Dungeon World – Sapphire Island mini-campaign – Player write-up session 1

This is a write-up by one of the players (Kelly Grimshaw) of our first Sapphire Island Dungeon World session, Kelly plays the elven druid Demanor in the campaign.
Walking through my home known to the rest of the world as the Wildlands I could feel the piece and serenity of the land. The air, usually sticky and humid. The heat from the living forest made the animals and insects sluggish and their music would not be heard until the sun went down leaving the air cool and fresh. That was in summer.
Now the summer Lady had made way for old man winter and the crisp air hinted with the tin twang of snow on the way.

I had been asked by my mentor to go down to the old ruins of our people where a group of southern mainlanders had made a temporary home to collect various materials to aid the development of their way of life.

They had asked permission from the Elven council knowing that they would agree. Before I was born they knew that our time in this world begun to dwindle as with all growth something’s must fade and die. Our time with this world had nearly passed to make way for the time of the Humans. As with all young the Humans sometimes got over enthusiastic if unsupervised and the task was given to me to make sure that the land was not over worked.
Accompanying me was my friend Korra and Will.

Korra, a fiery eyed human bard from the distant Sapphire Isles. She told me she is the bastard child of a noble, receiving little other than some basic schooling by way of compensation for the social stigma that she faced;. She is desperate to add something to the status of her noble house and bring some glory to their name and hopefully gaining acceptance of herself in doing so. Something that thankfully does not happen in Elvan life she travelled to the mainland in search of ancient legends and to carry news to the mainland outposts of her house.

She had hear that a ship of her house was to dock on the coast and wanted to hear news from her homeland.

I met her very briefly while collecting herbs, barks and berries in the heart of the Wildlands. She had been exploring the jungles of the mainland eager to discover stories, from whom I do not know. Whilst there she was bitten by a venomous serpent and was if I had not have fallen over her she would have died.  I saw she was responding well to the treatment and I carried on my collection. She told me she often thought of our meeting and employed our other companion Will or Strike to his friends to find me so that she could tell the world of my adventures. Although I am still not sure the Humans would like to hear stories of an Elven Druid.

Strike I had known a lot longer. I had found him also wandering the Wildlands, I had helped him through his strange new lands and as a thanks and respect he bound our friendship in a Northlander blood ritual. On the long travel to the main land he had told me of how he had been made an outcast from one of the Northern barbarian tribes after he had poisoned the Chief for taking advantage of his younger sister. An act I believe he would commit again to save her. After his uncle replaced the old Chief the old warrior personally made sure he was safely stowed away in a trading ship. Although his blood still ruled the tribe Strike had broken one of their most sacred laws by using poison and not a fight to the death. I do not blame him, looking at his sinewy wiry frame he would have had no chance against a warrior of Odin. Once I had shown him though the dense rainforests he became a thief living on the streets of the cities and from the stories that make it through to me a damn good one.  

Before we began Strike had confided in me that he did not trust Korra. When he had first met her, somehow, I did not ask for the details she had recorded the story of how Will was banished for poisoning the chief after he took advantage of Will’s sister. She twisted the facts, to make the story more interesting and in her version, the sister did the poisoning and Will took the blame. Worried that someone may one day hear or read the new story and take it as the truth, Will stole Korra’s most treasured possession, an ancient flute given to her by her half-sister and held it as surety to prevent her account of his banishment ever being delivered to the masses.

With this knowledge I believe that Strike would never leave the bard’s side as a reminder how devastating stories could be.

But I digress, we walked on with the rainforest to our backs towards the coast. We were chattering about everything and nothing as we climbed to the top of one of the hills that littered the landscape and the conversation stopped.
In the distance, over the next rise was a dull red glow. Wisps of ash and embers rose up on the hot air against the white feathers of snow fall.

“I recognise this, stay here.” Strike said before slinking forward.

Korra and I looked at each other and both moved towards him.Stretching out below us was the smouldering ruins of the frontier settlement. Splintered timber littered the floor with the remains of the huts scattered to the four winds. Trees had been uprooted or snapped in half like twigs and the earth was black where the fire had taken hold. Stirring some ash with my foot I found the broken glass of a lantern, looking further I found several more, the possible reason for the fire. 
Strike turned my attention to huge dents dotted around the site. I had no explanation for these strange impressions and so I turned to the land in search of answers.

The unmistakeable signs of a gigantic creature had charged through the ruins and obliterated the settlement. The fire was started by the lamps being smashed and with all the curing timber around it had spread fiercely and quickly. I was answered.
Next I asked what is about to happen.

Whatever was responsible may return. If no one returns then Nature will take back the land, evident in the dwindling Elven ruins around the carnage. Feeling a little frustrated with answers I had already known I asked the final question, what is about to happen?

There are no bodies, if everyone had fled in terror who would have moved the remains? That was as maddingly unhelpful as the first two but it did make a very good line of reasoning.

“Since I was last here the settlement has expanded, the clearing is larger…” Korra began before wandering around trying to recognise anything in the wreckage.

“Could these dents be catapult?” Strike asked.

“No forget that, there are no boulders, just the holes.” He answered before we could.

“Possibly footprints.” I mused.

“There big footprints.” He replied.

“Ents.” I replied flatly.

“How big are these Ents?”

“As big as a tree.” I shrugged.

“Do they have legs?”

“After a fashion.” It is really difficult to explain a tree being, it is much easier just to show what they are.

Strike began his investigations again then returned. “Around twelve feet.” He muttered. “Can they be twelve feet?” he directed this question to me.

“Trees can be twelve feet. Trees can be six inches.” 

“Would they attack a village?”

I let out a long controlled sigh. That answer is complicated. “There are some who think that the land is worked more than it should be…”
“But would they wade in, obliterate and set fire to settlements?” Korra asked as she walked over to us.

“I think the fire was an accident, people running terrified not looking were, knock over a lantern, this happens all over the settlement and suddenly the whole village is ablaze.”

“What about the bodies?” Will asked almost casually.

“I was just going to come to that.”

“Do Ent’s eat?” Strike asked, his voice faltered slightly at the thought of the things coming back. 
“The same way plants do.” I replied, also with the image of a huge creature romping through the forest.

“What about other creatures?”

I looked at him blankly. “Don’t know about those, they’re not plants.”

“No, but you know stories and legends.”

“Yes.” Korra and I replied together.

“Well what in your lands eat human flesh?”

“Erm Ogres, giants, Cyclops…” Korra tried to remember the legends she sung of.

“Well are they round here?” Strikes voice getting more high pitched with urgency.

“Not that I know of.” Korra replied.

There was a weak, strangled sound, “h e l p!”

After searching the site we eventually discovered the back of a figure bound with thick rope to a tree; edging around the trunk we found a man barely alive, stripped to his waist. His eyes were missing, red encrusted holes stared blankly at nothing, his left hand had been cut off and a strange symmetrical web like pattern had been carved into the flesh of his chest.

I tried to get a feel of the land but a horrible sense of unease and irritability washed over me, the usual calm and tranquillity of the Wildlands had been disturbed.

“You do have a knife on you?” Korra asked Strike. Her answer was a sly smile.

“But who is he?” He asked chewing the side of his thumb.

“I don’t think he is a threat. I think he was a logger.”

The poor man was whimpering as we spoke, Strike cut his bonds and had to catch him before he fell; lying him gently on the ground Korra began tending to his wounds, singing as she did so, trying to sooth and calm him. When he was a comfortable as possible Korra tried to make sense of what happened.

“Men came from the south with some sort of priest. We were to be sacrificed to wake the sleeping

Giants. They took my eyes with a burning brand, after that all I could hear was screaming, so much screaming. They tied me to a tree. I heard crashing and splintering then silence. I have been shouting for someone to find me ever since.” It took a while for him to tell his tale but when he had finished Korra asked what he wanted.
“Don’t leave me here. I don’t want to be left here. I was offered the chance to go with the traders, I said I was making a new life here.” His voice trailed off to sobs.

“There are legends of giants.” Korra told us.

“The Sapphire Islands were formed when tow giants were fighting, after days and days of sharing blows and they were both about to give up, one giant punched the other so hard his teeth flew out his mouth and where they fell the smaller islands were formed. He fell hard, so hard it killed him and his body became the larger island of Mercia.” 
 “Where did it go?” Strike asked, breaking her spell.

I examined the lay of the footprints for a while before I spoke, “They emerged from the jungle behind us, attacked the settlement before bounding back the way it came. But there are Human tracks going towards the coast” I said pointing both behind and in front of us.
We discussed at length what we would do next and eventually decided to continue to the coast to try and make contact with Korra’s ship and see if they had any news about what had occurred. Taking one last look around, something caught my eye. On a large stone mantle that could easily sit four humans I noticed the same geometric web pattern drawn in blood roughly the width of a Human. I yelled in surprise and Strike and Korra were by my side.

“Is it a ritual?” Strike asked eventually.

Staring at the grotesque pattern, echoed on the man’s chest it seemed familiar yet not, “Yes but at the same time no. It is similar to the druidic patterns used in rituals but those had never been drawn in blood.” I tried to remember every ritual I had ever cast to try to find some understanding in the design.
“There are tales that tell of certain symbols and rituals that can control the energies of an area. I don’t know why they would do this but could these men have influenced this place in some way.” Korra asked standing a little way from the stone.

Strike turn to walk away and with the forward step came a slippery squelching noise. Bending down to investigate his face turned to a look of disgust when his questioning fingers pulled out a severed hand from under the plinth. Apart from it being detached from its owner the other noticeable thing was that the fingers were cut down to the first knuckle where ragged flesh hung from the bone. 
“Well I think I found the marker.” Strike said. I was not sure if he meant it as a joke or not, sometimes it was hard to tell. Korra took the appendage and studied it closely. It was easy to see that it was too badly damaged to reattach.

“Do we keep him with us?” Strike asked gesturing with a nod of his head towards the broken man. 

“Yeah, he is going to carry our equipment.” Korra replied. 

“How is he supposed to navigate the jungle floor with all its trips and pitfalls, we can’t shout instructions to him at every step.” Strike pointed out. “We could end his pain right here and now. This is a little too urgent to be dragging him around.”

Without warning this argument began to irritate me more than I could describe. I could not understand what was to discuss. Either we took him with us, left him to fend for himself or we laid him to rest. It was that simple. I tried to quell my irritation as the debate continued. 

“It’s no life with no eyes and no hand…” I heard Strike continue.
“I see your point but I am not going to help you do it.” Korra answered.
“Oh just make a decision and stick with it!” I snapped.
“Don’t get me wrong, I am going to do it…”

“Well I am not going to help.”

“Just do it then!” I yelled over them. Their look of shock echoed my own. Something was not right but I could not say what.
After making the man as comfortable as possible we headed to the coast, it took roughly half a day to reach the cliffs that overlooked the ocean as blue as the gems that shared its name, climbing to the highest point of the cliff with the salt spiked air whipping around us we gazed out hoping to see the ship already docked or at least gliding towards the coastline. What we saw was neither of those things.
The boat was stuck on the rocks, it was difficult to tell if the rocks that held it there had punctured the hull or not. The colours of Korra’s house floating in the water looked almost like they were flying in the wind. The bodies of the crew bobbing in the water, some face down others staring vacantly into the sky; we scrambled down as fast as the shifting sand dunes would allow and from our viewpoint on the shore it was clear that as well as the attack there had been sever fire damage.

“We need to get onto the ship and look at the damage.” Strike began but was cut short by the look Korra gave him. Her eyes said it all.

“If it was my people the boat would have been sunk.” He answered her unspoken question.
Wading out to the boat Strike found that the ship was not as badly damaged as first thought. In the water, close to the hull he saw a stranger in the midst of the swollen and distorted bodies of the sailors; dragging the body back to shore we helped Strike pull the Orc onto the sand. He was dressed in the heavy furs and leathers of the Northlands with a short bow still in one hand with no other signs of injury besides a clean line down the centre of his chest where he had been stabbed.
“This and a number of others were scattered over the boat and sticking out of the crew.” Strike explained handing over a black crude Orc arrow.

“Could it be Ice Giants?” Korra asked.

Strike and I exchanged a glance before he replied, “Can’t be Ice Giants, too fookin’ warm for a start.”
“You don’t know that, may be its not as much as you’d think.” 

“It’s a giant made of ice, the sun doesn’t feature much in Ragnarok.” Strike answered in a singsong voice, possibly reserved for slow children. 

“Look, we need to make this ship seaworthy and decide where to go from there.” He continued after seeing the hurt look Korra gave him.

I waded back to the ship with Strike to inspect the ship. He was right about the damage only being mostly superficial with the primitive Orc arrows embedded in the wood and the crew. There were no symbols drawn in blood or otherwise that I could see but inspecting the bodies of the sailors they did have something in common; they were all missing their left hand, I shouted this back to Korra who looked puzzled.
“What about your Orc?” I asked Strike who had started to pull the boat off the rocks.

“He was not of the same boat.” He grunted.

Back on shore with Strike busy beaching the boat and Korra scouring the shoreline for anything of use or value I found myself alone. Using this time to attempt to understand the feelings of anger, irritation and frustration I was sensing from the land.
I felt two great weights trying to pull me up. My eyes slam open and I find my hands around the neck of the sacrificial man. The weights pulling me are Strike and Korra trying to prise me off him.
I hurriedly let go, the man falls to the ground clutching his throat his eyes closed as he gasps like a fish out of water trying to catch his breath. As I watch the white welts begin to change colour to angry purple bruises while the man looked totally confused at the unprovoked attack.

“I was mooring the ship when I looked over to find the beach empty and a strangled cry coming from the jungle. We raced to find you with over the old logger trying you hardest to kill him!” Strike said to me as I struggled to escape both their holds, as confused as the old man. 

“I’m going to let go now. Care to explain what happened what happened?”

“As my spirit melded with the land red anger and hatred filled me, as though the land had been provoked in some way and I woke up to both of you pulling me off him.”

“I did say kill him but I meant a blade to the back of the neck. But whatever works best.” Strike sniggered but stopped when I looked at him. 

“I don’t know what to say, I wanted to see why my mood had been so effected…” I began but was interrupted from the treeline being ripped open by an enormous tree figure of an Ent who stomped into the clearing. It roared incoherently trying to voice the anger it felt. I had never seen such a murderous look on the face of usually such gentle creatures and seeing the others dive for cover I tried to grab the old logger round the waist to pull him to safety.

As soon as he realised someone had grabbed him he began thrashing around wildly trying to break my hold. I could not blame the man, the last time I had grabbed him I tried to kill him; he successfully managed to break my grip and all I could do was watch from my hiding place as the massive treeherder looked directly at the screaming man before crushing him under its gargantuan rooted foot. Satisfied he had been trampled into the earth the Ent roared once more before stomping back into the trees.
“It was his anger I was feeling.” I mumbled still shocked from the actions of the treehurder. 

“At least he died in battle.” Strike tried to comfort me.

Still staring at the retreating figure I spotted the same reddish brown symmetrical symbol daubed on the creatures back, in its centre someone had nailed a severed hand to the trunk of the Ent. 

“Follow that tree?” Strike suggested. 

“Get that thing off it.” I growled. 

“What thing?” Strike replied. 

“The blood symbol, with the hand nailed to it.” I snapped. 

“Follow that tree then.” Strike answered; I am so distracted by the damage inflicted on the Ent that I did not notice the black Orc arrows rain down around me. Strike flew at me, grabbing me round the waist and flung me behind the safety of a stone pedestal with him following close behind.
“I don’t think they like us.” He smiled weakly at me.

“They won’t when I’ve finished with them.” I hissed, the image of the Treehurder still burned brightly in my mind.

Fur clad Orcs began to emerge from the treeline black feathered arrows raining down around us.
“This is not defendable. We have to get to the boat!” Strike shouted about the clattering of the arrows that fell short. 

He snatched up Korra on the way down the sand and slung her over his shoulder. The Orcs grunted orders to each other in their own language while Strike lead us down the beach, easily leaving the lumbering creatures behind us.
Strike dumped Korra into the boat and frantically began to look for weapons, any weapons.
I entered the water and using the energies of the sea transformed into the form of a salt water crocodile. This time I was ready for the flow of hatred and used the tide of rage to my advantage.
Strike emerged from the boat brandishing a spear, he tested its weigh and flung it at the Orc nearest the boat. The Orc dodged out of the way but not fast enough. It let out a bellow of fury as it scraped down the side of his skull. 

The Orcs drop their short bows, the waist deep water making it impossible to use them efficiently and as they wade deeper I lash out at the Orc nearest to me grabbing him in my jaws and dragged him under. He was not going down easily though and before I managed to get a tight hold he dragged his dagger down my side. Once under the surface I rolled twice. On the second roll I felt the life force leave the Orc and letting go his limp body floated away. 

I surfaced to see Strike launch another spear at the Orc he had wounded, hitting him directly in the neck; as he fell to his knees an Orc behind him returned a spear to Strike hitting him in the shoulder. I twisted round to find two Orcs closing in on me. I opened my massive jaws intending to snap at one while tail whipping the other but I misjudged the distance and was repaid with a spear driven deep into my shoulder, with the deep wounds breaking my concentration I could feel my shape trying to re-shift back to my Elven form. As I transformed I threw my shillelagh into the face of the approaching Orc whose axe was already high above his head ready to strike, distracting him enough that the axe whispered past me instead of burring into my skull.
Seeing my struggle to get onto the ship Korra held out her hand to help me up but the shapeshifing and Orc attacks have left me too weak to pull myself up, seeing my struggle last remaining Orc pulled his axe up over his head to fling into my back. I can see this out the corner of my eye but I do not have the strength to do anything about it; from the side I see Strike realise what the Orc fighter is about to do and picking up a spear stabs at the Orc, hitting it in the top of the shoulder. 
Distracted, the Orc pulls at the spear shaft and bringing Strike in closer rakes his clawed fingers across his chest. Strike used this to his advantage and ignoring the pain like his forefathers he gets in close enough for to skewer the creature though the neck with his trusted rapier.

The splash of the dead Orc gives me the final ounce of strength to climb aboard, I fall onto Korra and roll over onto my back, breathless, beaten but still alive.

“You two wait here, I’m going to find those bows.” Strike said before dropping over the side of the ship with a splosh. I pull myself up enough to watch my friend and savour collect up the dropped Orc weapons when he stopped and looked at the tree line, I could not see what he had seen but I had a sense from my friends body language he was being watched.

Jade-xalted: Character Generation – Aspects & Professions

Since this is a hack to allow Jadepunk to be used to run an Exalted style game, i’m not going to reprint masses of the rules from the Jadepunk book (also i’d like encourage people to purchase the game since it is an excellent RPG campaign), i’m only going to discuss the rules where my proposed hack differs from the Jadepunk rules.

Aspects

Characters in Jade-xalted have five Aspects:
  • Concept: A short sentence that sums up your character; if your character is an exalt then the concept must make some mention of what type of exaltation they carry (please note that if you are playing a terrestrial exalted/dragonblooded then some mention of their associated element should also be included).
    Example: Rough and tumble solar exalted soldier, sly and sneaky lunar exalted thief, proud but honourable terrestrial exalted noble (fire).
  • Background: Where did your charater come from and what experiences they have had in life.
    Example: I was born in the slums and had to fight for every opportunity I got, I was in and out of trouble during my youth for stealing and other petty crimes, I grew up on my father’s estate and received the finest schooling his military pay could afford.
  • Exaltation: Although dragonblooded generally exalt (if they are going to) during puberty, a celestial exaltation can come upon a person at any time; where were you when you became exalted, what did it feel like and how did it affect you?
    Example: I was cornered by imperial soldiers when I felt the light of the Unconquered Sun lend strength to my arm, I was trapped with no way to escape the noose when Luna’s grace allowed me to pull the shadows around myself, my family were proud when I received the grace of the Dragon during my seventeenth year.
  • Belief: How do your characters beliefs colour their lives, were they staunch adherents of the imperial creed or a bit more free-spirited?
    Example: I was always taught that the Solar Exalted were demons and that the Wyld Hunt kept us safe now i’m not so sure, my people always feared that creatures that lurked beyond the edge of the map and now i’m one of them, I was raised to believe that the Dragonblooded were the destined rulers of the world but I don’t know if i’m ready for that responsibility yet.
  • Trouble: Consider your preceding aspects, which of them cause you the most complications in your life, have you made any enemies since your exaltation?
    Example: The local authorities know my face it can only be a matter of time before the Wyld Hunt seek me out, since being exalted I find civilisation increasingly stifling and long for the wilderness, I had so many plans for myself but now they all must be set aside to advance the aims of my family.
Professions

As with Jadepunk, Jade-xalted uses professions instead of Fate Core’s skills to rate a character’s proficiency in a particular area; these professions are:
  • Warrior: Warriors come from all different backgrounds, but they all share a proficiency for violent action.
    • Overcome: Feats of strength and of combative skill.
    • Create advantages: Combat maneuvres and creating advantages in the heat of battle.
    • Attack: Making physical attacks at close quarters and range. 
    • Defend: Protecting oneself and others from physical damage.
  • Priest: Priests travel the world preaching the word of the gods, in their travels they come to know the hearts of men and learn about the world during their journey.
    • Overcome: Priests overcome obstacles through knowledge that they have acquired in their travels, they have to be adaptable and strong in their faith to survive.
    • Create advantages: Using their knowledge of the world to their advantage or rousing the faith of other men.
    • Attack: Spurring others to action through rousing speeches or engaging in a contest of faith with another.
    • Defend:  Defending those of the faith or using your knowledge of the world to help protect your flock in dangerous situations.
  • Sorceror: The sorceror creates engines of fantastic magitech as well as researching into matters of the arcane and occult.
    • Overcome: Building or repairing magitech, sorcery and researching occult secrets of the ancient past.
    • Create advantages: Scrying using magic, temporarily boosting the function of occult devices. 
    • Attack: Using more baroque items of magitech or sorcerous items, casting an offensive spell.
    • Defend: Unless a sorceror is controlling a magitech item that can shield them from damage or is casting a spell to shield them from harm they are unlikely to defend.
  • Assassin: Deception and stealth are an assassin’s main weapons along with other nefarious talents.
    • Overcome: Bluffing/lying, thievery, stealth & disguise. 
    • Create advantages: Creating distractions, cover stories or false impressions.
    • Attack: This profession isn’t used to attack directly, more likely to set up a more devastating attack.
    • Defend: Using misinformation and doublespeak to throw off investigations or disguise their true motives.
  • Diplomat: The diplomat is at home in polite society, always knowing the right words to say and the appropriate palms to grease.
    • Overcome: Influencing others to do what you want, bartering, gaining information.
    • Create advantages: Creating advantages to represent momentary emotional states. 
    • Attack: Only likely to be of use in social situations or perhaps in ritualised duels. 
    • Defend: Defending against attempts to ruin one’s standing or blacken their reputation.

Each profession is rated with a bonus, choose one at Good (+3), two at Fair (+2) and two at Average (+1).

Jade-xalted: Initial ideas

I’ve been given some thought for a little while (in-fact since I got my copy of ‘Jadepunk: Tales from Kausao City‘) about whether it would be possible to “hack” Jadepunk in order to run games set in White Wolf’s Exalted campaign setting.
Why would I want to do this?

Well i’ve been in love with the idea of Exalted ever since I bought the first edition, the premise of normal people imbued with celestial powers set against the historical background of the terrestrial usurpation is very compelling, I like the thought of characters whose past-selves once ruled the world trying to reclaim that mantle whilst being opposed by the Sidereal Exalts and their puppets the Dragonblooded terrestrials, who have painted them as the demonic Anathema for hundreds of years and have hunted them almost to extinction. The idea of Exalted is great, the background material, stories and art have been very evocative, where it falls down IMO is the rules that are used; Exalted uses a version of the White Wolf/Onyx Path World of Darkness rules, it’s functional and was cleaned up a lot in the second release of the game but it never really captured the free-flowing, wuxia style of the game that I thought the system was reaching towards.
Fast forward a few years to the release of ‘Jadepunk: Tales from Kausao City‘, this is a campaign setting for the Fate Core game that presents a slightly different approach to the Fate rules; the campaign posits an oppressed, fantasy-style world where the economy of the setting (and much of it’s technology) revolves around enchanted jade mined in the shadow of Kausao city, a metropolis oppressed by it’s governor, the players take on the roll of martial arts masters and jadecraft tinkerers who rebel against this system and seek to fight for the common man. My video review of Jadepunk can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMiWg_zTlfg
Things to Consider

Jadepunk would seem to be a natural fit for an Exalted style game, before I get into working out how to create a hack though, I think there are a few things that I need to think about, these include:
  • Representing the charms of the different Exalts + their innate powers.
  • How to represent the anima banners that flare when Exalts use their powers.
  • The various other types of enchanted materials (orichalcum, soulsteel, etc).
  • Spirits and demons.
Over the course of the next few weeks I intend to start looking at these various aspects, plus any others that come up to see if I can create a workable “hack” to allow the playing of a more freeform, narrative style of Exalted campaign using the Jadepunk rules.

Planar Diagram

Just been clearing out some of my old RPG notes (to make way for new ones of course) and discovered this planar diagram I was designing for a game that never got off the ground (the game would have focussed on a celestial breakout of souls from the prison place and how it affected the other interconnected planes.
Thought i’d post it here incase anyone can find a use for it.

Dungeon World – Sapphire Island mini-campaign

Okay, so last night I started up a mini-campaign (10 sessions or so) for my wife and a couple of friends, we’ve been playing a few one-offs together recently and they’d agreed to have me run some Dungeon World for them; people who’ve read my earlier blog entries will know that i’ve just started running a Dark Sun-esque Dungeon World campaign for my regular group as well, truth be told I was keen to see how different a world and game we’d end up with, having a different group of players.
We started off with the players picking their character classes and genning them up, we ended up with the following:
  • Will (known as ‘Strike’ to his “friends”), a hooded human thief, outcast from the northern barbarian tribes after poisoning their old chieftain; although his uncle the current chieftain was unable to take him back since he’s broken one of their most sacred taboos by using poison, the old warrior had seen his nephew safely to the mainland.
  • Demanor, an elven druid from the mainland, her wild eyes belie a deep and spiritual connection with the lands of the river delta, nestled amidst the jungles of the mainland that she calls her home. Once the elves were a mighty civilisation, but they recognise that their time has passed and, with the grace and calm only such an ancient species could possess, they accept their decline, using what little time they have left attempting to shepherd the younger races into a more positive relationship with the land.
  • Korra, a fiery eyed human bard from the distant Sapphire Isles, she is the bastard child of a noble, receiving little other than some basic schooling by way of compensation for the social stigma that she faced; desperate to add something to the status of her noble house and bring some glory to their name (and hopefully gaining acceptance of herself in the progress) she travelled to the mainland in search of ancient legends and to carry news to the mainland outposts of her house.
We followed up the character creation with everyone introducing their characters and the rest of us taking turns to ask questions, fleshing out the characters and the world using peoples responses, via these questions some of the things we discovered were:
  • Will had encountered Demanor when he first came off the boat on the southern coast of the mainland, he was only able to survive this strange environment due to her help and, as a mark of respect, shared blood with her in a northlander ritual of brotherhood.
  • Korra met Demanor whilst exploring the jungles of the mainland eager to discover storied; whilst there she was poisoned by a serpent and was only saved by the timely arrival of the druidess, whilst Demanor melted back into the jungle when she saw that Korra would recover, the bard would often think on the incident and made an effort to track her down so that her tale could be told.
  • Korra also recorded the story of how Will was banished for poisoning the chief after he took advantage of Will’s sister, in her fictionalised version, Korra re-wrote it so the sister did the poisoning and Will took the blame; worried that someone may one day read this and take it as the truth, Will stole Korra’s most treasured possession, an ancient flute given to her by her half-sister and held it as surety to prevent her account of his banishment ever being made public.
We also discovered a lot of facts about the world, including:
  • There are three known species that have built civilisations in the world:
    • Humans: The only species to populate the Northlands, the Mainland and the distant Sapphire Islands.
    • Elves: Once the sole occupiers of the jungle covered Mainland in a bygone age, the elves were the first to notice that the younger races were starting to forget how to communicate with the wild and strove to preserve these techniques by introducing some of their druidry techniques to those younger than themselves. The elves are fading custodians of the world whose time has passed, but they seem mostly restrained and possess a zen-like calm about this, being wise enough to realise that everything has it’s time and everything ends.
      • As the elves have begun to fade from the world, the Ents, once wise and noble custodians of the woodland reaches have begun to sleep, falling into a deep state of slumber rendering them like the trees that they once protected.
    • Orcs: A wild an barbaric people who focus on conquest and a life of constant fighting and warfare, the orcs mix freely with the people of the Northland, both have a very similar culture, their are mixed tribes of human and orc northlanders who raid the mainlands for supplies, particularly in the winter months when the ice sheets form between their lands and those of the Mainland.
  • The Mainland and the Northlands have been locked in conflict for years with the barbarian tribes constantly raiding and harrassing those on the mainland, this allowed the Sapphire Islands many years of peace and time to devote to improving themselves, meaning that the level of sophistication and technology is higher in the Sapphire Islands (late medieval as opposed to bronze age).
  • A hundred years ago the Sapphire Islands aided the ascension of a royal dynasty to the rulership of the Mainland Kingdom and sold them technology allowed King John I to build a wall around his kingdom to protect it from invasion; since that day the rulers of the kingdom have taken the name ‘John’ by traditions, the current ruler is John V.
  • The Sapphire Islands have come under attack from the Northlands since they provided the Kingdom with their aid, and one of their islands is currently occupied by Northland forces.
    • Having faced little in the way of organised opposition the Sapphire Islands are ruled by noble houses who spend their time competing and squabbling with each other, each house rules one of the smaller islands with the largest island (Mercia) being occupied by three houses, including the royal house of the Sapphire Emperor.
    • Even in with the threat of the Northmen bearing down on them the houses have, as yet, been unable to put up a united front against them.
    • Legend says that the Sapphire Islands were formed when two giants fought and killed each other in the ocean, the smaller islands were where their teeth fell and Mercia is where their bodies collapsed.
  • The barbarian tribes of the Northlands (orc and human) occasionally unite under a charismatic leader who is ‘crowned’ in a brutal ritual known as the ‘rite of the bloodhand’; a slaughtered foe has his blood mixed with various berries and dyes, watched over by the tribal shaman(druid) the new leader dips his left hand in the mixture and has his hand dyed permanently red as a mark of leadership.
Here is a picture of our rough world map (although we have left a fair amount of blank space to explore):
* * *
First Session

The first sesson began with our heroes travelling to a frontier settlement that the Kingdom had setup in the ruins of an ancient elven city on the southeastern part of the Mainland, they had sought (and been given) permission by the elves on the understanding that the elves would monitor them to make sure that their logging did not cause too much of an impact on the environment, Demanor had been chosen to check on them; Korra had also heard that a ship from the Sapphire Islands was going to be docking there shortly and wished to hear news of her homeland.
When they arrived at the settlement they find it nought but a smouldering ruin, huge behemoth-like footprints dotted the scene but there were no signs of any bodies; eventually they discovered a single, barely alive old logger tied to a tree, his eyes had been put out, his left hand cut off and a strange geometric web-like design carved into his flesh. Demanor felt a strange sense of unease as though the wilds had somehow been roused or disturbed, making the man as comfortable as possible they headed to the coast, hoping to intercept the ship from the Sapphire Islands and see if they had any news about what had occurred, but on arrival they found only the wreckage of the boat and a number of crew bodies bobbing in the water.
Will waded out to the boat whilst Korra scoured the beach and Demanor attempted to attune herself to the energies of the wild; reaching the boat Will saw that it was not as badly damaged as it first appeared, in the water he spotted an orc body alongside the crew and a number of primitive black orc arrows sticking from the craft, turning to tell Demanor he saw that the druidess appeared to have disappeared, but their was a trail of her footprints heading back into the jungle the way they had came. Will and Korra ran through the trees back to the ruins where they found Demanor, an expression of utter fury on her face, choking the life from the still-injured logger, when they touched her however the fury seemed to drain from her and she released her terrified prey; all she could remember was joining with the spirit of the land and then feeling a red anger come over her, as though the very spirit of the land itself had been roused.
They had little time to ponder this however when the treeline burst open and a huge lumbering tree-like figure strode into the clearing, roaring inarticulately; recognising an Ent, but being quite unaccustomed to the murderous look on it’s face, Demanor gestured for the others to hide; she tried wrestling the blind logger into cover but he screamed and broke free of her grasp. All they could do was watch from their hiding place as the huge treeherder smashed it’s mighty foot down on the screaming man, crushing him to death, before it roaring once more and stomped off into the trees; as it departed Demanor and Will noticed that the same bloody spiderweb was daubed onto the back of the tree and at it’s centre someone had nailed a severed hand to the Ents trunk-like body.
Arrows filled the air around them, our heroes dived behind a stone outcropping as fur clas orcs began to emerge from the treeline, firing black fletched arrows at them; shouting that they had to get to the boat, Will lead the others on a mad race to the beach, easily outpacing the lumbering orcs. Wading out to the boat he dived onboard and began searching for weapons, whereas Demanor focussed the power of the wild through her, once again feeling the red anger but this time she was ready for it and mastered the feelings, transforming into a huge saltwater crocodile biting and snapping at the orcs, felling two as Will threw spears from the boat felling a third huge orc. However the orcs had inflicted several deep wounds on Demanor and she could feel her alligator form ebbing away, transforming she grabbed hold of the boat and, with the aid of Korra, began to haul herself aboard; spotting the last remaining orc about to attack the druidess, Will launched an attack on it, taking some injury himself but felling the mighty beast and allowing Korra time to pull Demanor aboard.
With their opponents seemingly all dead Will was able to limp the boat to the shoreland, but as he waded ashore he briefly spotted another orc, it’s eyes glowing with reflected light, clad in bones and feathers, slinking back into the woods. 
* * *
So how did it go?

I thought the game went pretty well, especially considering that it was late and we were all quite tired, however people really seemed to get into the idea of creating the world along with the characters; as previously it took everyone a few minutes to get into the idea that we were going to create the world around their characters (since this isn’t the philosophy espoused by a lot of RPGs), but once they had the ideas started coming thick and fast. We ended up with a very different world to the one that was created for my Dark Sun style game, the first session went very smoothly and everyone seemed to enjoy it; this is one of the things I love about Dungeon World, I went it with just the character sheet playbooks and some very basic ideas and a whole campaign has sprung from that and the players input.

I’m now ready to write out the fronts for the mini-campaign and prepare for the next session 🙂

* * *

Video Response – 10 games i'd like to play (video)

A video response to Rhaegar’s video ‘Top 10 game I have yet to play’

Dark sun Dungeon World – Campaign Map

Here is a hexographer created version of the campaign map that we came up with, as befitting the Dungeon World campaign creation guidelines the map is fairly loose with a lot of blank space left still to explore.