Casting Runes 6: A Season for All Things – Session 8 Recap

This post continues the exploration and implementation of RuneQuest 6th Edition in a sword and sorcery campaign setting. This session saw the return of the wry and secretive Wakefield, and brought the campaign itself to another major turning point.

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<

The recap of session 6 can be found >HERE<

The recap of session 7 can be found >HERE<

 

Session 8 was focused on the arrival at the Temple of Ascension. The players seemed predisposed to some suspicion here, but their characters were given little reason to suspect anything other than the politics of power and position in a large organization. Certainly they were greeted like welcome guests of great importance.

 

Problems
Our problems this week were mostly technical. I was using a different computer than usual and found that I had unstable audio and video right from the beginning. I had to turn my video feed off in order to address the issue. The others’ connections were fine, so we just let it ride. During the three hours of play we encountered volume drops and stuttering, as well as two sudden disconnections from our player based in Australia (Turged). None of these things significantly impacted communication (at least not for very long), but I will go back to my other computer for the next session. If the problem persists, it will be time to speak to my service provider. This was our first instance of these sorts of troubles, so I am relatively hopeful.

Game play issues were mostly narrative. Each person was waiting for someone else to be proactive, either PC or NPC. I find this sort of careful play to be typical in ‘meet the socially important NPC’ situations, but dealing with it to keep things flowing IC works differently with each group. This group seems to want to wait and see what will be asked or said of them before they are willing to commit to a conversation or a course of action. Considering the first real scene of the campaign was a cataclysmic storm aimed right at them, followed by having to euthanize most of their traveling companions, this is not unexpected. In addition, as this is a world which was spawned mostly by me, there is a natural lack of certainty about what is and what is not to be expected in any given situation. If I were an artist I would rectify that with some images, but as I have nothing but words, building that sense of the typical takes longer. Normally, identifying the traits of the group would come earlier in a campaign of mine, but as they have been out in the desert and on their own, observation of their behavior in broad social interactions has been limited.

The only mechanical problem we had was in running the combat. I had to take a heavy hand guiding the flow through Strike Ranks, prompting people for their actions. While this did keep things moving, it was not very immersive. The combat was further complicated by my needing to run one ally and two opponents in combat, all of which had an array of unusual abilities to draw from. As I had to prompt the others through their turns and the subsequent narration of most of those turns, my own turns were flat and required a moment’s pause as I prepared the dice app, decided Special Effects and so on. We have gotten much faster, and there was no need to explain anything, but something seemed off to me. On review, it seems to me it was just the need to lead the group through the order of initiative each cycle that was problematic.

 

Solutions:

Technical issues crop up and we dealt with this week’s fairly well. If it becomes a regular occurrence, changes will need to be made. With the discovery of a certain degree of passivity among the players, the solution is also simple. Now that I am sure of their impulses, I will not hesitate to advance time when no plans or actions are forthcoming. This shifts the onus onto the players to interject when they wish to be more active, and wastes less time out of character when they do not.

I am going to openly address the problem of moving through Initiative in the next session, to see if this is a difference of gaming culture, or if there is some signal I am sending or not sending which is making people hesitate to declare actions and roll for them. Mechanically, I am going to suggest bringing back the old tradition of the caller, and have the group cycle that responsibility through the players so that everyone can get up to speed on running the combat mechanics and get completely comfortable with the idea of narrating the known actions of their own characters. Rather than have me step in to prompt, one of the players will take that on for me, and keep the stream of intentions, results, and narrations fluid, so that I have time and focus to present more descriptive challenges.

In this session, we had a much higher rate of player-originated narration than has been usual, so I am feeling like there has been real progress. The group knows how everything works, and in isolation is doing each part well. We are in the process of getting all of these ideas to flow smoothly together without the benefit of lengthy play all in the same room. I suspect that in a few sessions it will be like silk.

Thoughts on a Ruling

Due to the nature of this campaign and the political, and intelligence-gathering waters the characters will have to ford, interrogation or an association with a skilled interrogator may become necessary. As is mentioned in much more detail in this related post, my thoughts on interrogation have lead me to rule it as being an aptitude rather than the result of specific training. That is to say, I am not going to add an entry for Interrogation into the list of professional skills, rather I will let the players figure out the best way to get secrets out of the NPCs and each other.

I prefer to have something as significant as interrogation feel like it has weight and depth behind it dramatically and mechanically. I also do not want it to be as simple as ‘picking a skill’ to have a character be competent in extracting information from people. Most importantly, I want the way it is undertaken to reflect the nature and experience of the characters involved, whether that be through force, deception, rapport, or some other means. I want the characters to be able to have the experience of seeing their skills put to a new purpose, but also wonder what sort of person doing so might make them become.

So far, the only full act of interrogation happened mostly in the background, but as all of these scenes of NPC action are being conducted with rolls in keeping with the underpinning philosophy of discovering the story in play, I needed to have a good sense of how such things would be done before I worked through the scene. As Session 8 closed, there was a rushed and extemporaneous approach to interrogation where a mostly submissive target under threat supplied answers that the group tried to interpret for veracity.

For the interrogator, more options are open in terms of how they set up their approach to learning what they want to know. They have the choice of using clever verbal tactics [Influence], lies [Deceit], or to set up some sort of performance [Acting] which persuades the target to talk. In many cases, the chosen approach might be capped or augmented by the interrogator’s ability in a related skill, such as Acting being capped by Deceit, or being augmented by Brawn.

The target of the interrogation might be able to try a clever tactic or social skill, but will most often be forced into approaching their resistance (if any) with the most relevant of Willpower or Endurance. Given the latitude, an appropriate social skill might be rolled in keeping with how they are attempting to keep from letting go of their secrets, but these attempts will be capped by Willpower or Endurance due to their circumstances. If Willpower is the highest of the skills, but the scene is not a matter of simply toughing it out through sheer force of will, we will not resort to Willpower directly. For interrogator and target alike, the means by which they are attempting to reach their goal will determine what skill is actually used in a contested roll. For greater detail, please read the linked post: Interrogation in RuneQuest.

Session Eight: The Serpent in the Garden

This session was run on a Saturday afternoon, with all three players present. The group quickly fell into step with each other and the mood was light but focused on not making any missteps in the Temple.  

Prior to play, we got caught up with Wakefield.

Wakefield’s Recap:

  • With the wagons, Wakefield had a less eventful, but just as dangerous time as the others. His skill with navigation had suggested the desert terrain was still in motion, like a slow-moving sea, increasing chances of getting lost and churning up things from below the surface. One of the youthful pilgrims (Aomyn) ignored the warnings of Ystral and the remaining Horizon horseman (Pellor). He was killed and pulled off by a Lurker not long after Gorwyn and Turged left. Recovery of his body was not easy, but Wakefield earned Ystral’s confidence in him by going with him to recover the boy’s body and dispatch the beast that took him while Pellor stayed to guard the caravan.
  • At a short stop for rest a few hours later, a small amount of purple berries were spotted on a cluster of hardy vines by the old pilgrim (Rona). He claimed they would make a fine gift for the priests at the Temple. Pellor and Ystral agreed. While the old man was harvesting the berries, something tried to pull him underground. He was rescued from its grasp, but its venom made him delirious. The creature was not seen or slain, but the deep marks it left in his weathered legs were proof of its existence and its power. The venom was fatal, but it did not have the chance, ultimately, to kill him. Something else happened before it could run its course.
  • As they pressed on for the temple, the group in the wagons watched as the Aliran cloud city drifted into view in the far distance. In the same way that Gorwyn and Turged were watched many hours ride away, it slowly turned dark, solidified into plummeting pieces, and cascaded in thunderous slivers to the ground far below. The tremors shook the wagons and scared the bison so much they had to stop to calm them. It was hard to believe there could be survivors. Wakefield’s calculations suggested it was days ahead on their trail [Navigation, Difficulty Grade: hard RQ6 p57 ]. As they tried to deal with the animals, the wagons were attacked by a small band of desert raiders. Ystral was shocked by their boldness. They would not normally do so. Rona was killed in the attack and both Ystral and Pellor were injured. The raiders appeared warped and compelled by Chaos. They damaged the wagons in their frenzy, so Ystral finally slew those left with a grim spell [Wrack, “Black Tongues of Negation,” shaped with 6MP for extended range and 4 targets, RQ6]which seemed to drain the life and vitality from them with a black cloud of twisting vapours which rose from the ground around them. Wakefield fought in the melee, and so did not see the demise of Rona, but was able to account for the fighting skill of Aryn, the youngest of the pilgrims. No one saw how the other, Wan, met his death, but tried not to discuss the wounds in his back.
  • After repairs on the wagons which cost many hours, Ystral and Pellor buried all but two raiders. These last two were still clinging to life it turned out. They were strung up on makeshift X-shaped crosses and interrogated for a time [see ruling above], then painfully killed so they would scream loudly. When questioned by the young pilgrim (Aryn), Pellor stated it was to drive off those who were still watching from ambush. Ystral took his time killing them and came back to camp bloody, but calm [Magic Points, RQ6 p173]. He did not deign to discuss the matter.  Not long after, Gorwyn, Turged, and Callum returned with the wounded Vyck, and a supply of water. They looked dirty and bloody, but in good spirits

The session opened with the group having passed through the walled border of the garden-like city state of the Temple of Ascension. On their way here, they had learned or come to realize that the temple had to be self-sufficient as no caravans could be relied upon to make it here consistently, with enough supplies. What they saw confirmed their suspicions. The land inside the high stone walls was a lush garden filled with all the varieties of fruit and vegetables known in the Firmament.

As they began their day-long walk from the gates to the Temple, looking at Ystral’s grim face, it was not long before each began to wonder why it was that they had not been met at the gate…

Session Recap:

  • Without fanfare or more than a simple challenge, the caravan passed through the large and easily defended gates and into the lushly bordered garden territory of the Temple. The road was wide and paved in white stones, with small defensive walls for archers or spearmen placed every few meters down the entirety of its length. On either side, shrines small and large were arranged at intersections and calm spots. Likewise, each parcel of land no so designated was given over to the growing of bountiful crops of fruit, grain, and vegetables. Gorwyn and Wakefield had been keeping an eye on Ystral for different reasons and as they passed through the gate they looked for signs of him relaxing. [Insight, RQ6 p63] For a moment, they saw it, but then that stiff look of duty resurfaced on his face. No one was there to greet them.
  • Discussion about the lack of a reception occupied most of their day, and as they stopped for a light lunch and rest at what they felt might be noon, Ystral told them what he knew from his only other visit here. All the organized religions of the world, both from before the settling of the known lands, and those which arose after are all represented here by priests and ambassadors from all the nations under the crystal sky. These were loosely organized into four groups, one for each of the sentient beings who worship the gods, and held together by a high priesthood of the Blessed. As he spoke, he indicated the rough pyramid which framed the upper reaches of the temple. One face for each of the peoples under the sky. Around them as they rested in a secluded spot near a major intersection were fantastic marble statues of 4 pantheons of gods, all obviously by the same hand, with each pantheon carved to show its regional differences in stark relief in that artist’s depiction. The 5 gods of the humans, the 3 gods of the Fidrans, the 6 gods of the Alirans, and the 9 gods of the Plenthans all were represented here as strongly individual and distinct from each other….  Gorwyn, when he took a second look at his pantheon, however, noticed that it was not 5 gods represented, but 6. He did not recognize the 6th, but Wakefield – who kept quiet on the matter – had seen both arrangements of 5 and 6 deities in his travels on the sea. He wasn’t a religious man, and anyway, who could say which was right?
  • After walking a few more hours, they were met by a delegation of three priests, an Aliran with ashes ritually smeared across his sharp and angular face, a muscular Plenthan, and a Human.  They were greeted warmly and it was obvious they intended to focus on pleasantries until Gorwyn insisted on getting certain information now. Then they were told that they were the first and only to arrive from the caravan. They were assured that scouts were out looking, but no survivors had yet been found. They spoke briefly about the loss of the Aliran city and the rescue efforts being undertaken there, and they asked about the Fidrans. Their hosts seemed to know of the tragedies, but they did not seem to have gotten the message of group’s own discoveries which they had entrusted to Merk, Ystral’s 2nd in command. That told them that the messenger had not made it out of the desert. They were told that counselors would be sent to them to prepare them for the ceremonies ahead, but that they should focus on relaxing and letting go of the stresses of their long journey.They started to feel, as a result, that the priests were not taking things as seriously as they ought.
  • Each traveller was given luxurious quarters in the temple. It was obvious that in normal times there would be more of them assigned per room, but as it stood Wakefield, Turged, and Gorwyn were assigned suites of their own, with excellent appointments, such as a deep hot tub surrounded by a ring-shaped brazier filled with coals. Food in abundance was laid out in each suite. A surgeon [RQ6 p70] came to tend to Gorwyn’s legs [just now recovering from Serious Wounds for the second time in as many weeks] and a few hours later, each member of the group received the promised counselor who advised them on how the high priests prefer to be addressed, and no pressure whatsoever to follow that advice. There was perhaps a sense that you reap what you sow, but that there was no overwhelming weight of religious pomp and circumstance was a relief. Ystral, Callum, and Pellor were not so fortunate, but then again their job was officially over. They were housed in their barracks where they were perhaps more comfortable than the pilgrims. Gorwyn, also not a pilgrim, was confused by his elevation in status, but no one commented upon it, and he did not ask.
  • Eventually, it was time for them to appear before the high priest known as the Patriarch. He was a Blessed of more than a thousand recorded years of life who had served the gods of the firmament faithfully for all of them. Although the temple itself far outdated him, it could rightfully be said that he was the father of the ecumenical attitude espoused by the temple and its residents.
  •  At the appointed time, they were escorted by an honor guard of 2 temple spearmen for each of them. As they walked down into the heart of the temple from the upper, residential floors, Gorwyn kept feeling like something was not right. He could not quite identify it. He attempted to focus his powers of observation and sensitivity, but did not want to draw attention to himself so he tried to marshal his mind subtly [Mysticism: Awareness (Threats) , RQ6 p226, Difficulty Grade Hard] but could not shut out the distractions and confusion of being in such an awe-inspiring place.
  • The main hall of the temple lay in the warmth of the underground, and took their breath away as they entered. Like the small temple they had found in the desert it was built on the common theme of a vaulted roof to represent the crystal canopy of the sky, but this room, more enormous than any they had ever seen or heard tell of, lacked pillars or supports of any kind. Moreover, the floor appeared to have been made from a single piece of stone. The walls were draped in heavy curtains to obscure the entrances and other rooms or doorways, leaving the impression of immense size and importance intact. Scattered about were low braziers emitting thin trails of smoke and reddish light. The smoke, upon rising to the ceiling, coalesces into clouds which drift about the room as clouds drift below the canopy of the sky. On the far side of the room was a low platform on which a raised dais held a row of 12 chairs, one of which was placed ahead of the others. On this chair sat a neatly robed man in his 50s with an athletic build and the mark of the blessed upon him. As they had been informed, this was the most senior of the priests, now known as the Patriarch, and he was waiting for them. A small assembly of priests and acolytes came from side passages into the room and asked for one of the group to tell the tale of their pilgrimage. Haltingly and hesitatingly, Wakefield began to gloss over most of what happened, and then Turged took over to begin a sort of point-form listing of details. Gorwyn then interrupted and skipping everything about the pilgrimage, addressed the thing which he felt everyone should be talking about, the return of Chaos to the world. He spoke courteously and well [Courtesy, RQ6 p69] and revealed their struggles in the Temple of Stasis, what they had learned there in the vision of the Chaos War given to them by the Priest of that place, and then to the vision they had had of the loss of the Fidrans.
  • The result was an uproar at what they had been told, mostly of confusion and surprise as like the group, most of the humans assembled had no previous knowledge of such things – despite their calling. Several officious looking priests of different faiths called for the group to be separated and asked to tell their stories again – for verification and confirmation. The group consented. Later, they were brought back together in a meeting room lined with serving tables, and featuring a large wooden table with comfortable chairs around it.  Ystral was with them, but Callum had been sent back to the barracks. They compared notes and found their experience to be much the same, simple questions, formal written records being made, then a cross-examination. Gorwyn was still worried that something was not right, both with the reception they were getting and with the place itself, but again could not ascertain what it was. He was at the point where he wanted to check in the corners and look under tables. Turged, having learned to trust Gorwyn, readied his shield. Ystral shared with them that none of this was normal, and that seemed to him that the council of this place was taking their tale very seriously, but not without skepticism and a certain degree of political maneuvering. He too accepted Gorwyn’s instincts and loosened his own blade. While they waited, an acolyte entered and offered them chilled wine. Wakefield, Turged, and Ystral all accepted. Ystral left his cup on the table while being served, while the others took theirs in hand. The acolyte found it very odd to see a fully armoured Plenthan warrior standing at the ready with sword in one hand and cup and shield in the other. He tried not to remark, but Turged did not let his visible reaction go so easily. “Do you not know of Plenthan Shield-Drinking, man?” he berated the youth. Cowed, the young man thanked the aristocratic mystic for expanding his cultural awareness, and retreated with the half-full wine pitcher. His stinginess in not leaving it earned a few comments from everyone. Wakefield led a toast, (and the group chortled over the idea of shield-drinking becoming canon). As Ystral reached for his cup Gorwyn and Wakefield both spotted ripples in the it, while everyone heard the distinct sound of a single droplet entering the deep purple liquid. Gorwyn attemped to focus himself again [Mysticism] but was still off-balance from the madness of the past few days. Turged, tried to flip the table over, but found it was strangely too heavy. Acting quickly he splashed wine across the table and was rewarded by the spray striking something on the table that was ‘obviously invisible.’ Surprised, the figure – wrapped in tight strips of soft leather, and bearing many small pouches in random places – appeared fully and made a break for the door.

GM Note: We rolled for initiative and the resulting Strike Ranks were Ystral, Opponent 1, Opponent 2 (not yet revealed), Gorwyn, Wakefield, and Turged. Opponent 2 was waiting by the door and would attack later from surprise.

  • Ystral drew his blade and stepped in to engage the figure on the table, Gorwyn moved back to the wall to look for others. Wakefield stepped between the table and the door ready to prevent the figure’s departure, and Turged crossed to the other side of the table so they could have the figure surrounded. Ystral delivered a strong cut to the figure’s abdomen which drew a gush of blood and a feminine-toned exclamation of pain. As she staggered backward, she drew a long dagger. Gorwyn jumped up on the table to stand between her and the table end by the door as Wakefield was stabbed in the back by the other invisible assailant. He turned to retaliate, but found himself locked in close combat with a new foe, now visible, and attired similarly to the first, but unable to get a clear strike.
  • Ystral delivered another strong stroke, this time connecting with the woman’s head [Special effects: Disarm, Compel Surrender] causing her to crumple on the table under his blade. Wakefield did not back down under the pressure of his foe’s wicked knife work, but neither he nor it could land a solid cut. Turged stepped in and bashed her hard in the face with his shield [Special Effect: choose location]  driving her back into the wall and the resulting gasp of breath also had recognizably feminine overtones.
  • Ystral urged them on, but as his words rang out, the wiry opponent by the door suddenly revealed she was not gasping for breath, but preparing to spit a spray of venom. Turged’s shield and coat of armor protected him from the acidic stuff, but Wakefield’s light shirt was no match for the slick green vapor and it blackened and blistered the skin across his lower chest and belly on contact. Gorwyn jumped in as the cloud dispersed and drove her back against the wall, numbing her shoulder and getting a solid grip on her arm to strip the weapon [Special Effect: Grip, Disarm] Taking advantage of her committed attack, and Gorwyn’s hold, Wakefield cut a deep slash across her chest and was rewarded with a slick run of blood across the sliver of leathery skin revealed beneath her rent garment [Special Effect: Compel Surrender].
  • Not missing a beat, the group looked for something to tie their captives up with, never letting their determination or grim faces waver. The intent was obvious, submit or die. Having heard the commotion, several guards rushed in with the acolyte from before, but could offer no real help as they stood dumbfounded at the reptilian faces revealed by Gorwyn and Wakefield tearing off the hoods of their captives. Turged and Ystral kept the two at sword point, while Wakefield scavenged the material he needed for rope from the otherwise useless acolyte’s robe.
  • Once secure, the two were compelled to speak but there was not much time before a contingent of priests entered and interrupted, including the Plenthan High Priest they had met earlier. Based on their testimony, and old stories that Turged and the Plenthan High Priest partially remembered, speculation raged about the nature of the two reptilian women. Were they, as Turged and the priest suspected, members of a group of former humans who had forsaken their race and their world for the lure of power at the feet of the Chaos Dragon. Had their people been transformed in its image? How had they remained unknown as little more than a tale told to frighten children for all these… millenia? The most telling piece of information they revealed was their epithet for those who had caught them: Invaders!
  • The Patriarch eventually came to see the captives and have them taken away to be imprisoned and properly interrogated. He revealed how seriously he took the charge laid on the three by his counterpart in the Temple of Stasis and gave them his sympathy and support. He suggested that perhaps, with such a struggle ahead, their role might lay in recruiting an army rather than seeking out the lair of the Chaos Dragon directly. Undaunted, Turged requested access to the temple library, and aid in getting access to any other library or source of information which might help them locate the other temples and the forces responsible for these terrible events. His request was granted…

 

The Video Recap of Sessions 5 to 8:

 

Session Nine:

The ninth session recap will detail more events at the Temple of Ascension, and what is learned there.

 

Stay tuned~

Weekly Recaps

Comments
6 Responses to “Casting Runes 6: A Season for All Things – Session 8 Recap”
  1. Pete says:

    You know, when I was visualising my (Turged’s) attacks in this combat, I thought I didn’t have time to draw my sword. They were all done with the shield, Steve Rogers- (or Red Guardian-) style. I don’t know if this makes shield-drinking more or less funny.

  2. Murderbunny says:

    Those two assassins are distaff counterparts of Reptile! And here I thought you hated Mortal Kombat… 😉

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reptile_%28Mortal_Kombat%29

    • Runeslinger says:

      I have no opinion either way on Mortal Kombat.

      I hesitated a lot over including some kind of reptile race, but did so in the end because I always have hesitated and chosen not to. I figure that a lot of the stuff I am creating, changing, or repurposing has been done in other places before. I don’t mind, because to me they are new. I do wonder if any accidental similarity on my part or mistaken allusion perceived by the players could lead a session astray, but that is part of the challenge and fun of broadening horizons.

      In this case, this race has no claws or hard scales. They have faces more human than reptilian in jawline profile, but they do have the capacity to spit venom and only use their nose slits for breathing. Not good kissers.

      That’s all I can share for now without revealing too much as yet undiscovered.

      • Murderbunny says:

        “Reptiles are abhorrent”, so humans with reptilian (or even better – serpentine!) features are popular villain-aesthetics. Odds are no matter what you do, it will remind someone of somebody else. In fact, now I’m envisioning feminine versions of Lord Voldemort:

        What a hottie!

        So I suppose the scales are softer and sleeker, like fish-scales rather than alligator-hide, is that right?

        • Runeslinger says:

          Yes, leathery and pliable. I think Voldemort’s face is a good representation of what I have in mind, with shades of the 80s V TV series. Not green, though. Mottled, darker shades like the glossy near-black blues of the salamander.

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