Stonetop RPG - Session post-mortems

[*]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.

I'll just copy/paste what led us to the front of Eli and Aedelfred's house to the signs of Fang being attacked near the home:

Gavin makes a move at the north gate to Seek Insight, rolling +Wis. He's got one of his 3 wolves with him (the others are herding the goats as is their responsibility). His wolf 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.

Dap decides to go to the public house where the collective and any travelers gather in the morning for breakfast/daily communion to see if anyone saw anything (sort of a Consort Action roll in Blades Parlance or a Streetwise in 4e etc). This triggered a Know Things move using Stonetop's Population +0 resulting in 7-9 (something interesting...its on the players to make it useful).

Father Bryce relays to Dap that he heard two Trappers from out of town spotted Sigurd with the walking stick and sack and mumbling to himself about a sacrifice?

The trappers are still there eating their breakast. Dap decides what he has learned is informative enough so he doesn't press the matter by attempting to consort with the two trappers for further information.

Dap and Gavin load out (I didn't mention above, but this move is called Outfit) for their potentially day long exploration of the cliffs and The Great Wood wilderness to the north. They bring Thorin the wolf with them and Dap brings his trusty lantern and source of invocations with him to literally and symbolically light the way (more on that later).

The trek down the cliffs is a dizzying series of switchbacks and it takes a good chunk of the rest of the morning and afternoon to get into the ascending hills of The Great Wood. The trek through the wood is arduous and brutal. It doesn't affect Gavin as he has Trackless Step (he makes no sound, leaves no trace, and hindering and treacherous terrain does not impact him negatively) but if they want to gain on Sigurd and catch him before something terrible happens, they need to increase their pace relative to his. He uses his Stock to mark his companions so they are similarly blessed by Danu with Trackless Step (Level +Int mod so 2 other companions can be marked). Because of this, they make tremendous time to the ridgeline.

There, they find Sigurd's relatively fresh camp with embers and cinders of his firepit still aglow and smoldering.

Great, ancient trees of the forest dot the ridge line. Gavin pulls out his pouch and marks them with 1 more Stock and uses Call the Spirits to communicate with the ancient primal spirits of the trees.

When you perform a short ritual and invoke the spirit(s) of a place or object, spend 1 Stock. The spirit(s) manifest before you and will hear what you have to say. What they do next is up to them.

The trees tell them that their friend has been seduced by The Dark Below, a terrible entity that has whispered promises into the vulnerable hearts of men for an age and more...for a steep price. Their friend has a terrible burden and a vulnerable heart filled with anger and sorrow. They'll find him making his offering to The Dark Below not far from here.

They have what they want so they thank the ancient spirits and press on, easily picking up his trail (again Seek Insight + Advantage). Dap, having confirmed that Trys's visions of terrible things moving underfoot is, in fact, true is glad to have his lantern in his hand and his God of Light's invocations in his breast. He will put them both to good use in the battle against both the real and symbolic darkness to come.
 

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pemerton

Legend
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 skilled play can manifest in multiple ways.

4e demands skilled play in the sense that it is a technically dense game. If you don't get on top of the technicalities, you will never really get on top of 4e play (it seems to me). But once you do so, following the technicalities will lead you (in my view) into relatively light "story now" play.

Burning Wheel is technically probably a bit less demanding than 4e,but still pretty demanding. Once you master those technicalities, following them will lead you straight into pretty intense "story now" play.

It's possible to have story now play arise out of a system that is technically very "lite" and hence doesn't demand mastery in order to have the game play properly. Prince Valiant is my poster-child for this. Cthuhlu Dark, at least on some approaches to it, serves as another example.

And it's possible to have a system by technically rather "lite" but nevertheless demand a type of skilled play that foregrounds cooperation between PCs, expedience in decision-making, and overcoming challenges, such that "story now" play is unlikely to emerge. Moldvay Basic I think exemplifies this. (Even its spellcasting is technically pretty lite compared to modern versions of D&D.)

With Torchbearer, I see the same technical density as is present in 4e and BW. So it demands skilled play in that sense. But I also see the foregrounding of cooperation between PCs, and of expedience in decision-making (eg, and just as one example - the trinkets an orphan inherits from their parents have a value denominated in cash dice terms; the contrast with Burning Wheel emerges straight away at this point), and the focus on overcoming challenges, which makes me feel that it is closer to Moldvay Basic than to BW or 4e in terms of the play it is apt to engender.

Perhaps at higher levels, the player-side resources change enough to alter this in ways I'm not anticipating. Which would be interesting in itself, because I think classic D&D aspired to this but I'm not sure it ever pulled it off.
 

  • 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.

* Now knowing that they're dealing with a supernatural creature of darkness, Dap whispers words of Consecration to a Flame (his lantern) which now emits a holy light, causing creatures of darkness extreme discomfort to look upon it (it lasts until the flame goes out or you consecrate another flame...no move resolution).

As of this point, their Adventure has gone as perfectly as they (Dap, Gavin, and Trys initially) could hope. Since the Threat was introduced with the Spring Breaks Forth move, they've aggressively pursued it, not had any 6- results that made sense to tick a Grim Portents toward Impending Doom if the PCs don't resolve first.

* So I framed the scene as @hawkeyefan depicted above. Mechanically, I took advantage of Thorin's (Gavin's wolf) tags (overprotective, fierce) and Instinct (to bark and threaten) to frame the scene with a soft move; Thorin, unnerved by the unnatural corruption before him and sure it is a threat to Dap, begins barking and threatening...his posture tells us he's going to lunge into the clearing to confront The Dark Below if not brought to heel.

Now, although this is only a "minor" manifestation powerful supernatural entity, it could still very plausibly eviscerate poor Thorin (1d8 +2 damage, ignores armor vs 6 hp).

* Gavin attempts to bring Thorin to heel with an Order Followers move to bring Thorin to heel; 6- (mark xp). Thorin isn't having any part of it. He recklessly rushes into the clearing to confront the inky puddle that is coalescing into a terrible form akin to a Xenomorph from Aliens though featureless face and long spindly arms ending in wicked claws. It has Reach to Thorin's Close so I'm just going to straight up deal damage to Thorin if they can't intervene somehow. Ordinarily, wading into melee when you have a reach (tag) disadvantage would require either (a) eating the damage, (b) a playbook specific move, or (c) Defy Danger. But this is a follower, and in this case, the Order Followers move result tells us that Thorin is recklessly charging in (so he's just eating that damage to get in range to Clash). Order Followers failed, they don't have any capacity to Defend at range.

* Enter Dap who pulls forth his lantern and Invokes the Sun God w/ Hold Back the Darkness (ongoing); roll +Wis. He gets a 7-9 which means it works but both the player and I choose a consequence. So, in order of operations:

1) GM consequence: the effort taxes you, mark a debility. The intensity of the coronal flash saps all of your strength; Weakened (disadv on Str and Dex).

2) Player response to GM consequence. Dap grasps one of his 3 Holy Relics during the channeling of the consecration (mark a use when Invoking the Sun God in lieu of a complication) and he holds firm against the coronal flare's effects.

3) Player chooses consequences. Reduced Effect for Hold Back the Darkness. Creatures of darkness will recoil from the light and cannot approach (and will also deal damage with disadvantage while bathed in the light) but Dap must maintain an unbroken litany of prayers or the coronal flare is snuffed (so if he voluntarily does something that would break these prayers or I break them with an attack, Hold Back the Darkness ends). Both The Dark Below and Sigurd recoil from the judgement of the light, with Sigurd dropping the knife and the limp body of Fang (which he was preparing to sacrifice).

4) He has the consecration active, but the range on the lantern is not sufficient to cause the creature to recoil and protect Thorin. So he has to make a move to rush the clearing. Because this is basically a coronal flare that should extend the range of the light, I give @Ovinomancer advantage on his Defy Danger Dex to act quickly and get in the clearing to protect Thorin with his light. He gets a 10! Dap rushes the clearing with his consecrated light and the creature recoils protecting Thorin from his own recklessness (so I don't deal damage to Thorin for the reach differential). If we would have gotten to a Clash move for Thorin and it would have yielded a counterattack against Thorin, I would be dealing damage with disadvantage (so w(2d8) +2) because of Hold Back the Darkness.

* With the manifestation of the Dark Below reeling from the consecrated light, Gavin spends 1 Stock to call upon Danu to bind a spirit or perversion of nature (Danu's Grasp +Wis). He gets a 7-9 which is reduced effect so he only chooses 1 from his list. He chooses 2d4 damage (no armor) and, remarkably, gets an 8. The Dark Below discorporates as it tangles with the primal magic-infused earth and plants pulls the struggling shadowy flitting tendrils back underfoot.

The clearing is free of its unnatural taint. All that is left is Sigurd, an admixture of defeat and sorrow and rage on his face.

* The rest is as above. In order:

1) Fang is near death so he is priority. Dap Aided by Gavin's laying of hands and primal magics (so Advantage) uses Bath of Healing Light to save Fang. He gets a 10+ so the invocation heals him and resolves his problematic wound; Fang survives.

2) Sigurd (myself as GM) and Dap (@Ovinomancer converse for a time about what has happened her and what has animated Sigurd, about Sigurd's burden, about Sigurd's shame. Given what has transpired here and the way that it has gone down, I'm not going to make a soft move off of Sigurd's instinct or tags. The player gets to dictate the scene and then I'll escalate once a move is triggered on their part if that move result requires a move from me. Doesn't happen.

Dap is gentle and kind and understanding and engages him with the prospect of atonement and absolution. He makes his Spring's First Thaw move and gets a 10+!

When you spend time (an hour at least, maybe more) seeking to stir hope, kindness, or mercy in an NPC, roll +CHA: on a 10+, you light a fire deep within them and affect a lasting change;

Sigurd becomes a follower of Dap and Helior.

Sigurd (widowed father, intimidating, volatile, stubborn, lost and found, smithing-wise)
HP: 8; Armor 1
Damage: d6 Hammer (Close)
Instinct: To defeat his dark affliction
Cost: Consistent absolution
Loyalty: +1

*
Basically this was a home run. Miraculously, this threat was resolved with no Grim Portents ticked at all and everything turned out perfectly. A pillar of the community (you can't just replace your Blacksmith - they're a key asset of Stonetop) returns and redeemed at that and the beloved Fang returns very much alive.

The five of them Return Triumphant; When you return home in triumph, having saved your fellows, put down the threat, seized an opportunity, etc., increase the steading’s Fortunes by 1 (to a max of +3).

Stonetop is now Fortunes +2.
 
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So a quick thought:

The D&D 4e is very, very, very strong with this game (not surprising given Strandberg's affinity for D&D 4e):

* The Points of Light setting with the admixture of primal nature, fey powers/legends, and the thematic portfolio of the deities and how that is injected into the playbooks (the Themes, Paths, Epic Destinies of 4e as well as the Classes and Powers).

* The Lightbearer is the 4e Invoker. The Marshal is the 4e Warlord. The Blessed is the Protector Druid. The Seeker is a good version of the Seeker + a Theme/Path. The Would-Be-Hero is an amalgamation of Theme/Path. The Judge is kinda Paladin meets a Theme/Path. Heavy = the Berserker Fighter build with all the relevant Powers that were so very 4e (and some Theme and Path for Background diversity). Same goes for Fox (Rogue) and Ranger.

All of these classes are an admixture of 4e builds with either Theme and Path in by default or mapped into Background allowing further customization. The Character Themes and Paragon Paths of 4e were so rich and diverse (and plenty). Strandberg et al did a really great job of picking the most interesting ones to build out these playbooks to create deeply thematically diverse, potent archetypes.

I kinda wish we had a Marshal, but I love these 4 characters so far. Session 1 was awesome. Looking forward to future sessions.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
* Now knowing that they're dealing with a supernatural creature of darkness, Dap whispers words of Consecration to a Flame (his lantern) which now emits a holy light, causing creatures of darkness extreme discomfort to look upon it (it lasts until the flame goes out or you consecrate another flame...no move resolution).

As of this point, their Adventure has gone as perfectly as they (Dap, Gavin, and Trys initially) could hope. Since the Threat was introduced with the Spring Breaks Forth move, they've aggressively pursued it, not had any 6- results that made sense to tick a Grim Portents toward Impending Doom if the PCs don't resolve first.

* So I framed the scene as @hawkeyefan depicted above. Mechanically, I took advantage of Thorin's (Dap's wolf) tags (overprotective, fierce) and Instinct (to bark and threaten) to frame the scene with a soft move; Thorin, unnerved by the unnatural corruption before him and sure it is a threat to Dap, begins barking and threatening...his posture tells us he's going to lunge into the clearing to confront The Dark Below if not brought to heel.

Now, although this is only a "minor" manifestation powerful supernatural entity, it could still very plausibly eviscerate poor Thorin (1d8 +2 damage, ignores armor vs 6 hp).

* Gavin attempts to bring Thorin to heel with an Order Followers move to bring Thorin to heel; 6- (mark xp). Thorin isn't having any part of it. He recklessly rushes into the clearing to confront the inky puddle that is coalescing into a terrible form akin to a Xenomorph from Aliens though featureless face and long spindly arms ending in wicked claws. It has Reach to Thorin's Close so I'm just going to straight up deal damage to Thorin if they can't intervene somehow. Ordinarily, wading into melee when you have a reach (tag) disadvantage would require either (a) eating the damage, (b) a playbook specific move, or (c) Defy Danger. But this is a follower, and in this case, the Order Followers move result tells us that Thorin is recklessly charging in (so he's just eating that damage to get in range to Clash). Order Followers failed, they don't have any capacity to Defend at range.

* Enter Dap who pulls forth his lantern and Invokes the Sun God w/ Hold Back the Darkness (ongoing); roll +Wis. He gets a 7-9 which means it works but both the player and I choose a consequence. So, in order of operations:

1) GM consequence: the effort taxes you, mark a debility. The intensity of the coronal flash saps all of your strength; Weakened (disadv on Str and Dex).

2) Player response to GM consequence. Dap grasps one of his 3 Holy Relics during the channeling of the consecration (mark a use when Invoking the Sun God in lieu of a complication) and he holds firm against the coronal flare's effects.

3) Player chooses consequences. Reduced Effect for Hold Back the Darkness. Creatures of darkness will recoil from the light and cannot approach (and will also deal damage with disadvantage while bathed in the light) but Dap must maintain an unbroken litany of prayers or the coronal flare is snuffed (so if he voluntarily does something that would break these prayers or I break them with an attack, Hold Back the Darkness ends). Both The Dark Below and Sigurd recoil from the judgement of the light, with Sigurd dropping the knife and the limp body of Fang (which he was preparing to sacrifice).

4) He has the consecration active, but the range on the lantern is not sufficient to cause the creature to recoil and protect Thorin. So he has to make a move to rush the clearing. Because this is basically a coronal flare that should extend the range of the light, I give @Ovinomancer advantage on his Defy Danger Dex to act quickly and get in the clearing to protect Thorin with his light. He gets a 10! Dap rushes the clearing with his consecrated light and the creature recoils protecting Thorin from his own recklessness (so I don't deal damage to Thorin for the reach differential). If we would have gotten to a Clash move for Thorin and it would have yielded a counterattack against Thorin, I would be dealing damage with disadvantage (so w(2d8) +2) because of Hold Back the Darkness.

* With the manifestation of the Dark Below reeling from the consecrated light, Gavin spends 1 Stock to call upon Danu to bind a spirit or perversion of nature (Danu's Grasp +Wis). He gets a 7-9 which is reduced effect so he only chooses 1 from his list. He chooses 2d4 damage (no armor) and, remarkably, gets an 8. The Dark Below discorporates as it tangles with the primal magic-infused earth and plants pulls the struggling shadowy flitting tendrils back underfoot.

The clearing is free of its unnatural taint. All that is left is Sigurd, an admixture of defeat and sorrow and rage on his face.

* The rest is as above. In order:

1) Fang is near death so he is priority. Dap Aided by Gavin's laying of hands and primal magics (so Advantage) uses Bath of Healing Light to save Fang. He gets a 10+ so the invocation heals him and resolves his problematic wound; Fang survives.

2) Sigurd (myself as GM) and Dap (@Ovinomancer converse for a time about what has happened her and what has animated Sigurd, about Sigurd's burden, about Sigurd's shame. Given what has transpired here and the way that it has gone down, I'm not going to make a soft move off of Sigurd's instinct or tags. The player gets to dictate the scene and then I'll escalate once a move is triggered on their part if that move result requires a move from me. Doesn't happen.

Dap is gentle and kind and understanding and engages him with the prospect of atonement and absolution. He makes his Spring's First Thaw move and gets a 10+!

When you spend time (an hour at least, maybe more) seeking to stir hope, kindness, or mercy in an NPC, roll +CHA: on a 10+, you light a fire deep within them and affect a lasting change;

Sigurd becomes a follower of Dap and Helior.

Sigurd (widowed father, intimidating, volatile, stubborn, lost and found, smithing-wise)
HP: 8; Armor 1
Damage: d6 Hammer (Close)
Instinct: To defeat his dark affliction
Cost: Consistent absolution
Loyalty: +1

*
Basically this was a home run. Miraculously, this threat was resolved with no Grim Portents ticked at all and everything turned out perfectly. A pillar of the community (you can't just replace your Blacksmith - they're a key asset of Stonetop) returns and redeemed at that and the beloved Fang returns very much alive.

The five of them Return Triumphant; When you return home in triumph, having saved your fellows, put down the threat, seized an opportunity, etc., increase the steading’s Fortunes by 1 (to a max of +3).

Stonetop is now Fortunes +2.
Only correction is to 2 in the Hold Back the Darkness move -- I invoked my Auspicious Birth background, which allows me to ignore 1 complication if it occurs due to a move or invocation, not the relics, which do the same thing.

Otherwise, laid out like this, it's pretty clear Dap and Gavin had some excellent dice luck here. Good moves made, but some clutch rolls, too.
 

Only correction is to 2 in the Hold Back the Darkness move -- I invoked my Auspicious Birth background, which allows me to ignore 1 complication if it occurs due to a move or invocation, not the relics, which do the same thing.

Otherwise, laid out like this, it's pretty clear Dap and Gavin had some excellent dice luck here. Good moves made, but some clutch rolls, too.

Gotcha.

These playbooks have so much capacity to resist Consequences and shape play (more Blades in the Dark tech). You've got all of these abilities to resist raw complication from your invocations and you've got the ability to resist a Debility specifically with your Background. Couple that with Burn Brightly, the Judge's Diligence, and plenty of others sprinkled about.

There is a lot of Blades tech deftly systematized into this game. Players have considerable capability in this game to impose their will through their playbook (and even the base moves like Burn Brightly...and then followers...and then Steading rules/interactions). Much more akin to Blades than prior PBtA instantiations.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
Only correction is to 2 in the Hold Back the Darkness move -- I invoked my Auspicious Birth background, which allows me to ignore 1 complication if it occurs due to a move or invocation, not the relics, which do the same thing.

Otherwise, laid out like this, it's pretty clear Dap and Gavin had some excellent dice luck here. Good moves made, but some clutch rolls, too.

I think I had missed that. I forgot you failed any rolls at all! You guys had the right tools for the job at hand, for sure, but the dice definitely went your way, as well. What I liked about that is that it didn't feel like an "easy" adventure. The danger seemed to be ever present in a way that a lot of games don't always manage.

Gotcha.

These playbooks have so much capacity to resist Consequences and shape play (more Blades in the Dark tech). You've got all of these abilities to resist raw complication from your invocations and you've got the ability to resist a Debility specifically with your Background. Couple that with Burn Brightly, the Judge's Diligence, and plenty of others sprinkled about.

There is a lot of Blades tech deftly systematized into this game. Players have considerable capability in this game to impose their will through their playbook (and even the base moves like Burn Brightly...and then followers...and then Steading rules/interactions). Much more akin to Blades than prior PBtA instantiations.

Yeah, the more we talk about this, the more obvious this inspiration seems, in both direct ways like the loadout, and indirect ways in how some abilities allow for Push- or Resist-like effects similar to how Blades uses Stress. It gives the players a good deal of influence on how things go.
 

pemerton

Legend
What I liked about that is that it didn't feel like an "easy" adventure. The danger seemed to be ever present in a way that a lot of games don't always manage.
Not to derail again (at least not too much), but what you say here is something I like about Prince Valiant.

Especially when the danger is not just a sense of the size of damage dice relative to hit point totals.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
Not to derail again (at least not too much), but what you say here is something I like about Prince Valiant.

Especially when the danger is not just a sense of the size of damage dice relative to hit point totals.

Absolutely. Hit points are used in Stonetop, but they’re just one resource that is vulnerable. The GM has several moves they can make, including the move "Hurt Someone". This allows the GM to inflict not just HP damage, but also a lasting debility beyond that (like a broken limb, for example).

In the example of play, the danger seemed mostly related to the NPCs that were involved, the missing dog, Fang, and the blacksmith Sigurd who was to blame for the whole situation, and then also Gavin’s wolf, Thorin, who rushed the creature.

As an observer who wasn’t involved in the scene, I didn't expect all of them to make it out of there. I was less concerned about Gavin and Dap being killed, but because there are other moves the GM can make, I still felt they were at risk even as things started to go well for them. Once the evil spirit manifested, it was clear that the threat it posed was significant. When @Manbearcat used the wolf's traits to establish that it charged the creature, I grimaced, expecting that was the last we'd see of Thorin. Luckily, the rolls all went well (or were otherwise bolstered by playbook abilities). One roll of 6- could have been very bad for them, it seemed. Even a 7-9 or two could have resulted in some serious consequences.

I can't help but think of the two other games I'm currently involved in. One is Spire, which sees harmful and potentially lasting consequences inflicted on the PCs routinely, and so seems at least as dangerous as Stonetop may prove to be. The other is D&D 5e, which uses HP attrition almost exclusively, and so the characters only feel truly in danger once they've collectively been reduced to few HP. Quite the difference.
 

Absolutely. Hit points are used in Stonetop, but they’re just one resource that is vulnerable. The GM has several moves they can make, including the move "Hurt Someone". This allows the GM to inflict not just HP damage, but also a lasting debility beyond that (like a broken limb, for example).

In the example of play, the danger seemed mostly related to the NPCs that were involved, the missing dog, Fang, and the blacksmith Sigurd who was to blame for the whole situation, and then also Gavin’s wolf, Thorin, who rushed the creature.

As an observer who wasn’t involved in the scene, I didn't expect all of them to make it out of there. I was less concerned about Gavin and Dap being killed, but because there are other moves the GM can make, I still felt they were at risk even as things started to go well for them. Once the evil spirit manifested, it was clear that the threat it posed was significant. When @Manbearcat used the wolf's traits to establish that it charged the creature, I grimaced, expecting that was the last we'd see of Thorin. Luckily, the rolls all went well (or were otherwise bolstered by playbook abilities). One roll of 6- could have been very bad for them, it seemed. Even a 7-9 or two could have resulted in some serious consequences.

I can't help but think of the two other games I'm currently involved in. One is Spire, which sees harmful and potentially lasting consequences inflicted on the PCs routinely, and so seems at least as dangerous as Stonetop may prove to be. The other is D&D 5e, which uses HP attrition almost exclusively, and so the characters only feel truly in danger once they've collectively been reduced to few HP. Quite the difference.
Right, there's a lot of ways to parse it. My game goes in the opposite direction. That is, disabilities (afflictions) are a player resource, to a degree. The GM will impose a loss of hit points, and the player can then propose the substitution of an affliction (usually a wound in a combat type situation, but it could be something else). "You fall in the pit and take 12 points of damage", "Oh, I would be dying. Instead I take 4 points (because the character's healing value is 8) and my leg is broken." Afflictions act like other obstacles, you can overcome them as a challenge, but of course failure there opens you up to some new consequence too, so it may be better to live with it in some cases... (not to mention you would probably have to take a recovery, which might not be feasible).

I think 4e (and my own hack of it) is more like BW in the sense that its more 'open' than ST or, especially, TB2. There are a lot of mechanical 'tools', but the process is looser, and I think that may be reflected in @pemerton's statement about 'Step On Up' vs 'Story Now', as he puts it. Perhaps it is my low degree of familiarity with TB2, having only played a couple times, but it seems like mechanics are front-and-center, you think about how do you shape the situation so the narrative emerges that your PC brought out some strong trait or skill vs being driven primarily from the narrative side, which IMHO is more where at least some PbtA and 4e-esque games can come from (but don't always, WotC 4e seemed more totally centered on combat mechanics as most people played it).
 

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