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

This post continues the exploration and implementation of RuneQuest 6th Edition in a sword and sorcery campaign setting. This session was short a player, so this recap focuses on Turged and Gorwyn as they undertake a search and/or rescue mission which might have otherwise been the brutal death of some of our dwindling stock of NPCs.

The recap of session 1 can be found >HERE<

The recap of session 2 can be found >HERE<

The recap of session 3 can be found >HERE<

The recap of session 4 can be found >HERE<

The recap of session 5 can be found >HERE<

So as not to get too far ahead of the full group, we took some time to review our understanding and implementation of Mysticism, as both Gorwyn and Turged possess this form of magical knowledge. We discussed some of the options which had not been getting any use, and we reviewed the potential of the abilities which had been used in light of our growing experience with the system. This was time well spent as it cleared up a few misconceptions and revealed some areas where the characters had missed out on opportunities for action which had been open to them.

Mystics get to choose a limited number of abilities from 3 different categories. Their scores in Meditation and Mysticism determine the number and the cap on effectiveness of these abilities. They can Augment specific skills, Invoke supernatural talents (such as dark sight, or a sixth sense), and they can Enhance their primary or secondary attributes. A quick discussion about each of these categories and the implications in the scenes we have played through shed good light on what the characters can and cannot do. It was time well spent.

Session 6 was focused on finding water, and hopefully on learning what had happened to Vyck. Gorwyn and Turged, along with a young, junior officer in the Order of the Horizon, took the three available horses and set out on their backtrail, leaving Wakefield, Ystral, and the four other pilgrims to keep the wagon moving toward the Temple of Ascension.

Problems
This session was split between roleplay and combat fairly equally. The characters were represented more proactively and with more authority over the NPCs in the group, so forward motion was made more easily. Once combat hit, we found it easier to find and choose Special Effects and build our narration around the maneuvers, but combat still ran haltingly and required prompts. This time, I have to lay most of this on my own doorstep as I introduced several long pauses when dealing with new abilities of allies and enemies and that set the pace for the encounter. Toward the end of the combat, the flow was better, and I was able to see much greater familiarity with the Special Effects from the players, so they were able to deal with a very dangerous threat through team work and good tactics.

Solutions:

Practice makes perfect, so my earlier idea of increasing the diversity and frequency of combat actually seems like the best idea for improvement in this area. As the combats are detailed but not long, and each contributes more than just action to the unfolding tale, I no longer feel like having more combat in the game will lead to a sense of hack ‘n slashery. I also want to go this route as I feel that I am out of practice with the sort of descriptive narration I like to use in dangerous, detail-oriented games and want to get my chops back.

Session Six: The Trail of Peril

This session was run on the weekend on International Tabletop Gaming Day (thanks Wil!) and so was a little more casual than most of our previous sessions have been. Despite frequent stops to socialize or exchange witty gamer banter, it moved along at a good pace and the players managed to squeeze an unlikely success from a near-certain disaster. I ended the session being quite impressed with their accomplishment, and feeling like I had gotten to know some new things about the group, so it was a great way to spend the afternoon.

Wakefield, due to his temperament and his record of protecting those in need, was hand-picked by Ystral to stay with the wagons as a substitute guide and guard. Gorwyn and Turged elected to ride off with Callum, one of the remaining warriors from the Order, to deal with the issue of water. This decision was not as easy as it might sound as during the rest break where options were being discussed, Ystral pointed out how they were being stalked by a loosely organized pack of the creatures he refers to as Lurkers, man-sized and venomous reptilian quadrupeds well-adapted to stalk and capture prey in the Desert. Having seen one Ystral and his men had killed the week before, the group knew to fear these creatures individually. The idea of them operating as a pack like wolves was a sobering thought.

Neither of the characters are great riders, and Callum, although having begun his service in the Order as a scout, is not a very skilled tracker. Navigating in the desert and trying to either find Vyck, or at least a source of useful water was not going to be easy for them if they were set upon by any of the predators they had spotted in the diamond sands so far. Caution and care were indicated, but the group – youthful and concerned about leaving the others with the wagon – opted for a little speed.

Session Recap:

  • Riding at a canter, the group headed back they way they had come, following the clear trail left by the bison and their wide wagons.  Callum, eager to impress and as arrogant as anyone else from such an elite an storied unit, had some trouble finding the point in their past journey where the Steppes Nomad had separated from the wagons to seek out water [Track, professional skill, RQ6 p75]. Rather than ask for assistance or take extra time to get his bearings, he tried to cover up his difficulty by riding ahead. It did not take too long for Gorwyn and Turged to grow worried that the ride was taking longer than it should. When they passed one or two too many of their former rest spots along the trail, they called for a stop and challenged the former scout to explain himself. Feigning certainty, he guided them back to a site they had recently passed and began to search for Vyck’s tracks again. Finding something, but not really being sure what it was, he tried to convince the other two that he had located the trail. Gorwyn was willing to cut him some slack [Failed Insight augmented by Streetwise at Hard, RQ6 p76] but Turged was not convinced [Insight, RQ6 p 63]. Startled by the Plenthan’s blunt statement of disapproval and disbelief, “I have seen this too many times before,” the young member of the Order of the Horizon’s bold front of confidence cracked, and he twitched, revealing his attempted duplicity[Deceipt, RQ6 p60]. Rather than resort to admonishments, the group tried to recreate an accurate sense of where, when, and how they had parted ways with Vyck and then began to search the area carefully. Gorwyn, moving through the harder and more dangeous rocky ground, eventually came across the tracks where they lay hidden from view. Although he expected an apology or at least some sort of promise to do better from Callum, the man simply said, “Let’s go!”
  • The group rode at a good pace as far as they could before the tiring of the horses made their behavior problematic and put their health at risk. Slowing, they began to see more and more signs of the Vyck’s search for water. Realizing that one of the great challenges of finding it was that it flows and pools under the diamond sands of the desert, the group began to pay much more attention to the rocky ground along the Nomad’s path. This allowed them to spot small holes and areas cleared of grit, some with traces of water, but not enough for the man to have stopped to replenish their supply. Riding as fast as their exhausted horses could go, the trio finally noticed a circling of carrion birds under the harsh crystal sky. The feared the worst.
  • Within a few hours they found themselves nearing the site of the circling birds which according to Callum have wingspans far in excess of a grown man’s spread arms. Gorwyn’s joke that some men are bigger than others was not lost on the mercenary sorcerer, and he once again fell silent – refusing to share an important piece of information: the nomad’s trail was disturbed as though the diamond sands had been sifted to clear it away.
  • Heading into the rocky ground that they could see ahead of them, Turged and Gorwyn quickly spotted Vyck’s horse. The poor beast, looking weak and clearly injured was down in a broad stone depression, heavily marked and scoured by the Desert’s diamond sands. Closer inspection revealed Vyck’s water containers and shovel, but no sign of the nomad. It also showed the horse had been gouged or stabbed multiple times, and had been vomiting as it wandered aimlessly in circles. Turged was quick to deduce poison and stepped up the speed of his search for Vyck. Gorwyn headed to the outer rim of the large plate of rock they were on. Callum moved in to deal with the disoriented horse. Turged began moving through the scattered rocks and boulders and soon found the injured and paralyzed body of their quarry. Injured in much the same way as his horse, Vyck’s abdomen was brutally punctured, and his rigid muscles and shallow, difficult breaths confirmed the suspicion of some form of toxin or venom…. but from what?
  • From his vantage point on the lip of the huge rock they were on, Gorwyn was the first to see the displacement of glittering diamond sand by the passage of some immensely long and fast creature… perhaps 40 or more feet in length. Racing across the shelf of rock to the other side he hoped to catch a glimpse of its front end as it arced around the formation. See it he did, and he quickly recognized it as being akin to a centipede, but of mind-boggling size and speed. As he saw it, it noticed him, and quickly moved to attack. Its hard chitinous exterior glittered darkly in the frozen sunlight, and its pale legs flashed into view, revealing glimpses of a soft, pale white underbelly, as it powered up and over the edge of the rock from the sea of diamond chips below.
  • [Round 1] Gorwyn gave ground as the monstrous centipede Charged up out of the diamond dust and onto the flatter surface of the rock formation. Seeing it, and hearing its carapace and armoured legs scrape on the stone, Turged drew his blade, readied his shield [Passive Blocking, RQ6 p154], and prepared to charge. Callum drew his own blade, and began to utter a guttural chant under his breath with one hand upraised and contorting like a claw [Sorcery, RQ6 p231].

Combat note: Initiative + Strike Rank gave us an order of action in the subsequent rounds that had Gorwyn first, Turged next, Callum third, and the Giant Centipede last. Callum would take 4 Turns to cast his spell, which is the Order’s version of ‘Tap: characteristic – “To Use the Weight of the Enemy in Our Service” – Shaped to extend the duration of Tap, and extend its range beyond Touch)

As a group we are quite cognizant of the potential for Mysticism to heavily advantage the ‘Warrior Mystic.’ We discussed this before starting the campaign, and again after a few combats had been experienced before settling on the progression of the Mysticism Paths for the two characters. These paths will be explained in an upcoming post exploring more of the setting and its denizens. Suffice it to say now, that the characters have access to a smattering of different abilities suited to being initiates in their respective traditions, and will not expect to immediately expand their combative talents as their rank in those traditions grows.

  • With a focusing shout, Gorwyn readied himself to fight without mortal fear or hesitation [Augment Unarmed Combat, RQ6, p.225]. He was still not fully healed, but had regained full use of his darkly scarred legs. Seizing the initiative he turned back on the creature and as it charged forward, leapt up onto its head [defense vs missed attacks, critical success: 2 Special Effects:  interpretations of press advantage, and grip] grabbing one of its antennae. Turged rushed the creature, but it contorted its body in an effort to strike at the leaping Gorwyn [charge into contact, RQ6 p150] leaving him short of the mark. Callum held his ground and launched his arcane attack.
  • [Round 2] Gorwyn planted his feet as best he could and directed a brutal strike at the base of the antenna he was holding, destroying it [Special Effect: Grip, and an interpretation of Take Weapon]. Turged timed his blow to land as the creature reared up again in preparation for attacking him. His blade bit deep and clear ichor began to splash from the wide slash opened up in its underbelly. Callum’s chants kept sounding and slipping away on the wind as a backdrop to the clatter of carapace on stone, and grunts of exertion in the otherwise silent desert. With a vicious coiling strike, the centipede sought to snatch Turged in its [large] mandibles, but was rebuffed forcefully by his large shield. The shield creaked and shivered under the impact, and Turged had to give ground [knockback, RQ6, p152], but kept his footing. It snapped at him again, but fell short. As it lifted its head again, Turged struck a second time, biting deeply into its carapace. At the same moment, Gorwyn smashed the other antenna, confounding it [Special Effect: Blind Opponent].
  • [Round 3] The centipede began to thrash wildly, snapping blindly all around itself, but failing to connect [attacks rolled at Formidable Difficulty on its Strike Rank]. In the damaged section behind the head, the effects of Callum’s spell began to be obvious as the area began to weaken and wither as if it were drying into a husk [Sorcery: Tap, RQ6, p254].  Gorwyn directed another pair of blows at his maimed head, trying to penetrate through the base of the ruined antennae and down into its brain, while Turged held his ground to continue attacking with his broadsword. Callum charged with sword drawn. Turged connected again against the armored hide of the creature, sending cracks through the weakening chitin. Callum closed on the other side of the beast and swollen with stolen vitality from the centipede, hacked deeply into its other side. A final cut from Turged severed the connection from the head to the rest of the body, ending the threat. With clear ichor gushing out around them as the head of the creature folded backward onto itself, the trio leapt free of engagement range, and watched it shudder to its ultimate death.
  • Returning to Vyck’s side the group endeavored to counteract the venom surging through him, and to treat his terrible wounds. While at the end of their ministrations they were certain he would not die (Major Wound, abdomen) they were uncertain the quality of life he would lead. There was little they could do for the horse, but it seemed only mildly affected by the venom. They were uncertain how its wounds might fare as it crossed the desert.

The session ended with the realization that they had defeated an immense creature right out of an age of legend… and had done so without being harmed themselves. Their jubilation was tempered by the serious condition of their companion, and the remaining problem of getting back to the others with the water, but victory, after days of fear and hardship, was sweet.

 

Session Seven:

The seventh session recap will detail the press for the Temple of Ascension, and the perils which lie between.

Stay tuned~

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