On Monday, October 11, 2010, I facilitated a Skype playtest of Final Hour of a Storied Age rev 0.66 with Nolan Callender, Leo Lalande, and myself. Unfortunately we had a lot of technical glitches and call drops, and even more unfortunately the audio of the session didn’t get recorded (either due to technical issues or user error on my part). Based on some rough notes, I’ll try to reconstruct the session (the question marks indicate stuff I’m not sure of):

Seeds

Nolan: A throne that descends through the female line that corrupts a family torn between greed, ambition and love. (6 intersections) (Protagonist seed)

Nolan: A noble blood line with power over ice and snow. (0 intersections)

Leo: Lust for Gold invokes the wielder of the Sword of Fire’s Duty to the common folk. (1 Intersection)

Leo: A New Rift among the Nobles leaves Responsibilities neglected and Hatreds acquired. (3 Intersections) (Antagonist seed)

Dan: The youngest son in a long line of fire mages covets a magic ring. (1 intersection)

Plot Axis

To determine the plot axis we need a protagonist from a community that is threatened by a change in the world that is being caused by the antagonist. We decided that the community would be a kingdom where authority is inherited through the female line but wielded by the king, thus making the queen’s choice of husband a central decision in the politics of the realm, and that there is a tradition of marrying for love. The protagonist is that woman’s true love, and the antagonist is his brother who wants power in the kingdom to go to the most powerful warlord (i.e. him), overturning the tradition of love-based marriage. We decided on a fantasy version of a China/asian steppes setting since it was a good fit for the kind of “decide between barbarian warlordism or imperial tradition” storyline we developed. If he’s not stopped, the antagonist will use military might to gain control over influential powers in the kingdom and then force the queen to marry him. The protagonist will attempt to use magic to force his brother to face him in single combat, so that the kingdom is spared the ravages of the antagonist’s warlike ways.

Characters

Nolan’s protagonist: Zheng Wei
Traits: Loved by the Rightful Queen, Accomplished Warrior, Trickster, Many Friends
Plot
(1) Get the Sword of Fire
(2) Get the Fire Mages to Reveal the Location of the Magic Ring
(3) Defeat my Brother in Single Combat

Leo’s antagonist: Zheng Long
Traits
: Ambitious, Intimidating Countenance, Brilliant Strategist, Loyal Army
Plot
(1) Conquer the Ice Kingdom
(2) Subjugate the Fire Wielders
(3) Force marriage to the Queen

Dan’s supporting character: Lee Chang
Traits: Fire Magic, Youthful Exuberance, Idealism, Meticulous Mind
Plot
(1) Gain control of the magic ring.
Supports: Get the Fire Mages to Reveal the Location of the Magic Ring.
Complicates: Subjugate the Fire Wielders.

Playing Out Chapters

Chapter 1
Viewpoint: Nolan 16. Leo ?. Dan ?.
Adversity: Leo ?,?,?. Dan 12,3.

Zheng Wei surveys his fortified village, checking to see if everything is in order before he departs on his quest to find the Sword of Fire. [I spend my 3 to introduce a d4 passive threat: the villagers are hungry] He quickly realizes that his village’s food stocks have been depleted and that his people are desperately hungry. Knowing that he cannot leave while his people are in need [Nolan spends his 16 to activate Trickster at d8, Many Friends at d6, Accomplished Warrior at d6, and Loved by the Rightful Queen at d4], Zheng Wei travels to the fork in the main road that leads to his village and alters the signs so that merchants that would normally pass by will head toward his village instead. [Nolan rolls d8 for Trickster, I roll a d4 for the Villager’s Hunger]. [Nolan ? vs. Dan ?. Nolan wins, I exhaust one trait.] The trick works perfectly, the flood of commerce gives the villagers all the food they need, and Zheng Wei sets out along the road to begin his search for the sword. Unfortunately for him, wherever the merchants go so do the bandits that prey on them: Zheng Wei is surrounded by mounted men, aiming their shortbows at him [I spend my 12 to introduce a d6 active threat: bandits]! Zheng Wei, dressed humbly, allows one of the bandits to approach him, ready to draw his blade at the last moment to teach the bandits that he should not be trifled with [Nolan is rolling d6 for Accomplished Warrior]. [Nolan ? vs. Dan ?. Nolan wins, I exhaust one trait.] Zheng Wei slashes one of the bandits across the neck, and the spray of blood does more than enough to frighten the rest of the bandits away, leaving Zheng Wei free to continue his journey. [I am out of traits and story dice, so Nolan wins the chapter. He advances one stage along his plot].

Chapter 2
Viewpoint: Nolan 16. Leo 1. Dan 10.
Adversity: Leo ?,?,?. Dan 16,10.

Zheng Wei travels far from his village to gain entrance to a lonely monastery attended by the mystical fire monks, fabled home of the Sword of Fire. The head of the monastery, Lee Tai, greets him at the entrance. [I spend my 16 to create the NPC Lee Tai. His traits are Fire Magic, Ancient and Wise, Gold and Jewels, and Philosopher. Since the “long line of fire mages” is mentioned on a seed I pay a creation tax of 1, and it’s reasonable and expected for the head of the order to be at his monastery, so I get 4 – 1 – 0 = 3 traits. I bring in Gold and Jewels at d8, Fire Magic at d6, Ancient and Wise at d6.] Lee Tai, luxuriously ornamented in gold and jewels, explains that none may enter the temple unless they present him with an appropriate (and expensive) gift [Gold and Jewels at d8]. Zheng Wei, having none of his wealth with him, must rely on guile and influence [Nolan spends his 16, but pays a distance tax of 2 for the long journey between his village and the monastery, and activates Trickster at d6 and Loved by the Rightful Queen at d8]. He suggests that eventually he will marry the queen and become the king, and will be able to offer far more gifts in the future if the need for a gift is waived now. [Rolling d8 for Loved by the Rightful Queen]. [Nolan ? vs. Dan ?. Nolan wins, Dan exhaust one trait]. Lee Tai relents and allows him entrance, but the old man’s long experience has taught him that specific promises are more important than generalized gratitude [Ancient and Wise at d6]. As they discuss the matter over a meal, Zheng Wei is happy make any promises Lee Tai wants, knowing that none of them are binding unless he actually partakes of the meal – something that he believes he can easily fake [Trickster at d6]. [Nolan ? vs. Dan ?. Nolan wins, I exhaust one trait. Nolan bumps Trickster up to d8?]. With the meal complete (Zheng Wei’s portion slowly digesting in the belly of a contented dog under the table), Lee Tai leads Wei to the chamber where the sword waits on a ceremonial stand. [I spend my ten to activate Fire Magic at d6 and Ancient and Wise at d6] “Over the years, many men have believed they could take the sword for themselves, but it is known that the sword itself must have a say in the matter,” Tai philosophizes [d6] as he waves his hands and the sword begins to glow red hot [Fire Magic d6]. Wei, believing that his true love will give him strength to endure any hardship [Loved by the Rightful Queen at d8], grasps the hilt. [Nolan ? vs. Dan ?,?. I win, Nolan exhausts 1 trait. I bump Fire Magic up to d8]. Wei can only maintain his grip for a fraction of a second as his hand is burned. Lee Tai chuckles at him. “It is not so easy as you young people seem to think. Perhaps some day you will abandon your foolish romanticism and see the world as it truly is.” [Fire Magic d8, Philosopher d6]. Abandoning the direct approach [Trickster d8], Wei fetches a bucket of water and dumps it on the sword. [Nolan 7 vs. Dan ?,?. Nolan wins, I exhaust Philosopher.] In a cloud of steam, the sword is quenched and cools enough for Wei to hold. “A clever bit of philosophy,” Tai concedes, “but if you think I will allow you take something that has been ours for generations beyond number then you are sadly mistaken.” The old man’s hands burst into flame and he charges at Zheng Wei [Fire Magic d6 and Old and Wise d6]. Zheng Wei dodges out of the way, positioning himself so that the sword will impale the old man as he charges [Trickster d8]. [Nolan ? vs. Dan ?,?. Nolan wins, I exhaust 2 traits.] Lee Tai is run through the by the Sword of Fire, but the old fire monk disappears in a burst of flame. [I have no more traits and no more story dice, so Nolan wins the chapter and advances his plot. We decided that “Get the Sword of Fire” implicitly meant definitively taking ownership of the sword, which hasn’t happened yet because Zheng Wei is still deep inside the temple].

Chapter 3
Viewpoint: Nolan 12. Leo ?. Dan 10.
Adversity: Leo 12, 6, 2. Dan 4,3.

As Zheng Wei marvels at the disappearing old man, a set of huge brass doors clang shut, locking him into the sword chamber [Leo spends his 2 to introduce the brass doors as a d4 passive threat]. [Nolan spends his 12 to activate Trickster at d8 and Accomplished Warrior at d6] Being a tricky fellow himself, Zheng Wei knows that there will be a hidden catch to unlock the doors from inside, and begins looking for it [Trickster d8]. [Nolan rolls ?. Leo rolls ?. Nolan wins, Leo exhausts one trait.] Wei finds the catch and unlocks the doors. Outside the sword chamber, Wei is surprised to see that the floor has disappeared, replaced by a seemingly bottomless pit with a system of stepping-stone-like pillars [Leo spends his 6 to introduce that as a d4 passive threat]. Standing atop a pillar at the center is a warrior-monk, clearly ready to face Wei [Leo spends his 12 to introduce the warrior-monk as a d6 active threat]. Wei charges forward, confident that his tricky and unpredictable style will have an advantage fighting on top of the pillars [Trickster d8 and Accomplished Warrior d6]. [Nolan rolls 4,2. Leo rolls 4,4. Leo wins, Nolan exhausts Accomplished Warrior. Leo bumps the warrior-monk up to d8.] The warrior-monk moves nimbly, seeming to be everywhere at once. Zheng Wei chases after the monk, but the effort and fatigue of hopping from pillar to pillar tire Wei, making it difficult to even lift his sword. The monk [d8] stands on his pillar [d4], scornful of Wei’s skills. Wei tries to circle around to get behind the monk [Trickster d8]. [Nolan rolls ?. Leo rolls ?,?. Leo wins, Nolan doesn’t exhaust. Leo advances the pillars to d6?]. The monk is too nimble, and Wei can’t get any advantage. Desperate, Wei tries his last trick, leaping onto the same pillar as the monk, hoping there won’t be enough room for both of them. [Leo rolls ?,?. Nolan rolls ?. Leo wins, Nolan doesn’t exhaust, but this is the third loss in a row, which means Leo wins the chapter]. The monk easily dodges out of the way of the attack. The warrior-monk grabs the Sword of Fire away from Wei, hurls it back into the sword chamber, and picks Wei up and bodily shoves him out of the temple. [Since Leo won the chapter as adversity player, he marks the d12 available for his first plot stage viewpoint dice].