Casting Runes 6: A Season for All Things – Session 2 Recap

This post continues the exploration and implementation of RuneQuest 6th Edition for the creation and use of a sword and sorcery campaign setting.

The recap of session 1 can be found >HERE<

Session 2 covered less metaphorical ground, but marks the point where the game’s direction shifted entirely into the hands of the players. Had we been able to game face to face on a weekend, this shift would have occurred just after the midway point of a first session. In this format, with a three-hour time limit, the shift took place about thirty minutes before the end of Session 1, so really was not felt on all levels until Session 2. After a brief player-led recap of events from the preceding week, followed by a re-establishment of character and motivation and/or cultural elements we wished to embellish or add, they leapt into the heart of the matter: fighting for their lives.

Session 1 had ended with the characters exploring a jade ruin below the desert floor. Their entry point was through the roof of a large store room filled with vases and jars of spoiled grains and other similar things. As they moved from that room into the hallway beyond, a hideous creature of chaos combined with the corpse of a mortal priest charged them from the darkness. It engaged them mercilessly in deadly combat while its human part screamed at them to save themselves.

We fought through one Round of Combat (RQ6, page 135) where the creature charged Gorwyn and Turged while Wakefield and Ferrin, as soon as they saw what was happening, began to run for the rope to climb up out of the store room.

Gorwyn, clear in his duty to his master, shouted to focus himself, then rushed to meet the creature’s charge. Closing with the it and launching himself into a powerful double kick  (Special Effect earned: Flurry, RQ6 page 146), he broke its stride, and cracked the chitinous housing of one of the creature’s limbs.

Turged, broadsword in hand, and shield held tightly to his left side, stepped in from the right to launch an attack at the thing’s longer, upper legs – hideous spiked weapons ending in long cruel points. His attack was turned aside by the strength and speed of the creature, and he found himself pressed back toward one of the open doors.

Gorwyn, now fully aware of the might and ferocity of the creature, turned his attention to the doors and together, he and Turged turned to slam them shut as the creature gathered itself for another rush at them.

With a scream of rage that echoed down the long stone corridors, the creature hurled itself at the doors and its two front legs punched through between them and flung them back open, tearing them from Gorwyn and Turged’s grasp.

The session closed with the creature launching a fresh attack at Turged, seeking to pin him to the iron door…

Session Two: Horrors in the Dark
I had run the first session without prepared print-outs or bookmarks for anything. I had done this so that I had to rely on my memory for combat, and could take note of the things I really, actually needed to make combat flow as smoothly as I feel it should.

After the session was over, in reviewing how it went I identified the largest weaknesses were:

  • not being familiar with all of the special effects options
  • not having memorized the flow of the hit locations chart
  • several non-humanoid creatures lurking about meant that other location charts would be needed

Using the excellent Combat Effects app for RuneQuest took care of the problems connected with not having easy familiarity with all the options yet. That meant that all I wanted to run this combat in Session 2 was access to short notes on the specific effects of fatigue, knockback, and hit locations. I had created a special hit location chart for the creature, and added the tables for humans (and bison, just in case)  next to them on 1 page. Picking up in the middle of the combat from the week before took no effort and after our brief recap of events we were back in survival mode.

Newcomer Note:
Combat took about 30 minutes to resolve, but this included narrating events for our split party, discussion and selection of options and how to narrate them, review of maneuvers and the use of Luck Points, reading of appropriate special effects notes, and getting the narrative of the rolls focused on single, discreet actions in combat.Were this not the first real combat of the campaign, the fight would have been resolved in perhaps a third of the time.

The big challenges in this combat were twofold: getting everyone comfortable with using the ‘Bones’ app to roll all the relevant dice for their attacks, and transitioning everyone to a blow-by-blow approach to combat from more abstract approaches common to other games. It’s easy once you get into it, but at first can lead to an increase in premature imagination.

Combat recap

  • The creature’s cruel attack on Turged missed as the experienced fighter dropped under the blow.
  • Another assault from Gorwyn struck, but did not penetrate the tough chitin of the creature’s legs. All the while the head screamed at them to run, while the gaping maw protruding from the dead priest’s chest snapped and slavered at them.
  • Turged slammed the creature with his shield, turning it, but making him aware again of its inhuman strength. It in turn, savagely attacked Gorwyn, pinning his arm to his side and gripping him tightly to pull him into range of its extending mandibles (2 special effects: pin, grip). From its cracked chitin, acid seeped out and seared into Gorwyn’s skin.
  • Wakefield hurled a dagger into the melee, but it clattered off into the darkness, distracting the creature; making it turn back toward Turged. It was then that the Plenthan spotted the exposed structure of the creature’s brain extending out from the ruptured chest cavity of its host.
  • Gorwyn, struggling to break free, launched another brutal kick into the creature’s abdomen. Turged likewise attacked with ferocity, hacking through one of the upper legs and cutting down into the chest, piercing the brain and ending the creature as a threat. (2 special effects: maximize damage, choose location)
  • The acid spatter from its ichor seared into the flesh of Gorwyn’s left leg leaving him with a minor wound the group would later address with Folk Magic and good first-aid roleplay.

Session Recap:

  • Gorwyn and Turged battled a chaos creature and successfully prevent it from entering the storage room. Although Gorwyn suffered a minor wound due to the acidic blood of the monster, his ferocious unarmed assault on the creature acted as a crippling distraction, and Turged was able to spot a weakness and exploit it to deadly effect. Acting quickly, the two men were able to neutralize the acid, and treat Gorwyn’s wound [folk magic: Heal, RQ6 page 191] so it would not bother him later. From the corpse of the chaotically violated priest, Gorwyn took a small amulet bearing an unusual version of a familiar religious symbol depicting the Father, the Mother, and the Firmament from about its neck.
  • Cautious exploration revealed a room across the hall, in parallel to the store room, a hallway going deeper into what now appears to be some sort of underground complex, and a flight of stairs heading up. The room turned out to be a magically preserved, ceremonial bathing chamber with pools of water at various temperatures and every indication that this place served some form of religious function. The group decided to bring all of their supplies down into what they started calling a temple and seal them up with Gorwyn’s patron in this location as there were no other exits, and the doors were stout and could be secured. As they were about to execute this plan, Gorwyn felt certain he had heard the cautious approach of more chitin on stone. Already aware that large predators lurked in the diamond sands above their heads, and perhaps down here as well, he was concerned about the safety of his patron. The group double-timed it back into the storeroom and barricaded the doors.
  •  While waiting for the assault from the next chaos creature, Wakefield made his way to the surface to increase the length and strength of their make-shift rope and suss out the specifics of the loading operation should they go ahead and move their essentials into the temple below. Chaos creatures seemed to rule that out, but both Gorwyn and Turged seemed to be hardened fighters so perhaps it would work out. It was just too strange and exposed up here on the surface under the unmoving blaze of the sun to be endured for too much time. They needed shelter. As he added to the rope, he noticed a small band of riders or a caravan far in the distance (as a flat world, the Firmament does not have the sort of horizon we experience here on Earth). He decided to return to the store room to warn the others. He made note of their position in relation to the visual reference of a narrow stone tower so he could judge their approach later in the day.
  • With enough time having passed that no attack seemed likely, and while the other three decided to carry out the movement of goods from the surface in light of the news of strangers travelling across the diamond sands, Gorwyn checked up the stairs. He discovered the point of entry to the temple, but could not find the actual doors. They appeared to be magically concealed, or at least sealed. More importantly, he discovered when he turned to descend the stairs again, a massive and compelling mural depicting the Plenthan’s stern god driving the final crushing blow against the fabled Chaos Dragon and ending the War which made the firmament habitable for its people. Returning to the others he and Wakefield discussed the possible location of this mural room/lobby and agreed it must be the stone tower the sailor had used for a reference earlier. When loading was done, he took the others up to view the scene and search for the way out. Searching together they agreed with Gorwyn about where the doors to the desert outside must be, and began to look for triggers.
  • While searching, they found several instances of graffiti, some appearing to be in the ancient rune script of the priesthood, and tried their best to remember what the sigils meant. One that stood out was Stasis, but the one which drew their attention was Death. After much experimentation with the runes, they concluded the marks were simply graffiti.

A Legend
In their discussions on the runes, Turged shared a legend of his people, how the gods had beaten the forces of chaos, and bound their defeated leader, the Chaos Dragon, in chains beneath the world. From his rotting carcass all the horrors of the world bubble up and through the stone foundations of the firmament, where the Plenthan armies stand firm to meet them with death in the darkness below the surface.

  • As they search they wonder if in ages past, there may have been many old temples like this across the settled and nomad nations, but now… they are forgotten. None of how this temple depicts the pantheons of the Firmament seems familiar, although clearly a root of connection is visible. Wakefield, the most travelled and least devout among their number has seen signs eveywhere that the pantheons of the gods are often arranged in threes. Some worship only three deities, while many worship 12, and some 15, but this temple posits three above and six below – a pantheon of nine deities with only the main three seeming remotely like those in the settled nations of the Firmament
  • It was not long before they found that Gorwyn’s possession of the dead priest’s amulet marked him as special in some way as a section of the wall warmed to his touch. Experimenting with passing the amulet about, they noted that anyone in possession of it felt the same warmth when trying to trigger the opening of the door, but that it would require at least two of them to make it work. They decided to investigate further to see if there were more priests, and more amulets… and hopefully no more chaos creatures. Sealing Ferrin in the bath chamber, they prepared a torch for Wakefield. Gorwyn and Turged invoked their inner strength to bolster their vision against the darkness [Mysticism: Dark Sight, RQ6 page 226]. With the sailor trailing them, the two mystic warriors led the way into the darkness below.
  • Descending into the lower reaches of the temple they found a large sanctuary with two other exits and a large space for worship. The roof was in the old style, with a crystal canopy where lights must have hung to represent the sun and the eyes of the gods. Supporting it were 8 pillars, each telling a part of the story of how the gods forced chaos to surrender its hold on the Firmament. A detail which stood out to Turged was how the murals and mosaics depict a vast army of humans along with the gods – and none of the other sentient beings of the world.
  • Behind the altar, they found a small plinth which clearly suggested it was used to display something of importance, roughly the size of a man’s chest. Behind it, more graffiti. The runes for Death and Fire were visible here again, as was Stasis. Whose idle hands marred these stone walls? Directly behind the plinth, a recessed door was found. Behind it, an ossuary filled not with bones, but the preserved corpses of dead priests, awaited them.
  • Unconcerned with propriety or respect for the dead, Gorwyn and Turged proceeded into the small chamber, large enough for nine priests, and Gorwyn immediately noted an empty space and identical funerary dress to what their chaos-possessed attacker wore. On guard, he checked the nearest corpse for an amulet and was pleased to find one. As he reached out for it, the cold hand of the dead priest reached out for his arm. Eyes opening, the long dead priest drew in a slow and shuddering breath to speak…
Session Three: What is human, what is man?

The third session recap will recount the brutal fight with the risen priest, and what mysteries were revealed in the jade temple below the diamond sands where the wind screams like the souls of the damned.

Stay tuned~

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