Casting Runes 6: A Season for All Things – Session 15 Recap

This post continues the exploration and implementation of RuneQuest 6th Edition in a sword and sorcery campaign setting. This was a return to play after a lengthy hiatus brought on by a sudden lack of schedule cohesion, and the rise of the end-of-year holidays. Sadly, this session also marked the end of involvement by the player who gave us the edgy and layered character, Wakefield. We do hope to game with him again when things around him settle down.

 

Check the list of links below for the recaps of the previous sessions, and other related articles on this campaign. Less-detailed video recaps are also available on my YouTube Channel.

 

Session 15 returned our focus to the original characters and their quest. While we will return to the new characters and other parts of the Firmament in subsequent sessions, it felt right to resume play with the characters with whom we have the most experience.

Problems  & Solutions:

The only technical issue we had in this session was that no dice apps would load for two out of the three of us today. In an attempt to address this issue we reloaded the hangout, left and returned to the hangout, and finally ended the hangout to start another. Nothing worked. In the end we used one dice app for one player, and a dice cam for the other.

The only game play problem was the sudden realization that one of the three initial players was no longer going to be participating in the campaign. As is usual in such a situation, I had to consider if I wanted to have the character fade out of sight undertaking other pursuits, vanish without explanation like Chuck Cunningham, or become an active member of the NPC cast.

The solution to the problem lay in the solution we had used when Gorwyn’s player had to take a brief sabbatical from the game to fulfill his duties as a local thespian. Gorwyn had been described as being taken aside by members of his brotherhood (A significant cult called The Lifesworn), and reminded of his oaths. With the death of his patron in the lost Temple of the Stasis Keystone weeks before, he was no longer upholding his duties to protect those who seek out the services of the Lifesworn. Somewhat shamed, he had headed out of the High Temple without a word to his companions, back toward the Holy City and the intrigues of the expanding Aelroth Empire.

This meant that the three Chosen Ones were now only two. The Chosen Ones were seeking permission and support from the Patriarch to undertake a journey to the Tower of the Dawn to hopefully forestall the rise of Chaos. The Patriarch was committed to sending a force across the Sunken Sea and needed the political capital represented by these Chosen Ones to ensure that the squabbling religious factions around him would ensure that, and his call for the armies of humanity to join as a force of Law were a success.

To arrange the Patriarch’s blessing, we decided that Wakefield, sailor and so much more, would give up his role in seeking the Tower, and instead join the expedition across the Sunken Sea. His decision would buy Turged the support he needed to obtain the aid of the Order of the Horizon, and make their quest possible.

But what of Gorwyn? How do we bring him back into the fold if he is heading back to the Holy City, Wakefield is heading off across an underground sea, and Turged is taking flight with Order Mercenary-Sorcerers on the backs of immense black birds?

Thankfully, one of the many complications the Patriarch’s blessing was being sought to overcome, gave us the answer to that as well.

Ystral was being pressured by the Order to curry favor with the Patriarch by securing the oath of the mountain dukes and barons to form up into an alliance to take on the rising forces of chaos in the mountains and foothills more forcefully and effectively. His ability to chart his own course, and his access to the winged steeds so pivotal to any real quest to the Tower depended on this success.

Figuring out Gorwyn’s rate of travel placed him in the challenging Adherent’s Pass through the mountains which form the border between the farmlands of the human territories and the cruel diamond sands of the Desert of Screams. The mountains are home to the same fractious war-bands living as the remnants of once-proud kingdoms in ruined halls and crumbling fortifications that Ystral needed to recruit. Hostile territory, creatures of chaos, bandits and ongoing border and resource disputes make the pass and the small duchies and baronies around it deadly to travellers. To survive, Gorwyn had needed to take shelter and find acceptance among the hard-living people of the mountains…

Thoughts on Running the Game:

It was fantastic to return to this world we have built, chat with the players again, and hear the voices of their characters return from the void where games go when they are not being played. We have reached a level of comfort with the game where even though it has been more than two months since we played, we slipped back into character and into the system with just a moment’s hesitation. Having to use real dice actually made running a combat later in the session work better for me as I did not feel like I was staring into the monitor and fumbling with the dice apps while the players waited for me. Instead, I enjoyed the smooth habit of dice selection and rolling which has marked my leisure hours for more than 30 years now. Perhaps I should take that as a sign.

A quick bit of rules improvisation:

With this leg of the journey being brought into play whole-cloth in my mind as we were going through the recap stage, I partially improvised from and partially harnessed the RQ6 rules for a non-lethal challenge match I figured might take place during the session. This would have two combatants trying to demonstrate their capacity to fight and inspire their warriors through a duel where the intent was to destroy a large shield intended for that purpose. Due to the cold, the elevation, and the intensity of the fighting, fatigue was also to play a big role in the combat.

To reflect the showmanship, the circling and taunting, and the role of the crowd of gamblers and supporters ringing the fighters, I looked at the fatigue levels and effects chart on page 120 of RuneQuest while describing the small nations of the mountains and the political landscape the dukes and barons have created. I decided to reflect the feel of this sort of fight I would need to increase the detail on the fatigue chart, but only at its lower end. Playing more with the transition from Fresh to Winded and on to Tired would give the right feel, I thought. Jokingly in my mind I referred to the new tier between Fresh and Winded as ‘Heavy Breathing,’ and from Winded to Tired as ‘Have you had enough?’

Normally, moving from Fresh to Winded will incur a difficulty increase of Hard, or a penalty of 20% on skill rolls. Adding in two more tiers allowed me to reflect the challenge, but zoom in more on the draining away of energy brought on by elevation, while giving a nod to the chance to recuperate a bit by addressing the crowd and showboating. Also, when applying fatigue in this nature, characters resist by rolling Endurance. Due to neither character having had a chance to eat or rest in a lengthy period prior to the fight, I set it that these rolls to resist fatigue would follow the normal RQ rules, once the characters has shifted to Winded. In order to progress on to Tired, they would need to fail their roll.

The level of activity was Strenuous so the rate of increase in fatigue was going to be happening in rounds of combat. That was fine. Each increase of fatigue would a apply a penalty of 10%, and each pair of body hits would also add a level of fatigue.

As these were trained fighters, only rolls which hit the shield would be counted as damage. Blows to the body would be pulled and instead deliver fatigue. Unlike pulled blows in combat or a heated duel, a hit would do no damage – just some pain. In the event of a fail, half damage would be delivered, and in the event of a fumble… you get the idea.

As for the shields, a successful strike on one would do half damage if the targeted fighter were to successfully defend, and full if they failed or resorted to passive blocking. Special Effects were in normal operation. A shield in this instance was Large and considered to have 20 hp rather than dealing with a reduction for Armor.

This took me much more time to write out than to think up, but that’s life. On to the recap.

Session Fifteen: Leaders of Men

This session was run on a Saturday afternoon, with two players present. It saw the return of Turged and Gorwyn to play. We played for a little less than 3 hours as the recap and reconnecting Gorwyn to the existing narrative took a little time and a fair bit of friendly banter.

The Session

The session began with a recap, a refresher on politics in the human territories and the religious orders present at the High Temple, and a brief overview of what was needed to get the Patriarch and Ystral to work together to get the quest in motion.

Once we were ready to go, we established the first scene as landing in the frigid cold of the mountains, the giant black birds settling on the crumbling ramparts and towers of an ancient, multi-storey fortification cupped in a cylindrical crack in the grey rockface of an imposing peak. The keep had a high wall extending out across a plateau with towers every few meters providing overlapping zones of missile fire, and a good vantage point for attacking the curving road below with siege weaponry.

Session Recap:

  • Gorwyn, a well-liked addition to the Duke’s hall on account of his fighting prowess, stumbled somewhat drunkenly out into the cold at the sharp call of the lookouts to witness the swift and stunning arrival of 8 giant, black birds, mounted by javelin throwers and the black armoured figures of the Order of the Horizon. Seated behind their leader was a familiar face with massive shield and sword at the ready – Turged. As Ystral and Turged dismounted, the warriors of the keep made way for their Duke to stride boldly up and inquire what the reason for this intrusion was. Ystral turned slightly to Turged and whispered, “It’s up to you.” Not known for his oratorical skills, the young Plenthan noble, took this as further proof the sorcerer might be insane.
  • Before the Plenthan could get a word in, Gorwyn had shoved his way through the crowd and charged up to the Duke shouting, “This is the man I was telling you about!” In short order, between the two of them, the Chosen Ones convinced the Duke to at least listen. Taking them inside the keep to a private, and unadorned chamber where their breath steamed around them, he heard out Turged’s request that he work with Ystral to forge an alliance of mountain lords into an army against the massing forces of Chaos. As they talked, Ystral’s primer on local politics, reinforced with specific examples gleaned by Gorwyn in his weeks of travel through the region paid off for Turged. He was prepared for each of the Duke’s counters, most of which cited the overtures and actions of the Aelroth Kingdom. He was also, as a well-trained warrior, a person to whom the Duke would prefer to listen, rather than a well-dressed diplomat from the soft cities of the plains. Without warning, the Duke cut Turged off and demanded he be shown what sort of man he was being asked to believe in and follow.
  • With Gorwyn quickly explaining the rules, Turged found himself being prepared for a non-lethal duel with the Duke himself. For the Duke, this was a no-lose situation. If Turged defeated him, it was because he was ‘Chosen by Law.’ If he were to win, then his leadership was so great that not even the Chosen could stand against him. Best of all, in defeat he could run off on a grand adventure to strike against the forces of chaos, and in victory, he could demonstrate his largesse by… running off on a grand adventure to strike against the forces of chaos.
  • The Duke’s people and those of the tiny baronies around the duchy, were large, used to hardship, and willing to solve problems with force. Attired in heavy wools, furs, and leathers, mainly of natural colors with thin streaks of dye here and there to denote rank or family affiliation, they presented as fierce a front as any people Turged and Gorwyn had ever seen. Forming a tight ring around the two, the spectators began to choose sides, shout encouragements, and gamble on the outcome.
  • Turged and the Duke seemed to be evenly matched in build and strength, but the Duke’s age lent him treachery even as it stole from his stamina. The Duke seized the tempo of the fight early on and pressed his attack. Turged opted to feel him out by fighting defensively, but soon realized his shield was being whittled away to nothing as the Duke unerringly struck solid blow after solid blow against it. [Both fighters had 2 AP, similar encumbrance, and comparable weapons. The Duke won initiative and held it until a dramatic turn of events later in the fight.] Shifting to the offensive did not help Turged much either due to the accuracy and power of the Duke’s attacks. [The first round ended with Turged up one level of fatigue from getting hit, and the Duke up a level from exertion]. The fight raged on with the Duke scoring a succession of solid attacks against Turged’s shield which whittled it down to almost splinters [2 HP] before Turged managed to regain his form [1 LP to take the initiative]. With a good hit to the Duke’s shield he tried to keep the upper hand, but a wild swing of his sword nearly cut across the Duke’s face. The Duke was forced to make an example out of him. Stepping up his attacks and ignoring the shield. The mountain lord wore Turged down with body blows, Finally, after an overly ambitious attempt to strip Turged of his weapon failed, he took a breather by shoving the Plenthan back against the cheering and jeering ring of onlookers. Their next engagement, each man Winded [-20% to skill, RQ6 p 119] saw the Duke lose his weapon in a clash of arms [Fumble vs successful defense, drop weapon, no damage to Turged]. With both men gasping for air, Turged backed off and retrieved the weapon, tossing it back after a suitable pause and a flurry of exchanged bets.[Both men recovered a level of fatigue]. Gorwyn, trying to follow the rapidly shouted betting, ended up losing his few coins and had no idea how that happened. The fight continued and Turged got good momentum going [and spent his luck points on two successive damage rerolls] managing to severely damage the Duke’s shield and narrow the gap to anyone’s game [Duke’s shield 1 hp, Turged’s shield 2 hp] when the older man struck hard on the Plenthan’s upraised shield, shattering it. [Successful strike, 4 hp damage halved due to successful parry]. The Duke rushed in on the startled Turged and pulled him into a crushing embrace. “You are all right!” he yelled, and signaled for a feast to begin.
  • While the feast turned into a drunken time of tale-spinning, the savvy Duke took Gorwyn, Ystral, and Turged into his private chambers for better food and ale, while they laid out plainly what it was they wanted him to do, and how it was that this all had come to be. Gorwyn recounted the vision given them by the ancient priest in the lost temple. Ystral, looking over the Duke’s crude maps,  discussed the struggles of the other mountain lords and how he, with the aid of the Duke’s very popular son might sway them into an allegiance if he would bestow his blessing. Turged cut to the chase and spoke of the danger and the importance of reaching the Tower. For his part, the Duke revealed heretofore unknown knowledge about the Tower, claiming that the Frozen Sun must be hanging in the sky right above it. He longed to see such a sight and agreed to make the journey with three of his most-trusted lords.
  • A few hours later, they found themselves supplied, and winging their way on the three-day journey past the assembling masses of Chaos, deep into the far side of the mountains ringing the desert, and finally on to an unnamed mountain pass which they could take to seek allies in Pumoth Deep, a stronghold of Plenthan true believers, or onward toward the Tower…

 

Session Sixteen:

The Sixteenth session recap will deal with the characters’ exploration of the trail in search of the Tower of the Dawn.

 

Stay tuned~

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