Casting Runes 6: A Season for All Things – Session 20 Recap

This post continues the exploration and implementation of RuneQuest 6th Edition in a collaboratively-developed sword and sorcery campaign setting. This session focused on overcoming a deadly ambush on the home turf of tenacious and fanatical Reptilian opponents.

Check the list of links below for recaps of the previous sessions complete with system detail and analysis, as well as other related articles on RuneQuest 6 and this campaign. Less-detailed video recaps are also available on my YouTube Channel.

Session 20 was spent below ground in a strange cavern lit dimly by phosphorescent moss and a glittering pool of waters, guarded by Reptilian servants of Chaos. As battle was enjoined, the characters learned that two distinct types of Reptilian were arrayed against them, and that their fanaticism was at least as strong as their own.

A highlight this week is that we have been joined by a cool new player who seemed to fit right in, and was able to quickly give real life to the character of Duke Vonge. His participation in the scene brought new energy, restored the IC interaction which can suffer when there is just one player and one GM, and allowed for faster and better resolution of the combat which formed the back of this session. With 4 in the PC group and 6 in the NPC group, that could have been a monstrous load for me to handle intelligently, consistently, challengingly, and quickly had this new player not been able to join us.

Problems  & Solutions:

We had few issues this week. We had no connectivity issues, and only a brief failure from DiceStream which was fixed simply by refreshing the one affected browser. DiceStream works fine, but it makes us feel like adding, “When it works.” Gorwyn’s player is unfortunately out for several weeks due to having taken on another obligation. The character will be continuing as an NPC until our schedules realign. This left running the character in my hands during this complicated combat.

As I mentioned in the last recap, I was unhappy with my own performance in Session 19. I took some time to read over all the recaps, reread the system chapters in RuneQuest 6, and prepare a notepad of all the things I have noted I need or want to look up during play. I do not like the lag that using PDF viewers introduce in what should be simple chart or stat look-ups, so I wrote notes out by hand both to help me remember them, and to know exactly where they were and in what order of presentation. This helped me run things faster and just generally helped me get in the right frame of mind for the scene and this game. I have been running some very different games lately and each approaches resolution from very different perspectives. Taking the time to explicitly note to myself what I need and want to do with RQ in practice was time well spent. It was fun to lay out the qualities and tactics of the Reptilian Sentries, their vicious poison darts, and their leaping and muscular combat approaches, and have that move along smoothly once the combat began for real. This is a solution I will need to remember for the future as I felt very much better about the game before, during, and after it than I have for a while, and found that I needed to reference almost nothing during the game itself which was fantastic. Of course, this advice is pretty basic and something that I advise others to do almost daily in my working life…  Physician heal thyself, or at least take your own medicine, right?

Thoughts on Running the Game:

This session was mostly combat. We began at 3pm after using the first part of the session to get acquainted, establish character, and answer any system questions. The combat took seven Rounds, which is by far the longest we have had, and took us 90 minutes to complete. Part of the length was due to the number of characters involved, part was due to the level of description we like and were able to engage in with each Turn, and part was due to the effects of the agonizing nerve toxin on the characters, and the lack of group tactics on the part of the Reptilians. That the combat went on so long was a little surprising, but as one of the primary reasons it did so was actual roleplay of each blow and wound of battle, it was very engaging and there was a lot of laughter and interaction throughout. As everyone had the Special Effects chart and hit location charts handy, and had used them before, the mechanical aspects of the combat were as smooth and inspiring as usual.

Sadly, in hindsight, I feel I made the biggest error of the whole campaign during this combat encounter. When the previous session ended there was a palpable feeling of despair and regret at having walked into such a formidable ambush. The group was not daunted, but there was that sense of gut-tightening tension and fear from which real bravery rises.

That was the ideal time for Passion rolls to bolster the characters and reflect and nourish their commitment to their cause.

I didn’t call for them. I thought I would wait until the first round of combat had passed and the characters had a chance to get established in this new mix of players. The fight seemed like a lost cause, and took on a tone of taking as many of the Reptilians with them as they could before they dropped. Interestingly, the tide of the battle turned in that very first round, with two of the enemies being taken out of the fight right away.

Through the ebb and flow of the combat that kept happening. The characters would suffer under the weight of the toxin or the growing levels of fatigue, but then just when I was about to call for a Passion roll, they would retake the upper hand and I would again step back from asking for it.

Upon reflection, I should have asked for it. Their Passion should have been tested and left them cold and afraid, or heated them with righteous fury against the servants of Chaos. That is what it is for, that is what it represents, and that is the experience I should have provided not just with arbitration of the rolls in the battle, but with the presence of the tangible effects of their Passions in the game. The stink of missed opportunity and mistake is all over this aspect of the combat, and hopefully, this is not a mistake I will repeat. Ever.

Session Twenty: Blades in the Darkness

This session was run on a Saturday afternoon, with two players present. It was a combat session with good humor and great use of description building on what was established by the system and the other players. It was a brutal, emotional, and unpredictable fight with a challenging sense of chaos and tension. At no point did I have any idea who would survive and who would fall. 

The Session

The session began right where we left off in the previous session, with a short recap to orient the new player in the character of Vonge and put things in a more human context than the written recaps provide, with a short discussion of points of importance leading up to the ambush, most notably the reason why overcoming these threats was so important.

We resumed on a narrow, rocky ledge with a rapid slope down into the large, oval chamber with its luminescent central pool. Turged was rushing along the smooth walls at the defenders, using his internal gifts to defy gravity itself. A shadowy figure in the center of the pool was directing its brutish guards to attack, Lord Tan had scored a deep hit with one of his hurlbats into the shoulder of one of the guards at impressive range, and Duke Vonge was screaming his battle cry!

Session Recap:

  • The cavern was smooth-walled, with a curving ceiling and walls over a slightly curved floor. Along the base of the walls were rocks and boulders piled into seats and odd shapes to clear the lip of the glittering pool of obstructions. Everything was lit with a spectral green glow, and as the ledge opened up in the midpoint of the wall and in the widest point of the oval cavern, much of the room was in darkness at its extreme points. Behind them as they entered into the room was the sound and the backlit greenish flare of a waterfall. Ahead of them was only thick pools of darkness with tiny points of green light like decayed stars. Turged, Duke Vonge, Lord Tan, and Gorwyn were still all wounded, but whatever dread they were feeling on the inside, showed nothing but defiance and undaunted bravery on the outside [GM note: at this point I should have called for appropriate Passion Rolls to reflect their commitment to the quest and to each other]. Without vocalizing, the Reptilian sentries broke their ranks and launched a charge from the base of the cavern, seeking to close up the steep, ramplike slope of the ledge into the chamber. Two leapt in long, high arcs, and grabbed the edge of the ledge to flip themselves over onto its surface, long, thick tails aiding in their balance. The wounded one shoved the other two toward the wide space where the ledge met the cavern floor, forming a fighting wedge in the deep shadow, far out of thrown missile range [Initiative Order: Sentries, Tan, Gorwyn, Vonge, Turged; RQ6 p136]. Tan, feeling his left arm going into spasms from the surging agony hurled another hurlbat with that arm at the leaping Reptilians, but it clattered off into the darkness in a trail of fat sparks. Gorwyn took a step back and continued his low, focusing chant. With one arm almost useless, he would need to be at his peak of lethality before he engaged, or he would do his companions and his Guild a deep dishonor. Wasting no time, Vonge bellowed his battlecry and slammed his Clan Axe against the rim of his target shield as he stepped forward on a leg trembling with shock and pain. Turged, arced up the wall into darkness, and took in the situation as he moved to possibly flank the two who had leapt up onto the sloping ledge below Vonge. The two sentries got their feet under them and rushed up the slope with surprising speed, Tan stepped to the side to try to get an angle of attack, but held off. Gorwyn stepped forward to keep pace with Vonge. Vonge screamed his rage inarticulately and interrupted the rush of the Reptilians with a powerful swing of his axe which was deflected by the thick hide and scales of the closest. Turged completed his flanking run and slammed his heavy blade down through the head of the one pressing Vonge, killing it outright [luck point spent to re-roll damage]. Continuing the press, the uninjured sentry surged forward, right at Gorwyn [Formidable Natural Weapons, Augmented Combat Style, RQ6 p227], as the ones from below began their too rapid ascent of the ledge. Tan again delayed, looking for a clear chance to attack without risking hitting Vonge or Gorwyn in the back. Gorwyn threw his good shoulder into the charging sentry hitting it high on the leg. The sentry toppled onto the loose rocks piled at the wall side of the ledge with Gorwyn beside it, having taken it off its feet and hitting it harder than it ever expected. Vonge, caught in a splash of brains and blood from dead sentry, sidestepped its falling body neatly, pivoting on his screaming leg, and with a mighty grunt, slammed his axe all the way through the injured leg of the sentry. It’s thrashing was the dry hissing throat noise of a snake, and it spattered them liberally with the bright rush of blood from its severed leg as it quickly went about dying.
  • With two of their number down, dead or dying, and one already wounded from Tan’s heroic throw at long range [Ranged Attacks, RQ6 p97], the sentries faced a moment of doubt in their fervor [Passion, Loyalty to their Spiritual Leader; RQ6 p 420] which they overcame with renewed vigor. Whatever drew their loyalty was strong indeed from for that point onward they gave no quarter and asked for none. The next wave of two sentries met Gorwyn and Vonge as they started down the slope. One pressed Gorwyn back toward Tan while Vonge stopped the other with his shield [Sentry attacks, Vonge defends]. As they slammed together, Turged struck the sentry troubling Gorwyn a cruel wound in its shoulder. Tan had his dagger ready for close fighting, but the agony in his left hand made him certain it would be a fight he would not walk away from. Wanting his last breaths to be in defense of his  lord and oldest friend, he stepped right to the edge of the ledge, his legs pressed tight against its raised lip and threw his third hurlbat with all his might, hoping that the blow and counter-blow of Vonge and his assailant would not cause him to strike the wrong target. It did not. His axe bit into the soft flesh just above its hip, passing within inches of Vonge’s right side. Gorwyn, took advantage of the sudden injury of his opponent, and launched a brutal kick which sent it reeling. Vonge pushed the sentry back and his axe found purchase in the meaty shoulder of the Reptilian causing it to open its mouth in a voiceless hiss of pain. Turged, pivoted away from Gorwyn and his sword bit into Vonge’s opponent’s other shoulder, causing it to drop its arms and lean in against Vonge’s shield. The injured sentry down below in the darkness, did not close. He let his two companions take on the four intruders by themselves, and waited. With both arms bleeding and weakening, one sentry tried to bite Vonge, but found only a mouth full of metal as the mountain lord’s armor spared him injury to his shield arm. The other tried to claw Gorwyn, but found its powerful arms blocked and swept aside by his even stronger, harder arm. Tan drew his last hurlbat and kept his eyes on Vonge. Gorwyn, used his position to swing up and around the body of the sentry to wrap his good arm around its head in such a manner as to put intensely painful pressure on its bulging eyes and membranous ears; forcing it down with a submission hold [critical: choose location, compel surrender]. A beat behind, Vonge hooked his opponent’s leg with the blade of his axe and sent it down on its back, knocking the wind out of it [Defense fumbled: Press Advantage, Trip]. Turged, feeling that Gorwyn and Tan had things in hand with the other sentry, stayed on the wall and cut at the downed sentry’s arms. The sentry below in the shadows hissed its defiance, but did not close. Gorwyn locked his hold in place and wrestled the creature to the ground with Tan standing over him with knife in one hand and hurlbat in the other. Vonge stepped around the downed creature to finish it off and its thrashing nearly knocked him over the side. Hacking downward, he punished the sentry’s arms, while Turged lopped off its wildly thrashing tail. Gorwyn pushed his capture right to the ground, and locked him up in an excruciating hold. Turged sliced deeply into a flailing arm, and Vonge took the creature’s throat out, further coating the treacherous ledge with ichor.
  • Leaving Gorwyn and Tan screaming different languages at their prisoner, Vonge and Turged moved steadfastly, albeit painfully down the sloping ledge toward the pooled darkness of the cavern floor. Turged’s face was ablaze with the searing agony of the toxin as though his face were flayed open and being pressed into the sizzling surface of an overheated grill. Vonge was excruciatingly aware of each bead of sweat on the rough edges of his wound, of each cramping muscle in the tortured leg as it too felt like it was being roasted on a red-hot spit. At the bottom of the ramp waited the scaled, neckless horror of their last opponent. It had worked the hurlbat from its arm and cast it contemptuously on the ground at its feet. As though it knew it would die, it seemed resolute in its intent to give a good accounting for itself, or perhaps its people. As Vonge reached the floor of the cavern, his eye was caught briefly by the dim, bluish glow of something in the middle of the pool. Turged caught it as well, and also the fact that the figure who had once been sitting there was gone. As this momentary respite from the fighting passed, both warriors, the Plenthan heretic in exile and the mountain lord on the quest of his dreams, felt a wave of fatigue wash over them [Vonge to Tired, Turged to Wearied, RQ6 p 120]. Hands slick with sweat and blood, eyes stinging from salt and exertion, lungs gasping in air, they moved in on the impassive Reptilian with its wide open arms, gaping jaws, and thrashing tail. Was it afraid? Was it gloating? Who could say. Its eyes, though, were tracking them in the darkness, moving independently of each other. When they got close, the creature motioned them forward. Its silence screaming, “Attack me! I dare you!” They complied. It was a hard-fought battle, raising leaden arms again and again to strike, only to find their blows deflected by the tough scales and strange leather wrappings of the last senty, the creature led them away from the wall – Turged finally having to give up the advantage his Adhesion to the stone had allowed him – and nearer to the pool. In an eye-blink, though, as is often the case, everything changed. Turged launched a thrust at the sentry, but his hand was too slick with blood to keep his grip as the Reptilian stepped aside and clawed at his sword hand. The heirloom sword he’d been given when joining the Plenthan Guard clattered to the stone behind the beast [Disarm Opponent]. Vonge bashed the sentry with his shield taking them closer to the pool and clearing space for Turged to retrieve his weapon. Suddenly, Vonge found his Clan Axe, the symbol of his people and in this case, the actual symbol of his leadership of his mountain home, torn from his grasp to be used against him [Take Weapon]. The sentry leapt away to ready the weapon for use, Turged reclaimed his blade and yelled out to Vonge, thinking to throw the man Tan’s hurlbat, lying there next to it. There was no need, Vonge took the respite to rip his arming sword from its scabbard. The sentry closed again, and brought the axe down in a brutal smash which stripped the shield off his weakening left arm [Disarm opponent]. Spinning off balance from the disarming, Vonge tried to bring his sword around for a strike but met only air as his cut passed inches away from the sentry’s leathery chest. Turged rushed in and launched another exhausted cut, again find his sword turning in his hand as it met the heavy resistance of scale backed with thick hide and hard muscle. The sentry’s wide mouth was gaping, showing its peg teeth, but no sound came from it other than breathing. In a flash, its powerful legs hurled it at Vonge and slammed the man into rippled stone of the wall forming the bottom of the sloping ledge, biting deeply into his abdomen and through the mail which protected it [Failed Defense; Bypass Armor]. The creature tore its bloody mouth away and raised up a claw to finish the job, until a hurlbat bit into its side, just above its left hip from impossibly far away in the darkness. Tan! [GM note: I had added the bonus in from a successful Passion roll for Love of Vonge, but he didn’t need it. He nailed it on his own]. The creature looked up in surprise and pain, and in that moment, Vonge brought his blade up and down, shearing through the side of its face and driving it into a deep crouch [Compel Surrender, RQ6, p145]. Turged closed with it and in no uncertain manner, indicated that it should submit, or die. To their wonderment, it submitted.
  • They were not certain they would be able to communicate. The creature showed no comprehension or ability to speak the Trade language that all in the Firmament spoke, but did react when Turged experimented with Plenthan. While it could not follow or produce sentences, and its pronunciation was hard to decode, both Vonge and Turged were able to communicate basic concepts through emphatic use of nouns and verbs. It was time to interrogate their prisoners. Gorwyn and Tan brought their captive down to the cavern floor, and they were bound. Turged stood guard while Gorwyn used his mystic and mundane arts to treat the vicious bite. Once back on his feet, bandaged and having felt the touch of healing magic [RQ6, p191], Vonge soon had them separate the two captives as they had grown less compliant the moment they were brought together. Once separated, and with Gorwyn eliciting painful noises from his captive, things went more smoothly. They learned that the figure on the dias in the middle of the pool was thought of – at least in the sentry’s attempts to use Plenthan – as the God-Man. “God-Man with God” was the response to question attempts about the location of the figure. Eyes continually being drawn back to the dim blue glow on a low plinth in the pool, Vonge broke off the interrogation and decided to retrieve it. Gorwyn was certain there was a magical presence in the room, and had wanted to tell them so before, but they were interrupted. It seemed obvious to everyone, that glowing object must be it.
  • The water in the pool was cool and deep. Not being a strong swimmer and noting from the fact that the burly guards had arisen from being completely submerged in it, Vonge took no chances. He stripped off his bloody armor, cleaned himself off in the pleasantly refreshing coolness of the pool, then dog-paddled out to the plinth. He found a low stone platform rising inches above the water, with two ringed benches, one on the side of the dias toward the waterfall, and the other toward the narrow part of the oval opposite it. In the middle of the dias was a stone plinth descending through the stone, about waist high on Vonge, and holding at its top a smooth, stone like object, glowing dimly from inside, and mirroring the oval shape of this room. Roughly the size of a man’s head, it looked solid and heavy. Inside the glow, seen he somehow knew with the deepest part of his mind, not his eyes, he got the distinct image of swirling energy, coruscating in the same pattern, over and over again; it was the pattern man represents in the ancient rune for water.
Session Twenty:

The twenty-first session recap will deal with the outcome of recovering this Stone, and the decision of what to do with their prisoners…

Stay tuned~

Session Recaps

4 Responses to “Casting Runes 6: A Season for All Things – Session 20 Recap”
  1. Carl S says:

    This is a prolific piece of writing!

  2. Murderbunny says:

    They survived~! Hoooray!

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] session began right where we left off in the previous session, with a short recap to re-orient the players in the dimly-phosphorescent chamber, deep under the […]

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