by Kevin Kulp

Pelgrane Press’s upcoming fantasy GUMSHOE game, Swords of the Serpentine, has any number of ways to be a hero.

Investigative abilities define the knowledge and abilities you use to gather leads and clues while adventuring. Swords of the Serpentine has shared General and Investigative abilities that are available to any Hero, but your character’s specialty is defined by their unique Class Investigative abilities.

The scale for Investigative abilities looks like this:

  • Rank 0 in an Investigative ability means you cannot use it to gather leads
  • Rank 1 in the ability makes you proficient at it
  • Rank 2 makes you an expert
  • Rank 3 indicates remarkable knowledge or talent
  • Rank 4 suggests you’re one of the best in the city
  • Rank 5 indicates you are one of the best in that ability that most people will ever meet

There are four loose classes: Sentinel, Sorcerer, Thief, and Warrior. Each class has four unique Investigative abilities each, and your choices here define what your Hero can do. Here’s what they look like.

Sentinel

As a Sentinel you may be a Church Inquisitor, a member of the City Watch, an informer for Eversink’s secret police, a scout for smugglers, or an inspector for the Mercanti. You typically have an eye for detail, an exhaustive knowledge of rules and regulations, and a keen sense for criminal activity (whether you encourage it or try to stop it!). Some Sentinels can sense ghosts and see into the spirit realm that overlays the true world.

Felonious Intent: you can spot warning signs of crime and criminal behavior

Laws & Traditions: you know the (often obscure) laws and traditions of wherever you live

Spirit Sight: you can see into the spirit realm, and may sense ghosts or Corruption

Vigilance: you notice tiny details others might miss, making you seldom surprised

Sorcerer

Sorcery may take a hundred different forms, but tapping into your true power is dangerous to your allies and deadly to Eversink’s patron goddess. Powerful sorcery causes Corruption, and Corruption is illegal in Eversink. If you wish to avoid persecution, you may have to limit your power or keep your skills secret. There’s no “good” magic when it comes to Sorcery; whether true power stems from the writings of the ancient and inhuman snake-people or as a gift from forgotten demons, the source of all sorcery is foul and corrupt.

It’s in your best interest to use your skills subtly or be so powerful and politically connected that few dare challenge you. As a Sorcerer you may know rare and hidden secrets, know how to heal the sick (or how to kill more quickly), be able to prophesize the future, and know the corrupt keys to sorcerous power.

Corruption: you can tap into the foul source of Sorcery for knowledge and power

Forgotten Lore: you know facts, legends, and trivia others have long forgotten

Leechcraft: you can diagnose ailments and know how to cause or heal diseases, injuries and poison

Prophecy: you can prophesize secrets from the past, present or future

Thief

You specialize in secrets. Thieves may attack with word or blade, and they’re equally treacherous with either. You probably know the alleys and canals of Eversink better than anyone else. You may be incredibly lucky, you’re likely skilled at gathering information through illegal means, and you are tied into the web of gossip and scurrilous rumor that circulates throughout the city.

City’s Secrets: you know the back streets and hidden truths of cities

Ridiculous Luck: you’re far luckier than most people, and stumble on clues others might miss

Scurrilous Rumors: bribery, gossip, and whispered secrets help you learn what others might have done

Skullduggery: you can find out hidden information through blackmail, spying, shadowing, and other reprehensible methods

Warrior

You’re an expert at the art of warfare. As a Warrior you primarily make your way through the world by force of arms, whether you’re a duelist, a brute, a mercenary, or a foreign barbarian. You are likely skilled at surviving in the wilderness, battling monsters, spotting your foe’s weaknesses, and understanding deadly battle tactics.

Know Monstrosities: you know legends or secrets about non-human creatures, including their tactics and motivations

Spot Frailty: you notice and exploit weaknesses in armor, objects, and structures; and you might even see weakness in peoples’ personalities, allowing you to manipulate them emotionally

Tactics of Death: you can read fight scenes and understand military tactics

Wilderness Mastery: you can navigate, survive, and even thrive outside of cities

Mix-and-Match

For a small price you can match abilities from different classes to end up with exactly the Hero you want. There’s a balance between raw power, influence, and flexibility.

  • If you spread your Build points out between lots of abilities (including your Class abilities, Shared abilities, and Allegiances, things we’ll talk about in the coming months), not putting more than 1 or 2 points into any one ability, you’ll gain tremendous flexibility. In exchange you limit how much damage you can do in any one attack, and you probably aren’t renowned for being astonishing at any one thing.
  • If you focus your Build points into just a few abilities, each with more ranks, you’ll gain quite a bit of power in that area and be able to inflict some considerable extra damage in a fight. You’ll also develop something of a reputation. In exchange, you’re going to lack flexibility while adventuring.

It’s the classic tradeoff with specialization: is it more fun to be really good at fewer things, or solid at a lot of things? Your answer to that will change from Hero to Hero. Both approaches have advantages; in one playtest adventure, a player put 5 ranks into a single ability and immediately established herself as a legendary expert in that area. That creates its own source of adventuring plot hooks! In actual play, we see a mixture of these approaches from different players, and the resulting balance works well.

There’s one other feature that balances flexibility and power:

  • If all your Class abilities start with the SAME class, you’ll lack flexibility but gain an extra Build point.
  • If you select Class abilities from more than one Class, you’ll have flexibility others will lack, but you’ll be a little bit less powerful.

In practice, this means that you’ll have a mechanical encouragement to really be a Warrior, or a Thief, or what have you, just like in many Swords & Sorcery novels. If you spread your points out to really customize your Hero, like the Gray Mouser or a young Conan (a mix of Warrior and Thief abilities), you’ll get the Hero you want and just miss out on the bonus Build point.

None of the Above

Interestingly, a perfectly viable character might be one with no (or almost no) Class abilities at all. We haven’t talked about Shared abilities (your social skills) or Allegiances yet, but if you want a Hero who’s tremendously well-connected and socially adept, you might not be focusing on the Classes at all. That will get you a Hero who’s astonishing at moving through Eversink’s society, even if they aren’t inflicting a lot of damage in anything but social combat.

Okay, that’s the basics of the Class system. Next up we’ll look at Shared abilities, Allegiances, and how you use them to shape the Hero you really want. We’ll also look at what happens when you spend these Investigative pool points – because that’s where the game’s true magic lies.


Kevin Kulp is the Boston-based co-author of Swords of the Serpentine, and formerly helped create TimeWatch and Owl Hoot Trail for Pelgrane Press. When he’s not writing games he’s either smoking BBQ or helping 24-hour companies with shiftwork, sleep, and alertness.

 

The Swords of the Serpentine playtest is now live!

SotS is the upcoming fantasy GUMSHOE game from Kevin Kulp (TimeWatch) and Emily Dresner (the Dungeonomics column at www.critical-hits.com). The full game will be available in 2019, traditionally published by Pelgrane Press with advance pre-orders, and we’ll open up those pre-orders in the months before publication.

Meanwhile, let’s see what you think. There’s a lot in the playtest, so here’s what you’ll want to know to get the most out of the game.

Page 0. We open up with a quick note about how to give us playtest feedback.

Chapter 1: The Basics. Want to know if you’re going to like Eversink, the city where Swords of the Serpentine is set? Skim this short chapter. You’ll know by the time you’re done.

Chapter 2: Your Hero. This tells you how to create a Hero. All the Investigative and General abilities are described here, along with rules for advancement and Fledgling/Aged play (where you skip around in a Hero’s career from one adventure to the next).

  • This is a game where players have quite a bit of narrative control. You help create the world while you play, and you have some abilities that let you actively world-build when you desperately need it the most. For instance, spending a point of the Investigative ability Laws and Traditions allows you to literally make up a law or a cultural tradition that remains true for the rest of the campaign, which is handy when you’ve just been confronted by the City Watch and you desperately need a loophole.
  • You can attack Morale in addition to Health. It’s possible to defeat a foe without ever laying a finger on them. Thanks to Teamwork attacks, a Hero who never once touches a weapon and who gets by on their sharp wits is a perfectly viable build.
  • There are four loose classes – Sentinel, Sorcerer, Thief, and Warrior – and each class has four unique Investigative abilities that define it. For instance, thieves have access to City’s Secrets, Ridiculous Luck, Scurrilous Rumors, and Skullduggery; Sorcerers have Corruption, Forgotten Lore, Leechcraft, and Prophecy. Mix and match class abilities between professions if you don’t mind trading a little power for flexibility.
  • Investigative abilities give you leads and clues, and spending those Investigative pool points allow you to do some remarkable things, including inflicting extra damage in combat (sometimes a lot of extra damage).
  • We’ve got quick-start templates for both Heroes and campaign set-ups. There are a lot of ways to play this game – gang of con men and thieves? Officers in the City Watch? Roaming adventurers? Decadent nobility? Inquisitors? Desperate rat-catchers? Master Sorcerer and apprentices? – and we want to make it easy for you to choose.
  • Eversink is a city controlled by a dozen or so powerful factions. You’ll be allied with one or two of them – and you’ll have at least one as an enemy. The Allegiance system treats these allies and enemies as Investigative abilities, where the more ranks you possess the more you can guide or manipulate the faction. Pick up leads from your allies, and then spend points to influence the movers and shakers of the city. If you want to literally rule as a conqueror-king, it may take you a while, but this is how you get there.

Chapter 3: Rules. How to kill things and avoid being killed (amongst other rules.)

  • You can attack your foe’s Health with a Warfare attack or their Morale with a Sway attack. Sorcery might attack either, depending on what you pick when you create your Hero.
  • Combat encourages you to defeat nameless mooks quickly, because doing so gives you refresh tokens you can use to power even more attacks. We want it to feel like a great hero hacking their way across a battlefield, gaining strength with every foolish enemy they cut down.
  • Your minimum damage is the number of points you spent on the attack. Want to guarantee max damage? Spend 6 points to attack your foe – and hey, that’s likely to crit, inflicting even more damage in the process.
  • We’ve got sections on how to be as effective (and interesting) as possible in combat, and on how to avoid damage when it looks like you’re about to be skewered.
  • Traps in buildings or tombs are treated like puzzles, assuming you even spot them. Use your abilities to figure them out (or to bypass them) if you aren’t a fan of setting them off!

Chapter 4: Sorcery. Details on how to be a Sorcerer or an Alchemist, with all the tradeoffs this entails.

  • Sorcery is powered by Investigative ability named Corruption. Invoking Corruption is never a good choice, but it’s the only way to power your really damaging or unique spells. Spending Corruption either pollutes the area around you or permanently changes something minor about your body.
  • Every Sorcerer is themed with Spheres, one for each rank of Corruption they have. For instance, a Sorcerer with the Time sphere might describe their attacks as aging their defeated foes into decrepitude or leaving them wandering around as toddlers; a Sorcerer with the Water sphere might drown their foes on dry land or hideously dehydrate them. There are dozens of suggested spheres, and it’s simple to make up your own.
  • There are two types of Sorcerers: those who learned their magic when ancient Serpentine writings squirmed off a stone tablet into your brain, where they eagerly wait to be cast; and Sorcerers who have a demon or a small god bound to their soul, exchanging power for attention and veneration.
  • Don’t want to fuss with Corruption? The Witchery rules allow you to be a classic Conan-style sorcerer, one who focuses on alchemy, poisons and mesmerism without the benefits or trade-offs of Corruption.
  • You’ll find rules for true names (useful when facing powerful foes, even if they come with a horrible price), curses, sorcerous glyph traps, and for creating your own Sorcerous items. If you’ve ever wanted to curse a tower to be overrun with vines while everyone falls asleep for a century, you’ll find out how to do so here.

Chapter 5: Wealth and Lifestyle. Find Wealth! Spend Wealth! Live the astonishing lifestyle of an adventurer who doesn’t know how to save their treasures for tomorrow, and gain mechanical advantages for doing so!

  • The loot you bring in is measured in Wealth, not coin, and there’s a simple system for spending your Wealth to determine your Lifestyle for the adventure.
  • You can sometimes spend Wealth to boost Preparedness tests, but usually you’ll be using it to fuel your Lifestyle. A Squalid Lifestyle is going to create some challenges as others discriminate against you, while living Richer Than the Goddess for the adventure gives you bonus Investigative points you can use to manipulate others.

Chapter 6: Gear, Both Sorcerous and Mundane. Here’s where to look for weapons, armor, and Sorcerous items.

  • Your Hero’s innate abilities are a lot more important than their gear, but it’s always good to know what’s available.
  • Sorcerous items aren’t always kind, but there are grimoires, staves, weapons, runes, protection, and more. They’re heavy on flavor, and every good item should tell (or create) a story.

Chapter 7: Adversaries. You may want someone to stab. Here’s where to start.  

  • Easy-to-read Stat blocks for Adversaries from every faction.
  • 25 sample non-human monstrosities to fight including serpentine monstrosities, winged apes, skeletal giants, and flocks of carnivorous seabirds. You know. The usual.
  • Powerful and interesting Special abilities to customize your adversaries, powered by a special General ability named Malus.

Chapter 8: GM Advice. If you’re running the game, it’s useful to read.

  • You get guidelines for Customizing the rules for your own group and play style. Want no physical combat, or a different setting, or one-on-one play? Can do!
  • Character construction tips are included to help players prevent analysis paralysis.
  • You’ll find tips on running fights, making monsters more effective, creating great mysteries, constructing adventures, and more.

Now we dig into the setting.

Chapter 9: Introduction to Eversink. Everything you need to know about the city at a glance.

  • Why is the city so famous? Why are the buildings all sinking? What’s with all the funerary statues? Is it safe to drink the canal water? What do you mean, the city and the Goddess are one?
  • Quick summaries of the twelve factions and of daily life in Eversink – the food, the politics, the sports, the customs, and the architecture. If you want to play eelball (hint: you don’t), understand how small gods work, or buy suspicious food from a street vendor, read this first.

Chapter 10: The City of Eversink.

  • We give you guides to 7 major neighborhoods, loaded down with a huge number of plot hooks.
  • Knowledge about Eversink’s government, committees, laws, and punishments (otherwise known as “hey, why is that handless and tongueless man hanging in a crow cage over the harbor, guarded by church inquisitors?”)
  • You’ll learn about History – with an emphasis on encouraging you to make your own.
  • We talk a fair amount about Eversink’s economics and trade. This game is a bit unusual in that if you want to play kingmaker, you can rule kingdoms or topple economies with the same core mechanics you use to seek out adventure. Here’s what you need to know if that’s a thing you find fun.

Chapter 11: The Factions. This is a detailed look at all twelve factions that you can use as allies and enemies to drive (or solve) adventures.

  • Dive into a class struggle with the Ancient Nobility, Mercanti, and Commoners, with hired Mercenaries to provide the muscle.
  • The Church of Denari hunts down the Sorcerous Cabal and non-human Monstrosities, while visiting Outlanders ignore the laws to do what’s right.
  • The Triskadane runs the government from a secret council, the Guild of Architects and Canal-Watchers keeps the city upright, the City Watch keeps it safe, and the Thieves Guilds try to rob it.

Chapter 12: The World. A city like Eversink can’t exist in isolation. Here’s what to know about the world, geography, and rival nations.

  • More than eight other countries for international intrigue, dangerous exploration, or potential armed conflict.
  • We talk about the ruins of the Serpentine Empire atop the Destroyed Plateau, where magic runs wild and ancient demons stalk the wind.

Chapter 13: Corpse Astray is our sample adventure. Want to see how an adventure works? Want a fast and easy way to play (we’ll provide sample characters as well for an even faster start.) Here’s where to go!

  • Designed for just about any campaign set-up or types of Heroes.
  • Relatively fast (3-4 hours), with unusual roleplaying and a very memorable fight.
  • A good introduction to Eversink.

 

So, that’s the playtest, and we hope you love it and give us feedback. Talk about it online using the hashtag #SerpentineRPG, and talk to the authors on Twitter at @kevinkulp and @multiplexer (or at @pelgranepress). You can weigh in on Facebook’s GUMSHOE forum or here in the See Page XX comments.

 

 

13th Age Round Two Playtest badgeDear 13th Age playtesters,

For those of you who didn’t see the first playtest draft, welcome aboard for Round Two. And a big thank you to returning playtesters who sent feedback already.

I’m happy with many elements of the current draft. It’s not done, but the pieces that aren’t in the official manuscript yet are taking shape.

I’m unhappy that I wasn’t able to process all the playtest comments before finishing this draft. I got through half of the early feedback and only a core sample of feedback after Simon’s prompt for feedback. So there are a few existing aspects of the design that playtesters have already convinced us need to be fixed. The fixes aren’t in. I’m going to finish going through all the playtesting feedback when I’m back from vacation. There are surely more tweaks to come.

Let’s start with what we need most now from this round of playtesting…

1. The cleric and the sorcerer and wizard have had their core concepts tightened up. We got a lot of playtest feedback from unhappy cleric players. Going back to the class I had to agree, it hadn’t claimed any magic as its own. This draft changes that, partially with a new cleric feature called divine intercession, partly with an entirely redesigned spell list. So the cleric is wholly revised, and the sorcerer and wizard substantially modified. These classes need testing at both low levels and also above fifth level with the spells and upgraded spells that are new to this draft.

2. None of the classes have been played above fifth level except in the playtest game Jonathan Tweet and I have been running. Tests with higher-level PCs would be welcome.

3. We need feedback on whether the new phrasing of the icon relationships works for players and GMs. Some playtesters liked the previous version, others were disappointed. We’ve revised them for simplicity and to emphasize the utility of the relationship with the icon rather than rating the relationship’s strength.

4. We’ve received relatively little feedback about the bard. If someone wants to run a few sessions of a bards’ school campaign, well, I’m mostly ears. (This couldn’t possibly backfire.)

5. We’ve got work to do on character sheets and play-aids. People have started sharing cool things on-line and I’m excited to see it.

6. Problems that people have trying to set up and run their own games will be extremely helpful to hear.

7. In the first playtest I said that people should stick to the rules as written. But playtest feedback from people customizing the game has been wonderful. The game is designed to be customized so I can’t be surprised that this is what’s working for people. So if you want to customize your campaign, go for it. Playtest feedback will probably be more useful if you stick to the mechanics as written, or tell me what was broken and how you fixed it on the fly.

What you shouldn’t worry about testing….

1. The monk is a clever concept but the execution is not on target yet. First round playtesting pointed out the problems. Unlike other classes in this file, the monk didn’t get the attention it needed to improve. I’m going to be running a dedicated playtest for the monk so at the moment, for second round playtesters, I’d say that the monk is not worth testing. It needs rebalancing to nail the dynamic between opening moves/flow moves/finishing attacks. (If you’re playing a monk and want to keep on playing and don’t think it’s broken, well, feel free to tell me that, but hah. It’s going to change.) (And yes, the druid is also headed for a special playtesting campaign.)

2. Multiclassing should be getting a remake. I wouldn’t suggest that you waste your time testing the current multiclassing rules because the playtest feedback is that it needs to be improved. And the solution that’s in the works is different enough that more feedback on the current system won’t help much.

Status Report

Here’s a look at what’s in this draft and notes on pieces that Jonathan and I are still adding.

Finished classes: For this current playtest packet we’ve got the barbarian, bard, cleric, fighter, paladin, ranger, rogue, and wizard playable to 10th level. There are playtest adjustments to come, more feats, a few more spells, and more polished and complete introductory/explanatory text. But you should be able to play these classes to 10th level. (And in case you’re wondering, the final manuscript will discuss the manner in which class progression stops at 10th.)

Close to done: The sorcerer is also playable to 10th level but is missing a few 7th and 9th level spells. First round playtesters will note that the sorcerer has changed most thanks to a feature called gather power.

Editing: Chapters 1, 2 and 3 have had a first editing pass. Chapter 5 is mostly edited. Other chapters are rougher text, still.

Monsters: There are more monsters coming in the final manuscript. I left a few in-progress monsters in this file. The black ooze, ogre mage, chimera and vampire aren’t as polished as the rest of the monsters, but they’re pretty much usable so I left them in. The monster file will also be organized differently, but hopefully it’s useable for now.

Magic items: We’re not done with the magic item lists. Use what we’ve got. The plan is to do a few items for every chakra.

The Dragon Empire: We’re adding little bits to the setting and smoothing its sloppier sections, but the geography and background pieces are close to finished. Like other pieces, they may be reorganized for the final product.

It’s going to be a fun push. We hope your games go well. And if they don’t, tell us about it.

–Rob Heinsoo

Playtesting application is now closed.

We’ve had over 200 playtest requests, and we are processing them. If you sent us an email while this page was live, you should receive a response by 16th May. Pleas do not contact us until then.

If you don’t receive a response, please check your spam for an email from pelgranepress.com. If there is nothing there, then your email to us probably got filtered, you are attempting to join the second round when you failed to deliver a playtest report in the first, or we missed you out.

If you think you have been missed out wrongly, and it’s 16th May or later then email simon@dyingarth.com.

Do you have a webcam, a free evening this Thursday, and a hankering to try out Hillfolk, my upcoming game using the new DramaSystem rules set?

The playtest will take place on Google Hangout from 7-10 PM Eastern this Thursday, May 3rd.

To indicate your interest in taking part, leave me (Robin Laws) a private message on Google+, setting yourself up on G+ if you haven’t already.

In Hillfolk, you play tribal raiders at the dawn of the iron age, torn by conflicting desires in a time of hungry empires.

In your message, tell me who you want to play, providing:

  • your role in your small, hardscrabble tribe

  • your character’s name. Names in Hillfolk are metonyms—understandable words that reveal something fundamental about you. Examples: Skull, Thickneck, Farhawk, Rolls-the-Bones, Twig, Redaxe.

The rest will be revealed during play.

Feel free to list alternate choices for your role in the tribe, in case of duplication.

If I get more than six takers, I will choose between them by means inscrutable.

I’m going to try recording the proceedings, possibly using snippets of sound and video in the crowdfunding video. It might also wind up as an Actual Play resource. Respond only if that’s okay with you.

13th Age

The first round of playtesting for 13th Age is now closed. The next round will open in April. Stay tuned!

13th Age

System: New

Written by: Jonathan Tweet and Rob Heinsoo

Deadline: Preliminary feedback 30th April. Full feedback 30th May.

What it’s about:

13th Age is a love letter to D&D: a rules-light, story-oriented RPG that honors old school values while advancing the OGL art. Players create unique heroes using flexible interpretations of familiar D20 character classes. New indie-style rules connect each character’s story to the Gamemaster’s customized version of the campaign setting.

<< Go to part 4

22 [Weise Schildkröte] Dramatic
Once more the priest’s cave is the setting for a scene, as Weise Schildkröte tells Dunkeltot, he should be doing his duty now and kill Prince Silbergischt in the dark of the night – as he had done back then with the prince’s father, in the raid that had led to Seestern’s captivity.*
Dunkeltot refuses to bow to tradition and obey the old priest – he is done with killing and wants no part of it. This earns Weise Schildkröte a drama token.

23 [GM] Dramatic
The next scene sees Prince Silbergischt at the fire of his camp deep in talk with Seestern. She is arguing for peaceful negotiations and a trade alliance, while he wants revenge on the Rock-mighty – especially for the death of his father. Seestern let slip that it was Dunkeltot who did the killing and the Prince finds a clear demand: He will make peace and trade with the tribe in exchange for Dunkeltot’s head.
He asks Seestern to deliver this message (emotionally petitioning for her obedience). He did as he asked (and gained a drama token from the GM).

24 [Zornige Löwin] Dramatic
Zornige Löwin casts a wonderful scene as she overhears Seestern delivering this message to Silberstern and rushing off to warn Dunkeltot and urge him to flee with her into the night. He agrees after some deliberation, earning a drama token.

25 [Silberblick] Dramatic
If Zornige Löwin had stayed a little listening, she would have heard that Silberblick is not willing to sacrifice a member of the tribe to the Tridents. He denounces any attempts at diplomacy and trade and also seeks Dunkeltot.
He finds the assassin as he is packing his things to feel with Zornige Löwin and also demands that he does his duty. The threat of two drama tokens hangs in the air.
At this point Falkenauge inserts himself into the scene (spending a drama token to do so), entering the case where the two talk. He also presses on Dunkeltot, and says that he will do it instead, of his brother is not willing.
And his brother does indeed stick to his decision, not to spill blood again. Instead of using his drama tokens to force Dunkeltot, Silberblick accepts Falkenauge’s offer to do it instead. The chief earns a drama token from Dunkeltot.

26 [Dunkeltot] Procedural
As Falkenauge is preparing to take up the assassin’s role, Dunkeltot and Zornige Löwin are slipping out of the stronghold and try to escape unnoticed by the Tridents.
As I wanted to save my green token for the assassination event that was upcoming, I used a yellow one for a standard challenge. Dunkeltot’s strong Sneaking ability proved enough to slip away easily into the night.

27 [Falkenauge] Procedural
So Falkenauge sneaks into the Trident’s encampment and finds the prince lying a little way off with Seestern in his arms. As he raises his iron (theme!) dagger to plunge it into Silbergischt’s heart, Seestern awakens and her scream alert the guards. But chieftain Silberblick raises a diversion at the gate, distracting the Trident warriors from the enemy in their midst. The prince himself awakens too late as Falkenauge stabs him in the chest.
This difficult (green token) challenge against Falkenauge’s Strong Sneaking ability proves to be a tough one. But Silberblick’s final intervention turns the tide and the deed is done.
As this point I called the vote for the death of a recurrent NPC – which ended 4:3 against his death. Prince Silbergischt was only mortally wounded after all.

28 [Seestern] Dramatic/Epilogue
Seestern sees that it was the iron (theme!) starfish amulet that she had sent as a message that had turned away the blade from the heart itself. She runs to Weise Schildkröte and demands that he uses his healing skills to save the Prince. She has two drama tokens to force a compromise … but Weise Schildkröte has three and blocks her attempt. He flat out refuses to help the Prince who is now a mortal enemy. Iron (theme!) weapons will rule between Rock-Mighty and Tridents.

Comments
– The last round was very powerful and everybody was on the edge of their seats. The drama token economy worked beautifully, as now several people had enough to insert themselves into scenes, force concessions and even block them! It was great to see the different uses in action.
– At the end there were 14 drama tokens in place, exactly half as many as we had played scenes.
– We had 1 colour-only scene, 4 purely procedural, 1 dramatic/procedural and 22 dramatic scenes.
– Some players had trouble believing that we had indeed completed 4 full rounds and 28 scenes, time flew that quickly.
– We’ve decided that we would like to see the saga of the Rock-Mighty continue and will probably play again some time next month.

*This had been partly established in the last session and elaborated upon in this one.

<< Go to part 3

15 [Weise Schildkröte] Dramatic
Driven by his promise to Zornige Löwin, Weise Schildkröte tries to reconcile Silberblick and Falkenauge, but the scout still insists that Silberblick’s leadership is weak and indecisive, resisting the priest’s petition (and giving him a drama token).

16 [GM] Dramatic
Now armed with two Drama tokens, I described Prince Silbergischt returning my several armed retainers to Dunkeltot and Zornige Löwin. The prince demands that they lead him to Seestern, brushing aside their protestations that they could only deliver messages. The two drama tokens force Dunkeltot to bow to this demand, although he is going take an arduous route through the hills where they will have to leave their horses behind.

17 [Zornige Löwin] Dramatic
I now expected Zornige Löwin to cast a procedural scene (perhaps to escape their escort), but she surprised me by turning dramatically to Dunkeltot and declaring her love for him. He is shocked and surprised that his “little (step-) sister” harbors these feelings and does not declare the love returned. But still she feels acknowledged enough to say her petition is granted, gaining Dunkeltot a drama token.

18 [Silberblick] Procedural
Now Silberblick casts a scene where some of his scouts spot the Tridents nearing the tribe’s fortress – and we have the first objection in the game. Dunkeltot feels it is too far a jump – he wants a procedural scene with the Tridents on his turn – and we put it to the vote. The vote ends 4:3 for the called scene to happen. This was a fun process and the surprising fast approach of the enemy gave the next scenes quite a dramatic push.
The scene then shows Silberblick’s attempt to gather enough fighting men from the dispersed tribe to stand against the three-dozen well-armed Tridents. As I had only a green token left, this became a difficult procedural challenge – which suited me just fine.
The resolution was full of suspense, with everybody pitching in. Seestern uses her green token against the tribe, wanting the Tridents to have a strong bargaining position. The others do their best to help Silberblick and his strong Talking ability – Falkenauge has gone with him, so he is in the scene, and I allowed Dunkeltot and Zornige Löwin direct support as they are trying to delay the Tridents. Weise Schildkröte had to use his green token for the final redraw* … and it still wasn’t enough. Too few fighters assemble before the Tridents close and the tribe retreats into his fastness.

19 [Dunkeltot] Dramatic
Dunkeltot now casts himself talking to Prince Silbergischt, trying to gain his assurance that violence is not needed and everything can be settled peacefully. As the prince is not well disposed towards peaceful negotiation, Dunkeltot uses his two drama tokens to force a concession. Eventually the prince agrees to try the diplomatic approach first.

20 [Falkenauge] Dramatic
Falkenauge stands with the chieftain atop the fortresses gate as Prince Silbergischt demands the exchange of Seestern for Dunkeltot and Zornige Löwin. Silberblick is reluctant to let his favorite slave go, but eventually agrees to the deal on Falkenauge’s insisting. Silberblick earns a drama token for this.

21 [Seestern] Dramatic
Seestern is now able to cast the heart-warming scene where Prince Silbergischt takes her into his arms in front of the Rock-mighty’s fortress. She urges the prince to peace and asks him to let Dunkeltot and Zornige Löwin go without incident. Reluctantly he agrees (earning the GM a drama token).

Comments:
– At this point I looked at the time and considered calling it a night. It was getting a bit late and I thought the episode had gained a nice peak with the Tridents at the gate. But the players were still eager and no one looked remotely tired, so we decided to do another round. Boy was I glad we did, for the best was yet to come…
– If there’s one thing that I think could work better, it’s that players are sometimes a bit too easy on the petitioned in a scene and are too quickly happy with a grant. But it seems to work to everyone’s satisfaction, so I’m not complaining.

* We weren’t quite clear here whether the use of a green token without the PC being personally involved entitled him to a positive side-effect. It seemed pretty obvious from the intent of the rules though that this wasn’t the case.

Go to part 5 >>

<< Go to part 2

8 [Weise Schildkröte] Dramatic
Weise Schildkröte calls his son into the priest’s cave (by now an often used location) warning him of Falkenauge’s ambitions and urging him to move pro-actively against his rival – though he remains ambiguous and unclear of what Silberblick should do exactly. He can’t really convince his son, and receives a drama token from him.

9 [GM] Dramatic/Procedural

As Zornige Löwin and Dunkeltot prepare to leave for their mission to Trident lands, a number of tribesmen lead by Lodernde Flamme (the recurrent NPC smith) drag the Grasseater smith Eiserner Arm* from the caves, pelting him with fists and stones. Lodernde Flamme repeats his accusations of curses and treachery, now confronting the chieftain with his demand for recognition as the sole smith of the tribe.
As Silberblick refuses to believe Lodernde Flamme’s claims (supported by the well-known gossip “Schnelle Zunge”), and the GM bagged a drama token, the scene drifted into the first procedural action, as Silberblick asked his father to refute the claims of curses and calm the tribesmen. We tagged this unto the end of the scene, with Weise Schildkröte easily defeating the medium difficulty challenge (GM used his yellow token) with his strong Talking ability. No one used a procedural token to force a redraw.

10 [Seestern] Dramatic
Here we saw the first use of a benny in our game. Seestern uses the one she gained last session to jump the queue and have her scene before the scouts can leave on their mission.** Seestern draws her friend Zornige Löwin aside and begs her to take a message to Prince Silbergischt of the Tridents (her lover before her capture). She gives Zornige Löwin her iron (see the theme) starfish amulet (Seestern = star fish) as a token of recognition.
Although she is uncomfortable with the additional dangers this would impose on the mission, Zornige Löwin agrees to the request, earning a drama token from Seestern for it.

11 [Zornige Löwin] Dramatic
Zornige Löwin now had two drama tokens and decided to use them. Taking advantage of the delay caused by the smith’s quarrel, she confronts Weise Schildkröte and demands that he stops Falkenauge and Silberblick from going at each others throats – and that he protects her from becoming a prize or tool in this struggle. After some wriggling, Weise Schildkröte finally promises to help find a peaceful compromise between the two, although he remains skeptical whether he can be successful.
He gets the two drama tokens spent by Zornige Löwin.

12 [Silberblick] Dramatic
Silberblick – being the careful and moderate character that he is – tries to clear the air with Falkenauge. He offers to take Falkenauge’s advice and make him an important advisor again. The scout balks at first, deriding Silberblick’s leadership as indecisive, but then offers his support if Silberblick will take Zornige Löwin as his bride. It’s all a fake though – he just wants to wed his family to Silberblick’s before removing his rival. Falkenauge (the character) doesn’t realize this and accepts the offer of marriage.
While outwardly Silberblick’s petition was granted – in reality it wasn’t at all and he received a drama token from the kitty (Falkenauge having none).
In retrospect we could have read this as a double petition, with Silberblick granting Falkenauge’s attempt at deception (and earning yet another token), but we didn’t see this clearly in game.

13 [Dunkeltot] Procedural
To everybody’s surprise Dunkeltot didn’t describe his and Zornige Löwin’s mission as sneaking into Trident territory. Instead they rather openly sought out Prince Silbergischt to deliver Seestern’s message. An easy procedural challenge allowed them to meet with him, despite Dunkeltot’s weak Talking ability. The prince’s reaction to the message was double-edged though. While he was excited and glad to hear from Seestern, he also made his intention clear to see and take her home as quickly as possible. He bid the two wait in his gardens as he left to gather his men.

14 [Falkenauge] Dramatic
Falkenauge moves to gain more support for his plot against Silberblick. He talks to Seestern, suggesting that, if Silberblick and Zornige Löwin married, they would surely free her from slavery. Seestern is intrigued by this and – although torn by her knowledge that this isn’t what Zornige Löwin wants – agrees to support him.

* Funnily, the name “Eiserner Arm” (“Iron Arm” in English) was the name of my character in the Dragonmeet Hillfolk session, also a smith. The players came up with it without knowing this.
** I thought it wasn’t 100% clear from the rules whether this was an extra scene, or whether her scene was just moved in the precedence order. But we thought it more appropriate if wasn’t an extra one, so we skipped Seestern later when it would have been her normal turn.

Comments
We really got into the game by the second round, and there were so many dramatic intentions. that it took quite a while for the procedural scouting scene to emerge, and then it happened in quite an unexpected way.

Go to part 4 >>

by Ralf Schemmann

Situation: The Grasseater tribe has been subjugated by the Rock-Mighty (the player’s tribe) and been forcefully integrated. In exchange for food (they were facing a famine), the Grasseaters had to collect iron ore for the Rock-Mighty from a canyon in the hills. A year has passed.

For a map of the setting and the PC relations can be found here.

The PCs are:
Weise Schildkröte – the tribe’s priest/spiritual leader, he’s the éminence grise behind the chief
Silberblick – his son and young chieftain of the tribe
Falkenauge – the chief scout, son of the former chief and rival to Silberblick
Seestern – favorite slave of Silberblick, a captive from the Trident people
Zornige Löwin – the tribe’s champion and strongest warrior, step-sister to Falkenauge
Dunkeltot – the tribe’s ritual assassin, brother to Falkenauge

We established precedence for theme selection with Weise Schildkröte’s player being the first to choose one. Precedence for casting the scenes happened to be the same order (I rolled the same number for both choices).

Scenes (First Round of Four)

1 [Weise Schildkröte] Dramatic, Open
Theme: Iron.
Describes the two smiths of the joined tribes combining their knowledge to smelt iron ore and produce raw iron themselves for the first time.
Petitions chieftain (Silberblick) to use this new wealth to trade with Tridents and enrich the tribe (emotional: asserting his power over his son in directing the tribe).
Silberblick grants the petition, earning a drama token.

2 [GM] Dramatic
The tribe’s old smith “Lodernde Flamme” confronts Weise Schildkröte, claiming the new smith “Eiserner Arm” still resents the Rock-Mighty and has secretly cursed the new iron. He demands the death of “Eiserner Arm” (emotional: wants the priest’s support in being the only smith of the tribe).
Weise Schildkröte declines to believe him, while promising to look into the matter (denied petition). GM gets a drama token.

3 [Zornige Löwin] Dramatic
Hearing of the proposed trade expedition, Zornige Löwin rushes to Silberblick to concinve him to send her and Dunkeltot on a scouting mission first, and an argument ensues whether trading the raw iron really makes sense. Zornige Löwin argues it would be better to forge weapons from it themselves. The chief eventually agrees that the two should scout the Trident’s and try to steal some of their weapons – perhaps the smiths can learn to forge better weapons from these samples. Emotional: ZL wants SB to be more aggressive and decisive.
ZL is satisfied with the chief’s decision (petition granted), earning SB a drama token.

4 [Silberblick] Color
The chieftain tells Dunkeltot about this mission he’s supposed to go on, which should rightfully be the work of Falkenauge (the tribe’s scout). Dunkeltot readily agrees though – no conflict happens.
Silberblick’s player was at a bit of a loss for another scene at this point, so we just called it a color scene and moved on.

5 [Dunkeltot] Dramatic
Dunkeltot meets with his brother Falkenauge, telling him about the scouting mission. Emotionally he seeks his forgiveness and absolution for taking over a duty that would really be Falkenauge’s.
Falkenauge grants the petition (drama token for him), while asking his brother for his support to get Zornige Löwin to marry the chief (Silberblick). This could have been another petition, but wasn’t clearly answered, so no drama tokens were exchanged.

6 [Falkenauge] Dramatic
Falkenauge has formulated a plan to get rid of his hated rival Silberblick and perhaps become chieftain himself. He tells his step-sister Zornige Löwin that she should marry Silberblick (it’s been established that he’s the family head and needs to grant his approval for her to leave, marry and form her own family). He insinuates that something bad could happen to Silberblick. Once she’s a widow, Zornige Löwin would then be free to marry anyone she chooses.
Zornige Löwin reluctantly assents, obviously not being happy about the whole idea. But Falkenauge feels his petition has been granted, earning Zornige Löwin a token.

7 [Seestern] Dramatic
Seestern, the tribe’s Trident slave, is understandably excited about the possibility of contact with her people. She tries to get her owner Silberblick to send her with the scouts (she speaks the language and knows the customs of the Tridents after all). He flatly refuses and even rejects her proposal to at least send Falkenauge instead of Dunkeltot – the latter’s role as assassin making her extremely anxious. Silberblick reveals that he doesn’t trust Falkenauge since the scout tried undermine his success in bringing the Grasseaters under his rule.
Seestern’s petition is clearly rejected and Silberblick passes her own of his drama tokens.

Comments

  • The evening started off a bit slow, as everybody was finding their footing, but by scene 6 we were back in full swing, with Falkenauge starting to form alliances against the chief, and an expedition into trident lands planned.
  • Players hardly needed a very quick reminder of the rules, and is was obvious from the scenes, drama was highly favored over procedural.
  • We had neglected to to note down the procedural token status for everyone last time, so we just started fresh for this session

Go to part 3 >>

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