<< 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 >>

by Ralf Schemmann

Continuing our recent spate of playtests for Pelgrane Press, we’ve played a session of Hillfolk the first game using Robin Laws’ new DramaSystem engine. I had the pleasure to play a session with Robin and Simon (among others) around Dragonmeet and was looking forward to dropping it on my group.

The game is set in a non-fantastic but a-historical version of 10th century BC Levante, with the characters comprising the elite of a hill-dwelling tribe of raiders. Here is a simple map of the area:

But the really interesting part is not the setting – which is drawn in very rough strokes and left to the players to detail during the game. The game’s engine – the DramaSystem – is designed to foster emotional, inter-PC relationships that become the focus of play. A simple but clever reward mechanism encourages giving and taking between player (and non-player) characters, circumventing age-old habits of not-moving from your character’s position.

The character generation builds a web of character relations to start with and makes sure everybody has stuff they want from the others. Here’s the relationship map we created:

From there players (including the GM) take turns setting a scene furthering either their own dramatic stories or external procedural goals. The stories interweave to build a whole that is more than the sum of its parts.

Go to part 2 >>