Friday, January 16, 2015

Unplanned Griffin Mountain: Sea & Fire

Have you been wondering how the passage of seasons has treated our intrepid band of would-be hunters? You can find out more about the PCs involved in this campaign here.

Sea Season

The clan came off of the Sacred Time season having sacrificed all of their food to the Hearthmother in thanks for the ultimate sacrifice paid by her servant, the clan's previous Grandmother. In dire need of food, the clan sent its hunters abroad into the grasslands to hunt the sables, antelopes and other herd animals while the rest of the clan gathered what food they could find. The rite brothers would go with the hunters, some of whom have been weaving plots and plans of their own.

Since Sick Ape (played by +Gabriel Perez Gallardi) was the oldest of the boys -- this year is his last to complete the rites of the hunter and be accepted into their ranks; should he fail this year, he'd become a thrall of the clan, its property -- and Labras, the leader of the clan's Great Hunters tasked him with overseeing the other would-be hunters at the camp site. Should any of them fail at their duties, Sick Ape would share their punishment. Little Fox was already in trouble, as well, refusing to fletch arrows for the hunters since he prefers the spear; his punishment is to fletch one hundred arrows, five times what the other candidates have to fletch.

Little Bull (+Craig Brasco, who was running late) and Cute Bear (+Jason Hobbs, Sir Notappearinginthisepisode) had wandered off (it's uncertain as to whether Cute Bear ever came back) to gather fire wood and good rocks as Little Fox (+PJ Muszkiewicz) sat in camp fletching as slowly as he could while trying too look busy (he's apparently trying to land an office job if this whole Neolithic hunter-gatherer thing doesn't work out) and Sick Ape patrolled the camp, making sure it was clear of stuff the Great Hunters don't want to sleep on (scorpions, rocks, untamed rampaging forks, etc.) when he decided to play a prank on Little Fox (this was mostly Gabriel deciding to play around with the magic system, but seemed like the sort of thing a prankster named Sick Ape might try). Sick Ape hid behind a boulder and tried to use his Folk Magic spell Ventriloquism to mess with Little Fox. Instead, he attracted the attention of the young sabre cat who was stalking them.

Just as the sabre cat was about to pounce on Sick Ape, Little Bull came back to the camp and shot at it with an arrow. This became an opportunity for us to learn how RQ6 combat works. Now, I'm used to old CoC combat, and while that knowledge may have been applicable to earlier editions of RQ, it's not that relevant to RQ6. Here's what we learned:

  1. You only get a defense against an attack if you spend one of your Action Points to get it. Thus, you only get to parry the tiger's attack if you spend one of your Action Points to do it. We screwed this up royally and allowed folks a defense roll every time, even if they didn't pay for it. That was a mistake and slowed combat waaaaay down.
  2. Combat is less about doing damage and more about imposing Special Effects on your foes. PJ learned this early on when Little Fox impaled the sabre cat on his spear then let go of the spear and switched to his axe. The impale made attacking (and defense!) harder for the cat but didn't do a ton of damage, allowing the rite brothers to steadily chip away at its defenses, chop off legs and so on. Ultimately, it was a well-placed Stun Location that took out the beast.
  3. Use your damn Luck points. 
  4. Take the opportunity to cast magic when you can. The worst thing that could happen is that you're out some POW and an Action Point. ABC: always be casting
After they chopped the cat to pieces, Sick Ape realized that they had somehow managed to not take any wounds. How very odd. In order to make their victory seem more heroic, Sick Ape took one of the cat's severed legs and raked its claws across this rite brothers' bodies, then tended to the wounds. The real problems started when he tried to minster to himself using the same tactic: the wound became infected and the PCs' attempts to heal the wound attracted a sickness spirit, which now haunts Sick Ape, looking for the right opportunity to strike and try to possess him. The rite brothers were lauded by the returning Great Hunters, however, and allowed to keep a souvenir of their kill. 

Fire Season

Time passed for the clan and Fire season dawned upon them. The clan had had good luck hunting during the Sea season, but still had not refilled its stores. After much debate, the clan decided that, during the Great Hunt of the Earth season, they would hunt in Dangerground, the wild area that separates Balazar from the Elder Wilds. The clan knew there to be many great herd in Dangerground, but also many dangers such as predators (like sabre cats), ogres, broos and even trolls. Emboldened by the rite brothers' victory over the sabre cat ("Even our young can kill such a beast!"), the clan prepares to set out for Dangerground. 

Further, the clan decided to break its ties with the Triloi tribe, favoring the Dykene tribe instead. Since the Dykene is a smaller tribe than the Triloi, the rationale behind the clan's decision is that, if they are successful in Dangerground, they'll distinguish themselves in a much smaller pool, bringing greater relative glory unto themselves. For the clan, the real hope is bronze; if they can prove to be the greatest Great Hunters of the Dykene, taking the greatest risks, then perhaps King Skilfil Heart-Piercer will reward them with the tools that will allow greater success in the future.

Amidst all this turmoil, the rite brothers faced their Trial of the First Hunt, where they were to act out the myth of the First Hunt (see previous post), where the Found Child slew Father Eubuck and befriended Brother Dog. At first, it seemed like Little Bull -- strong and hale despite youth and stature -- was a shoe-in to succeed. He and Little Fox performed well, and helped their rite brother Sick Ape accomplish the tasks that he had trouble with. Unfortunately, when the test of stealth came, Sick Ape count not help his brothers in return (or rather, forgot to; he had intended on casting Coordination on them before they took their test), and they failed their challenge. Thus, they must wait another year to take their test all over again; thankfully, both are young enough that they have a few more opportunities before they "age out" and become thralls (more about this later). 
After Sick Ape's success, the clan celebrated, for it was time for Brother Dog's annual ceremony where man and dog come together and all speak the same language, if only for a day. During the ceremony, Sick Ape met his hunting dog companion. I'm pretty sure he also picked up some ranks in Dog Speech as well. 

Although two of the rite brothers are bummed to have failed, they'll get more chances in the near future, because I plan to let them re-take the test after the Earth season (we'll jump forward a year after Earth, so that the next session will be the Dark season of the next year). The idea is to give just enough of an idea of what the clan's year is like while still allowing the young'us to progress. 

Here are some thoughts on how things developed in the Fire season:
  1. Every season, I'm allowing the players the opportunity to allocate 20 skill points to their professional skills. In addition, each session/season has "unlocked" additional skills (such as Dog Speech and Peaceful Cut) that the PCs are allowed to develop once they meet certain story events. I like how this flows.
  2. With the Fire season, I gave the players each one experience roll (this is how RQ6 handles character development and it's neat!) to be used on one of the skills they used that session. I think this is one detail that I'm going to keep and expand on a little bit in order to reward player attendance during this phase of play.
    1. Every session, the players get 1 experience roll. They can keep it or use it normally.
    2. If a player skips a session, he'll still get the 20 skill ranks, but not the experience roll, thus giving some weight to attendance. Further, the skipping player won't be able to spend any of those skill ranks on skills unlocked in that particular session. 
  3. I think I'll go back and retroactively award an experience roll to the guys for the Sea season as well. A lot of cool stuff happened then and they deserve to be rewarded for it. 
  4. Looking closer at "how to RQ," I'm starting to get why cult membership is such a big deal: it's a gateway to an awful lot of personal power. Or, at least, it is in RQ2. I'm still trying to reconcile how things work in RQ2 and RQ6 with varied results. I need to spend more time on this. 
  5. One of the big differences that I'm seeing is the difference between how RQ2 handles increasing Power each "adventure" (if you've cast a spell successfully, you get to roll to see if your Power goes up; the lower your POW, the better your chance of an increase). Since so many in game variables are tied to POW (magic points, rank attainable in a cult, etc.) -- at least in RQ2 -- I can now sort out better where I need to focus my readings of RQ6.
    1. In fact, this is precisely how I tend to read rpg texts: informed information search. I locate the weaknesses in my knowledge then try to fill them in. 
  6. I will be using the optional Permanent Characteristic Improvement rule from page 64 of RuneQuest Essentials; that is, it costs 1+(PC's current score)-(racial minimum) number of experience rolls to improve a Characteristic one point. This should work out well for the party's low-POW shaman (Little Fox). 
Next week, the party will get to the Earth season, where the clan will hunt in Dangerground for the first time. Trolls? Ogres? Broo? All of these wait for the PCs in Dangerground...