The Runic Fable Hour (An Animal Adventure)


Once A Fool
Once, many years ago, I read something in mmadsen's excellent (but now ancient) Little Changes with Big Flavor thread:

Talking animals are a staple of fairy tales and fantasy, and some animals are natural predators of monsters the heroes might face (e.g. mongoose or weasel vs. basilisk or poisonous snake, giant owl vs. dire rats or were-rats, tiny mouse vs. elephant, etc.)

Extrapolating from that, I had a mind to run a fable, of sorts, with players running animal PCs. It never happened...

Until, recently, my brother brought it up, again. We both wanted to do an E6 game, anyway and, so, this seemed a natural fit.

The Setting:

A small farm on the edge of the wilderness.

The PCs:

Dog level 1 Knight
Sly Fox level 1 Rogue
Turtle level 1 Cleric

The Tales:

When Raccoon went into the Wilderness

When Ugly Toad went looking for her Beauty

When the Lord of Spring came thieving

When Little Black Bear found his Courage
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Once A Fool
When Raccoon went into the Wilderness

part one

Come, gather around and hear the tale of how Raccoon tricked his way into trouble, and was tricked out of it again.

It happened in the winter, with snow on the ground, but mostly melted away. Life on the Farm was slow, now, and Cat had gotten bored. By way of amusing himself, he had taken to bullying some of the smaller folk--toying with them, chasing them about. So it was, that Cat had been chasing Field-mouse through the dead winter grass all day.

Cat’s cruel game had made its way down to the Pond, where Dog was dutifully herding Boy away from the icy water. Now, Dog and Cat never got along; Cat would taunt Dog when he could, and Dog would chase Cat from sunup to sundown, if no other pressing business demanded his attention. Seeing Cat come down this way, chasing after Field-Mouse, Dog barked a challenge to Cat, warning him to back away.

“Come no further!” Dog growled, and Cat took heed, leaving to find some other game. Field-mouse timidly thanked his new protector, but a new threat soon became evident, for now Boy had taken an interest in the little fellow, and now attempted to catch Mouse for himself. Dog retaliated by licking Boy’s face every time he reached for the wretched little mouse, until, finally, Boy tired of this turn of events and went away. Dog followed after.

Now, the Pond is where Turtle recites her rites and makes her abode and, so, Turtle saw all that had transpired. But Turtle is a patient sort, and she was content to take it all in and see how events would unfold. This is what she saw:

Once Dog was gone, Cat came slinking back, and the Cat-and-Mouse game was begun again. Field-mouse was wily and evaded the feline bully for the remainder of the day, eventually outlasting Cat’s attention. Some time later, Field-mouse met with Raccoon and seemed to come to some arrangement. Turtle watched, but could not quite hear their words, though she could discern that Raccoon had something in store for tonight which he promised would be “fun.”

The day waned and night fell in upon it. Back at the House, the Humans had all gone to sleep and the cold was setting in. Dog was restless. Something was trapped inside the over-turned trash-can. A sinister whisper spoke in his ear, “You should set it free. Release it and find out what is trapped inside.”

Dog looked around to find Black Widow hanging from the eave. Indecision gripped him for but a moment; he had no trust for the Spider, but curiosity must be sated. He knocked the trash-can over.

Cat came bolting out, and Dog was obliged to chase his nemesis, enthusiastically and vocally. The Humans stirred. Man came out, wearing fury as he would a coat. Cursing, he righted the trash-can and commanded Dog by his Truename, compelling him to return. Once Dog had done so, he found himself chained to Old Oak for the remainder of the night.

Now, Turtle had heard all the commotion and started the long trek from the Pond to the House. She had finally reached her destination by the time Grandfather Owl convened a community meeting to determine who was guilty for trapping Cat and what the punishment should be.

“Whooo has done this dastardly deed?” asked Grandfather Owl of the animals around him. “Whooo has trapped poor Cat under the trash-can?”

No one would admit to anything, but Cat did have an answer. “It was Dog, Grandfather Owl, who trapped poor Cat under the trash-can,” he purred. “He trapped me, and then he knocked it over so he could chase me.”

Dog let out an indignant whine. “I did no such thing! Ask Black Widow; she saw who did it!” But, when Grandfather Owl turned his head around, Black Widow was nowhere to be found.

About this time, Turtle saw Field-mouse trying to hide. “Please don’t say anything,” he squeaked. “I hear that Grandfather Owl eats mice!” Turtle had heard the same. Torn with indecision, she held her tongue and bided her time.

With no further witnesses forthcoming, Grandfather Owl passed judgment down. Dog was ordered to wind his way around Old Oak until there was not but a foot of length left. With the sentence passed down, the meeting was disbanded and Cat immediately set to taunting poor Dog.

“Arrowrowrowrowrowrowrowr!” Dog wailed, but to no avail; Cat was beyond his reach. Man came out, angrier than before, cursing the stupid dog and threatening dire consequences should silence not prevail.

Sly Fox was watching and took this opportunity to sneak into the Hen-house, for Dog was not free to keep him at bay. His entrance went undetected, but not his theft. He only managed to steal a single egg before Hen started squawking in alarm. Soon the entire Hen-house was in an uproar and Sly Fox had to make his escape.

Once again, Dog called forth the vengeance of the gods upon the intruder, but, alas, only Man came out with righteous wroth for the mongrel mutt who would not keep quiet. The night passed miserably for Dog.
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Once A Fool
part two

The next day, Squirrel came with frantic news. He said that Raccoon had gone into the Wilderness and had been caught in a trap. Grandfather Owl, irritated at being wakened, put out the call for heroes to go forth and rescue Raccoon. Dog had been set loose earlier in the day and quickly volunteered. Sly Fox was looking to earn a little good will, and he said he would go. Turtle decided she ought to go as well.

So, the three of them set off into the Wilderness in pursuit of Raccoon. At first, Dog had no trouble following his scent, but after a while, Raccoon had climbed up a Great Pine, apparently, to escape the Brothers Wolf. When Dog came to this realization, he despaired, for a moment, wondering where he would find the trail again. But, more troubling, Dog had encountered the Brothers Wolf before…but he would not tell of that encounter.

Crow lighted on the branch and cackled, “Kaaaw! What strange company you keep! Sly Fox and Dog and Turtle wandering through the Wilderness! Kaaaw haa ha ha. I know what you seek, and you may even be in time, if you can find it! Beware the Hunter and his Hound! They have Raccoooon and soon, soon, sooon, he will be a fine fur hat! But, maybe I can lead you there, if you can give me something fair!”

Sly Fox was quick to think of something that Crow might find of interest. “I’ll give you this shiny bauble if you lead us to Raccoon.” The artifact was a crumpled sheet of shiny discarded by the Humans.

Kaaaw!” the bird crowed with glee and he swept down to snatch the shiny up and take it high into the tree. “I will give you what you want, if you give me three such shiny things.”

Dog asked Sly Fox if he could remove the tag from around his throat. Sly Fox’s deft skill in thieving was put to the test, but the test was quickly passed. Crow now had two shiny baubles, but Turtle had nothing to give. Frustrated, Dog began to sniff again, and finally found the scent he sought.

He followed that scent to a thicket, which he could not fit through. Sly Fox went in to scout ahead. On the other side, he saw a great Wolf-hound staring back at him and behind him, a small cottage.

“What brrrrings you here, Fox? You look like brrrreakfast, to me.”

Sly Fox saw that Wolf-hound was chained to a stake, and, therefore, kept his distance. “I’m only looking for a Raccoon. Have you seen one, lately?” Sly Fox could see several skins stretched out by the cottage, but none seemed to be a Raccoon. “If you help me out, I’ll leave any traps of your master’s alone, should I come across them. Otherwise…I won’t.” Sly Fox had no intention of keeping this bargain, but hoped Wolf-hound would believe him.

Wolf-hound seemed to agree with this deal. “The Rrrraccoon that you seek went that way,” he said, indicating, with a nod, the direction of the cottage. Sly Fox was sure he could spot a lie, when he heard one, and this Wolf-hound seemed to speak the truth. He went back to Dog and Turtle to tell them as much.

Dog and Turtle were more skeptical, and, anyway, Sly Fox’s job was not yet done, so he was sent back into the thicket. On the other side, he kept his distance from Wolf-hound and began to take a circuitous route toward the cottage. He could see several traps and snares along the way and stopped to mark each one.

This enraged Wolf-hound, who struggled against his chain and howled in fury. Hearing this, Dog picked Turtle up gently in his mouth and barreled through the thicket, forcing his form through the tiny space and clawing limbs. Somehow, he managed to squeeze through and, once on the other side, set Turtle down and immediately issued his challenge to Wolf-hound.

With Wolf-hound distracted, Sly Fox broke into the cottage and began to ransack the home. After he had done this, Dog sniffed around outside of Wolf-hound’s reach until he picked up Raccoon’s scent again. He could also smell that a human had gone in the same direction.

The three departed, leaving Wolf-hound to stew in his anger behind them. After some time, the two scents diverged and the group opted to follow Raccoon’s, rather than the human’s. In the end, they came upon Raccoon caught in a snare.

Dog carried Turtle over to Raccoon, so that she could bite through the rope, but, at that moment, Wolf-hound came rushing through the woods and bit Dog so ferociously that the latter dropped Turtle to the ground. Sly Fox delivered an attack from the shadows upon the Hunter, who was running after his Wolf-hound, and then Fox quickly ran away. The Hunter ran after Fox and swung at him with a wicked hatchet, but Fox deftly evaded the attack.

Turtle called upon her faith to heal Dog of his wound, but, even after, another such vicious blow would lay him low. Dog bit Wolf-hound back, with nearly as savage a bite as he had been dealt, but Wolf-hound was ready and circled around, snapping as he looked for an opportunity to go for the throat.

Sly Fox ran into a thicket to hide from the Hunter and succeeded in becoming lost. In frustration, the Hunter turned back to his Wolf-hound’s fight and advanced toward it. Turtle healed Dog further and Dog growled at Wolf-Hound with such menace that the beast took pause. Meanwhile, Sly Fox dashed out and bit Hunter once again. This time, Hunter turned on him and slashed a nasty gash down his pelt, nearly killing Fox in a single blow.

Dog growled another threat to Wolf-hound, “You’ve felt my bite; now back away, or I shall kill you where you stand.” This was too much for Wolf-hound; he had never met anyone who would stand up to him, except for his master. Wolf-hound fled.

Once he was gone, Dog lifted Turtle up to snap through Raccoon’s snare. Fox, meanwhile, evaded the Hunter and waited for him to chase after his fleeing Wolf-hound. Raccoon, now free, was herded back to the Farm to meet with Grandfather Owl's justice, and that is the tale of how Raccoon was rescued from the Wilderness.
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Once A Fool
You always have the coolest settings, Rune. Kudos.

I also like how the mechanics get translated into the story. Dog as a Knight is perfect!

Welcome and thanks for dropping by! ...And, my brother (who plays Dog) says, "Thanks." That concept was his baby, right from the start.


Once A Fool
Finally got around to reading this, its great stuff, Rune! Captured the fable feel beautifully.

Thank you. This game has been a lot of fun, so far--totally different tone around the table than many another game I've played!

Also, if anyone is interested, I've made a few edits to the last post (somehow, despite my proof-reading it multiple times, I had let some tense inconsistencies slip in!).


Once A Fool
When Ugly Toad went looking for her Beauty

part one

Come, gather round and hear the tale of what Ugly Toad found when she went looking for her long-lost Beauty. It happened in the early Spring, when the chill of Winter had receded and the world was finally waking. Dog was visiting with Turtle down by the Pond when they came upon Ugly Toad staring at her reflection in the serene water.

“Oooooh!” she croaked. “I was sooo beautiful once!” As Dog and Turtle approached, she caught sight of them in the Pond and went on, as if she had been talking to them, all along. “You miiiight not believe it, but I was once a beautiful princess!” she told them, “until a wicked witch cursed me with this ugly form you now see.”

Turtle looked at Ugly Toad dubiously, but Dog let out an empathic whine and tilted his head to the side. Ugly Toad took the cue and continued with her tale of woe. This took the better part of the morning, and when all was said, Dog (and Turtle) found themselves obliged to seek out this witch in the Wilderness and somehow convince her to change Ugly Toad back into a beautiful princess.

Turtle still was not quite sure either of the truth of Ugly Toad’s tale, or of the wisdom of their current course if, indeed, it was true. Dog had no such compunctions. He enthusiastically sniffed Ugly Toad to acquire her scent and then trotted along into the Wilderness.

They went deep into the woods, farther than Dog had ever marked. Ere they had reached their destination, the day waned and the shadows lengthened. At about this time, Crow came along and began to taunt the interlopers. “Kaaaw! What brings Dog and Turtle and Uuugly Toad deep into the Wilderness? Come to hide her away from the world? Kaaaw haw ha ha!”

Dog growled an uncivil response and Crow kept his distance, but continued to harass them for a time after that, until he seemed to loose interest and fly away. By this time, night had fallen around them as they walked and Dog had begun to smell a new scent--that of a wood-fire. Before Dog and Turtle could determine their next course of action, they were attacked.

Their assailants struck from the shadows--at first indistinguishable from the surrounding terrain, they were soon spotted by the keen-sensed Dog. There were four of them and they were…dolls? Twisted bundles of twig and twine, crafted with wickedness and animated with malice. The Twig-dolls' thorny claws raked painfully as they struck, but the constructs were very fragile--a single snap from Dog sundered one in an instant.

As the Twig-dolls lurched forward to strike at Dog…Turtle…Ugly Toad, Dog circled around to ward Toad. Turtle called upon the divinities to heal Toad and then readied herself to snap at any Twig-doll attempting to rush past her. The dolls danced around, struck and withdrew. Danced, struck, withdrew. Each time, the leaves about them swirled in a gust of wind, and the night rushed by.

The battle could not have taken more than a moment before the constructs had all been destroyed, but, by the end of it, dawn was peaking through the woods. Ugly Toad wailed. “Wicked and uuunatural events unfooooold! The witch is cloooose!”

Ahead of them, a cottage beckoned. A hint of freshly-baked ginger-bread captured Dog’s attention and he rushed forward heedlessly. As he neared, the door swung open to reveal a crooked Woman leaning on a cane. From his perch upon her shoulder, Crow cackled madly.

The Woman looked sharply at Dog, then held up a shiny thing, still attached to its severed cloth strap. Reading from it, she called out Dog’s Truename and then commanded, “Come.”

Dog obeyed.
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Once A Fool
part two

The Crooked Woman patted Dog on the head, extolling his virtue in a voice as thick as syrup. “What a Good Doggy, you are!” Dog wagged his tail with exuberant enthusiasm. “Now you be a Good Doggy and wait right here while I get you a treat!”

The Crooked Woman disappeared into her cottage for a brief moment. Ugly Toad croaked in dismay and Turtle was filled with misgivings, but Dog made no effort to move from his spot at the door. When the Woman returned, Dog’s excitement could not be constrained; the Crooked Woman held a tray of freshly-baked ginger-bread men.

The Woman fixed her stare at Ugly Toad and asked, “Why have you returned to me, Ugly Toad?” Crow cackled by her side.

Toad panicked under the weight of the Crooked Woman’s gaze. “It was not my doing! Turtle made me return!”

Turtle looked at Toad and sighed. She was disappointed in Toad’s cowardice, but not surprised. Before she could protest, however, the witch threw her tray of cookie-men on to the ground, and they rose ominously, as if alive.

The Crooked Woman spoke soothingly to Dog again. “Be a Good Doggy, and chastise that Bad Turtle for me.” Dog leaped to the task, challenging Turtle to defy his new master at her own peril.

Turtle had no desire to confront Dog, and, anyway, sensed a great malevolent presence dominating his will. Instead, Turtle began to intone a rite that would bring clarity of mind and protection from evils for Dog, but, at that moment, she was swarmed by the wicked little ginger-bread men.

Seeing his friend so besieged by such delicious-smelling foes, Dog found the strength to shut out the Crooked Woman’s enchanting voice echoing within his head. Then Dog gently picked up Turtle in his mouth and shook her confectionery assailants loose. Once free, Turtle resumed her prayer and, soon, Dog's mind was fully his own, again.

By this time, Crow had taken wing and was harassing Toad from above. Seeing no other alternative, and with a last whimper for the ginger-bread men he would never sample, Dog lowered himself so that Ugly Toad could hop onto his back and fled into the Wilderness with his companions.

With the Crooked Woman’s cottage far behind them, Dog carried Turtle and Ugly Toad through the woods, but, the day fled as surely as had they. A dense fog rode in upon the darkness and all scents of the wood were devoured by the wicked trees around them, leaving only the scent of doom and fear. Dog was not accustomed to being lost, but here he was. But where was he?

To make matters worse, the fog seemed to be lulling them to sleep. Crow could be heard faintly, off in the distance, cackling in glee, but all else was serene silence. Turtle tucked herself into her shell to rest and Ugly Toad fell off Dog’s back. Her contented snore was larger than she was.

Dog wanted badly to join his companions in blissful slumber, and circled once…twice…No! He shook off the encroaching sleep, woke Turtle and Toad, and determined to press on, but whither? After some discussion, Turtle revealed that she knew a rite that would call for divine guidance. A few moments more and she was able to say with confidence, “Following Crow’s voice will lead us to weal.”

This was good enough for Dog, so off they went, but Crow’s voice seemed at some times in front of them, and at other times behind, and still other times to be off to one side or the other. Each time they changed their course, they grew a bit more drowsy. Soon, Turtle and Toad were sleeping peacefully again, and Dog was just about to…

Again, Dog shook off the sleep and roused the others. By now, the fog had thickened but the sky was starting to grow pale. Again, the slumber descended upon them and, this time, Dog curled up blissfully to sleep. By divine fortune, Turtle managed to remain vigilant, this time, and woke the others, herself.

Dawn came and chased the fog away.

With the fog gone, the natural scents of the forest returned, but Dog was, at this point, completely disoriented and lost. No scent was familiar enough to follow. Instead, he began to search for a stream to follow. As fortune would have it, Songbird was at the stream, taking a bath. With great excitement, Dog began to relate the details of their adventure, all in a single breath. When Songbird finally deciphered Dog’s stream of explanation, he led them out of the Wilderness, and home.

Once home, Toad made her way to the Pond where she spent the better part of a day sighing in dismay at her reflection. At last, Dog and Turtle had heard enough and took Ugly Toad up to Grandfather Owl for a dose of wisdom.

“Whooo disturbs my sleep?“

Dog was ready with his response. “First we found Ugly Toad by the Pond looking at her reflection and wishing she was not ugly she said she was ensorcelled by a a wicked witch and she was once beautiful and a princess and we took her to see the witch but we got attacked by the twig dolls and then the witch called me by my truename and made me want to eat gingerbread cookies that attacked us and we fled into the woods but a fog descended and we got lost and kept falling asleep but not all of us at the same time and Crow was taunting us and we followed his voice until morning and then the fog went away and we found Songbird and came home and now here we are.”

Owl took this in with some patience. At last he spoke. “Whooo you are can not be changed by wicked witches in the woooods. Whooo you are is whooo you are. A beautiful princess once is a beautiful princess still.”

Ugly Toad seemed dubious, but content with this wisdom. And that is how Ugly Toad sought out her lost Beauty and found something never lost at all.
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