashore. All sorts of interesting stuff wash up. On Vestri’s daily walks, he runs into The Champ, a large Platyperson so seems unfriendly.

The Champ: Are you looking for something? My eyes are the keenest in town. I bet I’ll spot it before you do.

Vestri: Probably. I am very short you see and I can’t see very far. I’m a curious fellow and I’m waiting for my friends to wash ashore.

The Champ: You are quite a curious fellow.

Recover: all stats and gear (including lost Companions) restored

One day, Vestri sees Gurtin (the Drill Tank) floating past with Hundrin sitting on top. Vestri runs over and drags Gurtin ashore. Vestri shares the breakfast he was eating with Hundrin and they start fixing Gurtin.

Each day, after Vestri finishes his walks, The Champ comes over to show off what he found washed up on shore that Vestri missed.  Vestri is impressed, which makes The Champ very happy.

Vestri: Have you ever heard stories told of a dagger? A lost dagger?

Vestri Speak Softly 10+ ask three questions

  • Tell me about lost daggers
    • Folklore and ancient stories are boring. Probably something Anter knows about. He doesn’t need a magic dagger to fight his battles! He uses his muscles and mighty tail!
  • What does he want. How can we help them get it?
    • People have been looking nervously at the moon. Speaking of ridiculous stories, some guy gave Anter a ‘cure” for werewolves, but it won’t work. We should just go kill them before they turn into werewolves. That’s the way to keep the town safe.
  • What should I be wary about when dealing with him.
    • He’s egotistical. If he thinks you will outdo him, he will absolutely sabotage you.

Vestri wants to be amiable and keep The Champ happy, so he asks if he won big at the recent festival. The Champ gets angry. The Fluming Finals were disrupted by a werewolf attack. The Champ points out that he slew one of the Werewovles himself. Vestri reassures him that he would have won.

Vestri meets Anter, the Elder who knows all the stories. She’s an old grey-furred Platyperson with a cane. She’s a little deaf and Vestri has to repeat his greeting.

Vestri: I travel, searching for stories in every region. Perhaps if I offered you a biscuit, you’d like to sit and tell me any stories you may know about a certain subject.

Anter likes telling and hearing stories. She wants to trade. Yuri has a great story to tell.

Yuri: Once upon time, there was Russian man from greatest country on Earth. He was having nice day off…

Anter: Why was he in a hurry?

Yuri: Oh, he was not. He was from Russia. Mother Russia. His country? On Earth. Planet I am from. Best country.

Anter: Oh, his mother is Russia. OK.

Yuri: Da, we’ll go with that. Taking day off from hospital becuase he is doctor. Very very nice man. Sitting, reading, petting cat. Cat is in lap. Very nice. Very cozy. Then roof starts cracking! Dust starts falling! Cat starts sneezing and *snaps* he is in field with half his apartment, two baseball cards, and cat.

Vestri realizes that he knows this story!

Yuri: He was only person. He, not I. He sees sword standing, sitting, whatever swords do, and he touches it and he is assaulted by visions of a future where this world will die or everyone on it will die or something very terrible.

Vestri: I did not know that bit.

Yuri: It is very dramatic! And now I, he holds sword close because he does not know when world will crumble, and that is the story of Yuri.

Anter is very pleased with this story and asks which story he wants to hear from her. Vestri pulls out his dagger (he didn’t want to show The Champ) and asks Anter if it reminds her of any stories.

Anter: You visitors all have such strange weapons. Here in Bogden we just have simple weapons.

The weapons in Bogden are all one piece, a corrosion-resistant alloy that’s quite hard and stays sharp well, which seems odd because the Platypeople live in wooden huts in the mud. Yuri wonders where they get such nice tools, and how they are built.

Yuri Speak Softly 10+ ask three questions

  • What can you tell me about the alloy?
    • Anter doesn’t think it’s very interesting, but she takes them to the blacksmith. Seems like the Platypeople have good tech, but don’t really care about it. They aren’t obsessed with progress. A durable hunting knife is good because one can whittle a bunch of sticks without having to sharpen it. The blacksmith uses the recipe passed down to him. The atomic weight of the constituent elements have a 3:5 ratio, which is a lucky number, so the resulting alloy is strong. The tools don’t require much maintenance, so the blacksmith isn’t researching any improvements.
  • What can you tell me about my sword?
    • Anter knows stories about the past, not the future. Yuri saw buildings on fire, but couldn’t say what caused the destruction. Anter has heard of dragons burning down entire towns, but all the dragons disappeared before her time, around the time the Moon showed up. Yuri wonders if the Dragons left for the Moon.
    • GM note: I forgot that Anter saw Fafnir, a young Dragon, at Platypalooza, just two months ago.
  • What can you tell me about Vestri’s dagger?
    • Anter is pretty sure it’s Dwarven. She thinks the collapsed tunnel outside of town is Dwarven as well. She really doesn’t know much.

GM note: the players decide not to forge a Bond with Anter because they don’t want to take an old lady on their dangerous journeys.

Yuri: I am very honored you would like to come with us, but I am afraid your body is very weak and I do not want you to be hurt. We have had fights with giant Eels that fly in the sky.

Vestri: He went inside its stomach!

Yuri: Yes, I did. I would not recommend it.

Anter: Well, Our town has problems of its own.

Yuri: Is it that Champion? He is very loud.

Anter explains that two months ago, werewolves attacked and Platypalooza ended in a panic. Last month, three more people turned into werewolves, and some travelers managed to subdue them all with weird magic stuff. They left some items that they said would cure the werewolves, but the werewolves have to transform in order to use the cure. Hopefully the infected Platypeople will voluntarily allow themselves to be restrained before transforming, but it’s a scary situation and Anter doesn’t want to administer the cure herself. She hopes that Yuri and Vestri, who have experience dealing with scary situations, will stay and help. Vestri enthusiastically offers Yuri’s assistance.

Anter opens a cabinet which contain two potions and something wrapped in cloth. She explains that the infected are supposed to drink the healing potions before transforming. She hesitates, upset by the next part. She unwrapps the cloth and reveals a fancy rapier with a blade made from a unicorn horn. Someone killed a peaceful, magical creature and turned its horn, symbol of healing, into a weapon. A disgusting artifact! An atrocity! Anter is very embarrassed. The traveler used it last month and it seemed to work. They are desparate enough to try using it, but it’s awful and Anter hates having it around. Yuri recommends burying the sword after the ritual.

Vestri: Don’t bury it. We don’t want it in the earth either

Yuri: What do we do? Shoot it into outer space? Give it to dragon?

Vestri: Cleanse it and burn it.

Yuri: Put it in a boat.

Vestri: Burn it. It can be the ocean’s problem.

Anter: Send it down the river?  To Port Fennrick?

Yuri: I do not know where that it. Will that have negative ramifications?

Anter: It’s downriver. It’s easy to get to.

Yuri: We will cross that bridge when we finish with the Unicorn blade.

Anter: No, the bridges cross the river. So if you take the river, bridges cross you.

GM note: Eh? Eh? Because he’s from Soviet Russia?

The plan: before the infected people turn into Werewolves, the drink a Healing Potion, so there’s healing energy inside them. Then after they turn into Werewolves, stab them with the Unicorn Sword, so the Unicorn’s healing magic from the outside hits the Potions healing from inside and heals them of lycanthropy.  Healing Potions are colorless and hard to distinguish from water, except for subtle differences in viscosity.

Yuri thinks this method is suspicious and not peer-reviewed. He’s excited to be the second trial and confirm or disprove the results of the first trial.  They agree to wait until the full moon and attempt the cure. In the mean time, they go meet the infected Playtpeople. Sallet (infected) is the teenage son of Sally (infected) and Froob (not infected) They live together in a house. Sallet’s room has been repainted recently. Froob has a bunch of chemistry equipment in the lving room. He’s been looking for a cure on his own. Yuri is happy to meet another man of science.

Yuri: Hello, Sallet, Sally, and father. We are here to help with the Werewolfism.

Froob: Lycanthropy.

Yuri: Lycanthropy, yes.

Vestri: He’s a doctor!

Froob is happy to meet a fellow doctor, and explains the solution he’s invented. Of course, the solution can only be tested once a month, and the test is extremely dangerous! He has two tubs set up. He’ll pour in a special solution, and as long as Sally and Sallet are submerged in the tubs, the lycanthropy will be restrained. Yuri is worried that they will drown, but Platypeople are amphibious. They are used to being underwater and holding their breath for a long time. Yuri asks if the solution will interact with Healing Potions.

Froob: Anter has this idea that she’s going to stab my family with that horrible sword. It should have been cursed and thrown out as soon as we got it.

Vestri: Burn it and throw it in the ocean.

Yuri: Yes, da, this is what we will do. But, we should have it as a backup, just in case your one little plan does not work, so we can finish it all in one go.

Sally and Sallet do not want to be finished in one go! Yuri assures them that he wants to heal them, not maim them, like a scalpel incision during surgery. Yuri assures them there’s a 90% chance of success. He’s only lost one patient ever, who was in a car accident, and on the way to the hospital, the ambulance also crashed.

GM note: I remind the players that besides these two methods, there’s also The Champ’s idea to kill Sally and Sallet before the full moon. They reject that plan and would rather use the war crime sword.

Most of the village expects to use Dryden’s plan and chain up the infected Platypeople so they can’t avoid being stabbed once they transform.  Yuri asks Sally and Sallet to wear the big chains that the village has prepared while in Froob’s tubs, just in case, for the safety of the doctors.

Yuri Talk Sense (+Sense, explain plan) 10+

Sally and Sallet convince themselves that they aren’t going anywhere anyways, so it’s not that much of an imposition. Yuri assures them he’ll be right there with the key.

Just before sunset on the night of the full Moon, Yuri and Froob prepare their medical station, laying out the manacles, the key, the Unicorn Sword, a hand-washing station, gloves. Froob’s gloves are for webbed Platyperson hands and don’t fit Yuri’s human hands. Yuri thanks him anyways. The goop reacts to the person in it, so only Sally should touch the goop in Sally’s tub, and so on. Yuri must wear gloves around the tubs.

Vestri: We should wipe down the sword between hits.

Yuri: That is only if the goop is not working and if the goop is not working then it doesn’t matter if the one is in the other’s tub.

Sally and Sallet drink the Healing Potions, sit in the tubs, put the manacles on their legs, let Froob put the manacles on their hands, then lie down and submerge in the anti-Lycanthropy goop. Worried townsfolk surround the house, and Yuri tells them they should not hang around in case the werewolves break loose. Several Platypeople are convinced to leave.

Suddenly, an arrow (made of that nice platyperson alloy) comes through the window, striking Sallet’s tub and starting a leak. Champ is making good on his threat to kill the infected before they transform!

Yuri: Champ! You are just in time. We are needing you for the third phase of our plan.

Champ: I only need the one plan!

He’s going to continue firing!

Yuri yells to the crowd that the werewolves are loose!

Yuri Keep Them Busy 7-9

The crowd panics and runs, ruining Champ’s aim and revealing his hiding spot. The Champ is furious at Yuri now and fires his next arrow at him instead of the infected patients. Vestri runs to shoulder-tackle Yuri out of the way, but because of height differences, hits him in the legs.

Yuri Overcome 7-9 temporary solution

Champ is aiming through a small window from outside, so he needs to re-position to target Yuri from his new position, giving the people inside a small reprieve. Froob is lying down next to Sallet’s tub to avoid the arrows, and pressing a towel to the hole to keep the goop from leaking. He tells Yuri to get the metal bonder from his alchemy supplies to seal the hole. Green bottle with a square cap. He reachs up and points at the shelf and as he does, another arrow flies through the window, breaking a bottle. Yuri tucks and rolls past the window to get near the alchemy shelf.

Yuri Get Away 6-

Yuri damages Grace

As Yuri approaches, an arrow strikes a bottle of corrosive clear liquid, which explodes and splatters on Yuri’s pants. He’s got to move gingerly now! Vestri sees that Yuri doesn’t have this completely handled, so he bursts (through the door, not the wall) outside to find The Champ and distract him.

Vestri Keep Them Busy 7-9

It works, giving Yuri time to retrieve the correct bottle and seal the leak in the tub. Yuri wants to prevent future attacks from outside, so he grabs a bed (Froob directs him to the least expensive one) and props it up over the window.

Yuri Overcome 10+

Yuri is over six feet tall, so the size and weight of the bed aren’t a problem. The main challenge is maneuvering himself in a room built for much smaller creatures. he can’t even stand up straight in here. He manages, and secures the room against outside assault.

Outside, The Champ really wants to turn this into a contest, which is what he’s good at. He sees that Vestri is a fellow man of action. There are two werewolves to kill and two of them. The Champ thinks he can kill one before Vestri can kill the other.

Vestri: I need to hype myself up before I kill any werewolves, make sure I’m fast and strong enough, so why don’t you race me around the building so we can get our hearts pumping?!

The Champ A Challenger Approaches: never turn down a challenge.

The Champ immediately agrees and sets the start and finish lines. Vestri figures The Champ has to wait until he finishes to gloat, so he jogs instead of running, allowing The Champ to win easily. The Champ pops off so hard that he hurts Vestri’s feelings. The Champ laps Vestri and runs alongside, insulting him, and Vestri is deflated. He’s usually cheery even in ridiculous situations, but The Champ is really getting to him.

Back inside, Sally and Sallet are completely submerged in the goop. They only need to stick their noses out to breath every ten minutes. When they do, their noses start to grow black fur, but the fur goes away when they go back into the goop.

Yuri: You made a permament solution for this without having to stab them. That is very good. We can just yell at this angry man and tell him we have solved the problem.

Froob: You can do that. I will stay in here will my family. Keep him out of here.

Yuri: Sure. Make sure you have the sword handy in case something happens. I would like you to stay safe and alive.

Froob: I’m not going to stab my family!

Yuri: Not stabbing. you are a pricise incision, cutting away the lycanthropy. I believe in you.

Yuri leaves, sure that Froob will not wield the Unicorn Sword. He sees Vestri and The Champ jogging around the house.

Yuri: Well, they died already. We killed them. Werewolves are gone. You can all go home. Sorry Champion, I have beaten you to it. You can take the credit though! It was that one dagger that came through. Got them both in one fell swoop!

Yuri Talk Sense (+Grace, a trick) 10+

The Champ is convinced. He goes off, cheering himself.

Yuri: I can’t believe that worked.

Yuri and Vestri stay the rest of the night to make sure nothing happens. Vestri sits in the corner and pouts. Each time one of the infected people sticks their nose out to take a breath, black fur grows on it, then disappears when the nose goes back under the goop, In the morning they carefully sit up and they remain Platypeople. They made it through the night without transforming!

Froob: I’m a genius! It worked! Give me the key. Let’s get them out of these chains.

Yuri wants to make sure that there’s a plan to produce more of these goop and there’s a strict schedule because missng even one treatment would be disasterous.

Froob: Don’t worry, there is nothing more important to me than making sure this works.

Anter arrives to pay respects and is surprised to see them alive and unharmed. The Champ told everyone that they’re dead. She was ready to make the funeral arrangements. She’s pleased and will hug anyone who will accept. Yuri and Vestri accept! Vestri needs a hug after The Champ’s abuse. Next, Anter wants to get rid of the Unicorn Sword.

Yuri: Da, wash your hands of this.

Vestri: Literally, wash your hands!

Yuri gets the recipe for the Lycanthropy-suppressing bath from Froob, but it will be a challenge to gather the ingredients and replicate it. Yuri talks about science and biology with Froob, happy to find a collegue. Yuri asks if any diseases have been troubling the community. The Platypeople have a nasty-tasting syrup that is a traditional remedy for what ails you, but is actually a broad-spectrum vaccine. It required a research lab to invent, but the Platypeople thought research was boring and tore down the lab to build a Fluming stadium.

Anter takes the Unicorn Sword to the blacksmith for disposal. The Unicorn Sword is not common knowledge. Anter didn’t want to show it off. When she reveals it, the blacksmith heats the furnace extra hot to make sure the sword is definitely destroyed. He switches out the tray underneath the furnace and puts heavy foil down, so after the sword is destroyed, he wraps up the ashes and slag into a package. The Platypeople don’t want to throw it in the marsh or the river, so they ask the Fellowship to take it to the ocean to dispose of. Yuri agrees once he’s sure that passers-by won’t immediately think he’s a war criminal for holding the package.

In his mind, not with his ears, Yuri thinks he hears a cracking noise, like the noise that signaled his teleportation to this world. Something has happened, somewhere.

News of Sally and Swallet’s cure spreads throughout the town. They carry Sally and Swallet around the fairgrounds on their shoulders in celebration.  The Champ is shocked, but what can he do? He’s not going to charge into a parade and attack the guests of honor in borad daylight. Yuri suggests that a story about how The Champ won a race that night might make him feel better, but he wonders if Vestri will be alright with being immortalized as the loser. Vestri agrees, but Yuri must give him a mug of ale every time the story is told. Yuri asks Anter to cook up a fake story for The Champ. People are used to placating The Champ’s ego. It comes up a lot.  Anter will tell the story of The Champ fighting the werewolves at Platypalooza. He walked up under a werewolf’s wild swing, clocked it in the jaw, made it look a fool, and emboldened those around him to fight on, because the werewolves were not invincible. He loves that story.

Yuri: That poor person could have been submerged in a tub! If only we were here a month sooner!

Vestri wants to get rid of the Unicorn slag as soon as possible, so the Fellowship plans to head downriver to the ocean. Along the way, Vestri will look for mountaintops that reminds him of stories of old.

BOGDEN MESSAGE BOARD:

Yuri: Champ is a chump, pacify with contests. Werewolves need a bath so talk to Froob. Help these folks get supplies.

Vestri: -Werewolf Problem Solved -Froob is a really clever alchemist! -Anter knows all tales, trade stories -Champion obsessed with competing, sore loser, sore winner -Food Shortage

Stardew Valley does a lot with a little, and a lot with a lot

One of the reasons that Stardew Valley is so endlessly replayable is that each element has many different uses, so I don’t get bored using the same thing over and over. This multi-use philosophy applies to the maps, the tools, the villagers, and many other elements, but I want to focus on Forage.

 screenshot of Stardew Valley. A woman finds a Wild Horseradish frowing in the wild.

Forage are plants that grow wild and can be found and collected just by walking around. Crops require costly seeds, and must be watered each day, expending the farmer’s limited energy. Forage requires neither money nor Energy.

But once I collect some forage, what do I do with it? Many things, and they are all important!

 screenshot of Stardew Valley. A Leek can be sold for 60 gold.

Forage can be sold for Gold. Forage requires no upfront investment of Gold, unlike Crops, so this is basically free money! Early on the farmer has little money and needs many expensive upgrades, like more inventory space, or farm buildings like a barn or upgraded house with a kitchen.

 screenshot of Stardew Valley. A Leek provides 40 Energy and 17 Health when eaten.

Most Forage can be eaten to restore Health and Energy. (Some forage is poisonous, so read the tooltip carefully before chowing down!) Forage requires no energy to collect, unlike Fish or Crops, so again, it’s basically free Energy! Before the Farmer gets rolling with upgrades, it’s easy to run out of energy and be unable to complete the day’s chores and errands. Eating is doubly beneficial in the Mines, because it restores Energy spent mining as well as Health lost fighting monsters.

 screenshot of Stardew Valley. A woman offers Shane a Leek as a gift.

Forage, like almost every item, can be given to villagers as a gift. Gifts improve the ViIlager’s relationship with the farmer, which can have mechanical benefits as well as the intrinsic benefit of being kind and making friends. Different villagers have different opinions of different Forage, so I watch their reactions closely (or read the wiki) to match the villager with the ideal gift.

A screenshot of Stardew Valley. The recipe for Wild Seeds (Spring) requires one of each type of Spring forage.

Forage can be turned into more Forage! I can turn a set of four Forage into a packet of ten seeds. The seeds take a week to grow and require watering, but if I can spare the time and energy, I get 250% of what you put it! The resulting Forage can be turned into more seeds, so each week my garden can expand dramatically.

So even with this free resource that I collect just by walking around, there are many factors to consider. In-game days, daily energy limits, Villager preferences, cash flow, my short-term and long-terms goals all collide in the simple question of “What should I do with this thing I found on the ground?”

But Stardew Valley isn’t content to have a few densely-useful items. It has hundreds of densely-useful items! Similar decisions can be made about the 30+ villagers, dozens of fish, scores of crops, 90+ artifacts, ores, gems, recipes, the list seems endless. Combining such breadth and depth in the same game is truly impressive!

Chasing The Sunset & Revenge

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/Hunter

Last time, the Fellowship acquired part of an instruction manual for a teleporter, and discovered a plot by Vampires to blow up the Moon! now they follow the Vampire that got away, hoping to find more answers.

As they sail the Miranda around Doctor’s MacLeod’s Anti-Moon Weapon and on to the north-west, they reach a branch in the river. Stella pauses to investigate their options. The water from the west branch is slow and covered with moss and gunk. It’s draining a forest that was flooded and drowned. All the trees are dead and covered with dark, creeping moss. An awful place, but the silence and lack of foilage would any ambush easy to spot.

While Stella peers into the distance, some moss from that forest drifts near the Miranda. It grab the side of he hull and starts climbing. It’s not just a film of moss on the surface, but a moss-covered Blighted Ghoul! It’s very touch corrodes the hull!  Stella calls to buckle, who comes running over holding the flaming leg of deck chair!

Buckle: Stella, keep them busy!

Stella: Gus, throw me the sour!

Gus the Halfling cook throws Stella a jar, and she pours a semi-circle of vinegar around the ghoul as it climbs through the railing at the edge of the ship’s deck. Vinegar will kill the moss and hopefully contain the creature. Buckle brings the flaming stick down on the ghoul’s head! The ghoul is smashed prone and slides off the deck in to the river. A bit of mossy goop sticks to Buckle’s weapon and crawls towards his hand. He drops the flaming stick into the river.

Buckle: What if we go to the live forest?

Buckle looks closely at the other branch of the river. This channel runs swift and clear from the north-west through a dense and vibrant forest. The big trees in the canopy don’t starve smaller plants beneath them. There are dense leaves from 200 feet up to the ground. The only clear path is the river, which is plenty wide enough for boat traffic. Any number of creatures could be watching from the branches of the forest. Something extends over the river, but it’s too far away to make out from here.

Buckle: Spooky, but less spooky than the other way. Let’s go before anything else shows up.

The Miranda goes up the north-west branch into the dense forest. The thing over the river turns out to be a dragon skull suspended on ropes over the middle of the river. The skull is huge, ten feet long and six feet tall!  Its jaw is full of flat, triangular, shark-like teeth. Two wooden spikes have been lashed to the jaws like fangs. Above the skull, in runsted metal letters, is a sign reading “SO MUCH FOR THE POWER OF DRAGONS”

INSERT DRAWING HERE

Buckle worries about Fafnir, the Dragon he hatched from an egg, but this skull is far too large to be Fafnir’s. There’s a small dock at the river’s edge near the skull. They dock the Miranda there and set off to search for Marigold, the teleporter, and maybe some news about Dragons, which have been extinct for a century.  Hamfast and Ugg stay with the boat. Buckle, Stella, Silk, Gus, and Rose take the trail into the dense forest. It’s very easy to get lost here. The trail often takes blind corners, and around one of the turns the Fellowship almost collides with a strange creature. at six feet tall it towers over everyone in the Fellowship. It looks like a sculptor hastily made a human out of clay. head, arms, legs, but all indistinct, all the same brown color. Even the face only has suggestions of eyes and mouth. The figure moves and speaks!

Seeker: I am Seeker. Who are you?

Stella: We are travalers. We just got here. What are you?

Seeker: That’s what I’m trying to figure out. I was only recently given a name and told to make my own decisions, but I don’t know what that means.

Buckle: A name is what you call yourself. A decision is what you do with yourself.

Seeker turns to Buckle.

Seeker: What is your name? I have met Travelers.

Buckle: I am Buckle and this is Stella. Travelers is our decision.

Seeker looks at Stella and repeats her name. As he does, he gets a bit shorter. He looks at Buckle and repeats his name, extending his face into a bill like Buckle’s. Seeker is a shapeshifter! They ask him about other creatures in the forest. He explains that the main hazards are troublesome fairies.

Seeker: They used to tell me what to do. Now they call my name and try to lead me astray from the path.

Stella: Could you lead us to where the fairies live? As you make decisions, one decision will lead do another. You could decide to have adventures like us!

Stella’s appeal to Seeker’s desires backfires.

Seeker: No! I don’t want to. I don’t have to.

Seeker wants to get out of the forest. Buckle asks if he has a plan. Making plans is hard, especially for Seeker, who only learned about making decisions recently. He walks to the river and the Fellowship follows. He sees the water flowing downstream.

Seeker: Even the river has a way it wants me to go.

Stella: You don’t have to follow the river. Some decisions are easy and some are hard. Help us and choose the hard way. Don’t go with the flow like the river wants you to.

Seeker: Choose the hard way to prove that I made a choice. Yes! I’ll do it.

Seeker agrees to lead them to the fairies. He shapeshifts to mimic Rose in order to confuse the fairies, which he is sure are already watching them. As they go deeper into the forest, carefully keeping to the trail, they hear voices calling out from the trees, offering shortcuts or food.  Buckle can’t resist and runs into the underbrush, instantly setting it alight with his super-heated body.

Fairies: No, no! Please go back!

Buckle: I was promised food. Give me food!

The fairies emerge with fruit and lead Buckle back to the trail. He gobbles up the treats while Stella asks the fairies what’s going on. They say the were trying to lead the Fellowship out of the forest because there’s a Water Elemental up-river that’s causing destruction. Stella asks about Marigold and the fairies’ demeanor changes.

Fairies: They know! They can’t leave.

Stella demands an answer, or she’ll send Buckle into the forest again. The fairies have disappeared into the forest and don’t respond.

Stella: Buckle, did they answer our question? Go take a walk.

Buckle goes into the brush again, starting another fire, when he’s confronted by a Tyrannosaur! It’s controlled by a fairy sitting on a tiny saddle on the creature’s nose.

GM note: The players ask if the Tyrannosaur is a Beast. Buckle can talk to Beasts, and Stella’s Hunter Destiny lets her control Beasts. It sort of is, because it’s a non-magical, non-intelligent animal, but also it’s not, because it’s listed under Titans in the book. I said yes, and it’s funny that the Fairies brought exactly the wrong weapon to the fight and had it turn on them instantly.

Buckle speaks to the T-rex in its own language and asks about the Water Elemental. The T-Rex hasn’t heard about any Water Elemental. The Fairy pilot kicks and snaps her reins and yells at the T-Rex to eat them, but the T-Rex won’t attack Stella or her friends. Buckle asks if it knows where Marigold is, and the T-Rex is willing to lead him. Stella asks for a ride for the rest of the Fellowship, and the T-Rex crouches so they can climb aboard. The fairy pilot gives up and flies away. The T-Rex sets off through the forest. Buckle follows through the path it clears.

Seeker: This creature is making confusing decisions.

The fairies pelt the T-Rex and its riders with stones from the trees. Buckle catches a rock and throws it back, then sprints ahead to get away. He bursts into at a clearing in the forest. There’s a large rock at one side of the clearing with a tree’s roots growing over it. The roots have been chopped away on one side, revealing a passage under the rock into some underground chamber. A camp has been set up here. Marigold the Vampire Fairy is here, as well as two small reptilian humanoids called Kobolds. Marigold sees Buckle (he’s hard to miss, constantly glowing) and attacks with lightning speed! He’s hit before he can react.

Back to Stella and the others in the forest, getting pelted with rocks. Stella stands up and wields her longsword like a bat to hit rocks back at her attackers.  She over-commits to a mighty swing, loses her balance, and falls from the T-Rex’s back all the way to the ground. Ouch! A fairy swoops in to steal her gear, but she sees it coming and interposes her fist. The fairy can’t dodge and bonks her nose real good! She retreats. Stella sprints down the burning path that Buckle left when he escaped. She enters the clearing, leaps over a Kobold that tries to intercept her, and vaults into the roots of the great tree on the rock, vanishing from view.

Buckle tries to placate Marigold and says that he has brought the manual back to her. She’s not buying it. The T-Rex and the rest of the companions burst into the clearing, ready to fight. Buckle wants to prevent a brawl.

Buckle: Everything’s fine! Maybe I can figure out the teleporter by looking at it. If I figure out the teleporter, you tell me what’s us with the Moon.

Marigold likes this deal. She won’t have to report her failure to “him” if Buckle gets the teleporter working. She takes Buckle down to the underground passage. Inside in a large cavern and inside that is a pyramid made of red stone, which Buckle recognizes from the schematics. This is the teleporter terminal! Buckle asks what Marigold has tried already. She turned a couple of the Kobolds into Vampire Thralls to force them to help her, but they are uncreative and don’t know anything that’s not written in the manual. Buckle walks around and examines the teleporter. It has four big terminals which should probably hold batteries, but are empty. It needs power. A lot of power. A level of power equivalent to Buckle’s Heart of Earth, or some other Artifact of Power.

Marigold explains that the Moon is weapon built by the Vampires’ ancient enemy, the Dragons. It sought to deny the Vampires the safety of the night by bringing the Sun’s light to the other side fo the planet. It didn’t work, but these Kobolds, servants of the enemy, just came through the teleporter, so the weapon is still active and may yet become a threat. Buckle asks why the Dragons hated the Vampires so.

Marigold: They are glory. We are shadow. We competed for control of this world, but, as you can see by my trophy over the river, we won.

Buckle says he saw a Dragon the other day, and Marigold is worried until he says it was at the Fight Club. The Vampires know about that one and have plans to deal with it. Buckle says the teleporter doesn’t have enough oomph to operate. Perhaps a nuclear reactor is necessary. He’s stalling and doesn’t actually want to help Marigold get the teleporter working.

Outside in the clearing, Stella tells the T-Rex to stop anyone who tries to hurt her friends. The T-Rex snaps its mighty jaws in acknowledgement. Stella shrinks to the size of an apple and sneaks down into the chamber. She’s so inconspicious that Marigold drops the heavy manual right on top of her as she tries to sneak closer.

Seeker: Mr Buckle Travelers, you seem to be avoiding making a decision.

Buckle: I’ve made my decision. I’m choosing when to act.

A power terminal on the far side of the teleporter explodes! Buckle hid explosives there while inspecting the machine! Fire starts spreading through the chamber. The teleporter malfunctions and teleports every particle in the chambe by one foot, but not all in the same direction. The smooth rocky surface is how warped and spiky. Seeker is just gone!

Marigold: You! Somehow!

Buckle: I’ve been accused before. This is the first time it’s true!

Marigold swoops at him, but he evades her attack.  Stella yells for Gus to pelt Marigold with garlic, distracting her. Stella has to get through spikes and flames to reach Marigold, so she smears a helaing poultice on her face and charges, growing suddenly to her maximum size right in Marigold’s face! Marigold is terrified and flees.

Buckle: C’mon, let’s get out of here.

Together, the Fellowship escapes the spreading flames and spiky rocks. As they emerge from the mouth of the cave, more explosions shake the ground. The teleporter is destroyed, the Kobolds from the Moon are dead, and Marigold has fled into the forest.

Stella: For Fafnir?

Buckle: For Fafnir.

Stella calls for Seeker, but there is no answer. She calls out some final advice, just in case.

Stella: Seeker, remember that you always have choices!

The T-Rex carries the Fellowship back through the scorched path that Buckle burned through the forest to the Miranda.

END OF SESSION MOVE

Three boons: heal, restore gear, level up.