Stonetop RPG - Session post-mortems

Aldarc

Legend
Thanks for the write-up, @Manbearcat. But first some thoughts from the rest of the thread:

How cool, I love reading this! I've always wanted to run a stoneage game. Please keep updating!
Technically late bronze age. But the name is a tad obfuscating...
First sentence from the Kickstarter product description:
Stonetop is a “hearth fantasy” tabletop RPG set in an Iron Age that never was.
;)

The whole introduction reminds me very much of Glorantha, especially the way Sartar is portrayed as isolated villages and steads all looking to survive in a world of unknown strangeness. I think it would be easy (and lazy) to say "well, they're both bronze age settings..." - actually the feeling has very little to do with the bronze age, and much more to do with the 'mythical'.

I like the sound of this game a lot, especially in that it looks like it codifies progress through the seasons in ways which weren't mechanically supported in HeroWars. The structure reminds me of the (excellent) Glorantha-based PC game King of Dragon Pass.
The creator Jeremy Strandberg has never actually played any game set in Glorantha. He said that he only became aware of it after multiple people brought those comparisons to his attention. I believe the original inspiration for this game was retired heroes defending a village that had become their residence. This is to say that it started as an anti-murder hobo fantasy adventure game. Over time it gradually became more of an Iron Age "hearth fantasy" game.

I also get "Iron Age Nentir Vale" vibes from this setting. Indeed, what's pretty telling about Stonetop, IMHO, is how one can tell that it was a shift from 4e D&D to Dungeon World to its own thing. The gods are a small, mixed collection of the World Axis pantheon and real world deities: e.g., Aratis (Erathis + Athena); Tor (Kord + Thor); Danu (Danu + Melora); Helior (Pelor + Helios). And behind most of playbooks are 4e classes (plus the Would-Be-Hero): e.g., Marshal (Warlord), Lightbringer (Pelor Cleric), Judge (Erathis Paladin), Blessed (Druid), etc.

That said, one reason why I first found myself drawn to Stonetop (back on its Google+ days) was from a different angle. There is a lot about this fantasy Iron Age that reminds me of Hallstatt Culture, who were the Bronze/Iron Age predecessors of the Celtic La Tene Culture. It's a personal fascination that started from seeing the Hallstatt exhibit at Naturhistorisches Museum Vienna around the first few weeks after moving to Vienna and then later visiting Hallstatt, Austria on multiple occasions.

I haven't started playing yet, but I don't think it's possible to read the playbooks and not want to play.
Agreed. The playbooks are evocative and fun.
 

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That said, one reason why I first found myself drawn to Stonetop (back on its Google+ days) was from a different angle. There is a lot about this fantasy Iron Age that reminds me of Hallstatt Culture, who were the Bronze/Iron Age predecessors of the Celtic La Tene Culture.

This is undoubtedly why I'm also getting a sense of Glorantha, since a lot of play there is based on how the people of Sartar, with a lot of parallels to Celtic tribes, resist the invasion of a heavily Roman inspired empire.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
And behind most of playbooks are 4e classes (plus the Would-Be-Hero): e.g., Marshal (Warlord), Lightbringer (Pelor Cleric), Judge (Erathis Paladin), Blessed (Druid), etc.
Good post, just wanted to respond to this bit.

I don't really see the parallel here -- the playbooks have some tropes in common, but these are largely fantasy tropes. There's not much in the Marshal that really evokes the 4e Warlord, same with the Lightbearer and a Pelor Cleric. The playbooks are both more and less on each of these and it's only the larger archetypes that fit. "Sun priest" is a decent rough description of the Lightbearer and the Pelor Cleric, but that's about where the comparison stops. "Guy Who Gives Orders" might fit some of the Marshall backgrounds, but that's it -- there's little in the Marshall that evokes the core suite of abilities in the 4e Warlord. They're a damn sight closer to an actual warlord, though!
 

Aldarc

Legend
Good post, just wanted to respond to this bit.

I don't really see the parallel here -- the playbooks have some tropes in common, but these are largely fantasy tropes. There's not much in the Marshal that really evokes the 4e Warlord, same with the Lightbearer and a Pelor Cleric. The playbooks are both more and less on each of these and it's only the larger archetypes that fit. "Sun priest" is a decent rough description of the Lightbearer and the Pelor Cleric, but that's about where the comparison stops. "Guy Who Gives Orders" might fit some of the Marshall backgrounds, but that's it -- there's little in the Marshall that evokes the core suite of abilities in the 4e Warlord. They're a damn sight closer to an actual warlord, though!
From an archived Google+ post from Jeremy Strandberg:
And, here’s another #Stonetop playbook: The Judge. As always, feedback and criticism welcome and appreciated.

This was actually the first playbook I made for Stonetop, and it was the proof-of-concept for a lot of the structures that appear in all the classes (the backgrounds, the additional setting questions on the back page, the increased flexibility in choosing moves). Not a whole lot has changed since the original, but I don’t think many folks took a close look (as it was buried in with the original teaser).

Bit of trivia (for those who care): this whole project stemmed from a long-running D&D 4e campaign. The Judge was a role that one of my players came up with to justify playing a paladin of Erathis. Some of the coolest details (IMO) come straight from that character: the Chronicle, the Legacy background, the ancient armor as symbol of authority, the juxtaposition of scholar & warrior.
 



The Chronicler will post his session chronicle for last night’s game either today or this weekend.

After he does that I’ll peel out particulars and talk about framing > decision-points > moves > resolution > consequences.
 



hawkeyefan

Legend
Okay, so I play Cullen the Judge, and one of the roles he has is as the Chronicler of Stonetop. Connected to that, I have a playbook ability that rewards detailed session notes. So here they are below.

THE CHRONICLE OF STONETOP
First Spring, Week one

  • Spring has broken forth, and it brings new challenges to the folk of Stonetop.
  • After a violent storm the night before, and a violent confrontation between Trys and her father, she awakens to find that Sigurd hasn’t returned home after rushing off in anger. She heads to the north gate looking for him; Sigurd often goes to the cliffs that overlook the Great Forest when he’s angry. Trys finds the guard Grunhilda distracted from her duty with a face in her book. She is learning to read, and struggling to do so. She explains to Trys that Sigurd did leave the night before, he was very angry, and he hasn’t come back.
  • Meanwhile, a young boy named Eli approaches Dap the Lightbearer and chandler for his help. It seems Eli’s dog, Fang, didn’t come home last night, and Eli’s scared something happened to him. Dap suggests they enlist the aid of Gavin, the Blessed, as he has an affinity with animals. Eli admits he’s afraid of Gavin’s wild ways but is grateful to Dap for his help. Dap sends the boy home and then discusses the situation with Gavin, who agrees to search the perimeter of the town for the boy’s dog.
  • As this is happening, Cullen the Judge is approached by a member of the watch who explains that the Garrett family, horse breeders emigrating from the town of Marshedge, were due to arrive two days prior, but haven’t. The Garretts are a family of five, and they were accused of witchcraft of some sort by the Marshedge folk. The Publican of Stonetop bartered for their safety and invited them to live in Stonetop. A horse breeder would be an asset to the town. Cullen decides it may be best to investigate the situation.
  • The four friends meet up and discuss the situations. They decide it’s best to split up to handle the missing blacksmith, and the late arrival of the Garretts. Trys insists she doesn’t want anything to do with finding her father; she’s still to upset to deal with him. So it’s agreed that she and Cullen will head out on the road to look for the Garretts, while Gavin and Dap investigate the missing Sigurd, and if time allows, the missing dog, Fang, too.
  • Trys and Cullen pack for their journey. They decide to head out on the road for two days, and then return to town. Marshedge is about eight days’ travel from Stonetop, and they don’t want to be gone that long. Travelling along the road is relatively easy and safe, and in two days’ time they reach the location called Titan Bones. This is an area where traders and travelers commonly gather alongside the road. Nearby is a group of standing stones so large that it’s believed only giants could have placed them.
  • Several groups of travelers are here resting, and some merchants are presenting their wares. Cullen wants to ask about the Garrets, and Trys decides to browse the merchants’ wares. Cullen decides it is best to approach a group of pilgrims he sees to ask if they’ve seen a family of five along the road. It doesn’t go well. The leader of the pilgrims sees books and a scrivener’s kit in Cullen’s pack, which the pilgrim considers sorcery. He demands that Cullen leave the area, and camp out in the wilds away from decent folk. Some of the pilgrims present bottles of holy oil, concoctions they believe will protect them from evil spirits and sorcery. They threaten to douse Cullen.
  • Trys comes over at this point, and with her support, Cullen decides to press forward. He recognizes the apothecary’s mark on one of the bottles, and he knows that the potion within is harmless. He explains to the pilgrims that they’ve been shammed and repeats his question about the Garretts. They douse him and are baffled when the potions have no effect.
  • The leader stammers an apology and then offers some information on the condition Cullen provides him with a writ of liability that confirms the potions they purchased were fraudulent, and that the apothecary was at fault. Cullen happily executes the writ and provides it to the leader. The man explains that two days back, they had come across a campsite that had been abandoned A cart with some supplies was left behind, and there was even a stewpot still hanging from a spit above the firepit. Clearly whoever did this left in a hurry, or was forced to leave. Cullen and Trys decide to head to the campsite to investigate. They send a note with a traveler back to Stonetop to share with Dap, letting him know they will be a few more days than expected. They’re concerned about running short on supplies, but are confident they’ll be able to forage for what they need, if necessary.
  • Trys and Cullen head along the road two more days into the Steplands until they come across the abandoned campsite. Night has fallen when they find it, but clearly the description offered by the pilgrim leader was accurate. They salvage what supplies they can, but most of the goods are spoiled or have been befouled by the wildlife. Deciding it’d be best to investigate the site in the daytime, they set camp on a nearby hill that overlooks the site. They climb the hill and see a campfire off in the distance. They set a cold camp of their own in order to avoid being noticed.
  • During her time on watch, Trys hears a horse approaching the camp. Hoping that it’s a sign of the Garretts, and being comfortable with horses from her work as a smith, she calls to the horse to bring it into the camp. Unfortunately, her calls are met with mocking imitations, and instead three Hillfolk women enter the camp, spears aimed at Trys.
  • The women wear ominous headdresses, adorned with the hourglass symbol often seen on black widow spiders. They threaten Trys and say she can either join them, or she can feel their spears. They also gesture toward Cullen, who is just now waking, and hint at a much worse fate for him.
  • Cullen reaches for his hammer, hoping to spring up before they can do anything, but he’s a good distance away, and Trys decides she’s heard enough, and draws her sword. The Hillfolk had the jump on her, and they wound her, but her armor spares her the worst. She then unleashes a brutal attack on them, and although she takes another small wound, she makes short work of all three.
  • Cullen, amazed at her skill and her brutality, looks at the Hillfolk women and recognizes them as a tribe with a name that translates only to “Maneaters”. They’re a particularly aggressive tribe of Hillfolk women who take male prisoners who they mate with and then consume.
  • The horse slowly calms and lets them lead it away so they can make a new camp. It is emaciated, but its saddlebags mark it as a domesticated animal, very likely belonging to the Garretts. Trys and Cullen worry that the Garretts have been taken by this tribe, and decide to seek answers in the light of day. For now, this is where we leave them.

  • Back in Stonetop, Dap and Gavin discover signs that Fang was attacked near to his home; there’s a small pool of blood, and then a trail that leads to the north gate. Dap attempts to calm a frantic Eli and tells the boy that there is still hope the dog is okay.
  • They also learn from Pryce, the owner of the public house, that there were some trappers who came in spoke of a man heading out of the north gate and muttering something about “one life for another”. It seems this was Sigurd. They now suspect that the missing blacksmith and the missing dog are related, and that Sigurd attacked and absconded with Fang.
  • Outside the north gate, Gavin and his wolf Thorin quickly find Sigurd’s tracks heading down the switchbacks toward the Great Forest. Dap and Gavin supply themselves and then head out in pursuit.
  • They find a campsite where they believe Sigurd may have stayed the night before. Gavin uses his Spirit Tongue ability to locate a nearby line of proud trees, whose spirits are the sentinels of the forest. Gavin calls the spirits forth and asks them about the man who came through here. The spirits of the trees say that the man who passed this way is heading toward darkness, and that he has darkness within him.
  • They press on, and before long they come to a clearing. There’s an unsettling feeling, and the moonlight from above does not quite touch this place. They see Sigurd kneeling in the clearing, and holding Fang in one hand, and a knife in the other, preparing to sacrifice the dog.
  • Gavin’s wolf Thorin doesn’t respond well to the feeling of this place, and aggressively charges the clearing, hoping to place himself between whatever is there and Gavin. A pool of darkness forms before Sigurd, swirling and manifesting into an inky phantom. Its long arms end in wicked claws, and it looks ready to greet the charging Thorin. It’s clearly a thing of darkness, an evil spirit or a demon.
  • Dap steps forth with his lantern and Invokes the Sun God, blasting the area with radiant light. Sigurd falls in the clearing, and the inky entity recoils, unable to eviscerate the charging wolf.
  • Gavin uses his Danu’s Grasp ability, calling on the primal forces here to reach out and bind this foul spirit. The roots and vines and the very earth itself grasps hold of the fiend, harming it and forcing it to discorporate. As it fades away, Gavin and Dap know that it hasn’t been destroyed, it is the Dark Underfoot, and it has only been temporarily thwarted.
  • Sigurd realizes with horror what he has done and bursts out in tears. Dap quickly uses Bath of Healing Light on Fang, and manages to save the dog from death. He then turns to Sigurd and asks for answers. Sigurd admits, to his shame, that he still grieves his lost wife, who died giving birth to Trys. He’d always wanted a son, but instead got a daughter and lost his wife in the process. He somehow believed that this dark entity could give him a life for a life, his wife’s for his daughters. The sacrifice of Fang was just an initial step on that path.
  • Dap uses his Spring’s First Thaw on Sigurd, inspiring him with hope and mercy. He reminds Sigurd that Trys is his one connection to the wife he had, and he should honor that connection and not seek to corrupt it in some way. Sigurd swears he will do so, and begs Dap to help him, to guide him toward being a better person and a better father, and Dap agrees to do so.
  • Dap and Gavin then Return Triumphantly to Stonetop, having recovered the missing blacksmith, and also saved the missing dog.
 
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