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):
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)
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.
Nolan’s protagonist: Zheng Wei
Traits: Loved by the Rightful Queen, Accomplished Warrior, Trickster, Many Friends
(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
(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
(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
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].
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].
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].
On Sunday, June 13, 2010 I ran a skype playtest of Final Hour of a Storied Age rev 0.61 with Lance Allen of Wolves Den Publishing and Lenny Balsera the Lead System Developer for the Dresden Files RPG. The story continues from the previous session. The audio is posted as episode 8 of the Designer vs. Reality podcast, so listen first if you want to avoid spoilers.
Spotlight: Lance 1. Dan 2,1. Lenny 10,8.
Adversity: Lance 10,8. Dan 12,11,9.
The Elder, not wanting another direct confrontation with Gerhard, sneaks into the palace to find the crown prince. [I spend my 9 on a d4 passive environmental threat, The Elder's old and creaky joints.] He quickly discovers that he’s not as young and spry as he used to be, as his old and creaky joints slow him down and seem destined to attract every guard in the place with each click and pop. [Lenny spends his 10 to activate Been There, Done That and Flame Magic]. Even though it’s not as easy as it used to be, The Elder has done this before [Been There, Done That d6] [Roll for exchange 1: Lenny 4 vs. Dan 1. Lenny wins, I exhaust. Lenny bumps Been There, Done That to d8] and is able to avoid the guards and make his way to the door of the crown prince’s chambers. [I spend my 11 on a d6 active environmental threat, palace guards]. Outside it stand a pair of foul-tempered palace guards, clearly in no mood to grant anyone entry. The Elder, of course, has dealt with their type before [Been There, Done That d8] and knows that fire is an ideal solution [Flame Magic d8]. [Roll for exchange 2: Lenny 4,1 vs. Dan 2. Lenny wins, both exhaust. Since there are no active traits to bump, Lenny gets a bonus point]. He unleashes a blast of flame at their feet, forcing them to flee in terror. [I spend my 12 on a d6 active environmental threat, a raging fire]. The Elder notices that his blast of fire wasn’t quite as narrow and focused as he intended as a tapestry goes up in flame and fire begins to spread down the hallway. [Lenny spends his 8 to activate Flame Magic]. Annoyed at yet another distraction, The Elder mutters chants of quiet to bring the flames under control [Flame Magic d8]. [Roll for exchange 3: Lenny 7 vs. Dan 4. Lenny wins, neither exhaust. Lenny bumps the fire down to d4]. The Elder slowly calms the flames, but a smoldering tapestry falls from the wall, igniting the carpet [d4], and he sighs in frustration as he redoubles his effort to extinguish the fire [d8]. [Roll for exchange 4: Lenny 1 vs Dan 2. I win, both exhaust. Since there are no active traits I get a bonus point]. The fire spreads down the hallway, away from the prince’s chamber, and The Elder glances back and forth between the flames and the doorway, wondering whether he should just forget about the fire and let it burn. Prince Steffan emerges from his chambers with a bucket of water, dumps it on the fire, and shakes his head disapprovingly at The Elder. [I don't have any active traits to offer more adversity and no story dice to activate more, so Lenny wins the chapter as spotlight player and advances on stage along his plot].
Spotlight: Lance 12. Dan 7,7. Lenny 2.
Adversity: Dan 11,4,2. Lenny 9,7.
Julian decides to take a picnic basket to Astrid’s and invite her out for the day, but as he approaches her house on his plow horse [I spend my 11 to introduce a new NPC, Herman. Normally I'd get two traits activated, but I have to pay a creation tax for a newly created NPC, in this case the tax is one because he is directly mentioned on a seed as the protagonist's rival, so I can only activate one trait, Gets what he wants.]
d8 – Gets what he wants
d6 – Winning smile
d6 – Smooth talker
d4 – Rich family
he sees his rival for Astrid’s affections. Herman, who always gets what he wants [d8], has had a similar idea and is knocking on Astrid’s door with a picnic basket of his own, waiting to whisk her away in his fancy carriage. [Lance spends his 12 to activate Doggedly Stubborn and Geniunely Goodhearted]. Julian stubbornly [d8] refuses to accept defeat, so he rides around the back of the house to Astrid’s window. [Roll for exchange 1: Lance 8 vs. Dan 5. Lance wins, neither exhaust. Lance bumps Gets what he wants down to d6]. While Herman is busy talking to the housekeeper, Astrid comes to the window to talk to Julian, and he invites her to come for a ride. Just then, the housekeeper opens the door to Astrid’s room and shows Herman in [Gets what he wants d6]. “Ah, Astrid, I’ve prepared a wonderful picnic for us. Well, I should say my servants prepared it, but I’m ready to show you a wonderful day together.” Julian pushes forward with his plan anyway [Doggedly Stubborn d8], reaching through the window to scoop Astrid out onto his horse. [Roll for exchange 2: Lance 3 vs. Dan 3. Tie, neither exhaust. We tried an on-the-fly rules mod and let Lenny narrate the result]. Flabbergasted by Julian’s uncouth behavior, Herman crosses the room just in time to grab a hold of Astrid’s leg, locking Herman and Julian in a tug-of-war with Astrid in the middle. [I spend my 2 to activate Winning smile]. Although Herman smiles to Astrid whenever she looks his way [d6], he fixes Julian with a murderous glare, making it clear that he is ready to go as far as he needs to in order to get Astrid [Gets what he wants d6]. Julian wouldn’t hurt someone just because he’s a romantic rival [Genuinely Goodhearted d6], but he isn’t prepared to let Astrid go [Doggedly Stubborn d8]. [Roll for exchange 3: Lance 4,3 vs. Dan 5,4. I win, Lance exhausts. I would bump something but the chapter is winding down]. While it begins playfully enough, Julian gets the sense that Herman won’t keep it that way for long. To prevent Astrid from getting hurt Julian lets go, doing so just as Herman was yanking her toward him. She tumbles back into the room and the two of them land in a heap on the floor with Astrid giggling excitedly. Herman flashes his smile and escorts her out to his carriage. [I am able to offer adversity but Lance has no more active traits or story dice to activate more, so I win the chapter as the adversity player and add a d20 spotlight die to my current plot stage].
Spotlight: Lance 16. Dan 7,6,6. Lenny 2.
Adversity: Dan 7,6,6. Lenny 8,5.
After some time has passed, Julian rides his horse through town, wondering how he can possibly get closer to Astrid. He is shocked to see Herman talking and giggling with another girl. [Lenny spends his 8 to activate Herman's Gets What He Wants]. Herman stares right at Julian. “Nobody has to hear about this, do they, farm boy?” [Lance spends his 16 to activate all four of Julian's traits] Julian, never one to step away from a problem [Doggedly Stubborn d8] tries to deal with it the best way he knows how: he climbs down from his horse and takes a swing at Herman [Country Boy d6]. [Roll for exchange 1: Lance 5,4 vs. Lenny 7. Lenny wins, neither exhaust. Lenny bumps Doggedly Stubborn down to d6]. Herman, despite his dandy nature, is no pushover. He blocks Julian’s swing and manages to trip Julian into the dirt. “How rude can one be?” asks Herman. “Not even a proper challenge. But if it’s a fight you came for, I’ll give it to you. You really should know your place, though. I could buy and sell you ten times over.” [Lenny spends his 5 to bring in Rich Family d4, and is also using Gets What He Wants d8]. Julian isn’t ready to let it go [Doggedly Stubborn d6] and says, “All the money in the world can’t buy you honor or integrity, Herman.” [Geniunely Goodhearted d6]. [Roll for exchange 2: Lance 6,4 vs. Lenny 4,1. Lance wins, Lenny exhausts. Lance could bump something but doesn't bother to specify since the chapter is winding down]. Herman goes slightly red in the face as he realizes the entire town is looking on and that news of what he’s been doing will certainly get back to Astrid. Julian, realizing that he’s already won, gets back on his horse and rides off. [Lance wins the chapter as the spotlight player and advances along his plot track to start working on stage 3, the final stage of his first segment].
Spotlight: Lance 3. Dan 11,9,9. Lenny 1.
Adversity: Lance 8,6. Lenny 10,4.
Prince Gerhard approaches his brother the crown prince’s chambers. [Lenny spends both of his story dice to introduce a new character, Guard Captain Gunter. Since we've talked about palace guards before, their captain would be in the "implied by previous fiction" category, which is a tax of two. It's reasonable for him to be there so there isn't any plausibility tax. Normally spending a 10 and a 4 would be enough to activate three traits, but the tax brings it down to one, and Lenny chooses to activate Nose for Bullshit]
d8 – Royal Blademaster
d6 – Nose for Bullshit
d6 – Alcohol Tolerance
d4 – Guard Cronies
Guard Captian Gunter, known to be a loyalist, guards Steffan’s door and is willing to challenge anyone, even Prince Gerhard. “It’s a late hour. What business brings you here?” [I spend my 11 to activate Accomplished Liar and Cold and Calculating]. “Gunter, clearly I was concerned for my brother’s safety. I heard there was a fire.” [Accomplished Liar d6]. [Roll for exchange 1: Dan 2 vs. Lenny 3. Lenny wins, neither exhaust. Lenny bumps Nose for Bullshit to d8] Gunter snorts derisively. “Come now, sir, no one else can hear us, you can speak plainly. When was the last time you were truly concerned for your brother? Tell me your actual business and perhaps I will give you access to the prince.” [Nose for Bullshit d8]. Gerhard gives him a cold smile [Cold and Calculating d8]. “Gunter, I know you’re a loyal man, but perhaps you should rethink who you are loyal to. Once my brother and father are out of the way the army may very well need a new general.” Gerhard is confident that Gunter’s ambition will outweigh his loyalty, and has no qualms about making promises he has no intention of keeping [Accomplished Liar d6]. [Roll for exchange 2: Dan 4,2 vs. Lenny 2. I win, both exhaust. Since there are no active traits I get a bonus point.] Gunter, clearly intrigued by the offer, steps aside and lets Gerhard approach the crown prince’s door. [I won the chapter as spotlight so I advance one stage along my plot. I also decide to spend one bonus point to move Gunter along the alignment track to be ideologically aligned with the antagonist].
Spotlight: Lance 12. Dan 9. Lenny 5.
Adversity: Dan 12,11,3. Lenny 11,3.
A few days after the encounter in the town square, Julian approaches Astrid’s house expecting that she will have heard about Herman’s womanizing by now. [I spend my 11 to activate Herman's Gets What He Wants and Smooth Talker]. As he gets close enough to see inside, he spies Astrid and Herman sitting on a couch, much closer than Julian would have expected. Herman says, “Astrid, darling, you have to understand that the only way I could be sure that our love was true was to test myself with those other girls. But I know now that you’re the only one for me.” [Smooth Talker d6]. [We accidentally skipped the step of explicitly activating Julian's traits with Lance's 12. He should only activate two traits with a 12 but he inadvertently played the chapter as if he had all four available]. Julian enters the house. “I’m tired of trying to play polite. I’m tired of pretending to be smooth and polished, since there’s no way I can compare to Herman an his easy lies. Astrid, I have loved you since we were children and if you give me the chance I’ll show you that every day for the rest of our lives.” [Country Boy d6 and Genuinely Goodhearted d6]. [Roll for exchange 1: Lance 4,4 vs. Dan 6. I win, neither exhaust. I bump Smooth Talker to d8] Herman replies, “I agree with you about one thing, there’s no way you compare to me.” He turns to Astrid. “Darling, why don’t you let this boy know that his childish infatuation is a distraction that you’ve outgrown?” [Smooth Talker d8 and Gets What He Wants d8]. Ignoring him, Julian implores Astrid, “Do you remember when we were thirteen and we were down by the river and we found that tarnished silver ring? Will I’ve kept it, and over the years I’ve polished it up for you. I realize it’s nothing so fine as the gifts you’re used to, but it’s something that I’ve always believed should be yours. I would choose to give this to you on the day that we are wed, but if you should choose someone whose love is less true then it should still be yours.” [Doggedly Stubborn d8 and Mysterious Ring d4]. [Roll for exchange 2: Lance 4,1 vs. Dan 7,4. I win, Lance exhausts. I bump Genuinely Goodhearted down to d4]. Clearly, Astrid is embarassed that Julian is telling stories about her playing by the river like a little girl when she wants to be thought of as a woman.
Herman says, “Don’t worry, darling, I’ll get rid of him.” He looks Julian square in the eyes. “I think the lady would like you to leave, and so would I.” [Gets What He Wants d8]. Julian answers, “I think the lady can speak for herself and doesn’t need a fancy mouth like yours to do it.” [Country Boy d6]. [Roll for exchange 3: Lance 2 vs. Dan 4. I win, Lance exhausts. I forgot to bump any traits.] Astrid turns away, clearly mortified at being thrust into the center of the conflict. “I think that says more than enough,” adds Herman. “Why don’t you just leave here before there’s trouble?” [Gets What He Wants d8 and Smooth Talker d8]. [Lance didn't narrate a response, but I think he was rolling Genuinely Goodhearted d4]. [Roll for exchange 4: Lance 2 vs. Dan 5,2. I win, both exhaust. There are no bumpable traits so I get a bonus point.] Julian fully expected Astrid to come to his defense, but the fact that she stayed silent has his head spinning and he doesn’t even think to protest as Herman pushes him out the door and slams it in his face. [I won the chapter as adversity and I take the d10 spolight die for my second stage, the one one I'm currently working on.]
Spotlight: Lance 7. Dan 10,10. Lenny 2.
Adversity: Lance 10,3. Lenny 16,2.
Gerhard opens the door to his brother’s chambers and, instead of Steffan, meets The Elder. [Lenny spends his 16 to activate all four traits]. He has his staff out [d6], ready for battle. “You’re too late, Gerhard. I have protected him from your treachery.” Magical flames [d8] dance on his fingertips, daring Gerhard to try his resolve. [I spend a 10 to activate Peerless Duelist and Cold and Calculating]. Prince Gerhard draws his sword [Peerless Duelist d6] and says, “I see it has taken you a while to build up your courage,” figuring that needling The Elder will take him off his game [Cold and Calculating d8]. [Roll for exchange 1: Dan 4,4 vs. Lenny 6,1. Lenny wins, Lenny exhausts. Lenny reduces Peerless Duelist to d4]. There’s a furious back and forth, Gerhard’s blade flashing, The Elder’s fires burning. The Elder, still skilled with his staff even if he’s not as quick as he once was, knocks Gerhard’s sword aside, pushes the prince to the floor, and looms over him. “Get you gone, princeling. Your efforts here will only lead to your demise. Trust me, I’ve seen it happen to many a dynasty.” [Short Temper d4 and Been There, Done That d6]. Gerhard, lying on the floor, holds out his hands nonchalantly. “Oh no, I’ve been disarmed. Whatever shall I do?” He smiles as Gunter the royal blademaster comes in behind The Elder. [I spend a 10 to activate Gunter's Royal Blademaster and Guard Cronies]. The Elder turns to face the new threat [Royal Blademaster d8] and Gerhard leaps to his feet, sword back in hand [Peerless Duelist d4] to trap the old wizard in the middle. [Roll for exchange 2: Dan 7,3 vs. Lenny 6,4. I win, neither exhaust. I bump Peerless Duelist back up to d6]. As skilled as he is, The Elder can’t parry two men at once. Gerhard and Gunter laugh, playing with the outmatched old man. [Lenny spends his 2 to activate Flame Magic]. The Elder is backed into a corner, driven beyond mere anger [Short Temper d4], and unleashes a spell he’s used before [Been There, Done That d6] when his magic has almost been depleted, a searing ball of fire [d8]. Gerhard and Gunter, confident in their footwork from countless hours of sword practice [Peerless Duellist and Royal Blademaster], move to duck out of the way, knowing that Gunter’s cronies [d4] will be there to rush them to the surgeon if they end up a little singed. [Roll for exchange 3: Dan 8,2,1 vs. Lenny 3,3,2. I win, both exhaust. My only active trait is already a d8 so I get a bonus point.] The fire hurtles past them, failing to even scorch their clothes. The Elder is dumbfounded as no one has ever dodged his magic in all his long years. The fight gone out of him, The Elder sinks into the corner as Gerhard laughs at him. [Lenny doesn't have any more active traits to provide adversity and no more dice to get more, so I win the chapter as the spotlight player and advance my plot.]
Spotlight: Lance 9. Dan 10. Lenny 2.
Adversity: Lance 9. Lenny 19,5.
Gerhard looks for his brother and finds [Lenny spends his 19 to introduce Steffan. He mentioned on a seed so the creation tax is one. Normally a 19 activates four traits so Lenny gets three. He chooses Honest and Forthright, Magical Talent, and Also a Peerless Duelist]
d8 – Also a Peerless Duelist
d6 – Honest and Forthright
d6 – Magical Talent
d4 – Heir to the Realm
Crown Prince Steffan at the end of an underground passage that leads from his chamber to the stables. Steffan draws his sword [Also a Peerless Duelist d8] and faces his brother, saying “You didn’t kill the old man. Did you?” [I spend my 10 to activate Cold and Calcualting and Peerless Duelist]. Gerhard replies, “Of course I didn’t kill him. He’s still useful. Unlike you.” [Cold and Calculating d8]. [Roll for exchange 1: Dan 2 vs. Lenny 7. Lenny wins, neither exhaust. Lenny bumps Magical Talent to d8] Their swords clash again and again, a blistering flurry of strokes and counterstrokes, parries and ripostes. Slowly but surely Steffan pushes his younger brother back. A bluish aura trickles from Steffan’s shoulder into the blade, and his blows seem to strike with a power beyond even the greatest of swordsmen. [Magical Talent d8]. “I have endured your machinations for too long, brother. It ends now.” Steffan continues his furious assault [Also a Peerless Duelist d8]. Gerhard tries to parry the attacks [Peerless Duelist d6] [Roll for exchange 2: Dan 4 vs. Lenny 5,2. Lenny wins, Lenny exhausts. Lenny bumps Cold and Calculating down to d6.], but with only the strength of a normal man he is at his brother’s mercy. [Lenny spends his 5 to activate Also a Peerless Duelist]. Holding Gerhard at swordpoint, Steffan says, “You are my blood, and if you cease this nonsense I promise you that your fate will be a gentle one. This does not have to lead to suffering.” [Honest and Forthright d6]. Knowing that his brother will not be able to resist [Cold and Calculating d8], Gerhard reaches out his hand. “Of course, brother, merely take my hand and we can come to some agreement.” [Roll for exchange 3: Dan 1 vs. Lenny 6. Lenny wins, I exhaust. Lenny bumps Peerless Duelist down to d4.] Steffan takes Gerhard’s hand but doesn’t fall for Gerhard’s ploy – when Gerhard’s hidden blade flashes forth Steffan’s own sword is there to meet it. “When will you learn, Gerhard? When will you learn?” He shoves Gerhard backward and they continue in a fair fight [Honest and Forthright d6 and Also a Peerless Duellist d8]. Battered and bruised, Gerhard does his best to match his brother [Peerless Duelist d4]. [Roll for exchange 4: Dan 3 vs. Lenny 4,3. Lenny wins, both exhaust. Lenny should get a bonus point here, since there are no active traits to bump.] The swords clash more furiously than ever, sending sparks flying with each deafening blow of steel upon steel. The battle grows ever more desperate and all semblance of civility is shed as both men use fists, feet, elbows, knees, anything to gain an advantage on the other. Ever so slowly, as the battle rages, Gerhard’s strength begins to wane. Steffan’s assault drives him backwards, then to his knees, then to his back. Eventually Gerhard doesn’t even have the strength to lift his sword, but he still stares at his brother with hate in his eyes. Steffan, exhausted but victorious, prepares to put an end to the struggle, his heart heavy with remorse. As Steffan lifts his sword to strike the killing blow, the stablemaster slams a pitchfork down on the crown prince’s head, cracking his skull. “I’m sorry my prince,” the stablemaster says to Gerhard, “I didn’t realize you’d need my help quite so quickly.” He helps Gerhard to his feet, and Gerhard says, “Thank you for your help.” Then he runs the stablemaster through with his sword. He shakes his head and rehearses his lie. “My brother and the stablemaster fought. I tried my best, but they killed each other before I could stop them.” [Lenny couldn't provide any more adversity so I won the chapter. I advance my plot, which completes my first plot segment. This put us into an unusual situation with respect to the rules: narratively Steffan was dead because that was my plot segment goal, but the character still exists as an NPC unless I spend bonus points to officially remove him from play. I'll need to put some thought into the right way to handle that in the design.]
Spotlight: Lance 6. Dan 5. Lenny 10.
Adversity: Lance 9,2. Dan 12,9,6.
The Elder sits alone, locked in a cell guarded by Guard Captain Gunter [I spend my 6 to activate Gunter's Alcohol Tolerance], who still seems alert despite the revelry that he and other supporters of Gerhard have been engaging in [Alcohol Tolerance d6]. [Lenny spends his 10 to activate Wizard's Staff and Flame Magic]. Although confined, The Elder is far from helpless. He holds out his hand and his staff flies to it through the bars [Wizard's Staff d6] and he unleashes a gout of magical flame [d8]. [Roll for exchange 1: Lenny ?,? vs. Dan 1. Lenny wins, neither exhaust. Lenny bumps Wizard's Staff up to d8]. The bars on the cell melt into slag and The Elder steps through, past the startled Gunter, and runs up the stairs. [I spend my 12 to activate Gunter's Royal Blademaster and Nose for Bullshit]. Although the exact manner of the escape came as a shock, Gunter suspected that The Elder would try something funny [Nose for Bullshit d6], so the exit to the dungeon complex is locked and double-reinforced. The Elder turns his flames [d8] on the door [Roll for exchange 2: Lenny 4 vs. Dan 4. Tie, neither exhaust.], but it’s made of case-hardened steel and doesn’t yield as easily as the bars did. [Nose for Bullshit d6]. The Elder grits his teeth and throws all of his power against the door, his flames burning white hot [Flame Magic d8]. [Roll for exchange 3: Lenny 7 vs. Dan 5. Lenny wins, neither exhaust. Lenny bumps Nose for Bullshit down to d4]. The Elder bursts through the door, but the delay in getting through it has given Gunter a chance to catch up. He pulls his sword [Royal Blademaster d8] and says, “You won’t get away that easily, old man.” The Elder brings up his staff to parry the blow. [Wizard's Staff d6]. [Roll for exchange 4: Lenny 8 vs. Dan 1. Lenny wins, I exhaust. All active traits are already at the extreme die sizes so Lenny gets a bonus point.] “You’ll find I still have a few tricks up my sleeve, young man,” says The Elder while he pummels Gunter. “And you think I don’t?” Gunter replies [Nose for Bullshit d4]. “You think I would station only one guard on you?” Hearing armored footsteps approaching, The Elder redoubles his efforts to take out Gunter with his staff. [Roll for exchange 5: Lenny 2 vs. Dan 2. Tie, both exhaust.] As they fight, neither one gaining ground, the footsteps fade down another passage, revealing Gunter’s threat of more guards as merely a bluff. [ I spend my 9 to activate Prince Gerhard's Cold and Calculating].
The stomping guards, however, masked the quieter approach of Prince Gerhard. “All right, Elder. The deed is done,” he says [Cold and Calculating d8]. “I’m ready for you to transfer the power to me, now.” Cursing, The Elder hurls a ball of flame at the prince [Flame Magic d8]. [Roll for exchange 6: Lenny 7 vs Dan 4. Lenny wins, I exhaust. Since there are no bumpable traits, Lenny gets a bonus point.] The fireball slams into Gerhard, sending him flying across the room where he smashes into a table. The Elder looms over him and declares, “There will be no heir to the magic of the Valley of Fire thanks to your treachery. This era of magic will come to an end. But at least I will have the satisfaction of destroying the perpetrator.” He raises his hands and sends another blast of flame toward Gerhard, but at the last moment Gunter interposes himself to take the blast for his prince and is burned to cinders. [I had no more traits to provide adversity so Lenny won the chapter, advancing one plot stage and completing his subplot. We decided that he resolved his "find a recipient" plot by choosing himself. Lenny also spent three of his bonus points to kill Gunter.] Disgusted that the prince was saved, but with his magic already taxed to its limits, The Elder limps away. [Since this is the first time that a supporting character has finished a subplot with the current spotlight/adversity selection mechanics we realized there are a few holes in the rules regarding what should happen next with the character. For example, as the rules are currently written it's impossible for Lenny to win spotlight again because he has no unresolved plot stages to put spotlight dice in.]
On Sunday, June 6, 2010 I ran a Skype playtest of Final Hour of a Storied Age rev 0.61 with Lance Allen of Wolves Den Publishing and Lenny Balsera the Lead System Developer for the Dresden Files RPG by Evil Hat Productions. The audio is posted as episode 7 of the Designer vs. Reality podcast, so listen first if you want to avoid spoilers.
- The magic of the Valley of Fire is only passed on to the firstborn of each generation. (Lenny)
- A young man stands to inherit the prosperous farm of his future father-in-law, but a rival wishes it for himself because of the star metal said to be buried beneath it. (Lance)
- A rich prince, next in line for the throne, seeks a sword that lies in a lake of fire. (Dan)
- The tarnishing of a silver ring indicates that the dawn star will soon split in half. (Dan)
The star charts indicate that Lance’s seed is the protagonist seed and my first seed is the antagonist seed. The young man is a great protagonist, and we decide that he represents a farming community. We notice a potential connection between the star metal and the sword the antagonist is looking for, and between the lake of fire and the valley of fire. We decide that the lake of fire is in a cavern underneath the protagonist’s homeland, now known as Red Valley, and that there is a star metal sword in it which channels the powerful, dangerous magic of the Valley of Fire into a human guardian. The antagonist’s older brother is this generation’s proper recipient of the power. The antagonist wants the power for himself, but since he is not the proper recipient he will try to get it by taking the sword directly, which will unleash the uncontrolled power and destroy the community. The protagonist seed’s “future father-in-law” aspect leads us toward a romantic “get the girl” opening for the protagonist’s story, and we decide that the capstone of that could be the tarnishing of a silver wedding ring, an omen that will send him off to consult a sage and confront the bigger problems of the world. We pick the holder of the power from the previous generation, waiting to hand it off to its new recipient, as the supporting character. Since the power may not be successfully handed off, depending on how the antagonist and supporting character progress on their plot, we decide that the protagonist’s ultimate goal will be to extinguish the lake of fire, eliminating the threat once and for all.
Julian of Red Valley (visual reference: Paul Bettany)
d8 – Doggedly Stubborn
d6 – Genuinely Goodhearted
d6 – Country Boy
d4 – Mysterious Ring
Plot: Get the girl, Discover the significance of the ring, Extinguish the lake of fire.
Prince Gerhard (visual reference: Timothy Dalton as Prince Barin in Flash Gordon)
d8 – Cold and Calculating
d6 – Accomplished Liar
d6 – Peerless Duelist
d4 – Prince of the Realm
Plot: Assassinate the firstborn son, Discover the location of the sword, Get the sword.
Lenny’s Supporting Character:
The Elder, current wielder of the magic of the Valley of Fire (visual reference: Bruce Spence)
d8 – Flame Magic
d6 – Wizard’s Staff
d6 – Been There, Done That
d4 – Short Temper
Subplot: Find a recipient for the magic of the Valley of Fire.
Spotlight: Lance 4. Dan 4. Lenny 10.
Adversity: Lance 8,3. Dan 10,8,6.
The Elder storms into the palace of Cresthaven, demanding an audience with the crown prince. [I spend my 10 to introduce my Prince Gerhard character into the chapter and activate two of his traits: Accomplished Liar and Cold and Calculating.] Gerhard lies [I'll be rolling a d6 for my Accomplished Liar trait] that his older brother Steffan is out among the poor of the city and The Elder should search for him out there. [Lenny spends his 10 to activate his Been There, Done That and Short Temper traits.] The short-tempered Elder [Lenny will be rolling a d4 for his Short Temper trait] demands that the crown prince be brought to him, since he has already journeyed far and is in no mood for further inconvenience. [Roll dice for exchange 1: Lenny 4 vs. Dan 1. Lenny wins and my Accomplished Liar is exhausted. Lenny bumps his Short Temper up to a d6.] The Elder shouts Gerhard down, demanding that the crown prince be brought to him at once. Gerhard offers apologies and suggests that The Elder wait in the dining room while they fetch the crown prince, calculating [Cold and Calculating d8] that The Elder will overindulge as usual and eat and drink himself to sleep. The Elder’s long experience [Been There, Done That d6] should let him handle it [Roll dice for exchange 2: Lenny 2 vs. Dan 4. I win, Lenny exhausts. I bump Lenny's Short Temper back down to d4], but he notices that the cooking has improved considerably since the last time he was here, stuffs himself, and falls into a deep sleep.
The next day, Gerhard tells The Elder that the crown prince tried to meet with him during the night but The Elder wouldn’t wake up for him, calculating [d8] that The Elder will be too embarrassed to cause more commotion. The Elder, his anger evident [Short Temper d4], says that his business is more important than any affairs of state that might be occupying the prince. [Roll dice for exchange 3: Lenny 4 vs. Dan 2. Lenny wins, I exhaust. Lenny bumps Short Temper to d6] The Elder flies into a rage that intimidates Gerhard. [I spend my 8 to activate Accomplished Liar]. Gerhard lies [d6] that there is a fire at the granary and The Elder should go put a stop to it. Still angry [Short Temper d6], The Elder says that his business is far more urgent and important than a fire. [Roll dice for exchange 4: Lenny 6 vs. Dan 3. Lenny wins, I exhaust. Lenny bumps Short Temper to d8]. The Elder calls Gerhard on his lie. [I spend my 6 to activate Cold and Calculating]. Gerhard admits that he was trying to distract The Elder, claiming that the crown prince is afflicted with plague and they’ve been hiding him in a plague-house in the city. Gerhard begins leading The Elder to a plague house, calculating [d8] that he’ll be able to lose him in the crowd. The Elder gets angrier and angrier the longer the journey takes [Short Temper d8], complaining the whole way. [Roll for exchange 5: Lenny 3 vs. Dan 4. I win, both exhaust. Since there are no active traits to bump I get one bonus point]. Gerhard leads The Elder to a plague house and then slips out the back way. [I need to present more adversity, but I have no active traits and no story dice to buy more, so Lenny wins the chapter and gets to narrate the conclusion]. The Elder, fuming, realizes that Gerhard is up to something and vows not to be fooled again. [Lenny won the chapter as the spotlight player so he advances one stage along his plot.]
Spotlight: Lance 20. Dan 7. Lenny 6.
Adversity: Dan 4,2,1. Lenny 15,8.
Julian is in Red Valley on market day. He has arranged a meeting with Klaus in order to ask permission to court his daughter. [Lenny spends his 15 to create and introduce Klaus. The 15 would normally allow Lenny to activate four character traits, but since this is a new NPC that hasn't been statted out he gets less traits than usual due to the creation tax. Since the future father-in-law mentioned on a seed the creation tax is one, so Lenny gets to activate three traits instead of four. He chooses Protective, Artisan, and Gruff.]
d8 – Protective
d6 – Artisan
d6 – Gruff
d4 – Hardy Folk
Klaus, protective of his daughter Astrid’s heart [d8], orders Julian to shop for her to prove that he knows her well. Julian realizes what a daunting task this is, but stubbornly [d8] goes forward anyway, trying to find things that she would actually like [Genuinely Goodhearted d6] rather than things that would impress her father. [Roll for exchange 1: Lance 5,1 vs. Lenny 5. Lance wins bus Lance exhausts. Lance bumps Klaus's Protective to d6]. Julian walks through the marketplace, selecting items which are simple but of good quality, knowing that’s what Astrid prefers. Klaus is impressed, but says that Astrid is a craftsman’s daughter [Artisan d6] and appreciates fine workmanship. He orders Julian to tell him which of the items would make the best gift [Protective d6]. Julian eyes the items while fingering the silver ring in his pocket [Mysterious Ring d4], knowing that’s the gift he’d truly like to give to Astrid. [Roll for exchange 2: Lance 1 vs. Lenny 2,1. Lenny wins, both exhaust. Lenny bumps Country Boy down to d4]. Julian doesn’t have the nerve, and Klaus pounces on his hesitation. “No man who lacks conviction will have my daughter!” Klaus, never one to mince words [Gruff d6] says, “If you have something to show, you should show it.” Julian reluctantly pulls the ring from his pocket. “I would choose to gift her with this, but I think the most important thing I can offer is that I was born of this country and know the woods, know the hills, know the farms [Country Boy d4], and would give her the true heart of a Red Valley man.” [Roll for exchange 3: Lance 2 vs. Lenny 1. Lance wins, both exhaust. There are no active traits, so Lance gets a bonus point.] Although Klaus doesn’t grant permission to court Astrid, Julian can tell that Klaus is warming up to him. Klaus says, “Son, when I was your age, I courted my wife by breaking into her father’s stable, stealing his best horse, and running it ragged across the country daring him to stop me. You’re a nice kid, but I want to see your spirit. Now buy these things and give them to my daughter.” He walks away, leaving Julian holding a bunch of items that he’s not sure he can afford. [Lenny had story dice to activate a trait to offer more adversity but Lance was out of traits and didn't have story dice to activate more, so Lenny wins the chapter. He narrated the conclusion and, since he won a chapter as adversity player, he gets to add an extra spotlight die to his plot track. He takes the d12 for his second plot stage, the one he's currently working on.]
Spotlight: Lance 12. Dan 9. Lenny 12,10.
Adversity: Lance 8,1. Dan 11,10,1.
Fed up dealing with functionaries, The Elder returns to the palace, expecting to talk to the king directly, [I spend my 1 to introduce Prince Gerhard and activate his Cold and Calculating trait] but he finds Prince Gerhard sitting on the throne. Believing that The Elder’s pride is his weakness, Gerhard calculates [d8] that he can humiliate him in front of the assembled nobles. [Lenny spends his 10 to activate Wizard's Staff and Flame Magic]. The Elder pounds his staff [d6] on the ground, sending up a blast of magical flame [d8], saying that he is immensely powerful and should not be trifled with. [Roll for exchange 1: Lenny 4,1 vs. Dan 6. Dan wins, Lenny exhausts. The only active trait is already at its maximum die size so I get a bonus point.] Gerhard says, “Don’t you remember that you met my brother last night? Have you gone senile? Is this what we have to look forward to, a foolish old man who’s lost his wits, with more power than he knows what to do with?” Clearly, Gerhard’s plan to undermine The Elder with the nobility is working, and he is confident that he can push as hard as he wants because he believes that The Elder would never strike down someone of royal blood [Cold and Calculating d8]. [Lenny spends his 12 to activate Short Temper and Been There, Done That] The Elder, having dealt with politicians before [Been There, Done That d6] suggests that if he is losing his mind the proper reaction is fear and obedience [Short Temper d4]. [Roll for exchange 2: Lenny 6,4 vs. Dan 4. Lenny wins, neither exhaust. Lenny bumps Been There, Done That to d8]. The nobles realize that The Elder is dangerous and should not be mocked. [I spend my 10 to activate Peerless Duelist and Acoomplished Liar.] Gerhard leaps from the throne, draws his sword [Peerless Duelist d6], and holds it to The Elder’s neck. Calculating [d8] that The Elder is bluffing, Gerhard says, “You think you’re the only one with a temper, old man? Perhaps you’d better rethink what you’re saying.” The Elder rolls his eyes, wishing that the children who rule kingdoms would learn not to trifle with wizards of his power [Been There, Done That d8], and his anger nears the boiling point [Short Temper d4]. [Roll for exchange 3: Lenny 2,2 vs. Dan 7,6. Dan wins, Lenny exhausts. (I should have bumped something here but didn't do it explicitly, since I knew the chapter was winding down)]. The Elder sees the cold look in Gerhard’s eyes and knows he won’t back down. Twenty years ago, The Elder would have easily been able to defeat Gerhard, but today he isn’t so sure. Is he too old for this? He backs down and apologizes for creating such a scene. [I win the chapter as adversity player, so I take a d10 spotlight die for my first plot stage].
Spotlight: Lance 19. Dan 6,4. Lenny 6,3.
Adversity: Dan 12,11,1. Lenny 6,4.
Julian, hoping to prove himself worthy of Astrid, is out hunting a predator that has been taking out local livestock. [I spend my 1 to introduce a passive environmental threat: hard and trackless ground]. There aren’t any tracks on the cold, hard ground [d4]. [Lance spends his 19 to activate all four of his traits] A country boy [d6] like Julian knows more ways to track than just studying footprints [Roll for exchange 1: Lance 2 vs. Dan 4. I win, neither exhaust. I bump my Hard Ground to d6], but they don’t seem to work either. With no way to track it across the hard ground [d6], Julian stubbornly [d8] begins checking every place the thing might attack. [Roll for exchange 2: Lance 4 vs. Dan 6. I win, neither exhaust. (Looks like I forgot to bump a trait)]. [I spend my 11 to introduce an active threat, a wolf.] The cries of a wolf [d6] are heard in the distance across vast stretches of hard, stony ground [d6]. Julian, a stubborn [d8] country boy [d6], starts running after the sound as hard as he can. [Roll for exchange 3: Lance 4,1 vs. Dan 3,1. Lance wins, both exhaust]. Julian sees it and gets off a shot with his bow, mortally wounding the wolf. It takes off into the woods and Julian follows the blood trail to find the creature dead just outside a hole in an embankment from which he can hear pitiful sounds. [I spend my 12 to bring Klaus into the chapter. Since it's plausible but unexpected for him to also be out hunting for the wolf I pay a plausibility tax of one, so I can only activate one trait instead of two. I choose Protective]. Klaus, also hunting the wolf to protect [d8] his family, steps out of the woods. “So, Julian,” he says. “Are you going to kill all of them?” Julian isn’t comfortable with the idea of killing the pups [Genuinely Goodhearted d6]. [Roll for exchange 4: Lance 6 vs. Dan 1. Lance wins, I exhaust. (We forgot to bump a trait again)] “No, I’ve eliminated the threat,” Julian says. “These pups can be relocated, and then it will be up to nature whether they live or die.” Klaus doesn’t say anything, but gives Julian his hunting vest to wrap up and carry the pups, an unspoken gesture of approval. Julian moves them to a new den, far enough away that they won’t threaten the community. [I don't have any active traits or any more story dice, so Lance wins the chapter as the spotlight character. He advances one stage along his plot.]
On Thursday May 13, 2010, the GM for our weekly Skype-based Mouse Guard game couldn’t make it, so Michael, Erik, and I did a three hour playtest for rev 0.6 of Final Hour of a Storied Age. The audio of the session is posted as episode 6 of the Designer vs. Reality Podcast, so listen to that first if you don’t want any spoilers.
We start off by rolling up groups of words from the theme table and then letting those groups of words inspire us to write evocative sentences:
- The woman returned to her wealthy family after she acted on her ambition by capturing the star with lies. (Michael)
- Greed for the crown corrupts. Only the poor can wield the Ice Sword. (Michael)
- The Frozen Queen calls out for release with false promises of treasure and fame. (Erik)
- The matriarch of a large farming clan has gone into hiding. (Dan)
- A man trains at swordsmanship at the opulent temple at the top of an icy mountain. (Dan)
From the story seeds, the mechanics guide us through the process of creating a plot. The mechanics determine that Michael’s returning woman seed represents the protagonist and my sword guy seed represents the antagonist. The main plot structure in Storied Age requires that the protagonist must save her community from some fundamental negative change that the antagonist is threatening it with. We quickly identify the woman’s farming community as the threatened community. We notice some common threads among the other seeds: there is an ice sword and a man training in swords on an icy mountain, a wealthy sword-training temple and sword that should rightfully only be wielded by the poor, and also a Frozen Queen. We decide that the Ice Sword is the key to releasing the Frozen Queen from her prison which will end up freezing the whole world. My antagonist is confident that he can endure this harsh environment and believes that the change will bring him power. The protagonist can keep this from happening if she can get the sword to its rightful protector.
With the overall plot determined, we sketch out three-segment plots for the protagonist and antagonist. I set the antagonist’s plot to “become blademaster of the temple”, “locate the Frozen Queen’s prison”, “get the sword”. Michael sets the protagonist’s plot to “return home”, “locate the missing matriarch who knows about the sword”, “get the sword”. Next, Erik identifies his supporting character, an elemental Ice Warden who is supposed to keep the Frozen Queen locked up but who has secretly fallen in love with her. His subplot is “kill the other elemental wardens”, which should make the antagonist’s plot simpler.
With the plots decided, we stat out characters:
Michael’s character Hope
- Clever d8
- Star d6
- Power of Words d6
- Prodigal Daughter d4
Dan’s character Darius
- Way of the Blade d8
- Boundless Ambition d6
- Endless Endurance d6
- Secrets of the Ancient Masters d4
Erik’s character Rime
- Made of Ice d6
- Summoner of Ice d8
- Cold and Calculating d6
- Elemental Warden d4
[When we were assigning dice to the stats I tried to offer some advice about which dice to assign where, but it turns out that the advice I was giving was based on an earlier version of the rules and didn't really make sense for the rules we were playing. When you try lots of different ideas it can be easy to forget which one you finally settle on!]
We decide that we don’t need to draw a map for this story because geography hasn’t come up in any of our story discussions so far. We assign our spotlight and adversity dice to the different player types and start playing. In the 0.6 version of the rules, the spotlight and adversity dice are rolled to determine who takes on that role for the particular chapter and also become the “story dice” that you spend in order to bring traits into a chapter which let you roll “action dice” for each trait you use in an exchange.
Spotlight Roll: Michael 17. Dan 2. Erik 4.
Adversity Roll: Erik 18, 8. Dan 9,3,2
Hope is a few miles outside of the region that her family controls. Erik spends his 8 to introduce a d4 passive environmental threat: Winter hits! Michael uses his 17 to activate all four of Hope’s traits. Hope’s star (d6) radiates heat to keep her warm. (Roll dice for exchange 1: Michael 4 vs. Erik 3. Michael wins, neither exhuast. Michael bumps prodigal daughter to d6.) With the star’s heat on one side and the frigid chill on the other, she is reminded of home and keeping warm by the fire. As she presses on the weather keeps getting colder and colder, a bitter cold beyond the normal chill of winter (Erik puts the d4 for winter forward again). The star burns hotter (Michael puts forward the d6 for the star again). (Roll dice for exchange 2: Michael 4 vs. Erik 2. Michael wins, Erik exhausts. [We forgot to let the winner bump a trait up or down]). Waves of heat come off the star, burning away some of the cloud cover, letting the warming light of the sun shine through.
Erik spends his 18 to activate traits on a character, a pack of ice imps. An 18 on a story die normally activates four traits, but whenever you introduce a character into a chapter you might have to sacrifice some of the activated traits as “tax”. Since this is a new character implied by previous fiction he pays a creation tax of 2 [I felt this was a bit of a stretch for the "implied by" categoriy but I didn't object. Although Erik had been suggesting in the narration that the cold was unnatural I would have normally wanted a slightly stronger foundation for the "implied by" category. I was less strict than normal because he was still learning the rules and could have easily shaded his earlier narration to better justify it if he had known at the time that it was a good idea to do so]. He also pays a plausibility tax of 1 because it seemed “plausible but unexpected” for ice imps to appear at this place at this time.
- Icy Fangs d8
- Bitter Chill d6
- Winter’s Flight d6
- Pack Hunter d4
After the tax he can only activate one trait, so he selects the icy fangs. An ice imp, knowing that heat means food, goes after the fleshling with its icy fangs (d8). Hope, being clever (d8), moves to hide her meager body heat behind the plusing radiance of her star. (Roll dice for exchange 3: Michael 3 vs. Erik 6. Erik wins, Michael exhausts. [We forgot to let the winner bump a trait again]). Hope’s ploy fails, as the ice imps are smart enough to ignore the blinding heat of a star and focus on a fleshling. They close in on Hope with their icy fangs (d8). Hope tries to confuse them with her power of words (d6). (Roll dice for exchange 4: Michael 5 vs. Erik 3. Michael wins, Erik exhausts. [Forgot to bump traits again]) Although the imps are largely mindless, the soothing tones of Hope’s voice lull them into passivity.
At this point Erik would need to put forward more adversity to keep the chapter going but he has no more active traits and no more story dice with which to get more traits, so the chapter ends and Michael wins, letting him advance his plot by one stage (i.e. he’s now 33% done with his “return home” segment) and narrate the chapter’s conclusion: Hope gets away from the imps and, at the top of the next hill, sees the boundaries of her family’s holdings.
Spotlight Roll: Michael 20. Dan 1. Erik 3.
Adversity Roll: Dan 11,10,6. Erik 8,1.
We pick up the action where the last chapter left off. I spend my 11 to introduce a d6 active environmental threat: a patrol of armed men that Hope doesn’t recognize on the boundary of her family’s lands. Michael spends his 20 to activate all four of Hope’s traits. Hope tries a clever (d8) ploy of timing the patrols to slip through at the optimal time. (Roll dice for exchange 1: Michael 1 vs. Dan 3. Dan wins and Michael exhausts. [Once again, we forgot to bump a trait]) As Hope sneaks through the bushes she hears one of the men clear his throat behind her. She spins to face him and another one does the same thing behind her again. She’s surrounded! They tell Hope that things have changed in the time she’s been away. They order her to come with them to their guardhouse. Using the power of words (d6), Hope tries to talk her way out of it. (Roll dice for exchange 2: Michael 3 vs. Dan 4. Dan wins, neither exhaust. [Forgot to bump a trait]) Her words fall on deaf ears. One of them pulls his sword and tells her not to make them do anything they’ll regret. She is escorted to a fortified guardhouse (I spent my 6 to introduce it as a d4 passive environmental threat) and the men show every indication that she’ll be detained there. Using her power of words, Hope tries to turn the conversation around on them and learn what’s going on. (Roll dice for exchange 3: Michael 5 vs. Dan 2,2. Michael wins, Dan exhausts. [Forgot to bump a trait again]) She discovers that these men are from the second biggest farming family in the region and is able to blackmail them into releasing her with some dirt she has on the head of their clan from when both of them were young. She crosses the boundary into her family’s lands.
I spend my 10 to introduce a d6 active threat: some dirt poor farmers who recognize Hope and demand that she buy their goods since it’s her obligation to spread the wealth around. Hope makes a few token purchases to mollify them, all the while using the power of words (d6) to convince them that she isn’t obligated to do anything for them. (Roll dice for exchange 4: Michael 3 vs. Dan 4. Dan wins, both exhaust. [I realized here that we had been forgetting about bumping traits but with no active traits left it didn't matter]). The farmers happily take what money she offers but she realizes they aren’t fully convinced. I have no more active traits or story dice to buy more, so Michael wins the chapter and narrates a conclusion. They are distracted from their anger by the light of the star and Hope slips away in the confusion. Michael advances his plot by one stage.
Spotlight Roll: Michael 13. Dan 3. Erik 9.
Adversity Roll: Erik 18,1. Dan 8,3,1.
Hope has made some progress into her family lands and is now a short distance past the border (enough so that the “short journey” distance tax applies). Erik spends his 18 to activate four traits (less tax) on a new character, Hope’s jealous sister Charity.
- Greedy d8
- Power Hungry d6
- Equestrian d4
- Suitors d6
As part of the wealthy family, she is mentioned on a seed so he needs to pay a creation tax of 1. Four minus one is three: Erik chooses to activate Greedy, Power Hungry, and Suitors. The power hungry (d6) Charity has established herself quite comfortably in Hope’s absence, so she intends to verbally undermine and humiliate Hope in order to keep her comfortable position. Michael spends his 13 on Hope, paying a distance tax of 1, to get her Clever, Star, and Power of Words traits [Looks like we messed up here, Michael should have only been able to activate at most two traits with his 13 on his story die, and only one trait with the tax]. She cleverly (d8) listens to what Charity is saying, hoping to find enough rope to hang her with. (Roll for exchange 1: Michael 3 vs. Erik 6. Erik wins, neither exhaust. Erik bumps Power Hungry to d8). Charity continues to insult Hope, trying to make her look foolish and irresponsible. Hope cleverly (d8) begins using her power of words (d6) to verbally spar with her sister (Roll for exchange 2: Michael 3,3 vs. Erik 7. Erik wins, neither exhaust. Erik reduce’s Hope’s Clever to d6). Charity gets the best of the exchange. The power hungry (d8) and greedy (d8) Charity demands that Hope turn over her star. Hope cleverly (d6) tries to find some words (d6) that will deflect Charity’s attention to some other topic. (Roll for exchange 3: Michael 4,1 vs. Erik 5,2. Erik wins, both exhaust. Erik increases Suitors to d8.) Charity’s suitors (d8), a bunch of yes-men, offer a chorus of support for her points and demand that Hope turn over the star to them. Hope’s star (d6) glows, hoping to drive off the men trying to take it away from her. (Roll for exchange 4: Michael 4 vs. Erik 8). This was Michael’s last trait, so Erik wins the chapter. [Erik got himself a little bit stuck here, since he had been narratively driving toward taking the star away from Hope even though it isn't mechanically possible to take away another character's trait. When I told him that his first instinct was to back off completely, which sort of undermined his own victory. I suggested leaving things on a cliffhanger as a way of preserving both the victory and Hope's traits]. The suitors close in around Hope, all eyes focused on the star… As the winning adversity player, Erik chooses to add a d12 to the spotlight dice pool for his current plot stage.
Spotlight Roll: Michael 11. Dan 12. Erik 8,3.
Adversity Roll: Michael 4,1. Erik 12,6.
Erik spends his 12 on a d6 active environmental threat, a special training room known as the Temple of The Thousand Knives. I spend my 12 to activate my Way of the Blade and endless endurance. Darius, confident that he can endure anything (d6), laughs at the nicks and scratches he recieves. “Is this the worst you can do to me!?” (Roll for exchange 1: Dan 4 vs. Erik5. Erik wins, neither exhaust. Erik bumps the room to a d8.). Steel shuriken fire from the walls, ripping deeply into Darius’s flesh. Darius moves forward to face the next challenge the room offers, a narrow bridge across a pit with huge swinging blades (still facing the d8 for the room). Darius knows the Way of the Blade, and is confident his footwork will let him dodge the blades. (Roll for exchange 2: Dan 7 vs. Erik 2. Dan wins, Erik exhausts. Dan bumps endless endurance to d8). Darius moves past them easily, impressing the masters with his prowess as a warrior. Erik uses his 1 to introduce a d4 passive environmental threat, the painful wounds that Darius suffered from the shuriken. Darius returns to his cell and scoffs at the wounds, knowing he is capable of enduring (d8) far worse. (Roll for exchange 3: Dan 6 vs. Erik 3. Dan wins, Erik exhausts. [I should have gotten a "bonus point" here because my traits were all maxed out and Erik's were all exhausted]). Darius doesn’t even bother to bandage his wounds but sits in contemplation as they slowly scab over. Erik doesn’t have any traits or story dice left so I win the chapter. I advance my plot.
Spotlight: Michael 12. Dan 11. Erik 4,2.
Adversity: Dan 7,4,1. Erik 19,7.
[Erik commented that he felt like he was winning a lot of these rolls and felt guilty for crowding us out. I agreed that it was something that I may need to look into. Michael also expressed some concerns earlier about whether the d20 story die was too powerful.] We pick up at the cliffhanger from Chapter 3. Erik uses his 19 to activate all four of Charity’s traits. Still greedy (d8), she sends her suitors (d6) after Hope’s star. [Michael didn't announce that he was spending his 12 here, but he should have been able to activate two traits with that]. The star (d6) burns brightly, and Hope cleverly (d6) tries to slip away in the confusion. (Roll dice for exchange 1: Michael 3,2 vs. Erik 8,4. Erik wins, neither exhaust. Erik reduce’s Hope’s star to d4.) The star weakens, seeming to run out of energy, as the suitors (d6) close in around Hope hoping to satisfy Charity’s greed (d8). Hope cleverly (d8) realizes that the distraction didn’t work, so she tries to confuse them with her words (d6). (Roll dice for exchange 2: Michael 8,5 vs Erik 5,5. Michael wins, neither exhaust. Michael reduces Charity’s Greedy to d6). Hope focuses on the suitors, tricking them into bickering amongst themselves over which one of them will be the one to get the star from her. [Michael sort of went out-of-sequence here, probably following the "momentum" of winning the roll, saying that he was putting forward the same traits again rather than waiting for Erik to put forward adversity. Erik tried to "respond" to what Michael was putting forward but I told him he couldn't change his dice once Michael had decided how to respond. I didn't realize that the order had already been messed up, so I probably confused Erik with this ruling.] Even distracted, the suitors (d6) hope to get the star for their greedy (d6) beloved. Hope continues to cleverly (d8) weave her words (d6). (Roll for exchange 3: Michael 5,3 vs. Erik 2,2. Michael wins, both exhaust. Michael reduce’s Charity’s Power Hungry to d4.) The suitors get caught up in their argument amongst themselves, forcing Charity to sort it out, which distracts her from Hope and the star.
Erik spends his 7 to re-activate Charity’s Greedy trait. She follows Hope outside and tries to chase her down on her horse (d4), still greedily (d8) hoping to get the star. Hope, the prodigal daughter (d4), knows the terrain well and knows a place she can duck into where the horse won’t be able to follow [Looks like Michael believes he activated four traits instead of two]. (Roll for exchange 4: Michael 4 vs. Erik 4,1. Erik wins, both exhaust. Erik raises Power Hungry to d6). Enraged, Charity declares that she will never let Hope take away the power she has accumulated (d6). Hope tries to fend her off with the heat and light of the star (d4). (Roll for exchange 5: Michael 1 vs. Erik 5. Erik wins, both exhaust. No active traits left. [This probably should have given Erik a bonus point for winning an exchange but being unable to apply it to a trait]). Charity forces Hope to promise to defer to Charity and not challenge her for control of the family. Erik has exhausted all his traits and doesn’t have any story dice to activate new ones so Michael wins the chapter. He advances his plot, finishing his “return home” plot segment. She may not have returned triumphantly, but she is home… [I may need to look into this. I don't want to return to the possibility of "bumbling toward success" that emerged in earlier playtests].
The probabilities of the spotlight dice could use some scrutiny. Michael didn’t like the fact that there was no mechanical continuity across the cliffhanger.
On review, we made more than a few rules mistakes. This might be an indicator that the rules are too complex, but I’m hoping that the problem is that I’m bad at explaining them on the fly. I tend to communicate more clearly in text than when speaking to people, but being able to explain the rules as we play is something I need to be able to do. Even with published games a lot of players don’t absorb the rules by reading them but by having them explained as they go. It may help if I create a flowchart of the game procedures that players can refer to as they’re playing.
This is a text synopsis of the same playtest featured in episode 3 of the Designer vs. Reality podcast. Listen to the podcast audio first if you want to avoid spoilers.
On Wednesday December 2, 2009, I had a three and a half hour playtest session of Final Hour of a Storied Age (rev 0.41 of the rules) with Joe, Jeff, Wil, and me (Dan) played over Skype.
As normal, we started by generating seeds. First, we roll on the theme table to generate lists of words. Once we each have our word lists, we rearrange them until they inspire us to write an evocative sentence based on the words. Once we have the sentence written, we use the order of the words to cast the Star Charts, which gives us a number of intersections for each seed.
Joe: Winter Forest Blood –> “A young woman was killed in a snow-covered forest; Her blood awakened something.” 0 intersections
Dan: Large Star Lies Ambition Corruption Poor –> “A false astrologer seeks to manipulate the poor”. 1 intersection.
Dan: Summer Female Learning Rich Ring –> “An elvish woman is learning to craft jewelry from precious metals.” 1 intersection
Wil: Crown Hate Responsibility Family Small Mountain –> “A nobleman who hates responsibility leaves his family for a small mountain town.” 2 intersections
Wil: Poor Sea Duty Summer –> “A poor seafaring vagabond takes up the mangle of general during the Summer of Sorrows.” 1 intersection
Jeff: Prophecy Small Love Gold Division Blood –> “A prophecy has been foretold by the shaman of a small tribe that its leader’s love for gold will cause a division of bloody proportions between the tribe.” 3 intersections.
Jeff: The lies of a noble family convince a poor thief to steal the Crown of Ice before it can be inherited by the noble’s young daughter.” 3 intersections.
The number of intersections determines the protagonist seed and antagonist seed. Normally the seed with the most intersections is the protagonist, but there is a tie between Jeff’s so he rolls a die and determines that his “poor thief” seed will be the protagonist seed. Since he has both the protagonist and antagonist seeds he needs to hand one off. He decides to give the antagonist seed to me (Dan). With the roles decided, we need to pick a protagonist character, a community that he represents, and a negative change to that community that the antagonist is trying to bring about.
Protagonist Seed: The lies of a noble family convince a poor thief to steal the Crown of Ice before it can be inherited by the noble’s young daughter
Antagonist Seed: A prophecy has been foretold by the shaman of a small tribe that its leader’s love for gold will cause a division of bloody proportions between the tribe.
We discuss things a bit, and determine that Jeff wants the poor thief from his seed to be the protagonist character. The context of the sentence makes it seem like the thief lives in a kingdom which is currently ruled by a corrupt nobility. We decide that this kingdom is the community – the lying nobles are a sour note in an otherwise good place to live. For the antagonist, either the shaman or the leader has possibilities, but I choose the leader since the seed is already hinting at him as a source of strife. It isn’t clear how the leader of a small tribe would be a credible threat to an entire kingdom, so we decided to bring in the “her blood awakened something” seed: My character wants to get control of the monster that was awakened, and will use it to make war on the kingdom to get their gold. Wil decides that his supporting character will be the responsibility-hating nobleman, and Joe decides that his supporting character will be the dead girl’s brother, searching for her whereabouts. We each pick names, four free-form traits, and assign dice to the traits.
Jeff’s character: Gonff: Agile 3d6. Sleight of Hand 2d8. Duellist 2d8. Throwing knives 1d10.
Dan’s character: Kojo: Leader 2d8. Greed 2d8. Spear 1d10. Plots and Schemes 3d6.
Joe’s character: Stoham: Martial Master 2d8. Code of Chivalry 1d10. Head Strong 3d6. Huge Horse 2d8.
Wil’s character: Themas Tiber: Smooth Talker 1d10. Spiteful 2d8. Free Spirit 2d8. Truthsayer 3d6.
We also outlined plots for each character. Kojo’s plot follows pretty directly from the main plot axis we already decided on. This is how he will enact the negative change if not stopped by the protagonist of the story. He will 1) Find someone who will teach him the ritual that will let him control the monster, 2) Perform the ritual, and 3) attack the kingdom. Gonff the Thief’s plot will be the way he thwarts the antagonist. He will 1) Steal the Ice Crown, 2) Unlock its power, and 3) attack Kojo’s forces. As a supporting character, Stoham’s subplot is to find out what happened to his sister (his character doesn’t know that she’s dead). As another supporting character, Themas Tiber’s subplot to win enough influence among the nobility to displace the corrupt, lying nobles that are current in charge.
We distribute our starting Spotlight and Adversity tokens and start the bidding process that will lead us into chapter 1! First, players bid Spotlight Tokens to see who will be the Spotlight Character for the chapter. They describe where the chapter will take place, and what their character’s plot goals are. Then all of the other players bid Adversity Tokens in order to see who will present adversity that makes it hard for the spotlight character to achieve his goals (sort of like a traditional GM). The winner of the adversity bid gains as many Spotlight Tokens as he wins the bid with, which he be able to use in later chapters to bid for the spotlight.
Chapter 1 (0:43:13 in the podcast)
Starting Tokens: Jeff 4s0a, Dan 2s2a, Joe 0s4a, Wil 0s4a
Spotlight Bid: Jeff 2, Dan 1, Joe 0, Wil 0
Adversity Bid: Dan 1, Joe 1, Wil 4 (Wil gains 4 Spotlight)
Gonff is fed up with the lies of the nobility and the astrologer, so he has resolved to steal the Crown of Ice. He tries to sneak into the palace. Guards are actively watching to prevent Gonff from getting in. Gonff uses some Sleight of Hand to throw some rocks as a distraction and his Agility to get over the wall (die roll: Jeff 6,6 vs. Wil 6,1. Jeff wins because he has the highest single die, and the obstacle Wil introduced is exhausted because he got at least one 1 on his dice). Inside the palace grounds there are lots of lights and torches. Gonff tries to use his Agility to keep to the shadows but is spotted (Jeff 5,1 vs. Wil 6,5,4). The young nobles that have caught sight of him advance toward Gonff, but Gonff uses his Sleight of Hand to flourish one of his knives at them and throw it into their midst, knocking one of their swords to the ground and then ricocheting into a torch, extinguishing it and throwing the scene into darkness. (Jeff 6,? vs. Wil 5,?,1). However, the still smoldering torch ignites a large fire, throwing the palace grounds into chaos. Gonff tries to dodge past the flames with his Agility (Jeff ? vs. Wil 8,8). Gonff makes it into the palace building, but the fire cuts off his escape. (Since they each won two exchanges, both Jeff and Wil get two victory tokens. Jeff is also allowed to convert his unspent Chapter token into a Victory token. Jeff has one more Victory Token than Wil, so he can spend it on a variety of options. Jeff uses his Victory Token to advances his first plot segment by one step, 33% of the way toward getting that crown). At the end of every chapter, the Protagonist gets two more Spotlight Tokens and everyone else gets two more Adversity Tokens.
Chapter 2 (0:53:21 in the podcast)
Starting Tokens: Jeff 4s0a, Dan 1s3a, Joe 0s5a, Wil 4s2a
Spotlight Bid: Jeff 1, Dan 1, Joe 0, Wil 2
Adversity Bid: Dan 3, Joe 5, Wil N/A (Joe gains 5 Spotlight)
Themas is preparing to leave the palace to head off to a small mountain town, but first tries to convince the other nobles the error of their ways. Joe creates Themas’s uncle, Laffter Forforn, as an NPC that has been implied by the story.
Laffter Forforn: Pompous 1d10. Richer than sin 2d8. Well staffed 2d8. Vicious tongue 3d6.
Laffter, being Pompous and having a Vicious Tongue, talks about how great his leadership of the noble house has been, and how clever he’s been about exploiting the people in the countryside. Themas Spitefully tells him the Truth, which is that it hasn’t been as good as he’s making it out to be. (Wil 8,5,4,4,3 vs. Joe 6,4,3,2). Themas scores some points with the other nobles who are watching the argument, but Laffter suggests that the peasants are less than dirt and should be ignored. Additionally, the boredom and ennui of the other nobles is a passive threat for Themas successful making his case. Themas Smoothtalks them. (Wil 8,7,4,3,3,3,1 vs. Joe 6,?). The nobles are unable to ignore what Themas is saying, even if they aren’t particularly interested. Laffter tries to distract everyone by proposing a fox hunt, which will be especially good because Laffter is Richer Than Sin and will spare no expense. Themas, being a Free Spirit, wants nothing to do with such entertainments, (Wil 5,3 vs. Joe 10,?), but the other nobles are very interested. (Wil has 2-1=1 Victory Tokens, +1 for the unspent Chapter Token. He uses them to alter his Smooth Talker trait to Orator, and advances his subplot by one step).
Chapter 3 (1:02:50 in the podcast)
Starting Tokens: Jeff 5s0a, Dan 0s2a, Joe 5s2a, Wil 2s4a
Spotlight Bid: Jeff 3, Dan 0, Joe 5, Wil 1
Adversity Bid: Dan 2, Jeff N/A, Wil 4 (Wil gains 4 Spotlight)
Stoham is making his way to the village where his sister was last seen. As a passive threat, the mountainfolk don’t like foreigners. Stoham intimidates them with his huge horse. (Joe 5,? vs. Wil 3,2,1). Stoham does some work around town, winning the people’s trust. He learns that the leader of the tribe knows something about his sister, but unfortunately the leader of the tribe speaks in riddles. Stoham’s Chivalrous training has taught him to deal with people who aren’t direct, and he is Headstrong so he won’t leave until he gets an answer, (Joe 6,?,1 vs. Wil 8,2), but he can’t get it directly from him. He finds the oldest matron in the village and implores her to help. However, she is old and ugly, and it’s difficult for Stoham to even look at her. Nevertheless, Stoham is a strapping young Martial Master and that causes the old hag to take a liking to him (Joe 6,?,1 vs. Wil 5,4,2,1,1). He learns that his sister was taken off to the woods several days ago by an outcast from the village. Stoham prepares himself to set out, but the old woman begs him to stay with her. Stoham Chivalrously promises to return later, and rides off on his Horse (Joe 4,? vs Wil 3,3). (Joe has 5 tokens to spend. He advances his plot, increases his Code of Chivalry to a 1d12, and changes Head Strong to Heart Strong).
Chapter 4 (1:14:28 in the podcast)
Starting Tokens: Jeff 7s0a, Dan 0s2a, Joe 0s4a, Wil 4s2a
[Bookkeeping error? It seems like Jeff should have 4s and Wil 5s]
Spotlight Bid: Jeff 4, Dan 0, Joe 0, Wil 4
Adversity Bid: Dan 2, Joe 4, Wil 1 (Joe gains 4 Spotlight)
Gonff has just sneaked into the palace and is searching for the crown. However, since he doesn’t know exactly where in the palace he is, he must search the records room, sneaking past an old librarian and using his Sleight of Hand to get a scroll. (Jeff 5,4 vs. Joe 6,3). The librarian catches him in the act, and demands that Gonff help steal back a locket that a noble took from the librarian. The nobleman keeps the item under his pillow, and is a light sleeper (Wil liked this turn of events, and gave it a fan-mail discount). (Jeff 6,6 vs. Joe 6,2). Gonff deftly snatches the locket and returns it to the librarian. The librarian explains that the greatest treasures of the noble families are buried with the dead, so Gonff will have to search the tomb of King Vonjourn II for the crown. Gonff heads down to the catacombs and encounters the first of the Traps that guard the tomb (an active environmental threat), some large bladed pendulums. Gonff tries to use his Agility to Throw some knives and jam the blades, but doesn’t get all of them and gets a nasty cut for his trouble (Jeff 7, 6 vs. Joe 8,2), which will manifest mechanically as a passive environmental threat of Wounds. Gonff faces the next Trap, a door with a complicated puzzle-lock. Gonff, using Sleight of Hand, finagles the mechanism with one of his Knives (Jeff 10,8,?,1 vs. Joe 6,?,1). There is a mass of snakes in the next room, and Gonff uses his Duellist training and his Throwing Knives to fight them off (Jeff 10,3 vs. Joe 3,1). (Jeff has 3 tokens to spend. He advances his plot, and radically alters Duellist to Shrewd).
Chapter 5 (1:26:33 in the podcast)
Starting Tokens: Jeff 2s0a, Dan 0s2a, Joe 4s2a, Wil 1s3a
Spotlight Bid: Jeff 1, Dan 0, Joe 4, Wil 0
Adversity Bid: Dan 1, Jeff N/A, Wil 3 (Wil gains 3 Spotlight)
Stoham is in the woods, looking for his sister. Wil decides he wants to create an evil doppelganger of Stoham as a form of adversity. He wants to use the “Dark Mirror” character creation rules to do this, although that’s not what they were intended for. I pointed this out at the time but didn’t try to veto it (Wil and I were butting heads a lot in this session, and I didn’t want to strain things further).
Dark Stoham: Martial Master 2d8, Code of Malicious Intent 1d10, Heart Crusher 3d6, Flaming Nightmare Horse 2d8.
They both go all-in with their traits (Joe 11,? vs. Wil 7,?). Stoham, at peace with himself, allows the doppelganger to strike, but the sword passes harmlessly through him. (Joe has 4 tokens to spend. He advances his plot, and advances Heart Strong from 3d6 to 2d8). He finds a set of footprints leading into the woods.
Chapter 6 (1:37:37 in the podcast)
Starting Tokens: Jeff 3s0a, Dan 0s3a, Joe 0s4a, Wil 3s2a
Spotlight Bid: Jeff 3, Dan 0, Joe 0, Wil 3
Adversity Bid: Dan 3, Joe 1, Wil 2 (Dan gains 3 Spotlight)
Gonff enters the chamber with the crown, but he’s not the only one who’s after it! I create a new NPC:
Darius the Astrologer: Astrologer 1d10. Deceitful 2d8. Wealthy 2d8. Uncaring 3d6.
He’s mentioned on the seeds, so that’s 1 token, and it’s plausible but unexpected for him to be there which costs another token. As an Astrologer, he saw in the stars that someone would try to steal the crown today, so that’s why he’s there waiting. Gonff Shrewdly uses his Sleight of Hand to distract the astrologer while he Agilely whips some Knives at him. (Jeff 10,6 vs. Dan 10). Darius’s uncannily accurate astrology made him overconfident – he thought his mere presence would frighten the thief away, but he’s no match for Gonff in a fight! Gonff incapacitates him and puts the crown on. (Jeff has 3 tokens to spend. He advances his plot, completing his “get the artifact” quest to get the Ice Crown. He also creates a new NPC: the elf girl who has been learning about jewelry has an interest in the crown and has been watching Gonff’s progress from afar. She comes into existence as neutral, but Jeff moves her to Ideologically Aligned with Gonff).
Multani the Jeweler: Swift 3d6, Jeweler 2d8, Precious Weaponry 2d8, Pet Wolf 1d10
Chapter 7 (1:50:56 in the podcast)
Starting Tokens: Jeff 2s0a, Dan 3s2a, Joe 0s5a, Wil 0s2a
Spotlight Bid: Jeff 1, Dan 3, Joe 0, Wil 0
Adversity Bid: Dan N/A, Joe 1, Wil 1 (Joe gains 1 Spotlight)
Kojo is in his village, trying to find someone who will teach him the secret of the ritual. The shaman, the wisest person in the village, can sense his evil intentions and refuses to divulge what she knows. Kojo is the Leader of the tribe partly due to his strength, and attacks her with his Spear (Dan 7,4,1 vs. Joe 4,4). Kojo beats the hell out of her, forcing her to reveal that she doesn’t know the ritual but the wood elves do. (I have 3 tokens to spend. I spend one to advance my plot and decide there’s nothing I want to spend the other two on).
Chapter 8 (1:56:39 in the podcast)
Starting Tokens: Jeff 3s0a, Dan 0s4a, Joe 1s6a, Wil 0s3a
Spotlight Bid: Jeff 2, Dan 0, Joe 1, Wil 0
Adversity Bid: Dan 1, Joe 6, Wil 1 (Joe gains 6 Spotlight)
Gonff has learned from Multani that her people can teach him the secrets of the crown. He heads toward the woods, but it is a long journey, and he faces a passive threat of his tiredness. Gonff, being Shrewd, tries to find the best way through the desert. (Jeff 7,5 vs. Joe 5,?,1). However, Darius the Astrologer has pursued him from the city, bringing a band of thugs with him (I liked the band of thugs, so I gave that active threat a discount with my fan-mail). He has used his Astrology to plot the perfect ambush under the stars, and has used his Wealth to arm his men with the best weapons money can buy. Gonff comes up with a Shrewd battle plan involving his Throwing Knives, Multani’s Precious Weaponry, and her Pet Wolf (Jeff 9,? vs. Joe 6,?). Darius and the thugs are forced back, taking heavy losses. Gonff makes it to a river, but hostile river spirits (an active threat) try to capsize his boat (Wil gives that a fan-mail discount). The thugs also choose this moment to renew their attack, from the finely built boat that Darius bought with his Wealth. Gonff works on a Shrewd plan to cross the river while Multani holds off their foes with her Precious Weaponry (Jeff 6,?,1 vs. Joe 8,?,1). The boats smash into each other and Gonff and Multani are forced to swim to shore. Joe reactivates the thugs to pursue them across the open ground. The thugs are tired, but Darius is Uncaring and forces them onward. Darius has also Deceived a local band of horse nomads into believing that Gonff is a horse thief. Gonff and Multani try to Swiftly get away, using the Pet Wolf and Throwing Knives to cover their retreat (Jeff 5,4,1,1,1 vs. Joe 8,7,7). Darius and his horde of minions pursue them tirelessly, driving them further and further away from the forest. Gonff and Multani are tired (a passive threat) from the long journey, and Darius has planned the perfect attack using his Astrology. Gonff tries to dodge with his Agility, but doesn’t pull it off (Jeff 4,? vs. Joe 7,?,1), and is forced far off course to the north. (Joe has 1 token to spend, but decides there’s nothing he wants to spend on).
Chapter 9 (2:12:02 in the podcast)
Starting Tokens: Jeff 3s0a, Dan 0s5a, Joe 6s2a, Wil 0s4a
Spotlight Bid: Jeff 6, Dan 0, Joe 6, Wil 0
Adversity Bid: Dan 5, Joe 1, Wil 1 (Dan gains 5 Spotlight)
Gonff is headed through the mountains to get to the forest. Darius is still on Gonff’s trail, since he saw this all in the stars. Darius is Uncaring about his men, so he hasn’t stopped to reprovision, which is allowing him to catch up to Gonff again. Gonff and Multani try to come up with a Shrewd plan to Swiftly evade the astrologer (Jeff 8,?,1 vs. Dan 9,?), but they can’t escape. While Darius may not treat his men well, he certainly pays them well with his Wealth, so the thugs attack. Gonff and Multani fight with Throwing Knives, Precious Weaponry, and the Pet Wolf (Jeff 9,? vs. Dan 8,?). Gonff and Multani win the exchange, having claimed the high ground, and move further into the mountains. A big storm blows in, which is something that Darius foresaw with his Astrology. This lets the thugs catch up and attack Gonff again. (Jeff 10,? vs. Dan 8,?). Gonff and Multani, however, are Agile and Swift and able to adapt to the stormy conditions better than the thugs, getting the best of them. Gonff and Multani move through a pass controlled by a mountain tribe, but the Deceitful Darius has convinced them that Gonff is an enemy of their tribe. The storm still rages, and Darius promises his men a handsome reward from his vast Wealth to whoever brings him the crown, incentivizing his thugs to renew their attack. (Jeff 9,8,? vs. Dan 8,7,7,7,7,?). Multani uses her Jewelry to impress the primitive tribesmen, distracting them long enough for her and Gonff to make their escape, forcing the thugs to muscle their way through the tribesmen’s village. Darius is Uncaring that the tribesmen are angry, he just Deceitfully tells them more lies to get them even more worked up. Furthermore, the rain has made the ground treacherous (another passive environmental threat). Jeff creates a new NPC, the seafaring vagabond general:
General Khurzong: Tactical 3d6, Brawler 2d8, Men of the Sea 2d8, Mantle of the General 1d10.
He pays 1 to create him since he’s directly mentioned on a seed. It costs 2 to establish him here, since it’s surprising that the seafaring general would be lost in the mountains. Then 1 to activate him. He joins the fight on Gonff’s side (Jeff 8,7,? vs. Dan 8,6,?). Darius is pushed back by Khurzong and his troops, allowing Gonff to get away. (Jeff has 3 tokens to spend. He advances his plot. He also moves Khurzong’s Friendship Track to Ideologically Aligned and declares that they are Travelling Together).
Chapter 10 (2:24:03 in the podcast)
Starting Tokens: Jeff 2s0a, Dan 5s2a, Joe 0s4a, Wil 0s5a
[Bookkeeping error? I think Joe should have 4 Adversity]
Spotlight Bid: Jeff 1, Dan 3, Joe 0, Wil 0
Adversity Bid: Dan N/A, Joe 1, Wil 5 (Wil gains 5 Spotlight)
Kojo is travelling from his village to the forest when he is beset by horrible flesh-eating mongooses (an active environmental threat, and the game takes a bit of a silly turn). Kojo has his Spear, and is Greedy for the tasty mongoose flesh (Dan 5,? vs. Wil 6,4). Wil creates a new NPC, a Dark Mirror of the elf jeweler: an elven hunter who makes necklaces of human ears:
Enilithis the Hunter: Swift 3d6, Hunter 2d8, Precious Weaponry 2d8, Pet Giant Owl 1d10.
Enilithis the Hunter sees Kojo fighting the mongooses and attacks with his Precious Weaponry. Kojo Schemes to get the mongooses between himself and Enilithis so that they interfere with each other. He attacks with his Spear, using tactics that he has used before when he has Led his people in battle (Dan 9,8,? vs. Wil 8,7,?). Kojo inflicts severe wounds on the mongooses, and Enilithis is forced to withdraw and reevaluate, having initially underestimated Kojo’s skill. The mongooses have worked themselves up into a fury, and Enilithis Swiftly rejoins the fight, using his Hunting skills and Precious Weaponry, and sends his Giant Owl against Kojo. Kojo, being Greedy, would like to get some of the feathers from a powerful creature like the owl, to form a powerful totem. Having a totem like that will surely help with his Schemes to undermine the shaman and cement his position as Leader of his tribe. He strikes with his Spear! (Dan 10,7,5,? vs Wil 10,6,?,1). Kojo gets a really good shot in on the owl, sending some feathers flying, which causes Enilithis to retreat since he’s never seen anyone face down his owl like that before. (I have 3 tokens to spend. I advance my plot by one step, and I would have created the tribe as a character, but we ended the session and decided that we would play a different game next session, so there was no point in actually statting them out).
I’m still looking for more people to playtest with me over Skype. If you’re interested in trying the game out with me, let me know!
This is a text synopsis of the session that was released as Episode 2 of the Designer vs. Reality Podcast.
On Wednesday November 25, 2009, I had an approximately 4 hour playtest session of Final Hour of a Storied Age (rev 0.41 of the rules) with Jeff, Wil, and me (Dan) played over Skype.
A new Storied Age story starts with seed generation. We rolled on the theme table to get our lists of words, and then arranged them in a way that inspired us to write evocative sentences. Here are the results:
Dan: Large Mountain Female Belief Power Sword –> “A giantess believes that military might is the only solution”. 6 intersections.
Dan: Inherit Poor Gold Responsibility Prophecy Fire –> “A dwarf has inherited a failing gold mine where the fires of prophecy burn”. 2 intersections.
Dan: Ice Crown Blood Corruption –> “The royal family of the frigid northern kingdom is afflicted with a blood plague”. 0 intersections.
Wil: Male Division Ice Sword Power –> “A man of divided heritage comes down to civilized lands from the northern wastes to claim his father’s sword of power.” 1 Intersection.
Jeff: Poor Belief Summer Inherit Female Hate –> “The peasants of a kingdom now believe the mantle of summer should not be inherited by a new queen due to her hatred of them.” 2 intersections.
Jeff: Prophecy Forest Family Blood –> “The prophets of the forest see its royal family of elves being overthrown in a river of blood”. 1 intersection.
I become the protagonist because my “giantess” seed has the most intersections. Jeff’s “mantle of summer” seed has the second most intersections, so that defines the antagonist. We brainstormed for a few minutes, and determined that Jeff’s queen wants to acquire the Mantle of Summer, which will allow her to magically control the Creatures of Summer, which includes the giants. My giantess must stop that to protect her people. We decided that the Mantle of Summer is an actual artifact, but it requires the approval of a council of elders to use, followed by an elaborate ritual. Wil is a supporting character, based on his “claim the father’s sword” seed.
With the primary plot defined, we statted out characters.
Jeff’s Character: Queen Rosheen. Vain 3d6. Plotter 2d8. Horsemanship 2d8. Royal Guard 1d10.
Jeff’s Plot: Acquire the Artifact, Sway the Council, Perform Ritual.
Dan’s Character: Brunhild: Giantess 1d10. Strength 2d8. Lorekeeper of the People 2d8. Contemplative 3d6.
Dan’s Plot: Escape the Chaos, Become Chief, War!
Wil’s Character: Agnar: Courtly 1d10. Barbarian 2d8. Crafty 2d8. Vengeance 2d6.
Wil’s Plot: Acquire the sword
We destributed the starting Spotlight and Adversity tokens and started playing.
Starting tokens: Dan 4s0a, Wil 0s4a, Jeff 2s2a
Spotlight Bid: Dan 1, Wil 0, Jeff 1
Adversity Bid: Wil 3, Jeff 1 (Wil gains 3 Spotlight)
Brunhild is in the giant village, where the giants have been enslaved by the kingdom of Halvak to work in the mines. Witnessing the atrocities of the slavers against the giants is a passive environmental threat, and Brunhild responds with her Lorekeeper trait, telling stories of the old times, and how the giants were once a proud and noble people. (Dan 8,8 vs. Wil 3,3,1). The slavers come and whip Brunhild, an active threat. Brunhild, having Great Strength and being a Giantess, tries to endure this. (Dan 7,4,3 vs. Wil 4,4). Armed guards come in as another active threat, and the Contemplative Brunhild considers that even if her spirit can’t be broken, the other giants may pay a price for her defiance, and she has a responsibility to them as Lorekeeper. (Dan 6,5,?,?,? vs. Wil 6,6,4,2). I have a net of one victory token, which I spend to advance my plot by one step, since Brunhild is realizing that the situation is too horrible to be allowed to continue.
Current tokens: Dan 5s0a, Wil 3s3a, Jeff 1s3a
Spotlight Bid: Dan 1, Wil 3, Jeff 1
Adversity Bid: Wil N/A, Jeff 4 (Jeff gains 4 Spotlight)
Agnar is inside the walls of the main city of Halvak, asking around after his father. Some guards come over to hassle him, an active threat. Agnar is Courtly and Crafty, and wants to talk his way out of it. (Wil 8,4,1 vs. Jeff 5,1). Agnar convinces them to leave him alone. Continuing the search, Agnar winds up at a bar, since the bartender Pete is supposed to know where Agnar’s father Arbald is. Pete is reluctant to talk, but Agnar is an intimidating Barbarian. (Wil 7,7 vs. Jeff 8,3). Pete, however, has seen bigger, and he calls one of his large friends over to ask Agnar to leave. Being Courtly and Crafty, Agnar believes that if he puts up a strong enough show of strength as a Vengeful Barbarian they will back down. (Wil 9,8,?,?,?,1 vs. Jeff 5,5,2,1). Pete says that Arbald is being held in the dungeon of the main tower of the city. Agnar leaves the bar to infiltrate the tower, but some guards spot him. Agnar, being Crafty and Courtly, has lots of experiencing dodging royal guards, so he attempts to evade them. Furthermore, he is a Barbarian, and will be able to outrun them even if he is spotted. (Wil 8,7,? vs. Jeff 5,3). Wil has a net of two victory tokens, which he spends to advance his plot by one step and also creates a new NPC based on one of the seeds, an elf noble who is imprisoned in the tower.
Seichi Nevertongue: Diplomat 1d10. Elf 2d8. Windspeaker 2d8. Hate for Halvak 3d6.
Current tokens: Dan 6s0a, Wil 0s5a, Jeff 4s2a
Spotlight Bid: Dan 2, Wil 0, Jeff 1
Adversity Bid: Wil 3, Jeff 1 (Wil gains 3 Spotlight)
Brunhild is in the giant village, tending to the giants who were wounded by the slavemasters. The wounds are a passive threat, and Brunhild responds with Lorekeeper and the knowledge of giant physiology conferred by her Giantess trait. (Dan 7,6,?,1 vs. Wil 5,2,1). Brunhild patches up the worst of the wounds so that the giants will be well enough to work the next day and avoid being whipped again. The next day, the giants are sent into the deep mines. Rather than create an environmental threat, Wil decides to spend one token to create a character based on a seed to create the mountain range as a character, and another token to activate it. (This was interesting and unexpected, and I’m still trying to decide how I feel about the rules being used for this).
Spine of the World: Fiery Mountain 1d10. Goblins 2d8. Treacherous 2d8. Vast Riches 3d6.
The giants are after the Vast Riches, which is complicated by the Treacherous nature of the mountain, and the Goblins attack. Brunhild tries to use her Strength to see her through. (Dan 6,6 vs. Wil 8,6,?). While searching for the riches, the giants are assailed by rockslides as well as goblins, and several of the giants are injured. Those threats all continue, and Wil adds the passive threat of the structure of the mountain itself. Begin Contemplative, Brunhild takes a moment to come up with a plan. She decides to use her Strength to pull out some of the support beams in the mine tunnels, collapsing them on the goblins. (Dan 6,? vs. Wil 8,?). The collapsing plan backfires, cutting the giants off from the vast riches, but opening up an easier path for the goblins to attack the other giants back at the village. Wil spends his net 1 victory token to create the giants, and sets their friendship track to neutral (since we established in the setup that I hadn’t yet convinced the giants of my point of view).
Giants: Giant 1d10. Incredible Strength 2d8. Creatures of Summer 2d8. Stubborn 3d6.
Current tokens: Dan 6s0a, Wil 3s4a, Jeff 3s3a
Spotlight Bid: Dan 1, Wil 1, Jeff 3
Adversity Bid: Wil 4, Jeff N/A (Wil gains 4 Spotlight)
Queen Rosheen, searching for the Mantle of Summer, has heard rumors that it may be hidden in the fabled Dwarf Mines. Wil activates the mountains. The Mantle may count as part of the Vast Riches, and the mountains are Treacherous. The queen’s Royal Guard and Horsemanship will see her through. (Jeff 7,5,3 vs. Wil 7,6,4,2,1). One of the guardsman plunges into a chasm on their way through. As they press onward, they are beset by goblins and their pet baslisk! Rosheen has her Royal Guard attack the goblins while she Plots and maneuvers so that the baslisk can’t use it’s deadly gaze. (Jeff 8,3,? vs. Wil 5,5,4,2). The guards push the goblins back, and some of the goblins get petrified by the baslisk in the confusion. Wil decides that Rosheen is approaching the mine, and wants to create the dwarf mentioned in the seed.
Mxener Goldhoarder: Unshakable Shackles 1d10. Dwarf 2d8. Mountain Dweller 2d8. Greed 3d6.
Mxener’s Greed is a problem for Rosheen, since he doesn’t want his stuff taken. The Fiery Mountains are also a problem, in addition to the Goblins and the baslisk. Jeff decides to introduce a character, too. He decides to hold up a dark mirror to Mxener, and creates his brother:
Mithin Goldhoarder: The Inquisitor 1d10. Dwarf 2d8. Mountain Dweller 2d8. Generosity 3d6.
(Jeff 9,? vs. Wil 7,6,?). Seeing that his brother has joined the fight, Mxener loses hope that he’ll be able to overcome them all and retreats, while Rosheen and Mithin force the goblins and the baslisk back from whence they came. Jeff spends his net 1 token to advance his plot.
Current tokens: Dan 7s0a, Wil 6s2a, Jeff 0s5a
Spotlight Bid: Dan 5, Wil 4, Jeff 0
Adversity Bid: Wil 1, Jeff 5 (Jeff gains 5 Spotlight)
Brunhild and the giants are still down in the collapsed tunnels, trying to get to safety. The collapsed tunnels are a passive threat, which Brunhild addresses as a Giantess with her Strength. (Dan 6,3,2 vs. Jeff 5,5,3). Brunhild shifts the rocks out of the way and leads her people up to the surface. The slavers are unhappy that the giants have returned without the great riches, and try to beat them back into the mines (Wil made use of the “fan mail” mechanic to reduce the cost of Jeff’s new character by one).
Slavers: Summer Authority 3d6. Slavers 2d8. Giant Hatred 2d8. Whips 1d10.
They are Slavers and they attack the giants with their Whips. I activate the other giants, and use their Strength and Giant size in addition to Brunhild’s. (Dan 5,? vs. Jeff 7,?). The giants are forced back into the mines. Unfortunately, as the slavers are pushing them down, the goblins are coming up and the giants are caught in the middle, and must use their size and strength to fight. (Dan 8,? vs. Jeff 9,?). Things go poorly for the giants, but they are Stubborn and are willing to continue the fight.Brunhild is the Lorekeeper and tells them about the ancient ways of fighting goblins. The fight continues, although things are made worse for the giants by the passive environmental threat of stalactites, on which the giants keep bumping their heads. (Dan 8,8,? vs. Jeff 4,?,1). The giants force the goblins back far enough that they are able to slip away in a side tunnel, and then the goblins and slavers run into each other and start fighting amongst themselves. Being tied for victory tokens, I am allowed to convert my remaining chapter tokens into victory tokens, giving me three to spend. I advance my plot. I debated moving the mountains’ friendship track closer to me (which is legal according to the rules, since the rules never contemplated geographic features being “characters”) but Wil seemed uncomfortable with that, so I just moved the giants to Ideologically Aligned with Brunhild and set them to Travel Together.
Current tokens: Dan 4s0a, Wil 2s3a, Jeff 5s2a
Spotlight Bid: Dan 1, Wil 1, Jeff 1
Adversity Bid: Wil 3, Jeff 1 (Wil gains 3 Spotlight)
Brunhild and the giants are exploring the caves, trying to find a way out that the slavers don’t know about. The mountain is Treacherous. Brunhild is the Lorekeeper of her People, and knows some old techniques. (Dan 3,1 vs. Wil 7,2). The old techniques don’t work, however. The giants get lost in a labyrinth and become Hungry but, as a Giantess, Brunhild is incredibly hardy and can go for a long time without food, and she is also Contemplative so she is willing to wait until a good solution comes to her. (Dan 6,6 vs. Wil 8,5,?,1). They are lost for a long time, and eventually resort to eating moss to sustain themselves. The giants move out onto the mountainside, only to be accosted by more goblins. Brunhild is a Giantess with great Strength, but the fight is difficult because of the Glaring Sunlight is in her eyes. (Dan 4,4,1 vs. Wil 5,4,?,1). Brunhild and the giants are beaten back, and Brunhild wonders whether her people will be scattered to the four winds. Wil has three victory tokens to spend, so he drops the Giants’ friendship track to neutral and takes one more Adversity token for himself.
Current tokens: Dan 5s0a, Wil 4s3a, Jeff 4s3a
Spotlight Bid: Dan 1, Wil 1, Jeff 4
Adversity Bid: Wil 3, Jeff N/A (Wil gains 3 Spotlight)
Queen Rosheen is searching along the river that leads to the Elf Forest, hoping to find the Mantle along the way. Wil creates the river itself as a character.
Blood River: Red Water 1d10. Rapids 2d8. Giant Snapping Turtles 2d8. Marshy 3d6.
As Queen Rosheen floats down the river, a Giant Snapping Turtle emerges from the Red Water to bite off the front of her boat. The Royal Guards fight back, and Rosheen Plots her way around the problem (Jeff 10,8,? vs. Wil 5,4,1). The guards push the turtles back with long poles and the boat sails past them, into some Rapids, and a Storm has started, which makes the Marshes all that much harder to get through. Rosheen Plots to get under the trees out of the rain, and has her Royal Guard cut past any obstacles. (Jeff 3,2,?,1 vs. Wil 7,5,?). Since there’s a tie in victory tokens, Jeff can convert his remaining chapter tokens to victory tokens, which gives him three to spend. He advances his plot, and also radically changes a trait from Vain to Resourceful, to represent how good Rosheen is at getting past a variety of challenges.
Current tokens: Dan 6s0a, Wil 6s2a, Jeff 0s5a
Spotlight Bid: Dan 4, Wil 6, Jeff 0
Adversity Bid: Wil N/A, Jeff 5 (Jeff gains 5 Spotlight)
Agnar is in the dungeon of the main tower of the main city of Halvak. On his way to the lower levels, he runs into Seichi Nevertongue the elf. Agnar wants to convince her to help him, but she tries to talk him out of it as a Diplomat and Windspeaker. Agnar is Courtly and Crafty and very convincing, and is motivated by his Barbarian honor. (Wil 8,7,4,3,2 vs. Jeff 7,4,3). Agnar convinces her to follow him, but she is still secretly untrusting. As they pass some guards, the elf calls out “Oh no, an escaped prisoner!” using her Diplomat trait as well as Windspeaker, and the guards come in as an active threat. Agnar feels betrayed, which brings his Vengeance into play alongside his Barbarian fighting skills. (Wil 7,6,5,4,1 vs. Jeff 9,5,1,1,1). Agnar tries to fight, but can’t defeat the guards and is forced to flee from them, taking Seichi Nevertongue with him. Agnar Craftily tries to sneak down into the lowest dungeon, past some guard patrols. (Wil 7,? vs. Jeff 4,1). Agnar chops some guards down with his giant sword to make sure he won’t have to deal with them on his way back up. A patrol of guards finds the chopped up remains of the guards, and attacks Agnar while Seichi the Elf tries to hold him. Agnar uses his Barbarian fighting skills, and Craftily tries to use Seichi as a shield against the guards. (Wil 8,6,4 vs. Jeff 8,6,5). One of the guards opens up a cell door to release one of the dangerous offenders to help fight Agnar (I used my “fan mail” to give a discount on the price of this because I enjoyed it). Agnar the Crafty Barbarian demands Vengeance against them! (Wil 8,6,5,4 vs. Jeff 8,6,5,3). Agnar fights them back. Seichi Nevertongue calls out with the voice of the east wind, summoning some Guard Dogs to join the fight. (Wil 7,6 vs. Jeff 8,8,8). Agnar flees into the bowels of the dungeon. Jeff spends his net 1 token to introduce Agnar’s father Arbald as the big prisoner that the guards released to join the fight who Agnar killed.
Arbald’s Spirit: Ghostly Wrath 1d10. Intangible 2d8. Barbaric Spirit 2d8. Bitter 3d6.
Current tokens: Dan 4s0a, Wil 0s4a, Jeff 5s2a
Spotlight Bid: Dan 4, Wil 0, Jeff 1
Adversity Bid: Wil 4, Jeff 1 (Wil gains 4 Spotlight)
Brunhild is on the mountainside, looking for some safe haven. There are Goblins in the area, but as Lorekeeper Brunhild knows the anti-goblin techniques of her giant ancestors, and she is planning her actions carefully in a Contemplative manner. (Dan 6,6,?,1 vs. Wil 7,5). The plan doesn’t work, and goblins find them! As a Strong Giantess, Brunhild tries to smash the goblins, but the Stubborn nature of the giants is causing a problem, too. (Dan 6,4 vs. Wil 6,6). The goblins swarm over the giants. Brunhild tries to collapse the caves that the goblins are coming out of with her Giantess Strength, but the Treacherous nature of the mountains is a problem, and Brunhild is getting Tired as a passive environmental threat. (Dan 8,3 vs. Wil 8,6,?,1). The giants are in a rage against the goblins, and start digging through the cave collapse that Brunhild caused in order to get at them. The Strength of the giants is a problem, as well as the Vast Riches of goblin blood that the mountains contain. An active threat of Angry Giants is also introduced. I realized the chapter was unwinnable at this point, so I decided to introduce a new character, a dark mirror of Queen Rosheen to be the queen of the goblins.
Queen Morta: Royal Guard 1d10. Fleet of Foot 2d8. Direct 2d8. Resourceful 3d6.
Queen Morta (who Brunhild knows of as the Lorekeeper) isn’t pleased that the goblins are killing giants, since she would rather control them than kill them. She sends her Royal Guard against the goblins. The Fiery Mountain erupts, sending lava against the giants and Queen Morta. (Dan 7,5 vs. Wil 7,6,6,?). Wil has 4 tokens to spend, so he gives himself 2 Adversity tokens.
Current tokens: Dan 2s0a, Wil 4s4a, Jeff 4s3a (Jeff says 4, though)
Spotlight Bid: Dan 1, Wil 1, Jeff 4
Adversity Bid: Wil 4, Jeff N/A (Wil gains 4 Spotlight)
Queen Rosheen has travelled along the river to the forest where she will search for the Mantle of Summer. Wil introduces the Wardens of the Forest, the royal family of elves from the seed.
Wardens of the Forest: Elves 1d10. Nobles 2d8. Archers 2d8. Uncaring of Men 3d6.
From the darkness of the forest, Rosheen hears the Elves, who are Uncaring of Men, tell her to leave. (Jeff 10,? vs. Wil 7,5). Rosheen advances, undeterred by their whispers. Snakes slither out of the forest, and the Elves, still Uncaring, attack with their Archers. Rosheen is Resourceful, and she and her Royal Guard try to Plot their way out of the situation. (Jeff 7,7,6,? vs. Wil 9,7,5,?). They can’t however, and the rain of arrows drives them directly into the snakes. The Poison of the snakes is a new active threat. Jeff introduces a new character, a dark mirror of Seichi Nevertongue.
Freyalise Alwaystongue: Diplomat 1d10. Elf 2d8. Earth Speaker 2d8. Love for Halvak 3d6.
She tries to talk the other elves out of fighting, bringing her Elf and Diplomat traits in to help Rosheen’s Plotting and Royal Guard. (Jeff 10,10,?,1 vs. Wil 10,8,8,8,?,1). The elves concede that keeping the giants under the control of a civilized person is worthwhile, even if that person is a human, so they agree to allow Rosheen to talk to the Council. Jeff advances his plot, fulfilling his “Find the Artifact” plot segment. He talks to the Council of the Elves, who know that they are likely to be overthrown soon and don’t want to make enemies with Queen Rosheen, so they reveal that they have the Mantle of Summer and give it to her, knowing that she won’t be able to unlock its true power yet anyway.
Current tokens: Dan 3s0a, Wil 7s2a, Jeff 0s6a
Spotlight Bid: Dan 1, Wil 4, Jeff 1
Adversity Bid: Wil N/A, Jeff 1 (Jeff gains 1 Spotlight)
Agnar is wandering around the dungeon, and the ghost of his father appears. Agnar, Courtly and Crafty as he is, tries to convince the spirit to reveal the location of the sword. The ghost’s confusion and disconnection from the mortal realm is a passive environmental threat (I use my “fan mail” to give a discount on that). (Wil 6,3,1 vs. Jeff 3,3,2). Agnar gets through to his father, who says that the sword is in a mine owned by a particularly greedy dwarf, and that’s all that he can remember. Agnar tries to sneak out of the dungeon with his Craftiness and his Barbarian wiles. (Wil 7,1,1 vs. Jeff 6,5,3). Wil won two Victory Tokens, and converts his three remaining chapter tokens into Victory Tokens, giving him five to spend. He advances the plot, tweaks his Vengeance to Perseverance, and changes his Barbarian trait from 2d8 to 1d10.
Current tokens: Dan 4s0a, Wil 3s4a, Jeff 1s7a
Spotlight Bid: Dan 3, Wil 2, Jeff 1
Adversity Bid: Wil 4, Jeff 1 (Wil gains 4 Spotlight)
Brunhild tries to convince the goblin queen that the goblins and giants shouldn’t fight each other. Queen Morta, being Direct and Resourceful, tells Brunhild that she wants no part of the giants’ problems. Brunhild, as a Giantess and Lorekeeper of the People, reveals that in ancient times the goblins and giants were actually allies. (Dan 6,5 vs. Wil 8,6). Morta says it may have been that way in the past, but no longer. Brunhild has actually been Contemplating this for a while, though, and says that Morta is queen and could change things if she wanted to. (Dan 5,? vs. Wil 8,8,7,6). Morta says that the giants may be scattered and weak, but the goblins are stronger than ever. I activate the other giants, and she sees that even if the goblin nation is more powerful, there are a lot of big, strong giants right here right now. Brunhild also suggests that the goblins may be Creatures of Summer, just like the giants. Being Fleet of Foot and having a Royal Guard to protect her, Morta isn’t frightened of the giants. (Dan 8,?,1 vs. Wil 10,?,1). But giants are Stubborn, and don’t intend to leave until Morta is convinced. Brunhild once again proffers the theory she’s been Contemplating about an alliance between goblins and giants. (Dan 6 vs. Wil 3,1). Morta isn’t completely convinced, but is willing to call a temporary truce between goblins and giants while she considers what Brunhild has been saying. Wil spends his net two Victory Tokens to give himself another Adversity Token.
Current tokens: Dan 3s0a, Wil 5s3a, Jeff 0s8a
Spotlight Bid: Dan 1, Wil 1, Jeff 0
Adversity Bid: Wil 1, Jeff 1 (Jeff gains 1 Spotlight)
Morta is very Direct, so she doesn’t need to think very long. She summons Brunhild back to make her final case. Her reluctance is a passive threat. Brunhild is the Lorekeeper of her People, and has also been Contemplating better arguments while she’s been waiting. Furthermore, being Strong and a Giantess makes her a naturally attractive ally. (Dan 8,8 vs. Jeff 6,?,1). I use my Victory Token to advance my plot by one, which completes my Escape the Chaos plot segment: securing an alliance with the goblins will give the giants some temporary peace, but Brunhild has realized that a military solution is the only one that will work.
Current tokens: Dan 4s0a, Wil 4s4a, Jeff 1s9a
Spotlight Bid: Dan 1, Wil 4, Jeff 1
Adversity Bid: Wil N/A, Jeff 9 (Jeff gains 9 Spotlight)
Agnar is approaching Mxener’s mines, where his father said the sword would be. A huge shadow passes in front of the sun as the ancient dragon Aesnir Darkfang appears! (Jeff paid four tokens to create a character from scratch, and two more to introduce him in a possible yet surprising place). I found that amusing, so he got the “fan mail” discount.
Aesnir Darkfang: Dragon Rage 1d10. Fire Breath 2d8. Centuries Wise 2d8. Massive 3d6.
Agnar the Courtly, Crafty Barbarian readies himself for battle. Aesnir is in a Rage that a puny human is in his territory, and brings his Fire Breath to bear. (Wil 10,10,8,8 vs. Jeff 8,?). Agnar shields himself from the flames with his sword, and slashes at the dragon as it passes. The dragon’s Rage seems to be echoed by the mountain range itself, as a Fiery Mountain erupts. (Wil 10,8,5,2 vs. Jeff 9,7). Agnar slashes the dragon again, knocking him into a lava flow, and then moves to higher ground. The dragon lets out an earsplitting roar, which echoes as a passive environmental threat. (Wil 8,7,5 vs. Jeff 10,?). Aesnir looks like he’s wounded, but that just makes him angrier. He tries to grab Agnar in his mouth. Agnar dodges aside but is knocked down the mountain in the process. Agnar, demonstrating his Perseverance, keeps fighting. Aesnir pounds the mountain, starting a rockslide (Wil 10,8,? vs. Jeff 10,10,?). Aesnir is impressed by Agnar’s fighting, but still needs to assert dominance. He sends a final blast of fire at Agnar and then flies away. Since they were tied in Victory Tokens, Wil converts his remaining Chapter Tokens and advances his “Recover the Artifact” plot segment. Out of the lava flow of the erupting mountain, he pulls a huge sword forged of black steel: the sword of his father! Wil also alters his Perseverance trait to Dragon Hunter.
This session was a lot of fun. Creating characters out of geographic features was unexpected, and I’m still not sure how I feel about it.
This is a text synopsis of the session that was released as Episode 1 of the Designer vs. Reality Podcast.
On Wednesday November 18, 2009, I had an approximately 4 hour playtest session of Final Hour of a Storied Age (rev 0.4 of the rules) with Joe, Jeff, Wil, and me (Dan) played over Skype. I’m working from a combination of notes, an audio recording, and the Skype chat log where we recorded our token bids, but we didn’t record 100% of the information, so I may be a little off in some places, or we may have been making some minor math mistakes as we played (I can’t get all of the token bids to add up properly).
To start with, we generated these seeds:
Dan: A powerful religion has used its influence to displace the true king.
Joe: A noble of the summer family has lost his great fire sword (6 intersections)
Dan: A man must balance his family’s affections against his desire for a diamond ring
Joe: A failure of responsibility; a cold lesson has been learned; the mountains and farms of the south have been covered in ice.
Wil: When the Northern Star reaches its peak, a young man will inherit a divided kingdom of mountains in the center of the field of ice.
Wil: A prophecy of an underground oracle family foretells of a powerful seafaring winter noble to rise to power, while he currently searches for his lost love from a rural village (11 intersections)
Wil’s seafaring winter noble is the Protagonist, and his community is “the sea”. Joe is the antagonist with his summer noble: a supernatural flame spirit who, if he recovers his sword, will bring a fiery apocalypse that will boil away the sea. Joe’s plot segments are: Unleash his potential, Assault the winter lands, Acquire the artifact (his sword). Wil’s plot segments are: Seek out the wise (his lost girlfriend), Travel (back to the winter lands), Destroy the Arftifact (neutralize the sword before Joe’s character gets to it). I decide to use the man who wants the ring, and create Goran the Thief as my character, with a plot to recover an artifact (the ring). Jeff takes King Vladek as his character, with a plot to acquire land. We all picked 4 traits and assigned dice to them.
Joe’s Character: Sol. Foolish Noble 2d8. Summer’s Wrath 2d8. Binding of Fate 1d10. Hordes of Summer 3d6.
Wil’s Character: Myrddin of Winter. Tricky ?d?. Duellist ?d?. Explorer ?d?. Legions of Ice ?d?.
Dan’s Character: Goran the Thief. Black Sheep of the Family 3d6. Quick 1d10. Steady Hands 2d8. You’ll Never Catch Me 2d8.
Jeff’s Character: King Vladek. Rich 1d10. Master Swordsman 2d8. Master Horseman 2d8. Spiteful 3d6.
We created this map:
We finished with this setup stuff an hour and ten minutes into the session. We distribute the initial Spotlight and Adversity Tokens and are ready to begin.
Current Tokens: Will 6s0a, Joe 3s3a, Jeff 0s6a, Dan 0s6a.
Chapter 1 Spotlight Bid: Joe 3, Wil 3
Chapter 1 Adversity Bid: Joe 1, Dan 1, Jeff 1 (Joe gains 2 Spotlight)
Myrddin of Winter has sailed out with some of his closest men in search of his lost love who has been kidnapped by persons unknown. Joe introduces adversity in the form of a ship which has the symbol of a massive flaming spiral, the symbol of the religion that has swept the Kingdom of Vladek. After some rules discussion, we decide that this shipful of fanatics is an Active Environmental Threat (Joe didn’t have enough tokens to introduce them as a full NPC). Wil, being a Tricky Explorer, outnavigates them and manages to lose them in the icy seas. (Wil won the die roll). Wil advances his plot segment by one step, so he is now 33% finished with the task of finding his girlfriend. Wil also uses his victory tokens to establish a specific NPC from his crew: Baldic (Assassin 1d10, Loyal 2d8, Educated 2d8, Dagger 3d6)
Refresh! Current Tokens: Wil 5s0a, Joe 5s2a, Jeff 0s8a, Dan 0s8a
Chapter 2 Spotlight Bid: Joe 4, Wil 2
Chapter 2 Adversity Bid: Dan 4, Jeff 3 (Dan gains 3 Spotlight)
Joe’s character Sol is trapped in the formless ether between dimensions, but is feeling winter encroaching on his domain back in the real world, so he is trying to return. I present adversity in the form of ethereal spirits that are nothing but faces and claws. Joe wins and I exhaust my traits, so Joe overcomes the spirits and returns to the mortal realm. Unfortunately, his body is a dried and dessicated husk (I presented the decay of his mortal form as a passive environmental threat). Joe invokes his Foolish Noble nature, and calls his Hordes of Summer to come help him. (Joe loses the roll). His body, still not responding to his will, lies lifeless as the fire spirits gather around. I introduce an active environmental threat, a fire spirit who is speaking out against Sol, trying to rally the forces of fire to his own banner. (I win, but exhaust my traits). Sol returns to life, but is obviously weak, and now there is widespread grumbling among his followers (an active environmental threat of Grumbling Followers). Joe introduces a new NPC, Wrath of the Noonday Sun, his true lieutenant. (Fists like anvils 2d8, Burns brighter 2d8, Simple Minded 3d6, Loyal to Sol 1d10). (I win the roll). Noonday sun smashes some of the fire elementals and chases them off, but that fails to cement Sol’s position as leader. I spend my 2 victory tokens to acquire an Adversity Token.
Refresh! Current Tokens: Wil 5s0a, Joe 4s2a, Jeff 0s8a, Dan 3s7a
Chapter 3 Spotlight Bid: Wil 1, Dan 1, Joe 1
Chapter 3 Adversity Bid: Joe 1, Jeff 4, Dan 5 (Dan gains 5 Spotlight)
Myrddin is sailing with Baldic and they spot an island, but there are razor rocks between here and there. I spend 2 tokens to introduce Radavan the fanatical captain of the religious ship (Fanatic 1d10, Crew 2d8, Able Sailor 2d8, Fires of Truth 3d6). Myrddin tries to lose him in the razor rocks, and gets pretty far ahead (Wil wins the roll, and I exhaust my traits). However, Myrddin hasn’t cleared all of the razor rocks, as I introduce them as a passive environmental threat. What’s more, Radavan is pushing his crew even harder to catch up. (Wil wins the roll, and I exhaust my traits). Myrddin lands on the island, and Radavan’s ship is damaged on the rocks. Radavan, preaching his fiery religion, exhorts his men to sail on regardless of the damage they’re taking (spend a token to reactivate Radavan). They battle on the beach, Wil comes out ahead. Wil advances his plot segment by 1, and also declares that Myrddin and Baldic are Travelling Together. Wil also spends a token to create an NPC for Myrddin’s girlfriend Rhlain (Oracle 1d10, Clever 2d8, Stunning Beauty 2d8, Commoner 3d6).
Refresh! Current Tokens: Wil 6s0a, Joe 6s1a, Jeff 0s6a, Dan 7s5a
Chapter 4 Spotlight Bid: Wil 1, Joe 1, Dan 2
Chapter 4 Adversity Bid: Joe 1, Jeff 3 (Jeff gains 1 Spotlight)
Goran the Thief skulks around the winter family vaults (Goran is the Black Sheep of Myrddin’s family). Goran flattens himself against a wall to avoid detection by the guards, but it’s a wall of ice and two magical icy hands emerge to grab him. Using You’ll Never Catch Me, I win the die roll and escape the hand’s grasp just in time. Some guards noticed the movment, though, and now there’s a passive threat of Heightened Alert. Even though Goran is the black sheep, he is a member of the family, so he is able to use his knowledge of the guards’ routine as well as his quickness to dodge any pursuing guards. I win the roll but exhaust those traits. Goran slips into the vault and shuts the door behind him, looking for the ring (which isn’t there) or at least an inventory showing where it is. Jeff introduces the Captain of the Guard as a new active threat, but Goran has the documents in his Steady Hands and the guards will Never Catch Me. I win the roll. I advance my plot and discover that the ring was taken from the vault by someone going on a long sea voyage. I also spend some tokens to advance my Quickness trait to a 1d12.
Refresh! Current Tokens: Wil 7s0a, Joe 8s0a, Jeff 1s6a, Dan 5s8a
Chapter 5 Spotlight Bid: Wil 3, Joe 6, Jeff 1, Dan 1
Chapter 5 Adversity Bid: Dan 2, Jeff 1 (Dan gains 1 Spotlight)
Sol travels through Gloomwood, toward the Summer Font which is a shrine to him. On the way he runs into some giant spiderwebs. Sol uses Summer’s Wrath (winning the die roll) and smashes through them, finding the long-neglected shrine. Long-neglected, that is, by everyone except the giant spiders! Joe invokes his Foolish Noble and Binding of Fate to demand that these denizens of his place of power obey him. Joe wins. He advances his plot, increases Summer’s Wrath to 3d8, and creates an NPC for the Deadly Spiders (Deadly Claws 2d8, Evil Venom 1d10, Webs 2d8, Compound Eyes 3d6).
Refresh! Current Tokens: Wil 6s0a, Joe 5s0a, Jeff 0s8a, Dan 5s9a
Chapter 6 Spotlight Bid: Wil 1, Joe 1, Dan 1
Chapter 6 Adversity Bid: Joe 6, Jeff 1, Dan 7 (Dan gains 7 Spotlight)
On the island, Myrddin finds a giant mountain, the presumed location of girlfriend. Radavan is back, fanatically racing up the mountain after Myrddin. Myrddin uses Explorer and Tricky to move quickly and set up traps behind him. (Wil wins the roll). Myrddin uses his ice powers to create sheets of ice and snares behind him. As he gets higher, he can hear Rhlain singing. However, Radavan’s Fires of Truth will make short work of the ice, and he and his Crew Fantacally pursue Myrddin. Additionally, Rhlain’s voice is actually coming from a Maze of Caves. Wil uses Trickery. (I win the roll). Myrddin is confused by the maze, and Radavan charges in and starts pounding on Myrddin and his men. Myrddin is fighting with Duellist and Tricky. A cyclops emerges from the maze of caves! (I win the roll). Myrddin is tossed around and bruised, his men start losing hope. During the fight, the cyclops was knocked off his feet, into the walls, starting a rockslide, another environmental threat. (I win the roll). They’re driving Myrddin back down the slopes. Rhlain has noticed what has happened, and Myrddin now hears her plaintive wails because she is losing hope. (Passive threat). Using Trickery and Legions of Ice, Wil wins the roll. Myrddin makes a wall of ice, Radavan is caught between the wall of ice and rockslide / cyclops. Using Fires of Ice, Radavan melts through ice (I win the roll). Myrddin was overconfident, and now the crew is losing hope because Myrddin’s best trick barely worked. The cyclops also rejoins fight. (I win a roll). Myrddin is forced backward, cornered into a dead end passage (passive). Myrddin is an Explorer, and thinks he will be able to find secret tunnel, and is using Duellist and his ice powers to fight. (Wil wins the roll). He skewers the cyclops and escapes through secret tunnel, knowing this is the way to Rhlain. However, I have the balance of Victory Tokens, and I use that to buy Scatter to break the Travelling Together on Myrddin and Baldic – they were separated in the confusion!
Refresh! Current Tokens: Wil 7s0a, Joe 5s1a, Jeff 0s10a, Dan 11s5a
Chapter 7 Spotlight Bid: Wil 3, Joe 1, Dan 8
Chapter 7 Adversity Bid: Joe 1, Jeff 1 (Joe gains 1 spotlight)
Goran tries to find passage on a ship that can take him to the ring. He finds a pirate captain in a bar, but the pirate captain demands that Goran beat the 7-foot-tall Tiny Pete in a drinking contest to earn his way on board. Goran is no stranger to alcohol (one of the reason’s he’s the Black Sheep) and wants to use his Steady Hands to make sure that he has the advantage in any technicalities. Joe wins the roll. Goran tries to argue that Tiny Pete spilled a few drops, but Pete just grabs Goran’s drink and finishes it, too. However, I still win because I came in with so many tokens. I advance my plot, and join up with another pirate who was amused by the spectacle: Barnabas Blood (Pirate 1d10, Wily 2d8, Cruel 2d8, Capricious 3d6). I start Travelling With him.
Refresh! Current Tokens: Wil 6s0a, Joe 7s1a, Jeff 0s13a, Dan 3s9a
Chapter 8 Spotlight Bid: Wil 3, Joe 7, Dan 1
Chapter 8 Adversity Bid: Jeff 4, Dan 1 (Jeff gains 1 spotlight)
Sol is going to go to the Darkunder to find some of his stolen sunlight. As he’s leaving Gloomwood, Sol encounters a roving band of centaurs who hate all elementals (Active Threat). Sol uses Summer’s Wrath and the Hordes of Summer. (Jeff wins the roll). The centaurs force the elementals back into the woods. The centaurs bring their pack of wolves to help them! Joe brings Wrath of the Noonday Sun into it, as well as the Binding of Fate to order the centaurs to let them pass while Noonday Sun will use his fists like anvils. (Joe wins the roll) The centaurs are kept from interfering, and Noonday sun sets the wolves on fire. Sol continues to the Darkunder. The oracles there definitely have the stolen sunlight. (Jeff pays to establish them as NPCs and activates them). (Not sure about the traits…) The Oracle family will use Centaur Bodyguards and Blindfighting. They’re born blind but have other senses. Noonday Sun is Simpleminded and Loyal enough to do the fighting. (Jeff wins the roll, but his traits are exhausted). The chapter ends, and Joe has net 4 victory tokens. The oracles beat the sunlight out of Sol, but while they’re beating him, one minor minion sneaks in and steals the sunlight back. Joe advances his plot segment and creates the little guy as an NPC named Running Fire (Quick like fire 1d10, Cowardly 3d6, Torchbearer 2d8, Mocks the king 2d8). He also alters his trait from “foolish noble” to “beaten, foolish noble”.
Refresh! Current Tokens: Wil 5s0a, Joe3s1a, Jeff 1s12a, Dan 2s11a
Chapter 9 Spotlight Bid: Wil 3, Joe 1, Jeff 1, Dan 1
Chapter 9 Adversity Bid: Joe 1, Jeff 3, Dan 5 (Dan gains 4 spotlight)
Myrddin has gone into the tunnels, looking for Baldic and the Rhlain. The Maze is a Passive Threat. Myrddin is an Explorer and Clever. (Wil wins). He calls out to Baldic. Unfortunately, calling out also attracts Radavan! Baldic will use Loyal and Myrddin uses Duellist and Tricky. (I win). The fantatics beat them back, and set some of Baldic’s clothes on fire. Myrddin kicks Baldic into the enemy (Tricky, Duellist), and Baldic is Educated and knows how to use the fire against them. (Wil wins, but exhausts his traits). Radavan: “Now, while he’s unarmed! Go! GO!”. Baldic is Loyal and an Assassin, and Myrddin has Legions of Ice. (Wil wins). Shards of ice are propelled at the fanatics! Baldic notices Radavan’s troops approaching and impales some of them with the dagger. Radavan: “It doesn’t matter how many die, as long as our mission is complete! Ignore his foolish ice powers, only the fire matters!” (Fires of Truth, Fanatic). The commotion has also attracted another cyclops. (Wil wins). Myrddin beats back Radavan, creating snow and hail to hold them back. Myrddin sprints up the spire to find Rhlain. Wil spends 4 points. Myrddin finishes his plot segment! He freezes the lock and punches it open, finding his girlfriend. Wil spends tokens to have Rhlain, Baldic, and Myrddin Travel Together. He also alters Duellist to Swashbuckler.
Refresh! Current Tokens: Wil 4s0a, Joe 6s0a, Jeff 0s12a, Dan 4s9a
Chapter 10 Spotlight Bid: Wil 1, Joe 6, Dan 1
Chapter 10 Adversity Bid: Jeff 10, Dan 6 (Jeff gains 6 spotlight)
Jeff pays 1 token to bring in King Vladek. He doesn’t want anyone to know Sol exists, because that would undermine Vladek’s political power. He uses his Master Swordsman and Horsemaster traits. Sol uses Binding of Fate and Summer’s Wrath. (Sol wins!) Oracle Mmnks pursue Sol out of the mouth of the caves of the Darkunder (an active environment). Vladek is Spiteful against Sol, and also uses Master Swordsman. (Jeff wins). Sol is beaten up and retreats, but calls in his Deadly Spiders. The spiders, however, are actually being pursued by centaur hunters. Jeff reactivates the Monks, and also uses Vladek’s Rich trait for his exquisitely crafted sword. Spiders will use Evil venom and deadly claws. (Jeff wins). It all turns into a frantic melee, and the tide of battle is turning against Sol. Jeff reactivates Vladek and they fight. (Joe wins). The spiders manage to catch the cavalry in their webs, which lets Sol’s forces regroup and form up. (Jeff still has 6 tokens at this point). Jeff introduces a Bulette (landshark) as a passive threat that bursts up through the webs. (Jeff wins) The spiders panic and fall back through Sol’s lines, which screws up their formation. Jeff reactivates the Bulette. Vladek is Rich, and a good horseman. (Joe wins). Bulettes don’t have good eyesight, and it blunders into the trees. Sol regroups again. The oracle family hears the sounds of Sol’s victory and joins the fight. (Joe wins?) The Bulette doesn’t distinguish between threats, so it causes chaos and the monks can’t bring their kung-fu into the fight effectively. (Joe has 4 victories, Jeff has 3). Jeff refreshes centaurs. Rolling 4d8 (Centaurs + Bulette), Vladek and Monks are rolling 1d10 each. Joe spends a chapter token to bring in Wrath of the Noonday Sun. He burns super-bright, and is loyal, and the spiders will use their deadly claws. (Jeff wins). The oracles throw holy water at Sol, and the holiness doesn’t matter so much, but the water hurts the fire elementals. Joe pays a point to activate Running Fire. Jeff brings in the centaur’s wolf pack. Wrath of the Noonday Sun will burn bright enough to blind the pursuers while Running Fire will lead them all away. (Jeff wins). Running Fire, being cowardly, runs back to Sol’s formation rather than leading the Bulette away. Wrath of the Noonday Sun will try to burn the Bulette and Running Fire will lead Sol’s forces to safety. Jeff only activates the Bulette, to make a climactic showdown. (Jeff wins). At the end, Jeff has 6 victory tokens, Joe has 4, as well as 3 chapter tokens left over, which means that Joe nets 1 victory token that he can spend. Joe advances his plot. The monks are satisfied that Sol isn’t a threat. (This chapter was WAY too long!)
Refresh! Current Tokens: Wil 5s0a, Joe 3s1a, Jeff 6s2a, Dan 2s6a
We ended the session there. The playtesters suggested that there ought to be an audience participation mechanism (like fan-mail from PTA, or audience dice from Shock:) which is something I’ve incorporated into the 0.41 rules. The token economy was kind of out of whack, so I adjusted that for the 0.41 rules, too. There were too many instances of “bumbling to victory” where characters would lose most of the exchanges but still win the chapter because they came in with so many tokens. That changes in 0.41, too.