Stonetop RPG - Session post-mortems

pemerton

Legend
@hawkeyefan, the other aspect of danger that came through in your and @Manbearcat's recount was the threat to things the PCs care about. It can trivialise this a bit, I think, to call this an "emotional" threat. With the wolf Thorin, and the dog Fang, and the father Sigurd, it's not just that the PCs (and players) might be upset if they are hurt, or lost to the darkness; but also that this will set back the PC's "position" eg Stonetop will lose it's blacksmith, and that's not a trivial thing; or a boy losing his dog (am I recalling that right for Fang?) might be the beginning of a bigger range of social dislocations, unless it is dealt with in some effective fashion.

To resort to some of my stock terminology, this is a difference between harm to NPCs and associates as mere colour; and harm that actually matters to, and ramifies through, the game play.

This occurred once or twice in my 4e D&D play, but most of the time the mundane world was a backdrop and all the danger and threat was either to the PCs directly or of a more cosmological and often, therefore, impersonal nature. But it is a recurrent feature of Prince Valiant. It also comes up a bit in Classic Traveller, though often in a more cynical or expedient fashion (that being a function of both the default Traveller setting and the Traveller mechanics).

I hope the above makes some sense.
 

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Aldarc

Legend
@hawkeyefan, the other aspect of danger that came through in your and @Manbearcat's recount was the threat to things the PCs care about. It can trivialise this a bit, I think, to call this an "emotional" threat. With the wolf Thorin, and the dog Fang, and the father Sigurd, it's not just that the PCs (and players) might be upset if they are hurt, or lost to the darkness; but also that this will set back the PC's "position" eg Stonetop will lose it's blacksmith, and that's not a trivial thing; or a boy losing his dog (am I recalling that right for Fang?) might be the beginning of a bigger range of social dislocations, unless it is dealt with in some effective fashion.

To resort to some of my stock terminology, this is a difference between harm to NPCs and associates as mere colour; and harm that actually matters to, and ramifies through, the game play.

This occurred once or twice in my 4e D&D play, but most of the time the mundane world was a backdrop and all the danger and threat was either to the PCs directly or of a more cosmological and often, therefore, impersonal nature. But it is a recurrent feature of Prince Valiant. It also comes up a bit in Classic Traveller, though often in a more cynical or expedient fashion (that being a function of both the default Traveller setting and the Traveller mechanics).

I hope the above makes some sense.
That's partly a basic result of the game's hyper-localized setting.

Interviewer: Can you destroy the earth?
The Tick: EGAD! I hope not. That's where I keep all my stuff!

The village of Stonetop is the "world" for the PCs. It's where they keep their stuff. Their friends, family, and close connections are there. Nearly every PC has a built-in local connection as a result of their playbook. The game is village-centric. Play revolves around the PCs' relationship to Stonetop.

Once the PCs are done adventuring, that's where they will return. These are the people they have to answer to for their actions. As you say, these inhabitants are not so easily replaceable. How many priests of Danu are their? How many blacksmiths, cartwrights, potters, or weavers? Their issues are not so easily solved by having the PCs swing their swords around to make them go away. Violence won't stop their drought or the blizzard that threatens their crops. (It may help with related issues, but not the fundamental ones that need addressed.)
 

@hawkeyefan, the other aspect of danger that came through in your and @Manbearcat's recount was the threat to things the PCs care about. It can trivialise this a bit, I think, to call this an "emotional" threat. With the wolf Thorin, and the dog Fang, and the father Sigurd, it's not just that the PCs (and players) might be upset if they are hurt, or lost to the darkness; but also that this will set back the PC's "position" eg Stonetop will lose it's blacksmith, and that's not a trivial thing; or a boy losing his dog (am I recalling that right for Fang?) might be the beginning of a bigger range of social dislocations, unless it is dealt with in some effective fashion.

To resort to some of my stock terminology, this is a difference between harm to NPCs and associates as mere colour; and harm that actually matters to, and ramifies through, the game play.

This occurred once or twice in my 4e D&D play, but most of the time the mundane world was a backdrop and all the danger and threat was either to the PCs directly or of a more cosmological and often, therefore, impersonal nature. But it is a recurrent feature of Prince Valiant. It also comes up a bit in Classic Traveller, though often in a more cynical or expedient fashion (that being a function of both the default Traveller setting and the Traveller mechanics).

I hope the above makes some sense.

It absolutely does, and that's definitely part of what I meant about the sense of danger, although I was focused more on the PCs in my post. But the steading itself and its people add another dimension to play. There's more at stake.

I think what helps this is the mechanical element of NPCs and how they impact the steading. As you mention here and @Aldarc mentions in the following post, the NPCs represent necessary skills/roles for the town, and losing one will impact how Stonetop functions and prospers. These things can impact the stats of the steading, which can impact the performance of NPCs and the PCs themselves.

That bit of mechanical heft really helps support the importance of the NPCs in the minds of the characters. There's a game importance to the players that aligns with the emotional importance of the characters, if that makes sense. The rules support the fiction.

We played last night, and I'll try and add my session notes soon, but this came up for sure in a couple of ways, both in Trys and Cullen trying to save the Garretts, and also in some follow up activities.
 

Here's the recap/summary of our session from Thursday.

First Spring, Week Two

  • Trys and Cullen agree that, having killed some of the Maneaters, they need to investigate the nearby campfire that night, so they set out. They first have to navigate the heights and the terrain. They need to find a safe passage down from the higher land, down into the ravines where they saw the fire.
  • They decide that safety is more important than stealth, and so they approach across the open terrain rather than through a more narrow passage. Before long, they comes across what appear to be bodies that are partially mummified in stalagmite like piles of some strange resin. These appear to be placed here to warn intruders away. Before they can examine things more closely, they realize that one of the bodies encased in the resin appears to be alive, and also that a strange creature is nearby, sniffing at the air. The creature walks on a pair of strong hind legs, and appears to have either feathers or scales. It resembles a cross between a velociraptor and a coyote. It detects Trys and Cullen, and growls.
  • Letting out a piercing cry, the beast spits resin at the two of them. Cullen steps forward to take the hit and manages to do so, leaving Trys free to rush the creature. It has reach, so she needs to either approach it cautiously or take a hit to get in close. She takes the hit, but then doesn’t manage to score one of her own. She winds up grabbing its jaws and raking her sword across its body. Cullen, recovering from the slowing effect of the resin, then jumps in and distracts the creature, trying to keep its attention on him so that Trys can finish it off, striking its head off with a mighty blow.
  • The trilling of the creature has drawn attention, and enemies are heard approaching. Trys rushes to check on the trapped person; it appears to be the elder Garrett. She uses her blanket and bedroll to make the man as comfortable as possible, but he’s in a bad way. Cullen tries to determine how far off the enemies are, and realizes that they’ll arrive in about a half minute. There is a woman riding a larger version of the creature they’d just killed; she wears an ornate headdress and a feathered cloak. Several paces back from her there is a group of five more warriors, armed with spears. They’re scrambling up a steep incline, but they seem to be comfortable doing so.
  • - Trys harnesses her anger, and decides to heave the body of the slain creature down at them, and Cullen runs over to help her. They toss the corpse down and manage to catch the larger creature. It stumbles and the priestess loses her seat and falls off gracefully, landing and raising her iron tipped spear.
  • Cullen goes on the defensive, distracting the creature so that Trys can land a devastating blow that manages to finish the creature off.
  • Cullen then invokes his god, Aratis, and declares the priestess as an agent of chaos. She balks at his words, and appears to recognize the name Aratis. She holds her spear forth and lays it down, seemingly wanting to end hostilities.
  • Cullen demands that the Garretts be freed. He points to the slain bodies of the tribe’s mounts and Trys then tosses the headdresses of the three warriors they killed back at their camp. The priestess does not agree to these terms, and says she will release the Garrett women, but they will keep the young man. Neither Cullen nor Trys are willing to agree to this, and push to renegotiate.
  • The priestess offers to release the boy if Cullen will agree to consecrate the alliance per their ancient ways, which seem to involve actual consummation. In such agreements made with other tribes, the Maneaters do not consume the male. Cullen considers this for a moment, and decides it is a test put forth to him by Aratis; this will involve a spiritual battle between Aratis and whatever demon the tribe venerates. He realizes that it's the only way of saving the entire Garrett family, and so he agrees.
  • In that moment as he considered the offer and had decided to agree, Trys had come to her own decision. And it was clearly a “no”. She charged the priestess, sliding down the hillside, sword raised!
  • The warriors unleash their spears, doing some damage to Trys, but not enough to stop her. She hits the priestess, but then the woman’s cloak billows outward and she floats back and away from Trys as if flying. Trys tries to grab her, but catches a kick to the face for her troubles, but she simply shrugs it off. The priestess shouts commands in a strange tongue from up high to the Hillfolk back in the camp, and they stir to action.
  • Cullen realizes that the Garretts are likely about to be harmed or killed, so he charges the now weaponless warriors below. He lands amidst them, and with his forceful hammer of office takes out three of the five, and send the other two reeling. He ignores them and dashes off for the campsite.
  • Trys snatches up one of the spears that had been thrown at her, and hurls it into the priestess, killing her and dropping her to the ground. Trys retrieves the cloak, hoping to somehow use its power to make it to the camp before the Garretts are harmed. There is a very strange sensation she feels as she grabs the cloak, as if she has communed with something otherworldly.
  • Cullen sees that the Hillfolk women in camp have drawn knives and are going to kill the Garrett women. He recalls the way his god’s name had affected the priestess, and so he shouts out to Aratis again, telling the Hillfolk that he would destroy them all if they harmed the Garretts. The remaining Hillfolk, realizing that their creatures and their priestess, as well as most of their warriors were gone, decided to flee rather than stay.
  • Trys and Cullen enter the camp and collect the Garrett women. The Garrett boy is found in a nearby hut. Although he has been traumatized, he is physically unharmed. Their second horse is also here and unharmed. Trys heads back up the hill to collect father Garrett. The man is still breathing, and she brings him back to the camp, reuniting him with his family. They salvage some small amount of supplies from the camp, and they feed the Garretts and keep them warm.
  • Cullen investigates the effigies that are on display in the camp, and recalling what he read in Follux’s Guide to the Hillfolk, determines that this tribe venerates a demon of gluttony, consumption, and hedonism known as Ovan, the Twisted Horns, a ram-like figure and an enemy of harmony that seeks to destroy all bonds and laws.
  • After regrouping, Trys decides to go out and save the other horse, a stallion named Tempest, and she brings the Garrett boy, Lief (ha!) with her. They manage to coax the sickly horse back to the camp. After a short rest, the group decides to head out at daybreak. They manage to get back to the Garretts’ original campsite, where they were taken and where their wagon was left behind. Given the condition of the horses, it’s decided to hide the wagon as best as possible, and to return for it later.
  • The group presses on toward Titan Bones. There are only enough supplies to keep the Garretts and the horses fed; both Cullen and Trys go hungry for the two day journey. He attempts to appeal to the sense of charity of the merchants at Titan Bones to help provide the Garretts with food and water, but his pleas fall on deaf ears. After the ordeal of the battle and the exhausting journey back, Cullen is left disheartened by their callousness. One peddler offers to feed the Garretts for the two day trip back to Stonetop, but he says he wants the horse, Tempest, as payment.
  • Trys however, points out that the Garretts were victims of the Maneater tribe and that she and Cullen had killed their leader and scattered those that remain. She shows them the headdress of the priestess. At this news, the merchants change their tune. They offer some supplies for the journey as thanks for ridding the area of a threat. Cullen then spends some time foraging for some more supplies, and they soon have enough to feed everyone in the party but him, but he accepts that. They depart and make their way back to Stonetop.
  • Trys and Cullen Return Triumphantly to Stonetop, having saved the Garrett family and their pair of horses.
  • During the celebration that followed, Trys and Cullen impress upon the town publicans, Sawyl and Sianna, the need to recover the wagon. It will be a helpful asset to the town. They decide to send the blacksmith apprentice and the Garrett boy out with the watch member Grunhilda. The publicans agree to this and so the expedition heads out and manages to recover the wagon.
  • Trys returns home to find a new, beautiful hammer laying on her bed, a gift from her father, though he pretends to be asleep as she comes in to find it.
  • The next day, Gavin is discussing with Demi, the steading’s best engineer who is in charge of the cistern, that they need to improve their ability to collect rainwater. He talks about slate tiles and gutters that may allow for greater collection of water. Demi says that such a job is beyond her, and that the only engineer she knows of who could do that is a master she studied under years ago. Supposedly, he is out at Gordin’s Delve, a mining community that actually has an aqueduct.
  • The two decide to consult with Cullen to see what he knows about the aqueduct. They head to the Chronicle and find Cullen talking to someone who is not there. Demi feels uncomfortable in the ancient hold, and she makes an excuse to leave. Gavin then talks to Cullen about Gordin’s Delve, and Cullen says he’ll consult one of the books in the Chronicle. Unfortunately, they learn that the aqueduct in Gordin’s Delve is not the product of technology, but of the binding of an Elder Primal Spirit known as the Raging Torrent to the great water wheel in the community. Worse, that any who learn of this captured water spirit who do nothing to free it will be cursed to face constant rains and floods in their own home….
 


Were there any particular moments that you found that the mechanics pushed the narrative into an interesting direction that no one foresaw?

Interesting question! This session had such momentum that it's a bit trickier to pull out each individual moment to examine. There are a few moments that were surprising, so I'll list those, though not all were the result of mechanics pushing play in a surprising way.

The first thing I can think of is the presentation of a choice in how to approach the camp. a more difficult but physically riskier path versus an easier path that was more obvious. The sneaky route included crossing a narrow strip of rock with a significant fall below. I only considered the sneaky route for a moment before deciding that didn't make any sense for Cullen, and I was glad to see Trys's player agreed. Neither character is really one for sneaking about, and neither of us wanted to face significant harm before even reaching the camp. So in this we leaned not so much into our strengths, but away from our weaknesses, I'd say.

The most surprising moment wasn't about mechanics so much as the two players having different ideas on how to proceed. When the priestess presented her offer of truce to Cullen, I weighed it and decided he'd agree as it seemed the best chance to effectively save all the Garretts, and though the result was distasteful to say the least, he viewed it as a test of his faith put to him by Aratis. No sooner had I decided this than Trys's player simply said "No, Trys isn't down with that" and charged. It was a great moment and it led to things being more frantic as we scrambled to try and salvage the situation.
EDITED TO ADD: Trys’s player reminded me that her decision to attack was based on her failed roll to control the rage she had triggered earlier in the scene. So it turns out this surprising moment was more mechanically dependent than I had recalled.

I think that another element that came up was how my use of Cullen's Censure ability established some fiction that I was later able to leverage. He declared the priestess as an agent of chaos which gives me the choice of three effects, the one I chose was that she balks or hesitates for a moment. @Manbearcat narrated this as a flinching at the name of Aratis, and implied there was perhaps some history between whatever entity she worshipped and Cullen's. So later, when Cullen was charging the camp and the remaining tribswomen were threatening to cut the Garrett womens' throats, I knew there was no way I'd make it in time, so I had Cullen shout threats from Aratis in an attempt to scare them off.

In deciding to grab the priestess's cloak, Trys somehow communed with the air spirit bound to the cloak, and so now that's an ongoing challenge that's lingering. She'll need to overcome this thing's presence or influence in a series of tests.

Finally, I think that Cullen's plea to the merchants failing was surprising because it resulted in a debility. He was disheartened by the lack of compassion, which had a mechanical effect on play in the form of penalties to both Constitution and Charisma checks. I wasn't expecting that as a consequence, and it would be a significant one if it had not happened so close to the end of the adventure and our return to Stonetop.

Those are the ones I can think of off the top of my head. @Manbearcat may have more to suggest from a GM standpoint.
 
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The session was awesome and several things stuck but the only 2 system things that I was waiting to see in action was (a) this iteration of the Defend move and (b) a Trys Storm-Marked playbook move (both featured significantly in this session!).

I particularly liked the (phalanx-like) teamwork of you and Trys . When you kept your 1 Defense and used it to draw the Reach advantage (Reach vs Trys’ Close) attack to you so Trys didn’t have to Defy Danger in order to Clash? That was particularly awesome and a change in the Defend move from DW to ST (that you can retain Hold and spend it later so long as you don’t go on the offensive).

Both of you guys’ combat play was exemplary.

Another thing that stood out was the thematic move of Trys after failing her “Storm Markings” playbook move:





When you roil with anger, you do +1 damage until you calm down. But when you try to control your temper, roll +WIS: on a 10+, you keep your cool and act as you wish; on a 7-9, choose 1 from the list below; on a 6-, you just lose it—tell the GM what damn fool thing you end up doing.

* Take some deep breaths and count to ten, fuming all the while.

* Vent your rage, but tell us how and on what.

When you are struck by lightning or an electrical discharge, mark 1, take no damage, and suffer no ill effects (your gear, alas, has no such protection):






This put everything (and I mean everything…all of the NPCs, but particularly the vulnerable ones at camp) back at risk after a pair of social move results led to > yes, but here are some terms that aren’t great > renegotiation = new terms but a different brand of “not great” (eg physical entanglement for you leading to downstream spiritual entanglement sandwich via your deity and a demon with you in the middle).

You had the situation resolved socially. But the defiling terms were too much for her to allow you to accept, she roiled with anger > 6- on move > lost control and so she planted her flag and went all Reckless and said “I’ll risk it all to vanquish this tribe of Hill Folk and their demonic patronage.”

That almost went very very very sideways with a Garrett family slaughter. You had a huge save there.

I loved the juxtaposition of Harmony (you) vs Recklessness (her) and I’m interested to see more of it.

In essence she got you guys off with everything you wanted…but it was razor’s edge thin. It needed a few huge moves/fiction plays + results or it would have gone from the “a good chunk of what we want” your PC had established to “nearly none of what you want.”
 
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This put everything (and I mean everything…all of the NPCs, but particularly the vulnerable ones at camp) back at risk after a pair of social move results led to > yes, but here are some terms that aren’t great > renegotiation = new terms but a different brand of “not great” (eg physical entanglement for you leading to downstream spiritual entanglement sandwich via your deity and a demon with you in the middle).

You had the situation resolved socially. But the defiling terms were too much for her to allow you to accept, she roiled with anger > 6- on move > lost control and so she planted her flag and went all Reckless and said “I’ll risk it all to vanquish this tribe of Hill Folk and their demonic patronage.”

My urge as a player was to have Cullen deny the request and attack. But the way he's taking shape in my mind, with Harmony as his instinct, it made sense to seek the solution that resulted in as much of our goal as possible, with as little risk as possible.

That Trys wound up ignoring that decision resulted in some really exciting play, and was just one of those moments I love about RPGs.
 

A little late, but I've had a particularly busy week.

First spring, Week Three
  • The four friends meet at the common house to discuss the situation with the Endless Torrent in Gordin’s Delve and the curse that may be upon Stonetop. In the past couple of days, Cullen has communed with Aratis for guidance and he received a vision of the great water wheel of Gordin’s Delve ground to a halt. Gavin wants to free the Endless Torrent, but has concerns about the impact on Gordin’s Delve. Dap mistrusts the water spirit, and wants to be sure that it won’t be a threat to others. Trys feels that perhaps an alternative method to power the water wheel could be found.
  • Dap confirm that the spirits of the world have withdrawn or are missing, and that the world’s despair grows without them. Gavin then heads off to commune with water spirits. He removes some storm debris from a nearby creek, restoring the flow, and then attempts to commune with the spirits of the creek. They are young things and don’t know of the Endless Torrent, but they tell him that the older spirits in Farrier’s Fen will know.
  • Trys speaks with her father about a horsedrawn mechanism that could be crafted to power the water wheel. Sigurd says that it would require a stronger metal that what is common, and he suggests using nickel, which can be found in a mine at Gordin’s Delve and also at a crater near Farrier’s Fen where there was a “heavenly strike”.
  • Cullen consults the Eidolonicon in the Vault. He hopes to learn the nature of the Endless Torrent, and if it is benevolent or malevolent. He learns that it is neither, like water, it simply is. Its purpose is to uncover the unknown through erosion. It seeks to reveal secrets.
  • Meanwhile, Dap heads to Sigurd and Trys’s house and overhears their exchange. In an awkward appeal, Sigurd asks Dap to bless their metalwork. Trys wants to leave, but Dap encourages her to stay. Dap explains to Sigurd that his penance will be a long process, not something that can be rushed, or accomplished in an evening. Sigurd agrees and says he understands, and then comments on how Trys’s mother would have loved to see this. By mentioning her, it’s obvious that he’s still struggling.
  • The four friends regroup at Dap’s Chandlery. It’s agreed that Trys and Gavin will head to Farrier’s Fen to consult the water spirits there, and to see about finding some nickel to help in the possible construction of a mechanism to operate the water wheel. Dap and Cullen are going to head to Gordin’s Delve to see what they can learn of the place; none of them have actually been there yet.
  • Trys and Gavin prepare for their journey. Trys attempts to commune with the air spirit of the hillfolk priestess’s cloak. She’s transported to a cliff in a spiritual realm. A winged yet formless creature approaches her but she cannot truly grasp its appearance. She suddenly falls into the chasm before her… only to wake from the vision. She’s shaken by the experience.
  • For the journey, Gavin will act as the navigator and Trys will act as the scout. The journey will be dangerous as it goes off the known roads and into the wilderness. Dangers may include bears rousing from hibernation, unstable terrain from the thaw and the recent rains, and crinwin (a kind of hive-dwelling goblin type creature).
  • As they head into the wilderness, Trys finds a favorable path where there is heavy canopy to shelter them, and a natural cleft in the rock that can serve as a campsite. They find a star-like totem left in the cleft. Gavin seeks nearby spirits and finds the thicket itself responds. He needs to grasp its thorny branches to commune with it, and the thicket tells him that a small, desperate female traveler came here and left the totem as an offering. Gavin and Trys decide not to disturb the totem, and then ready to make camp. Gavin manages their provisions efficiently, which will benefit them going forward. For now, this is where we leave them.
  • .
  • Cullen and Dap decide it may be a good idea to bring an engineer with them to Gordin’s Delve, so they seek out Demi, who operates the cistern in Stonetop. She has been to Gordin’s Delve, and knows of a master engineer who used to live there and may still. Demi is reluctant to accompany them, however. They ask her to explain, and slowly she shares some details. She fled a person there, a man named Loic, who she was involved with romantically. It seems that there was an issue with a foundation there, a sinkhole or some other structural concern, and she told Loic about it, and he did nothing. She was upset with him for not listening to her, and they had a confrontation that became violent. She then left and came to Stonetop. She thinks that the people of Gordin’s Delve may be in danger. We decide to leave her at home.
  • The two set out along the road to Gordin’s Delve. The weather turns and a storm begins to move in. As they’re climbing a hill, they see a family of travelers in the distance. It looks like three adults are setting camp while three children are downhill a bit, playing in the trench that runs along the side of the road, and acts as a kind of gutter. The rain comes down suddenly, a severe downpour. The trickle in the trench quickly swells to a stream, and the children are in danger of being swept away.
  • Without hesitation, Dap tosses the end of his rope to Cullen, and then dives down into the trench. He manages to get two of the children up and out of danger, but the third is suddenly swept away. Dap dives in after him as Cullen gets the other two up to safety. Dap manages to grab the boy, but smashes his own head on a rock in doing so, and blacks out. Cullen rushes after them, still holding the rope. He wedges the end between a pair of rocks and then jumps in after them. He manages to grab Dap’s collar and pull him from the water, and Dap is still clutching the boy tightly.
  • Cullen and Dap make their way over to the camp. The mother greets them warmly and falls to her knees in praise of Helior. They’re the Hendricks family (mother, father, uncle, daughter, and twin boys). Dap consecrates their fire while Cullen helps the father and uncle finish making shelter. The younger brother sees Cullen’s book and the hammer and recognizes him as a Judge of Aratis. He assumes Cullen is in charge of Stonetop. After a few attempts to correct him, Cullen finally gives in and agrees. The young man explains that they were run out of Gordin’s Delve by a man called “the Jack”. He’s got a lot of people under his thumb paying him money in ex change for being left alone. He’s got some kind of false leg.
  • The Hendricks are rope makers and flax growers and they wouldn’t agree to pay protection money, so they were in danger and had to flee. Dap and Cullen realize that Gordin’s Delve is souding more and more like an uncivilized place. Thought the family used to live in Marshedge and plan on returning there, Cullen and Dap invite them to come to Stonetop. The entire family seems on board… the children are excited, the uncle seems comfortable with the idea of law and order, the mother likes that there’s a Lightbearer… except for the father. Dap explains to him how Stonetop is a strong community and very accepting of people, and that there is a Blessed of Danu in town who can confrm if the environment is right to grow flax. Finally, the father agrees and says that if they can grow flax, then they’ll stay in Stonetop. Cullen drafts a letter to the publicans to vouch for the Hendricks. For now, this is where we leave them.
 

Again this is late. I'm a poor chronicler. We missed our session last week due to injury, so we're picking up tonight from where this post ends.

First Spring, Week Four
  • At camp, Trys hears something in the sky and suddenly something attacks from above. It’s a silvery ethereal bird o prey. She braces to accept the attack, holding her arm up like a falconer, attempting to bond with the spirit. She wakes from the vision and looks around for some trace of the spirit and finds she has vicious talon marks on her arm.
  • A strange hermit shows up to the campsite and questions Trys and Gavin about their business in Farrier’s Fen. He mentions they’re foolish to be out here without bendis root. Gavin knows that burning bendis root will keep the strange occurrences of the Fen at bay. He asks the man if he’s a “Walker of the Fen”, but the old man does not respond. Instead, he tells Trys that townfolk ain’t welcome in the Fen. The hermit asks Gavin if he vouches for Trys, and Gavin says he does. The hermit demands that Gavin show him Danu’s gifts, but Gavin refuses to waste his stock on proving anything to the hermit. The man angrily spits on the ground and tells them the spirits will have them, and then departs.
  • They set out from camp and before long come across a frozen lake next to a mist shrouded peat bog. They need to choose which way to go, and they decide on the bog. Trys breaks out her lantern. Gavin spends some time foraging, and finds some bendis root and replenishes his stock in his pouch. As they approach the misty bog, Trys scouts and they place bendis root in the lantern. Something moves beneath the surface of the bog, something large. Trys spots a nearby hilltop that juts out of the bog. The two run for the hill and make it before anything happens.
  • They find a pair of bodies covered in moss on the hilltop, the victims of exposure. Trys manages to salvage some supplies from the bodies. Meanwhile, Gavin reaches out to see what spirits may be nearby. He senses the spirt of the rock beneath them, and the bog itself. He decides to speak to the spirit of the bog. It asks of him an offering, and so Gavin offers it his… leavings. Trys is a bit startled by this, but it works and the spirit is satisfied.
  • Gavin asks about the Endless Torrent, and the spirit of the bog explains that the Endless Torrent only feels the passage of time while it is trapped. If freed, it will no longer feel the passage of time. The spirit says that the Endless Torrent cares not for man nor the wood nor the bog. Gavin then asks about the nickel. It tells them that the strike from above that left the nickel behind and froze the lake also resulted in some being scattered about. The impact sprayed the metal around the area.
  • They set out and manage to find a store of nickel, but hauling it back to camp proves troublesome, and Trys loses her boots and cloak in the process. They manage to cobble together some makeshift boots to replace them, and a blanket to serve as a cloak, but she’s now at risk of exposure if she remains out on the Fen for long. They make their way back to their previous campsite. At camp, Trys asks Gavin to commune with the spirit of the Hillfolk priestess’s cloak. Gavin receives a vision of a peregrine falcon diving and attacking something huge on the ground. He recollects that only two groups of people would bind spirits to items like this. One is the Hillfolk, who do it through demonic ritual to control and corrupt nature. The other is the Makers, who did it without corruption, but whose ways are lost. This spirit has been bound through demonic ritual. Gavin asks how it can be freed, but it does not know, it can only bring him to where it was bound. Gavin asks Trys if he can hold onto the cloak, and she readily agrees. He tells the spirit of the cloak that he will free it. For now, this is where we leave them.
  • .
  • Having convinced the Hendricks to head to Stonetop, Dap and Cullen head on to Gordin’s Delve. As they make their approach to the town along a windy mountain path, they come across a giant boar blocking their way. The boar is chained to a wagon that hangs over the side of the cliff, so it is struggling to keep itself from being pulled over the side. There are a couple of bodies below that indicate the people in the wagon somehow lost control of the beast and it pushed them over the side. It is marked with a brand that says it is the “sixth sow of the brood”, which is said to have supernatural qualities. There are people nearby, past the boar and around a bend in the path; Dap and Cullen can hear them; they seem to be carousing.
  • Dap calls to the people to ask about the boar. They explain that it belonged to the folks at the bottom of the cliff. They don’t have any advice to offer, or information to share beyond that. Dap and Cullen investigate the area and decide to climb to the cliffs above the boar, and attempt to drop rocks on it to either crush it or else drive it over the side. Cullen uses his hammer to knock loose a large stone that then rolls down the cliff and strikes the boar. The beast loses its bearings and the weight of the wagon pulls it over the side, where it dies on the rocks below. The nearby men cheer at the sight. Dap and Cullen regret that they cannot salvage anything from the beast, but they’re glad to be able to move on.
  • The onlookers turn out to be miners from Gordin’s Delve. They manage to scrape together som coin as payment for solving the problem of the boar. Dap offers them some fine Stonetop whiskey in exchange for leading him and Cullen to town. The miners agree. They spend the trip talking about nonsense that is of little use, and only upon reaching the gates of Gordin’s Delve do they explain that the town’s under martial law, and outsiders are not allowed inside. They thank us for the whiskey and head inside.
  • Dap asks the guards to let us in as we need the help of a great engineer. Cullen offers them the purse he gained from the miners, and the guards accept. The two are let into Gordin’s Delve. The town is very vertical, carved from the mountainside. The foundry is on the ground level, and is surrounded by a sprawl of tents. The great water wheel dominates the other side of the area, and is easily seen. Dap keeps an eye out while Cullen goes to talk to some of the aqueduct laborers on a nearby scaffolding. It does’t go well. Before Cullen can learn anything useful, Dap notices that there are several folks among the laborers who appear to actually be spies; there to watch for dissent among the laborers or for intruders. They’ve noticed Cullen and one begins to move toward him from behind, a hand reaching beneath his cloak.
  • The man draws a dagger as Dap attempts to waylay him. The man shifts his attack to Dap, grabbing him by the shoulder. “Outsiders ain’t welcome here,” he says and slashes Dap’s shoulder. Cullen realizes what’s happening, and raises his hammer toward the man and shouts a threat, trying to draw attention to him. The man still threatens Dap, and Cullen realizes he can’t make the distance before the man can strike, so he draws a handaxe and hurls it, hitting the man’s hand. He falls back with a cry of pain, dropping his dagger. But two more men are moving in on them.
  • Dap grabs a torch and consecrates it, shedding holy light and demanding safety. The people all about see this, clearly a use of supernatural power. At that moment, the heavens open up, and a downpour breaks out, dousing Dap’s torch. This is an ill omen.
  • Things are not looking good. People are scattering and the two enforcers are closing in. Additionally, there are two guards on the walls above, armed with crossbows. For now, this is where we leave them.
 

Alright, we have a lot of play in now. I'm just going to c/p your excerpt from last session's play @Ovinomancer (which was the first session of Summer).

Ovinomancer wrote

What had happened was the near adult son of a recent addition to village started to act out. A few rolls happened steering this in a rocky direction that resulted in the kid trying to violently vandalize the Pavilion of the Gods. As all of the PCs are all essentially priests, we all responded and fun occurred trying to stop the kid without harming him, but his sister who tried to intervene and stop her brother ended up mortally wounded by the brother. As Dap and Trys were saving the girl, Cullen engaged the son and determined he was possessed and decided that right there in the middle of the village was the proper time and place for an exorcism. That went well, except that the demon doing the possession was 12' tall and pissed. Thus began the Cleaning of the Green, or the Day the Gods Walked. Much totally awesome displays of power were witnessed. Lightnings erupting from Trys, Gavin binding the demon with roots and thorns, Cullen rebuking the demon and weakening it, and Dap calling forth the sun to hinder the demon. A titanic battle, with titans all around. Not all was good, Dap did get tossed across the green and badly hurt, and everyone walked away with some new future scars. The Pavilion needs some repairs, and we need to deal with the aftermath of the boy's possession, but never have the forces of darkness and despair seen such a defeat in living memory.

Do you (Ovinomancer), @hawkeyefan , @darkbard , or @Nephis have any thoughts thus far on Stonetop/the play to date (I know the latter two have much less experience, but you also have a huge reservoir of comparative DW play to draw upon)?
 

darkbard

Hero
Alright, we have a lot of play in now. I'm just going to c/p your excerpt from last session's play @Ovinomancer (which was the first session of Summer).



Do you (Ovinomancer), @hawkeyefan , @darkbard , or @Nephis have any thoughts thus far on Stonetop/the play to date (I know the latter two have much less experience, but you also have a huge reservoir of comparative DW play to draw upon)?
I may have some thoughts to offer, but I doubt it will happen over the next few days, which I anticipate to continue being quite busy. Nevertheless, I'll put a pin in this and return when I have a minute.
 


Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Alright, we have a lot of play in now. I'm just going to c/p your excerpt from last session's play @Ovinomancer (which was the first session of Summer).



Do you (Ovinomancer), @hawkeyefan , @darkbard , or @Nephis have any thoughts thus far on Stonetop/the play to date (I know the latter two have much less experience, but you also have a huge reservoir of comparative DW play to draw upon)?
It seems like theory to me.

Silly aside, I'm also swamped but hope to get more in later.
 

@Manbearcat

So I have a question based on our last session and how things played out. I leveled up at the start of the session, and decided to take the playbook ability The Hammer and the Book. For anyone reading, here's what it does:

THE HAMMER AND THE BOOK
When you strike a thing of supernatural chaos, roll +WIS: on a 10+, deal your damage and choose 1 from the list below; on a 7-9, deal damage and choose 1, but you also expose yourself to harm or unwanted attention.
  • Deal +1d6 damage
  • Ignore the thing’s armor or other defenses
  • Suppress one of its unnatural powers
  • Force it from its host
This decision became very relevant to the way the session played out, as Lief, the newcomer to Stonetop who had been traumatized by the hillfolk clan we rescued him from, went on a disruptive rant that we tried to quell. It turned out he was actually possessed of a demonic entity from his imprisonment by the hillfolk, and Cullen used his new ability to drive the entity from him.

So my question is a kind of about the chicken/egg aspect of this. You had given us hints that Lief was not well; we witnessed him get violently ill at the end of our previous session. This likely played into my decision to choose the Hammer and the Book as my advance; mostly I think I did so because it seems to offer a nice spread of options. But that last one there was on my mind in particular, given how play has involved spirits and demonic beings and the like.

Did you decide to frame the situation with Lief with my choice of playbook ability in mind? Or was this something that you already had brewing? Obviously, Lief was some kind of issue, but to what extent had you detailed that? The bit about him making the distiller's apprentice get him booze seemed to be one way that Lief was causing discord in the community. Was that the original idea which then got subsumed by the possession idea? Or was the possession idea or something like it there all along?

I think it'd be interesting to see how this threat came about, and when these details were considered and at what point they crystalized. I have ideas or assumptions, but I think it'd be interesting to see a kind of timeline on it from the GM perspective.
 

Perfect question!

Here is it went:

* When you arrived, he was in preparation to have the ritual consummated (mating and then consumed to continue their line). You spared him that and ended the demonic heritage when you destroyed their leader (who perpetuates it) and scattered the clan.

* However...you guys sent a few of the young folks back (Grunhilda, Leif, and another) to the borders of that encampment to retrieve the cart et al. 7-9 result. Hmmmmm...ok, they get it but there is a complication/cost. Leif returns gravely ill for a period, causing a pall over the settlement (Fortunes -1)...but he apparently recovers.

So at that point, I'm already thinking of a few things:

1) At the outset of chargen, I was thinking about framing scenes and following them to test Cullen's Instinct for Harmony vs Dap's Instinct for Hope. Every PC in the game bears some mark of faith, what happens when those approaches collide? What if Cullen feels they have to cast someone out to save the steading? How will Dap respond? What if you guys are backed into a corner with little options?

2) What exactly was that sickness? At this point I'm thinking of the film Hereditary, and I simply write up a tag for Leif - "haunted." That could mean a lot of things given all that we know if his situation. Being the eldest son of a demanding family (perhaps he doesn't want to be a horse-breeder?). Being the object of a horrific ritual that was nearly consummated. Being afflicted with something terrible that nearly took his life and unsettled the steading. Lots of stuff. Don't know what it is yet. TBD.

3) At some point here, I need to make the Homefront move "Reveal Simmering Tensions." This is a fundamental component of a game like Dogs in the Vineyard or any "Hearth Fantasy-type" of genre. The village/towns begin to fray. A swelling population and new people and influences from other cultures (the east! Marshedge...like Dogs' preoccupation with the influence of folks from cities out east).

4) We arrive to a place with two families (both originally from Marshedge but one recently come from Gordin's Delve) swelling the ranks of Stonetop. Everyone is there. We transition to Summer. We've resolved a lot of issues with one Threat looming but its been ameliorated thus far. Alright, lets make a move portending a visceral problem with Leif. He is "an afflicted young man."

5) The distillery was just fortified by Trys. She cares about this. Lets bring that in. She has a great rift with her father that is healing. Lets bring that in. You're the town mediator. Lets bring that in. Sigard needs holy fortification for the unnatural threat where his hopeless was preyed upon. Lets bring that in. Rage/sympathies, Hope, Harmony, Preservation (of the natural order). Lets do this thing.

You chose Hammer and the Book. Alright, we haven't engaged with this soft move in any consequential way yet; we've merely portended an affliction and a blight on Stonetop. Ok. He's possessed by the demon patron of the Maneater's. THAT is his affliction that he endured when they went back to get the cart et al. He's been fighting it and medicating against it ever since and its been manifesting in terrible ways within his family (that they've done their best to keep a secret from the settlement). Its getting worse and he's losing...

...what are you guys going to do about it? Resolve or let it manifest in an actual encoded Threat to the community.

You guys choose the former.

6) So while we play, I take the Cynddaraig from the setting book, throttle it back a hair and reskin its tags, instinct, moves. Things go the way they go and play resolves the way it resolves.




So, effectively this is an instantiation of "Ask Questions and Use the Answers." I had a looming threat out there with this possibility enfolded in it. But perhaps the affliction meant a few other things; mundane things? If play would have resolved via you guys' actions > moves > resolutions + ask questions and use the answers (or you guys just volunteering answers), I likely would have encoded a different Threat onto play once the first 6- rolled in.

But yeah, once you chose Hammer and the Book, that answered the Hereditary question for the soft moves. The questions become how does all of this manifest and resolve? What do each of you do and what animates you to do it (at all and in the particular way that you do it)? What is the fallout? How does the fallout impact your relationship to each other, to your respective faiths/Instincts, to the constituent parts of Stonetop?

So yeah...that is the deal.

Which is why it felt very much like GMing Dogs to me. Create the Town with some simmering threats > Play the Town > Escalate to conflict > Find out what happens when the PCs mete out justice/separate the blight from the bounty/extoll the virtues/perform ceremony to ritually purify & anoint (etc).

There is a lot of Dogs DNA in this game and its pointedly so due to your chargen (where you are each folks of faith or at least touched by it).
 

@Manbearcat

Very good stuff. I think that's mostly how I imagined a lot of your decision making going, but wasn't sure if there would be anything unexpected in there.

Mentioning Dogs, I actually think I decided to go with the Judge because we had discussed Dogs in the Vineyard, and the idea of a teenaged arbiter of law/morality struck me as an interesting idea. I think prior to play I envisioned Cullen as a little more fire and brimstoney, but he's much less zealous than I'd originally imagined.

I'm not exactly sure why that may be.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
@Manbearcat

Very good stuff. I think that's mostly how I imagined a lot of your decision making going, but wasn't sure if there would be anything unexpected in there.

Mentioning Dogs, I actually think I decided to go with the Judge because we had discussed Dogs in the Vineyard, and the idea of a teenaged arbiter of law/morality struck me as an interesting idea. I think prior to play I envisioned Cullen as a little more fire and brimstoney, but he's much less zealous than I'd originally imagined.

I'm not exactly sure why that may be.
Dap?
 


Maybe. I expect it's the other characters collectively rather than just Dap specifically, but yeah, I expect that's a part of it. When we did character generation, Dap and Cullen kind of came out of that with a pretty strong bond, so I'm sure that was a factor. Then Cullen was paired with Trys for the first adventure. Her reckless and direct nature probably made me lean a bit more cautious and thoughtful as a result. Which certainly makes sense given the Judge Playbook's focus on books and learning and so on.

It's likely also that the Harmony instinct lends itself to cooperation and compromise more than I may have been thinking it would. I think prior to play, I'd been thinking of a kind of "for the greater good" type approach. Like Cullen would make the hard decisions when necessary. And that still may happen, I expect, but so far, there has been a way to kind of achieve or at least shoot for a generally harmonious solution to many of the problems we've faced.

I'm curious how the events of the last session.... the revelation of an actual corrupting influence possessing a villager... may impact his views going forward. Not just in how he would handle such a situation because yeah 12-foot-tall monster manifesting in the town square is probably not the best way... but also in his outlook. Is this always the case with bad behavior? Is it always attributable to outside influence like that? Is there more chaos about than it seems?
 

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