Stonetop RPG - Session post-mortems

Awesome recap. Way more than I expected.

Have my Blades Inspectors game to run in an hour.

If I get some time tonight, I’ll pull out specific moments of the above and tease out the moves/results et al that moved the fiction. Probably more like this weekend though.
 

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Alright, pulling out a few of these to start

[*]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.

Ask Questions and Use the Answers: I asked the player when your father's temper gets the best of him, where does he 'walk it off'?

Her answer was he heads out the north gate and sits at the precipice of the cliffs, overlooking The Great Wood (and The Golden Tree - the tallest tree in the wood...perhaps not of this world - I added).

This would be a Seek Insight move but not for the player (who would roll +Wis). Because its for Grunhilda, we're rolling +Def (for Stonetop) which is 0. Result is a 7-9. The player asks a question, gets a true answer, and gets to act upon it with advantage.

Grunhilda saw him head out of the north gate in the middle of the storm. The odd thing was he had a walking stick (he typically doesn't) and a heavy sack thrown over her shoulder. She didn't ask him about it because of his disposition and status in Stonetop.

Trys chides Grunhilda for her reading distraction and goes to consult her companions on the matter.

[*]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.

Again, Seek Insight, but the player is rolling +Wis. He's got one of his 3 wolves with him (the others are herding the goats as is their responsibility). The creature has Keen Senses as a tag, so he can smell blood et al; advantage on the move. Gets a 10 so 3 questions and Advantage when acting upon an answer. He only asks 2. What he finds:

A trail of blood at he north gate leads both into The Great Wood and into Stonetop, terminating in front of the house of Eli and his brother Aedelfred (the bellows-pump who was the primary cause for the huge fight between Sigurd and Trys). There, Gavin finds a heavier pool of blood and some spatter.

[*]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.

The players have a Journey before them. They Chart a Course and, as of now, all legs of it are via road; Titan Bones is 2 days from Stonetop via road. That means we don’t need to whip out the actual Perilous Journey conflict mechanics with Roles and related decision-points (because it’s via road and not with a destination in the wilderness). Like Blades in the Dark, the loadout system is Light, Normal, and Heavy. You get boxes for gear/equipment/supplies et al. Obviously, the heavier the load, the more you get. However, with a Heavy load, you're going to suffer disadvantage on trekking when you're having to double-time it in your hoofing because its time-sensitive and any speed-based moves will be at disadvantage. Because of this (this is very time-sensitive...the Garret family from Marshedge is 2 days late and time - in this case Doom Ticks on the Threat - are ticking), they decide to go Normal Load. If they have to continue into the wilderness or further up the road, they'll figure out their supplies then (they have to consume 1 Provision each day, of which they can sub Supplies for that (small items, like Supplies, = 4 + Stonetop Prosperity, which is 1, for each box ticked).

They decide not to make a Requisition move for the 2 Horses + Cart (the combination of which would alleviate the Supplies pressure point for the Journey...except taking it out of Stonetop would mean (a) you're endangering these 2 precious assets, (b) you can't really take them into the wilds of The Flats which is basically like Utah badlands with buttes and canyons et al, and (c) a 7-9 on the move would require convincing and on a 6- they can still take the asset but Stonetop reduces Fortune by 1.

So they each Loadout Normal, mark boxes for the gear they know they're going to use (like armor and weapons, and warm clothes/bedrooll, and save some boxes to mark Supplies for provisioning and for ad hoc-ing in mundane items of use in that they would need in a pinch (like you do in Blades in the Dark).

Because they have to double-time it, its a Struggle As One (group move) Defy Danger Con. One of them gets a 10+ (which would be able to get the other out of a pinch if they got a 6-...which they wouldn't be able to mark xp on if that is how it worked out) and the other got a 7-9 (which means you're able to take care of yourself in the effort). So they're good to go. They arrive in Titan Bones in 2 days to the familiar site of pilgrims/tourists (from Marshedge and surrounding) and various peddlers selling relevant site wares and fortune tellers/soothsayers and tour guides.

[*]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.

This scene features the following sequence:

Defy Danger Cha to consort with the pilgrims, ingratiating themselves so that they might follow up with finding out what this group of travelers may know of the Garret family (result 6 so hard move and mark xp).

I escalate the situation with them noting Cullen's books and scrivener's kit. We've already established that the people of Marshedge are prone to believe in foul sorcery and witchcraft at the drop of a hat. Literate folks/reading/writing and the related implements are obviously a sign of it. They pull out vials and threaten to "let fly" onto Cullen, the contents of which are caustic to vial sorcerers like him. He must leave this entire site immediately and camp in the wilderness (which comes with increased danger and requires a Make Camp move).

Cullen's player deploys his Well Read move (name the source in which you read about the matter at hand - he names the book and sub +Wis for +Int on a Know Things move) to make a Know Things move. The result is 10+. So both Interesting and Useful information.

The vials bear the clear brand of a Marshedge Apothecary who is an absolute charlatan (but well-connected so rarely is held liable for his snakeoil salesman-itude). These vials of anti-sorcery contents are absolute nonsense. He has nothing to fear.

He puts this to good use in a Parley move which he has advantage. He stands firm, tells them he has nothing to fear as they've been had by a known charlatan. He then firmly asks them about the Garret family. He gets a 7-9 result so they're going to need something from him in the exchange.

They want a Writ of Liability against the Marshedge Apothecary to take it before their local magistrate. Cullen will have to spend 1 Supply in order to meet this demand. He agrees to do so in exchange for what they know about the Garret family (see above).


They have their information + down 1 Supply + they'll get a message to Stonetop (these pilgrims are traveling there to resupply) + they aren't driven from Titan Bones to have to Make Camp in the wild.

Related, they've made some possible friends in Marshedge (the pilgrims) and a likely complication (the well-connected apothecary as charlatan) when they invariably travel to Marshedge.




Alright, enough for tonight.

Thanks again @hawkeyefan !
 
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  • 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.

Alright, let me resolve this and then I'll get to particulars of Dap and Gavin and their Triumphant Return after banishing The Dark Below, saving Fang from death, and adjuring the devils of Sigurd's worst nature.

* They Make Camp in a dangerous wilderness and set watch. So we have 2 Supply turned into Provisions for each PC (so 4 Supply total - 1 for each day).

* We need to find out who is going to be the PC on watch when whatever happens (if something does) when I make my Disclaim Decisions move to find out if anything approaches camp (a Danger or a Discovery). The means to do this is 1d6 w/ the orthodox spread of 1-2 = bad (Danger), 3-4 = mixed (TBD Danger/Discovery or both), 5-6 = pretty good (Discovery).

(a) The players choose Trys when they Set Watch and (b) the 1d6 turns up a 1 (so Danger).

I describe the labored sounds of clippety-clopping of horse hooves in the shallow ravine beneath their camp (think Utah badlands with almost butte like hills and labyrinthine ravines that can flash flood and dry up immediately). They can't see the horse as there is an overhang on the ridge line they occupy which is obscuring the beast in the ravine...but they know its there.

(b) Trys attempts to call it with the typical horse call. Defy Danger (Cha) = 6- and mark xp.

My move here is that this horse was a distraction while 3 (all female) hunters of a Hillfolk tribe stalk into their camp, spears leading. They make a similar call to Trys, mocking her, as she turns to see them with threatening spears in her face.

* Cullen awakes to hear the exchange between the 4 women. The 3 Hillfolk admire her obvious warrior disposition, advise her to either join them or leave without looking back, and they'll claim the "good stock male."

With this exchange, Cullen makes another Know Things move with his Well Read playbook move (sub Wis for Int). Unfortunately, he gets a 6- so he marks xp and its some terrible news. This tribe is one of the few Hill Folk tribes that are known for their brutality (the Hill Folk are distributed hunter/gatherer tribes of varying dispositions and beliefs in The Flats and the Steplands; the lands that flank Stonetop to the east). All females, they bear the markings and behavior of The Black Widow spider. They capture men of good stock to breed with then the coming pregnancy (or pregnancies) is/are consummated and "blessed" by eating the male entirely. They have no use for males not of good stock nor females who are incapable of helping them/won't acquiesce to their ways.

So this is very bad news and 1 Grim Portent toward the Impending Doom (1/3) of this threat and the ultimate fate of the Garret family. So something bad has already happened due to this result/reveal, but things are still in the balance.

* Trys has heard enough. They have the jump on her and they're in range. She decides that she isn't going to bother trying to make a move to defend herself from their incoming attacks so I have to follow through on my soft move with a hard move (deal damage). She's drawing her sword and laying them low. So procedurally this is:

1) Deal their damage which 1d6 base +2 for the 2 others. It doesn't amount to much (4 I believe) and her 2 Armor soaks the worst of it.

2) Clash to resolve the melee exchange in Close (tag) range. She gets a 7-9 so she deals her damage (to each because they are in range) and she eats the same counterattack as above.

2a) She takes 3 damage this time (5-2 armor).

2b) She gets 4 or more damage on each of her damage rolls (they have 4 damage), cleaving the 3 warriors into warrior-pieces.





@hawkeyefan asked me what I would have done if Trys' Defy Danger (Cha) move with the horse call. I considered that and said the following:

7-9 = Horse responds but there are signs of a struggle but no rider. It bears either its own blood from a wound or the blood of a rider. I'm ticking a Grim Portent here still and the fiction is we have signs that the family is in trouble (bad), but nothing immediate. Further, they also have the horse here that could become an asset if they can recover it (its down in the ravine below them) and resolve its terrible condition (an opportunity).

10+ = The horse responds and there is a rider. One of the two young daughters is on the horse and she is unconscious in the saddle. The two of them are nearing death by way of exposure. No Grim Portent ticked here but we've got both an opportunity (recover the horse and resolve its health as an asset and recover the girl and resolve her flagging health and find out what happened to the family) and a potential liability in the horse and the young child.
 


pemerton

Legend
I don't know this system beyond what I've read in this thread. @Manbearcat's account of play just upthread conveys clearly enough how it is a PbtA-variant. (And I realise that was posted earlier as well. But the more recent post actually spells out some of the details of that.)

Because it's @Manbearcat, who's all-DitV-all-of-the-time, we have a homesteader villager family and their horses and wagons lost.

But what most struck me in @hawkeyefan's recount was the episode with the father and the dog. It's very personal, even intimate. That same sort of focus (or at least the possibility of that sort of focus) is one of the things I love about Burning Wheel. I think it's good to have more of this in RPGing. There's enough Marvel Cinematic or Star Trek-reboot style fiction in the world without we RPGers needing to create more of it!

A technical question - how (if at all) does the system handle the split party, in terms of the actions, choices and consequences of one group ramifying back onto the others. This is something that I've never fully mastered as a GM, although MHRP/Cortex+ Heroic makes it a thing because the Doom Pool is common even if the PCs are separated. (And conversely: I think it's an elelgant feature of Torchbearer that it comes right out and says that splitting the party makes no difference in the Adventure Phase and isn't permitted for Camp or Town phase.)
 

I don't know this system beyond what I've read in this thread. @Manbearcat's account of play just upthread conveys clearly enough how it is a PbtA-variant. (And I realise that was posted earlier as well. But the more recent post actually spells out some of the details of that.)

Because it's @Manbearcat, who's all-DitV-all-of-the-time, we have a homesteader villager family and their horses and wagons lost.

I was waiting for this from you!

But what most struck me in @hawkeyefan's recount was the episode with the father and the dog. It's very personal, even intimate. That same sort of focus (or at least the possibility of that sort of focus) is one of the things I love about Burning Wheel. I think it's good to have more of this in RPGing. There's enough Marvel Cinematic or Star Trek-reboot style fiction in the world without we RPGers needing to create more of it!

A technical question - how (if at all) does the system handle the split party, in terms of the actions, choices and consequences of one group ramifying back onto the others. This is something that I've never fully mastered as a GM, although MHRP/Cortex+ Heroic makes it a thing because the Doom Pool is common even if the PCs are separated. (And conversely: I think it's an elelgant feature of Torchbearer that it comes right out and says that splitting the party makes no difference in the Adventure Phase and isn't permitted for Camp or Town phase.)

Yeah, we all agreed that it was particularly interesting that Trys' player decided that her situation with her father was too raw, too volatile for her to confront. When she asked her friends to look into his disappearance without her, we were all taken in by the idea.

I don't know if you've seen Deadwood (yes, more Western references from me!)? This game has a very Deadwood feel to me personally (despite it being set in a fantasy Iron/Bronze Age crucible). Every person in the village matters. Who they are. What they do. How their shoes can't just be filled by another. The system pushes that and decisions feed back into that.

So the way split-party action > consequences impact everyone is a few ways:

1) Affecting Stonetop (its personnel and its sensitivity to that personnel/assets/statistics directly, forcing Steading moves which may create new fiction/affect stats-by-proxy, or creating new Threats that will emerge to potentially compromise those things, or manifesting Grim Portents of existing Threats) which (like the Crew in Blades) is its own character.

2) Affecting the manifestation of Grim Portents toward Impending Dooms (filling boxes until the Doom tolls) when the configuration of one group's fiction <> moves & results makes sense to amplify/impact the Threats that the other group is presently dealing with.

(2) is a delicate matter as there are temporal, spatial, fictional positioning, and thematic constraints in play here. So a GM will have to be extremely shrewd and skillful in incorporating all the constituent parts in their decision-making process. And if the players don't love the move, they should express that. Sometimes (as we both know!) a GM thinks a move is particularly shrewd and skillful (masterfully threading that needle in the first sentence) and one or more players don't feel it.
 


@Manbearcat - thanks for the (1) and (2) responses.

(2) reminds me - in very general terms, not specifics of either the technical implementation or all of the sorts of judgements required - of the MHRP Doom Pool.

You compared (1) to BitD. It also made me think of HeroWars/Quest, which has rules for how settlements change in response to what the heroes do.

Both very apt!

Here is a Steading Improvement:

TOWNSHIP.JPG


Imagine that after the present adventure, you have the customary (unless a Threat is immediately upon you to dictate otherwise) week or more downtime (the time required to level up or tick this kind of Steading Improvement). Every one of these prerequisites are going to be met as a result of the coming adventure.

Except...

Oops...a Threat that is in play ticks all of its Grim Portents and triggers an Impending Doom that attacks one of these requirements while the groups (or two groups if its split-party) is away doing their adventuring (also due to their adventuring as its the downstream effect of either (a) a move result or (b) a soft move ignored). However, you have foreseen this possibility so before you left you Mustered the populace against the Threat manifesting in the interim:

MUSTER
When you press every able body into the defense of a steading, reduce Fortunes by 1 and roll +Population:

On a 7+, the steading is alert and ready for action, increasing Defenses by 1 for as long as the muster holds; on a 10+, also pick 2; on a 7-9, also pick 1.

  • Everyone’s willing to pitch in; don’t reduce the town’s Fortunes after all
  • The muster holds together as long as the threat lasts, even without your presence
  • 1 or 2 individuals show real potential; ask the GM who and how

You've got +2 Population (remember you need to have it +2 for 4 consecutive seasons). Except...your made move results in a 6-. That 6- means that one of the requirements above is caput. Now, one of those things is lost and Stonetop has not ascended to Township status...

That is...unless one of the players has gained enough and retained enough xp to Burn Brightly or one of the players has a currency (like the Judge's Diligence) that lets you expend it to gain a +1 on a move a player just made (turning a 6- into a 7-9 or a 7-9 into a 10+). In this case, it would be akin to a Blades Flashback where you moralized a member of Stonetop to rise to just such an occasion or reinforced the inner wall to hold with your uncle the stonemason or a miracle or some such.
 


@Manbearcat

I don't want to divert your thread too much from its focus. But I think the difference between what you've set out in your post just upthread, and the rules for turning camps into settlements and the economics rules in the Torchbearer Lore Master's Manual, help illustrate why I don't see Torchbearer as "story now" (which is not a criticism of Torchbearer!).

You're fine!

When I have some solid time to dedicate to the effort + coinciding cognitive horsepower, I'm going to make a post about this subject exactly. I'm going to discuss the following things:

* System-wise, what makes up the constituent parts of Story Now games vs Step On Up games. Then I'm going to pull back and evaluate how those constituent parts (a) differ (subtly often) and (b) coalesce to create each's particular agenda for play and attendant experience by each participant.

* What is the cognitive workspace that each participant inhabits in this two types of games. How do they differ and, very importantly, is it possible (or probable) that increased experience/understanding with a system that is all three of (i) intricate, (ii) extremely Skilled Play intensive, and (iii) thematically robust (meaning framing and consequences and incentive structures are inextricably tethered to theme and premise) and demanding can drift from an initial orientation by the participants of Step On Up more toward Story Now?


This last part is very interesting to me. I think the divergent experiences of 4e has some purchase here. I think my experiences in GMing Torchbearer with veteran TB players vs new TB players has a tale to tell here. I think the differences of Mouse Guard and Torchbearer have a whole lot of purchase here (as we've discussed prior) because if you excised the intricacy and extreme Skilled Play intensiveness of Torchbearer, you would land squarely on Mouse Guard (which is no surprise as TB was birthed from MG's engine!).

Because you've mentioned it, I'll also discuss the differences between Stonetop's steading rules and integration vs TB2's LM rules for building out a Camp into a (hopefully persistent) steading.

Anyhoo, I'll get to that at some point in the future and when I do, I'll let you know!
 

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