On October 18, 2010, Leo Lalande, Nolan Callender, and I held a playtest session over skype of Final Hour of a Storied Age rev 0.66, continuing the story from our previous session (an audio recording of this session is available as episode 11 of the Designer vs. Reality podcast — listen to that first if you want to avoid spoilers!).

Chapter 4
Viewpoint: Nolan 10. Leo 8. Dan 8.
Adversity: Leo 10, 6, 4. Dan 10, 6.

Zheng Wei lands on his back after being expelled from the temple. He sees a cloud of red mist condense into the form of Lee Tai [Leo spends his 4 with no tax to activate Lee Tai’s Philosopher]. “Your soul must be guided by the right emotions to deserve the sword. To win the sword you must be guided by love,” the old man philosophizes [d8]. [Nolan spends his 10 to activate Loved by the Rightful Queen at d8 and Many Friends at d6] “Love is my guiding passion!” Wei cries [d8]. [Nolan 4 vs. Leo 8. Leo wins, Nolan’s trait is exhausted. Leo’s d8 is already at max so he can’t increase it]. “I am not the one you must convince,” says Lee Tai. “You must convince the guardian of the sword.” He points back toward the temple, where the doors reopen and warrior-monk stands atop his pillar [Leo spends his 10 on a d6 active threat: the warrior-monk]. On the other side of the pillars, across from the sword chamber, Wei sees an image of his beloved queen engulfed in flames [Leo spends his 6 to activate Lee Tai’s Fire Magic at d6]. Wei tries to rush to his true love’s aid, but he is physically spent. He calls out to the warrior-monk in the spirit of friendship [Many Friends d6], “Save her! Her life means more to me than the sword! I’ll give up my claim if you release her from the flames!” [Nolan 6 vs. Leo 3,2. Nolan wins. He bumps Many Friends up to d8 and Leo exhausts both of his traits]. The warrior-monk hears the depth of Wei’s feelings and banishes the illusion of the queen. Lee Tai steps up to Wei. “Why did you renounce your claim to the sword?” [Philosopher d8]. Zheng Wei, hoping to win the old man’s sympathies and friendship [Many Friends d8] says, “Isn’t it obvious that her life is more important to me?”. [Nolan 2 vs. Leo 7. Leo wins, Nolan exhausts one trait. Leo’s d8 is already at max, Nolan is out of traits and story dice.] “It is not enough to know that she is more important to you,” Lee Tai responds. “You must know why she is important to you.” He disappears in a cloud of red mist [Leo wins the chapter as adversity player and takes the d10 viewpoint die for his first plot stage].

Chapter 5
Viewpoint: Nolan 2. Leo 6,4. Dan 4.
Adversity: Nolan 8,5. Dan 11,3.

Zheng Long marches his army toward the capital of the Ice Kingdom, planning to lay siege to it. [I spend my 11 to introduce Lin Bai, Clanleader of the Ice Clan, with the traits Clanleader, Power of Ice and Snow, Cold Beauty, and Protective. Since she’s mentioned on a seed I owe a creation tax of 1, and with my 1 trait left over I activate Power of Ice and Snow at d8] Lin Bai, clanleader of the ice clan, stares frostily down at the army approaching her city. Freezing winds buffet Zheng Long and his army [Power of Ice and Snow d8]. [Leo spends his 5 to activate Ambitious at d8] Driven by ambition, Zheng Long pushes onward despite the painful cold. [Leo 8 vs. Dan 2. Leo wins but his die is at max, I exhaust one trait.] His eyes tear for a moment and begin to crystalize on his face, but he closes his eyes and melts the ice away, opening his eyes with a renewed intensity and determination to take the city. [I spend my 3 to activate Clanleader at d8] The warriors of the Ice Clan man the walls of the city, ready to unleash a deadly rain of arrows at Lin Bai’s command [Clanleader d8]. [Leo spends his 4 to activate his Loyal Army at d6] Zheng Long orders his army to form a wall of shields to protect themselves [Loyal Army d6]. [Leo 1 vs. Dan 8. I win, Leo’s Army trait is exhausted.] The rain of arrows falls on the troops, finding the tiny gaps in their wall of shields, and the army is forced to fall back. “Do not be foolish,” Lin Bai calls down. “Leave here before my warriors [Clanleader d8] kill even more of your men.” Needing this city to satisfy his ambition [d8], Zheng Long tells his herald to make an offer to negotiate her surrender. [Leo 5 vs Dan 6. I win, Leo’s trait is exhausted.] Lin Bai scoffs at Zheng Long’s request, knowing what kind of man he is. [Leo has no more traits so I win the chapter as adversity and give myself a d12 viewpoint die for my first plot stage].

Chapter 6
Viewpoint: Nolan 18. Leo 8,4. Dan 8,5.
Adversity: Leo 11,9,5. Dan 12,3.

Frustrated by his inability to satisfy the fire monks, Zheng Wei begins climbing a mountain path, hoping that it will bring him some spiritual enlightenment. [I spend my 12 to introduce my supporting character, Lee Chang. It is plausible but unexpected for him to be there, so I pay a tax of 1 and only activate 1 trait, Youthful Exuberance at d8] As Wei struggles up the path, a young man in a robe exuberantly jogs past him with a wave, making Wei question whether he is beginning to get past his prime [Youthful Exuberance d8]. [Nolan spends his 18 to activate Accomplished Warrior at d8, Trickster at d6, Many Friends at d6, and Loved by the Rightful Queen at d4] As an accomplished warrior [d8], Zheng Wei has frequently encountered people who were more talented than he is, but his dogged persistence and hard work have always seen him through, so he begins to double-time it up the path after Lee Chang. [Nolan 4 vs. Dan 1. Nolan wins but his d8 is already at max, I exhaust one trait.] Wei catches up to him and demands, “Who are you? Did that old philosopher send you to get in my way?” [I spend my 3 to activate Meticulous Mind at d8] “I couldn’t possibly be in your way here on the mountain path,” Lee Chang responds, “because this is not the way you should be taking.” [Meticulous Mind d8]. Zheng Wei gives the young monk a friendly [d6] smile. “For such a young man you are very wise, and seem to know something I do not. Perhaps you can enlighten me,” says Zheng Wei, hoping to trick [d6] the answer out of him. [Nolan 1,1 vs. Dan 2. I win but my trait is already at max, Nolan’s two traits are exhausted.] “I could tell you,” Lee Chang concedes, “but if I did so the other monks would hold it against you as an answer not honestly arrived at.” The young monk looks at Zheng Wei sympathetically and says, “Is it the way of a courageous warrior to climb a mountain path? Is that all you can think to do?” [Meticulous Mind d8]. Zheng Wei answers, “I have been a warrior for many years, but to be an accomplished warrior [d8] one must also be at peace with oneself. This mountain is rumored to have spiritual properties and this journey said to be an important one. I am enough of a warrior to recognize the wisdom of my elders and hold to the ancient ways.” [Nolan 7 vs. Dan 1. Nolan wins, I exhaust my last trait.] Lee Chang feels a kinship with Zheng Wei and says, “The old man has deceived you. You know why you love the queen, and why your priorities are what they are. Follow the truth of your heart.” Zheng Wei begrudgingly nods at the young man’s wisdom, returns to the temple, and demands that Lee Tai give him what is rightfully his with such passion that the old philosopher is rendered speechless. The guardian of the sword gladly hands it over before Lee Tai can raise any new objections. [Nolan advances his plot, which completes his first segment. He gets two traits worth of narrative special effect for completing a segment, so he moves Lee Chang’s alignment track to Ideologically Aligned with the Protagonist and modifies his Many Friends trait to Sword of Fire.]

Chapter 7
Viewpoint: Nolan 12. Leo 6,5. Dan 8,7.
Adversity: Leo 10,8,3. Dan 6,2.

Still at the Fire Temple, Zheng Wei knows that he must somehow pry the secret of the magic ring from the fire monks. [Leo spends his 10 to activate Lee Tai’s Ancient and Wise at d8 and Fire Magic at d6] Lee Tai challenges Wei again, “You still have not answered my question. You do not even understand what you seek [Old and Wise d8]. You must bring back the flame of knowledge that lies at the peak of this mountain.” From Lee Tai’s hand a line of flame shoots to the ground and races up the mountain [Fire Magic d6]. “Only then will I know that you have the understanding necessary to control this ring you now seek.” [Nolan spends his 12 to activate Accomplished Warrior at d8 and Trickster at d6] Wei warns the old monk that this had better not be another trick, and then, relying on his strength and endurance as an accomplished warrior [d8] he begins the trek up the mountain. [Nolan 6 vs. Leo 1,1. Nolan wins, both of Leo’s traits are exhausted] Zheng Wei climbs to the top of the mountain. There he sees the flame burning atop a stone tablet. The flame spreads out into lines and characters, forming some sort of riddle or puzzle: “What is most needed to accomplish your goal?” [Leo spends his 3 to introduce the puzzle as a d4 passive threat]. Wei begins manipulating the fiery characters, suspecting that the answer is some trick of language [Trickster d6]. [Nolan 1 vs. Leo 2. Leo wins and bumps the puzzle up to d6, Trickster is exhausted.] Wei is confused by the words, since there seem to be many conflicting, opposite terms. New words appear beneath the original question: “Write friend and the answer will be yours.” Tired of tedious wordplay, Wei decides the solve the problem the way a warrior would, by striking the tablet with his sword [Accomplished Warrior d8]! [Nolan 2 vs. Leo 1. Nolan wins but can’t bump a trait, Leo exhausts.] The tablet splits in half, with the conflicting meanings separated. Wei picks up the half that answers the question the way he wants and the tablet begins to float, guiding him in the direction he must go. [Leo said he was out of traits and story dice here, but in retrospect he may have miscounted because it looks like he should have had one story die left. Nolan advanced his plot for winning the chapter].

Chapter 8
Viewpoint: Nolan 3. Leo 3,2. Dan 6,4.
Adversity: Nolan 9,1. Leo 7,7,5.

Lee Chang is at the fire temple, and overhears Lee Tai tell some other monks to go to the location of the ring to ambush Zheng Wei if he solves the tablet puzzle. Lee Chang suspects that finding the location of the ring will help him gain control of its magic, so he sets out to follow them, despite the danger of getting caught [Nolan spends his 1 to introduce the chance of detection as a d4 passive threat]. [I spend my 4 to activate Meticulous Mind at d8] Lee Chang is utterly careful about his every movement, trying to avoid every branch and twig [Meticulous Mind d8]. [Dan 2 vs. Nolan 3. Nolan wins and bumps the chance of detection up to d6 and I exhaust my Meticulous Mind.] He isn’t careful enough, though, and some of the monks hear him. “Oh, you,” they say dismissively, leaving two monks behind to keep an eye on Lee Chang while the rest continue on their mission [chance of being noticed d6]. [I spend my 6 to activate Fire Magic at d8] Lee Chang, despite never having done it before, attempts to immolate himself [Fire Magic d8] to reappear somewhere else, as he has seen the other monks do, so that he can follow from a distance. [Dan 1 vs. Nolan 3. Nolan wins, I exhaust.] Unfortunately, he simply reappears in the same place, since the other monks suspected he might try this technique and have used their own powers to prevent it. [I am out of traits and story dice, so Nolan wins the chapter. He adds a d10 viewpoint die to his fifth plot stage, i.e. the one he’s working on].

Chapter 9
Viewpoint: Nolan 10,5. Leo 7,6. Dan 11,3.
Adversity: Nolan 4,4. Leo 8,7,4.

Having grown frustrated in the wilderness, Lee Chang makes his way back to the Fire Temple. [Leo spends his 4 to introduce a d4 passive threat: fog] A thick fog rolls in, making visibility poor [fog d4]. [I spend my 11 to activate Fire Magic at d8 and Meticulous Mind at d6] As meticulous [d6] as Lee Chang is, he has memorized every step of the journey and should be able to find his way home even with visibility obscured. [Dan 6 vs. Leo 3. I win and bump my Meticulous Mind to d8, the fog is exhausted.] Lee Chang confidently emerges from the fog at the doors of the temple, just as he remembered them. [Leo spends his 7 and 8 to activate Lee Tai’s Ancient and Wise at d8 and Philosopher at d6] Lee Tai, smoking a pipe near the doors of the temple, asks, “Why do you wander this mountainside? Do you perhaps seek a way that is already revealed to you?” [Ancient at Wise d8 and Philosopher d6]. Lee Chang, always precise [Meticulous Mind d8], says, “You know very well that nothing has been revealed to me. In fact, many things have been consciously hidden from me, unfairly in my view.” [Dan 5 vs. Leo 2,1. I win, Leo exhausts both traits.] Lee Tai is forced to concede that secrets have been kept from Lee Chang. [I won the chapter as viewpoint player so I advance my plot one stage].

Chapter 10
Viewpoint: Nolan 9,5. Leo 8,7. Dan 7.
Adversity: Leo 11,5,4. Dan 16,5.

Zheng Wei continues following the floating tablet. [I spend my 5 to introduce a d4 passive threat: a cave] Wei follows the tablet down the other side of the mountain where it leads him to a deep, ominous cave. [Nolan spends his 5 to activate Sword of Fire at d8] Wei’s sword of fire springs to life, giving him light in the darkness. [Nolan 6 vs. Dan 1. Nolan wins but can’t bump up his d8, I exhaust.] Wei follows the cave down to a large cavern. [I spend my 16 to create a new NPC, Lin Xun, Outcast of the Ice Clan, with the traits Outcast, Power of Ice and Snow, Cold Countenance, and Aggressive. I created him as a dark mirror of Lin Bai, so I owe a creation tax of 2, and we decided that it was unexpected but plausible to find him here for a plausibility tax of 1. Normally spending a 16 would let me activate 4 traits, but 4 – 2 – 1 = 1 trait, so I activate Power of Ice and Snow at d8] In the cavern, Wei spies a bedraggled man with a beard down to his waist. As soon as the man sees Wei, Wei feels a wave of cold pass over him, causing his breath to condense in the air and a chill to sink down to his bones. [Nolan spends his 9 to activate Accomplished Warrior at d6] Wei is used to dealing with physical hardships [Accomplished Warrior d6] and also has the heat of his sword [d8]. [Nolan 6,2 vs. Dan 5. Nolan wins and bumps his Accomplished Warrior to d8. My 5 isn’t less than his 2 so I don’t exhaust.] Wei demands that the man identify himself and allow Wei to pass. “I am Lin Xun and this is my cave! Begone from here!” the man cries. He holds up his hands and a buffeting wind slams into Zheng Wei, with tiny ice crystals striking his face [Power of Ice and Snow d8]. Warmed by the heat of his sword [d8], the mighty warrior [d8] Zheng Wei strides toward the man, [Nolan 4,3 vs. Dan 6. I win, Nolan exhausts both his traits.] but the ice, wind, and cold are too much for him and he is forced to retreat from the cavern. [I won the chapter as adversity player and took the d12 viewpoint die for my second plot stage.]

Chapter 11
Viewpoint: Nolan 7,1. Leo 10,1. Dan 6,1.
Adversity: Nolan 3,1. Dan 15,5.

Zheng Long’s army has camped, resting and recovering from their rebuffed attack against the Ice Kingdom capital. [I spend my 15 to create a new NPC: Chen Lim, Zheng Long’s lieutenant with the traits Sword, Quartermaster, Ambitious, and Disreputable. Since Zheng Long’s army has been mentioned in the fiction, it’s implied that he has a lieutenant so I need to pay the implied-by creation tax of 2, and it’s reasonable and expected for him to be here, so 4 traits – 2 tax = 2 traits: I activate Ambitious at d6 and Disreputable at d8] Zheng Long notices his disreputable [d8] and ambitious [d6] lieutenant Chen Lim agitating among the men, suggesting that they should stop following Zheng Long and start following him. [Leo spends his 10 to activate Loyal Army at d8 and Intimidating Countenance at d6] Zheng Long’s men are very loyal [d8] and he is not known for tolerating dissension in the ranks [Intimidating Countenance d6]. [Leo 8,3 vs. Dan 8,5. I win and bump Ambitious to d8, Leo exhausts Intimidating Countenance.] Chen Lim walks right up to Zheng Long and says, “It’s all well and good to look tough, but this army demands victories and it doesn’t seem that you can deliver them.” [Ambitous d8 and Disreputable d8]. Zheng Long replies, “I think you are discounting the fact of just how loyal [d8] my men are to me.” [Leo 3 vs. Dan 5,2. I win but Leo’s 3 isn’t less than my 2 so he doesn’t exhaust.] “Your men are indeed loyal,” Chen Lim says, “but how long will that loyalty last when you insist on marching them around the countryside in humiliation? You’re not prepared to do what it takes to win. I am.” [Disreputable d8 and Ambitious d8]. “My men understand that not all plans become immediately obvious,” Zheng Long answers [Loyal Army d8]. [Leo 3 vs 4,2. I win the exchange, and that’s the third in a row so I win the chapter.] “Perhaps I will give you some more time to prove that their loyalty is well placed,” Chen Lim says. “But if victory does not come soon, rest assured that you can be removed.” [I win the chapter as adversity player and take the d12 viewpoint die for my third plot stage.]

Chapter 12
Viewpoint: Nolan 9,7. Leo 9,6. Dan 2,1.
Adversity: Leo 12,9,1. Dan 3,1.

Just outside Lin Xun’s cavern, Zheng Wei rests for a moment, recovering from the icy onslaught. [Leo spends his 12 to activate Lin Xun’s Power of Ice and Snow at d8 and Cold Countenance at d6] The snow around Zheng Wei’s feet begins to harden into ice to lock him in place [Power of Ice and Snow d8], and Lin Xun coldly demands [Cold Countenance d6], “Why are you in my cave?” [Nolan spends his 9 and 7 to activate Sword of Fire at d8 and Trickster at d6] “I need to use the ring of fire, and the tablet led me here” Zheng Wei explains as he tries to use his sword to melt his way free of the binding ice. [Nolan 5 vs. Leo 4,3. Nolan wins but his d8 is already at max, Leo exhausts both traits.] Zheng Wei frees himself and steps forward. [Leo spends his 9 and 1 to activate Power of Ice and Snow at d8 and Aggressive at d6] Lin Xun surges at him [Aggressive d6] with his ice magic to hurl a blizzard of snow into Zheng Wei’s face [Power of Ice and Snow d8]. Zheng Wei also charges forward, his flaming sword at the ready [Sword of Fire d8]. [Nolan 1 vs. Leo 5,2. Leo wins and Nolan exhausts. Nolan is out of traits so Leo wins.] The blizzard blows Zheng Wei out of the cave. The magical blizzard continues to pummel Zheng Wei, trying to push him down the mountain [Power of Ice and Snow d8 (and apparently Cold Countenance d8, too)]. Zheng Wei douses his sword in the snow so that he won’t be so easily seen, and tries to circle around under the cover of the blizzard to get behind his foe [Trickster d6]. [Nolan 4 vs. Leo 8,7] The blizzard is too intense, and Zheng Wei rolls down the mountainside. [Nolan is out of traits so Leo wins as adversity player. He takes the d10 viewpoint die for his fourth plot stage].