Casting Runes 6: A Season for All Things – Session 9 Recap

This post continues the exploration and implementation of RuneQuest 6th Edition in a sword and sorcery campaign setting. This session was run without the player of the mystic-warrior, Gorwyn. As Gorwyn’s wounds still need time to mend, and as the surgeon has discovered something terrible in his examination which he must quickly attempt to rectify, it was agreed to sequester Gorwyn with the healers, while Wakefield and Turged took the Patriarch up on his promise to open the library to them.

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<

The recap of session 8 can be found >HERE<

 

Session 9 was focused on the gathering of information about the temples erected to guard the Seven Rune Stones. Of course, such a busy and important place as the Temple of Ascension – perhaps the oldest building in all the Firmament – was active all around them.  The players found that all the promises made to their characters in the last session were being kept, and by many in the temple, they were afforded the status of ‘Chosen Ones.’

 

Problems
Our problems this week were related to scheduling and the last minute confirmation on my end that the game was possible. We played for just under three hours and did not need to engage rules other than those which cover social interaction, and those which cover when rolls are and are not necessary, as a result, there are no problems to report this week, except those which escaped my notice.

Solutions:

I have no solutions for the problems which did not occur, and that is as it should be, I suspect. I’ll keep looking for the ones which occurred but passed unnoticed.

Thoughts on Rolling

One of the complaints I have heard about skill-based games over the years, particularly those in the mould of RuneQuest, is that of the chance for and results of failure. I find in most cases, that stems from the desire to roll for everything, to improperly frame those rolls so that failure is conflated with critical failure with and to ignore the rules on difficulty grades or modifiers. Like with most games, there is a lot to be gained by knowing when and how to frame a roll [RQ6 p 56].

In this campaign for example, there really isn’t a character with a polished set of social skills. Gorwyn is trained to give no offence and to be able to interpret and navigate the aristocratic culture of his ‘Patron’ but that is really the extent of any formal social training in the group. In most cases where they try to get something they want from someone who does not want to give it up, or reduce tensions between themselves and others, they will not find it easy. The players will have to roll, and sometimes the scene will indicate that that roll is harder than a normal situation of that type. The characters at present, do not have much hope in situations such as those. Working together, and taking the time to get the lay of the land will help them navigate such social perils, but their lack of practice and polish in the ways of socializing will likely show through in the end.

As they enter this world of politics, administration, religion, and personal power, they in many ways are becoming new pieces on a board where even the most powerful might be someone’s pawn. How they choose to interact, and with whom, will make all the difference in how those interactions turn out. Will they choose offensive tactics and wind up far out of their social depth without a raft, or will they choose wisely, and keep on firm footing? I need to be prepared for both, and be able to assign a difficulty grade or waive a roll in accordance with the rules as laid out.

None of these activities are really routine for the characters, and they will rarely have the time and information to prepare for a social encounter in their first few days in the Temple.  For most of the characters, including the associated NPCs in the Order of the Horizon, there are reasons to be under stress in any such encounter, and although perhaps not always perceived clearly, there is the distinct impression of there being consequences for failure.

It is not all doom and reduced skill values, though. At this early stage, and as they are seen having both the blessing and patronage of the temple Patriarch, and as perhaps being special envoys of the gods, pretty much everyone wants to help them [decreased Difficulty Grade]. If they seek out people with whom communication can flow more easily, they will have a good chance of preserving this good will. If not, they will soon erode their opportunities and find things getting harder and harder.

In this session, due to good decisions, and a good line of questions, the group earned more good will, expanded their perceived value, and made a useful friend. Things are looking up for their information gathering efforts in the the murky social waters of the Temple of Ascension.

Session Nine: All the world’s a scroll and all the men and women merely characters

This session was run on a Saturday evening, with two of the three players present. The pair quickly got to work digging up all the information that they could, through formal and informal channels.  

The session opened with the group having returned to their chambers to sleep after the temple guards and priests took the reptilian assassins to less comfortable surroundings for a more detailed interrogation. The Patriarch had kept them back to speak with them, during which discussion, Turged gained permission to access the library. The Patriarch gave him his full support in this endeavor, but advised him that the journey of discovery might have to take them all the way back to the Holy City and the growing library being revamped there by the ambitious King of Aelroth if they were to find all the information they needed. He did not elaborate, but they would soon discover what he was implying…

Session Recap:

  • Ystral headed back to the barracks of his order, which the group realized were just visible through their windows across a small, well-maintained woodlot along the side of the temple. Over the tops of the trees they could see the top storey of a broad, stone tower, perhaps an hour’s walk away. Gorwyn was hastily taken away by a group of physicians led by the Patriarch’s head surgeon. Although assurances were made that all would be well, there was an air of seriousness to their demeanor. As he was on his way out, a pair of acolytes arrived to be guides and aides for Turged and Wakefield. One, giving no name and being expected to respond only to the title of Acolyte, was simply there to take on physical tasks, be a guide, and answer questions. The other, named Myn, was a skilled linguist and was instructed to help them in their research and with any interpretation they might need while at the temple. To Wakefield’s ears, his acccent placed him as being from or near the region of Tirkoth, a port city often visited by the sailor. His facility with tongues was hinted at right away as he greeted Turged fluently in his native tongue. Without delay other than to eat and clean up after their fitful sleep, Turged and Wakefield instructed Myn to take the to the library.
  • The library was immense. Compared to the temple sanctuary they had been taken to the day (night?) before it would be the second largest room they had ever been in without any sort of visible support for its roof. The temple itself is a massive stone structure, seamless and without blemish, which rises up in a severe block shape with no windows or openings other than at the grand staircase of the entrance. Several stories high, this foundation descends below the surface as far or farther than it rises above it. Atop this squared structure, stands an elegant pyramid, with many stories open to the air and light, and greenery filling the empty spaces. The living quarters of the priests and their guests fill these many upper floors, while the places of worship, the barracks, and the spaces for administration and hospitality fill the lower structure. The entire bottom level of the pyramid and the level above it were given over to the library. Inside, the eye was first captured by scrolls, stacked vertically, more than twice the height of a man, in clever shelves which held and marked each scroll like a bottle of fine wine. Clusters of shelving were  throughout the room, with wooden balconies, staircases, and ladders to access them, all artfully arranged so as to not block the streams of light pouring into the room through the massive rectangular windows cut vertically in the thick stone walls. Spaced around in each section were small copying desks with many acolytes restoring, repairing, or copying scrolls. Some few were beginning the lengthy process of transcribing scrolls onto flat sheaves of paper in a stack. In the center of the enormous room, whose floor unlike any other they had yet seen in the temple was tiled in some sort of mosaic only distinguishable from above, was the domain of the head librarian. Scarred about the head and shoulders, and missing much of his right arm, the man was energetic and forceful, if not fit. Obviously a man of naval or military background turned to a new way of life, the Head Librarian was either just entering his 50s or was  a weathered man in his 40s. Softer and weaker than he would have been in his former career, but still very much the confident warrior type. Myn intended merely to introduce them and obtain recognition of the Patriarch’s order that they be given free access to the library, but Wakefield struck up a conversation with the man and they soon recognized each other as kindred spirits, far from home. [uncontested Insight and Influence rolls: Difficulty Grade Easy due to the Patriarch’s backing, Very Easy due to the cultural and social similarities between Wakefield and the librarian, RQ6 p56]
  • The Librarian had already arranged to spread out all the maps large and small which were in the collection. He apologized for the absence of two maps which he felt were of importance, both older than any left in his care. Although the maps were larger and far more complete and unified than any map the two had seen in their lives, the Librarian indicated that the missing ones contained notations about the Steppes of beyond the Desert, and about a legendary place or temple far from civilized lands that exists only in stories of the Nomads and the Alirans, but yet was marked on those maps. Sensing the man’s forthright responses, they questioned him about the missing maps and he revealed that in his opinion, they must have been stolen by the entourage of a former Aelran (Those from Aelroth are referred to as Aelran) ambassador who was sent back to his king in disgrace several months previously. What the offense was, the man would not or could not say, but that turn of conversation shifted toward the political and a discussion of how the current Aelran king’s father’s conquest of the Holy City, a feat never before attempted out of a real sense of piety and propriety, has had ongoing effects in relations between the priestly orders and the ever-growing nation of Aelroth. It was implied and understood by both Turged and Wakefield that a man like the Patriarch, with more than a 1000 years of life as one of the Blessed, the insults or crudeness of a mortal man were insignificant. Whatever caused his dismissal would have had to have been of real importance. The discussion returned to the maps and the two men were unable to discern any patterns of where they thought the temples might be, but scribes took notes of their musings and copied the oldest sections of the oldest maps for them.
  • As the Librarian, who introduced himself as Vontil when they were given a moment alone without scribes and acolytes, reviewed the maps with them, he speculated that when he first heard a second-hand version of what is now being referred to as ‘The Pilgrim’s Tale’ his first instinct was that there must be 4 or 5 stones, one for each group of sentient beings under the crystal sky. In their telling of the tale to him directly, also faithfully copied by scribes, the fact of there being 7 stones seems to discredit his speculation as they could not identify a group who would have cared for it. One for the Humans, one for the Fidrans, one for the Alirans, one for those who became the Plenthans, and one for the Blessed, leaves two stones, and as this may have actually occurred before the first of the Blessed poured out her crystal tears to form the Desert… it might be an even weaker possibility than it seems now.
  • Liking the man, and suspecting he is more in touch with the rumors and truths of this place than anyone else they could likely form a connection with, Wakefield and Turged asked Vontil if he would be so kind as to hoist a few ales with them after the evening chimes sound. While it will not really seem like evening, the temple is maintaining a normal schedule of night and day just the same. He agreed, and their discussions turned to the question of religion and if the stones were not to be found in seven distinct geographical regions, then perhaps they were the reason for building the oldest temples or structures. The librarian summoned scrolls to be brought along with those expert on their contents, and they revealed that in all cases the Temple of Ascension is described as being the oldest of all the temples. The next to be mentioned is the main temple in the Holy City. Although begun within months of each other, the Temple of Ascension was crafted by powerful magics in a day and a night from the solitary mountain on which the gods stood to deliver their message that the war with Chaos had ended. The Holy Temple, however, took decades to construct by magical and mundane means of lesser grandeur. Turged asked about the pantheons at that time and if they had changed over the intervening centuries. More summoned scrolls and experts revealed in simple detail how they had not. While styles of representation had evolved, some deities had waxed or waned in prominence, and names had slowly shifted in pronunciation over time, for the most part, the pantheons had remained stable…. apart from the sudden deletion of a goddess from the Human pantheon by the Aelran aristocracy with the approval of the king and the grudging acceptance of the priests. Further digging revealed a proclamation associating this goddess, for whom no name had ever been recorded other than the ‘Captured or Conquered Bride,’ with the foul cults of Chaos which had defiled their own temples and brought about the destruction of the ever-ruined heaths of what are now called the Toxic Lands. If legend, and the reported vision of the Chosen Ones themselves are to be believed, continued these experts, then the Human pantheon is the first to have been recognized and one born out of direct contact with the gods during the war with Chaos. That it should change, and like this was unthinkable. The pair began to get an idea of what Vontil had been implying earlier. No mere human interaction would upset the Patriarch, but something like this… the further intrusion of Aelroth into religious affairs certainly could.
  • By this time it was very late and, with Wakefield’s mind filled with ideas associating this ‘Conquered Bride’ with the deity representing the Firmament they had learned about in the Ruins wherein they were nearly slain by the wraiths, they decided to leave the library. As the scrolls were being returned to their proper places, and their scribes finished up their notes, Wakefield noticed a commotion by the main entrance. As Turged and Vontil finished their often aborted discussion about the stone work of the temple, he made his way over to see what they were discussing with such interest. What he discovered was that they were staring out the main doors at the crumpled body of an apparent jumper dashed on the sharp stone stairs of the temple. Their whispers and his own observation slowly revealed that the jumper was one of the winged Alirans, and that a suicide – if such it be – by these means would be improbable. The Alirans are mostly in an insubstantial state…even without flying, they could not fall. They make their homes in the clouds. Closer observation as guards and priests came to respectfully take the body away demonstrated that this was not just an Aliran, but the high priest of the Alirans who had been among their small welcoming committee when they arrived, ‘yesterday.’ His face was still smeared with its spray of ceremonial ash.
  •  Reconnecting with Turged and Myn, Wakefield explained what had happened, spurred on by the desire to resist Chaos [Passions, RQ6 p124, p420], and seeing the hand of Chaos in this death, the pair had Myn take them up to the quarters of the Alirans as fast as he could. Referring to them as “Chosen Ones” he did so without hesitation, and took them up the servants stairs, which he claimed were faster. Near the top of the pyramid in what must be among the finest apartment and chambers in the entire temple, the group found wide windows cut and always open in the stone walls. No art, no furniture, nothing to crowd the halls of the open spaces, nor impede flight and movement between the floors of the spaces given to the Alirans was in evidence. The doors to the private chambers, ceremonially and permanently bound open, revealed the interiors of these apartments were similarly empty, as befits the nature and outlook of the iconoclastic people of the sky.
  • Inside the nearest chamber they found one Aliran priest barely managing to stand upright as he clung to the rail of the balcony overlooking the rear of the temple. He seemed delirious and was muttering something over and over. On the floor lay two more, further withdrawn into delirium, and writing in pale-faced and knotted agony. The first instinct was that they had been poisoned, but looking about there was no sign of food, nor drink, nor marks of violence upon them. Sending the acolyte for help, the pair asked Myn to stay and help them speak to the agonized priests. He struggled to make out the words of the most sensible one, but he was just saying the one thing over and over, “Make it stop!” and gesturing blindly in the direction of the window. In the window streamed the blue-white rays of the frozen sun, and nothing else. The sun is especially revered among the Alirans, and their figure of the Charioteer is held in the highest regard. Still… Turged became convinced by this translation that something about the sun was harming them. When the guards and an older doctor arrived, his comments were brushed aside by the arrogant man of medicine, who began treating them for the ingestion of poison. When the acolyte made his way back into the room, he indicated to Wakefield and Turgid the inanity of this. “They are Alirans! They do not eat!” A brief challenge between them, wherein Turged noted that a servant is in the best position to know if a person in this place eats, stole the wind from the sails of the doctor. Turged, commanding instant obedience from the guards who referred to both him and Wakefield as ‘Chosen One,’ had them gently take the trio of priests to a dark place, to see if that might ease their suffering.
  • On the floor above the main sanctuary of the temple and below the almost equally immense library were the barracks and servants’ quarters. The three priests were taken there. The off-duty guards leapt out of their bunks to make way, and assisted with dousing lights. There being no windows, it did not take long to produce total darkness. Then they waited. Over the space of a half-hour, the three calmed, their breathing resumed a healthier rate, and they drifted off to sleep. While the doctor was figuring out a way to take credit for the treatment, Turged and Wakefield decided to have Myn take them to the inn where they were to meet Vontil. At that stage, tipping a few ales seemed more productive than listening to the old codger invent successes for himself.
  • Leaving the temple through the servants’ access along the side of the massive building, the two found themselves being led along a neatly trimmed grass and flagstone path that made its way between fruit orchards and the forest they had seen from their window earlier. To reach the village which had grown up around the storehouses and other communal facilities for the farmers, took them about 40 minutes. As they walked they saw groups of farmers and other laborers heading in the same direction, while soldiers and laborers about to go on duty were heading in the other. The village itself initially seemed much like any other, but as they entered its wide streets, just as defensively designed as the ones on the main temple road from the gate, they noted a clash of styles and forms of architecture reflecting the multicultural nature of the place. Their destination was the only inn and its tavern, a place in the style of the buildings they had seen in Derren near the beginning of the pilgrimage. With a thatch roof, and thick clay walls, the place looked dark, and inviting. The heavy drapes over the thin slits of windows spoke of a growing local reaction against the ceaseless morning sunlight. All the buildings were shuttered and dark.
  • Vontil was waiting for them outside the inn, relaxing on a rough wooden bench with a large pipe. He smiled as they walked up and informed them the first round was on him as long as they would take his recommendation to start the libations with a dark ale, and a round of the house specialty, Breaded Cheese. Both happily accepted and within moments were seated around a plain wooden table inside the dirt-floored establishments main room. The ale was as good as promised, as was the breaded cheese. The room itself was something of an oddity for the region, with its massive twin fireplaces, and thick walls, but it was a perfect replica of the inns of Derren and surrounding region. Vontil let them know that the proprietor was a proud expat and excellent baker who had recently retired from service to the temple. The wait staff, all male, were his sons, and his wife lorded over the kitchen like an over-protective queen. Together, this family ran the most respectable establishment for drinkers and eaters in the entire temple state.
  • Conversation was light at first, but turned quickly when Wakefield pressed Vontil on his personal opinions about the stolen maps and the disgraced Ambassador. He shared with them that the Aelran contingents for the last few decades had been very interested in seeing and copying old maps of all the known lands – the more detailed the better. With each conquest they made, the Patriarch grew more and more demanding about the price such access would require. The recent dismissal followed permission being given to copy some of the more ancient maps, those showing the details of the little-known lands beyond the mountains ringing the Desert. When the contingent was gone, and the Library staff were re-cataloging everything, the theft was discovered. Riders were sent to retrieve them, but no word has yet been returned. If they survived the journey, they should be arriving in Aelroth within the next week or two.
  • As Vontil, like Wakefield, was from a community bordering the Toxic Lands they spoke of it and its likelihood as a location for a guardian temple. Knowing that the place was razed and cursed by the gods so many centuries ago did not give them much to go on. That it was cursed for its people repeatedly falling to the worship of Chaos was about the only thing they both knew historians, politicians, and priests agreed on. Having examined many maps that day however, they also realized that it was an easier way to gain entry to the steppes beyond the mountains than crossing the Desert of Screams… if only the land were not so tainted and crawling with creatures from beneath the surface of the Firmament.
  • With fatigue settling upon them all once more, and curiosity about Gorwyn’s condition growing, the pair decided to head back to the temple. Their conversation with Vontil had clarified a good many things and they knew that sooner or later they would have to begin investigating the oldest known temples for signs of the stones, or where older temples might be found… a tactic which had nearly cost them their lives a few weeks before. Prior to that however, they knew that they needed to speak to the remaining Fidran delegates before they left. The Fidran pursuit of knowledge was legendary, and even the Patriarch had cited their library beneath the waves as the best ever assembled. Vontil had revealed to them that they had spent the day in closed-door negotiations with the Patriarch. When Wakefield asked him why these talks were private, the old campaigner simply replied, “This is not a court of law and Fidrans have a very open society. Negotiations with the Patriarch revolve around state marriages, matters of dogma, and declarations of war. The Fidrans do not get married, and they literally live under a miracle they witness daily, so to my way of thinking…”   Neither Wakefield nor Turged needed to complete the thought that the Fidrans were seeking the aid of the Patriarch in the declaration of war…  but against whom?  Before they did anything else, they would speak to the delegates and find out what was going on.
Session Ten:

The tenth session recap will detail more events at the Temple of Ascension, and what our Chosen Few decide to do.

 

Stay tuned~

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