Serpents Fall: A Land Without a King – Session 4

Our heroes are heading northwards, out of Celtia towards the land of Saxony, their plan is to travel to the capitol of Winchester seeking someone who may know more about curses and perhaps even help them lift the curse that prevents Captain Benito from sailing on the seas; whilst the curse stands there is no way that they can each the Sword Isles and out a stop to whatever fiendish plans the usurper Pirate King Horningold Blythe is concocting. They party have been travelling for a couple of days, and having spent a lot of time at the ruined village previously, supplies are running low; Ozuchi is ranging up ahead looking for supplies, when he sees a village in the distance, surrounded by a wooden pallisade, thin wisps of smoke rise up above the fence, no doubt from hearth fires inside. Ozuchi falls to his knees thanking the spirits for the blessing of a village, “Assuming that smoke doesn’t mean it’s been burnt down” says the sobering voice of Benito from just by his shoulder as the rest of the party catches up.

Suddenly Benito and Horesh hear a strange snuffling, snorting noise coming from within the boundaries of the nearby Great Forest, they have only just left Celtia and are still close to the mighty wooded area that blankets the savage nation like a living tide; ever wary Benito draws his sword, the sound of the metal sliding free from his scabbard alerting Ozuchi to the potential danger. Before they have time to consider further planning the undergrowth begins to move with furious activity; Horesh backs away from the treeline whilst Ozuchi drops into a martial stance as something huge and strong ploughs it’s way through the undergrowth, charging towards them. Thinking quickly Ozuchi calls on his komodo spirit to armour against harm as a huge boar smashes out of the nearby treeline, shakes it’s head and then prepares to charge; Horesh begins slowly backing away as Benito scrambles up a nearby rocky outcropping and Ozuchi prepares to leap if the creature gets near him. Hearing the sound of the pebbles dislodged by Benito’s frantic scrambling the boar charges towards the rock that he is perched upon. Benito leaps off the rock that he is clinging to and lands on the back of the huge bristled creature, he reachs forwards, grabs the tusks of the mighty boar and begins twisting the creature’s head to one side, trying to distract it from charging his companions.

With the creature distracted, Ozuchi springs forward, striking the boar in a weak spot on it’s skull with a mighty kick; there is a loud crack and the creature ploughs into the ground, neck broken, Benito leaping off as it slides along digging a furrow with it’s carcass. As this is going on Horesh becomes aware that there is still some slight movement within the treeline, he steps into the trees, remaining cautious, and comes across a small clearing where there are 5 infant boars, he shakes his head and returns to the others, gesturing for them to follow he shows them where the baby boars are located. The death priest feels quite guilty that they may have slain the mother of these creatures whereas Ozuchi, being more used to hunting on the stygian savannah and raising the young of hunted animals as domestic stock, looks at the young animals solely as potential food or trade stock, whereas Benito and Horesh seem captivated by the idea of training these beasts as mounts. Horesh attempts to examine the spirit of the beast but it has already fled (animal spirits not tending to linger) but he does sense an after-image of anger and maternal instincts, he suggests that there might have been something nearby that had already roused the mother boars protective instincts and that they should remain wary.

After a bit of a debate, Benito and Horesh decide to adopt one of the piglets each and to take the rest as trade or provisions, Ozuchi shakes his head in bewilderment but reluctantly agrees before pulling his dagger and swiftly beginning to skin, de-tusk and butchering the body of the dead boar; the norsican barbarian Kron seems entirely bewildered by the argument going on, but then norsicans are not known for their love of animals (besides as skins to wear or meat to eat). Benito picks up a couple of piglets, Horesh carries one (selecting a black piglet with a white spot) and, after being asked to help by Benito, the bewildered Kron picks up the other two, shaking his head. Ozuchi gives thanks to the spirit for the bounty of pigflesh and piglets to trade that they have blessed the party with, and they continue their journey towards the village.

Arriving near the open-fronted wooden pallisade they can see numerous small wooden buildings erected around a central large hall; a ragged, malnourished figure bursts from the entrance of the gate, cradling a hessian sack under his arm, the figure runs towards them and virtually collapses into Ozuchi’s arms saying “I can’t… please don’t let them get me…”, he swoons almost fainting away. Benito takes the bag and peers in side, it contains little more than a couple of loaves and some bundles of grain, before he has chance to consider what this means, Benito’s attention is attracted by the sound of marching feet and a unit of soldiers wearing metal armour and lead by a serious looking figure march out of the village. Not liking the look of the events unfolding Horesh quickly removes his robe and slips it onto the bedraggled villager before the soldiers have time to spot him and Ozuchi runs forward to meet the emerging soldiers, pointing off into the distance and hoping to mislead them as to the whereabouts of their suspected quarry he says “A man just ran into those trees carrying a bag, is that who you are after?”

Seeming convinced by Ozuchi’s fabrications, the commander introduces himself as Aedelred and says that they are pursuing the criminal Dudda, Ozuchi repeats that they saw him running off into the nearby forest; nodding Aedelred says that they will surely be welcome, however, he points at Kron and says that “well, almost all of you will be welcome” – he explains the group that the northman is not well loved in Saxony since the King has gone north to crusade against the rising northern warlords, he describes the norsicans as a plague waiting to sweep away civilisation. Ozuchi is able to persuade the soldiers that Kron no longer considers himself linked with the raiding norsicans and will cause no trouble, Kron turns over his hammers as surety of his conduct and, with Ozuchi vouching for him, Commander Aedelred agrees to allow the norsican into the settlement of Wulfricingas. One of Aedelred’s men called Deorwine seems personally affronted by Aedelred’s decision to allow Kron into the village and makes his objection known; Aedelred commands him to be silent and apologises to our heroes, explaining that Deorwine recently received news that his brother was slain in King Godric’s crusade against the northmen. Unable to accompany them at present due to his pursuit of the criminal Dudda, Aedelred assigns one of his men Oed to escort them inside.

Oed leads the heroes into the village, he mentions that Lord Wulfric is ill and may not be able to speak to them but he will take them to the chiefs hut; when Ozuchi mentions that he is a reknowned medicine man in Stygia and that he may be able to help, this interests Oed a great deal and he leads them to the large wooden hut in the middle of the village. Oed bangs on the door asking to be let in, saying that he has a medicine man to see Lord Wulfric, a female voice responds saying that the Lord is much too ill to see any foreigners with his snake-oil and charms; it is only when Oed threatens to break down the door that the women (whom he refers to as Ceolwyn) agrees to let them in.

Upon entering the large hall they can see a bed covered in many furs where a tall man with a long beard and wasted, grayish pallor lies looking almost dead, they are met by a determined looking woman who is skeptical about Ozuchi’s abilities, but weakly Lord Wulfric gestures that he gives permission for Ozuchi to examine him. Nodding Ozuchi asks what treatment Lord Wulfric has received, Ceolwyn indicates a clear solution on a nearby table and says that she has been adminstering a solution of local herbs to bring down his fever; Benito notices a look of panic on Ceolwyn’s face when Ozuchi begins examining the tonic, but before he can do anything a huge warrior with black hair and holding an axe gripped threateningly in one hand dashes in and in angry tones demands to know what is going on. Coelwyn speaks to the man (who she calls Anlaf) and explains what is occurring, again Benito notices the edge of panic in her voice.

Ozuchi attempts to speak to Anlaf, who seems oddly unwilling to listen to him and eventually attempts to punch the stygian, but he is too quick though and rocks back on his feet before delivering a rapid series of blows that cause the saxon warrior to crumple to the floor unconscious; now free of distraction Ozuchi lifts a tiny portion of the tonic to his lips and judges it to be mostly sugar water, but there is an acrid toxic taste lurking beneath it that his trained tastebuds detect. Seeing Ozuchi’s expression and realising that the game is up, Ceolwyn draws a hidden dagger from her belt and, holding it out, tells them to let her go and that no-one needs to get hurt. Benito attempts to restrain the woman but she delivers him a vicious headbutt to the face, staggering back and shouting for Ozuchi to take her out whilst Kron moves to secure the unconscious saxon warrior and cut off any escape, Benito takes a step backwards with blood pouring from his nose.

Not wanting to do the woman serious harm (and lose their only conscious source of information), Ozuchi deftly flicks the knife from Ceolwyn’s hand and twists her arm up behind her back whilst Horesh fetches a rope and restrains her; weeing her husband captured and held by Kron and Oed, Ceolwyn breaks down and reveals that her husband Anlaf told her to help him poison Lord Wulfric or he would beat her, but that if she did so the Regent would make them the rulers of the village after Wulfric was dead. Oed tells them that the Regent is the brother of King Godric, a man called Eadweard Harcourt who has been left in charge of the kingdom whilst Godric is on his crusade in the north; but he has no idea why the Regent would want Wulfric dead, Ceolwyn answers that she doesn’t know, Anlaf spoke to the Regent, not her, she attempts to plead for leniency and offers proof of what she is saying by telling them to search Anlaf’s belt pouch. When Kron does so he finds a red seal in the shape of a stylised spear, Oed confirms that the spear is Aelfgar, symbol of the Harcourt family.

Ozuchi has been ministering to Lord Wulfric and says that he can help him but it will take a couple of days for the poison to leave his system; Lord Wulfric weakly thanks them and says that they must sleep in his hall as guests of honour, he orders Oed to take Anlaf and Ceolwyn from his sight and to have them confined under guard. Horesh approaches the Lord and speaks to him about the criminal Dudda, he explains that the man was starving and shows the meagre contents that were inside the satchel, Wulfric sighs and explains that the Regent has been squeezing them for more and more taxes and that he is honour bound to obey the ruler of Saxony, meaning that he has had to ask more from his people; however Lord Wulfric does tells them that, whilst he cannot tolerate crime and disloyalty, and nor can he defy Saxon law, when he is well he plans to host a great celebration that will require all his men at arms to cease pursuing any outlaws and attend. He assures them that anyone who returns to their home and commits no further crime will be forgiven, Wulfric also tells them that, although he cannot lower the taxes, he will have some of the personal provisions from his hall made available to lighten the burden on the peasants; smiling and looking at Horesh’s cloaked “apprentice” Wulfric passes back the sack containing the bread and tells them that that will do as a first contribution to lightening the tax load and that Horesh’s “apprentice” should return to his home.

Two days pass and Lord Wulfric is much recovered, true to his word he holds a great feast that sees the flamboyant Captain Benito seemingly trying to bed every woman in the village; even the death priest Horesh seems to get into the spirit of the celebration, relishing the chance to soak up a foreign culture. After the celebration has concluded Wulfric gathers the heroes to him and tells them that he would value their wise council, his interrogators have spoken to Anlaf and verified what Ceolwyn had told them, it appears that the Regent wants him dead for some reason, “Perhaps because I am loyal to his brother and not to him” muses Lord Wulfric.

The heroes say that they are going to travel to Winchester and perhaps they could attempt to negotiate with the Regent on his behalf; Wulfric says that, if the heroes are willing, he will travel with them (now his strength is recovered) and will make his case in person; agreeing they all part company to sleep, but Ozuchi is troubled as he meditates on the future, he speaks to the ancestors of Saxony and of the Harcourt dynasty; they show him a vision of a snow covered battlefield slain with blood, a king lies dead and a usurper seeks to consolidate his power, some claim loyalty to the new king whilst some remain loyal to the memory of the old, fire and war engulfs the kingdom of Saxony. The stygian tells the others of his troubling vision, it seems clear that the death of the old king and his brother the Regent’s grab for power will throw the nation into civil war.

Star Trek Hack: Skill list

Okay, the first thing I want to look at in my attempt to create a Star Trek hack is the skill list; in Fate Core the skill list is at the centre of the game, it is your skills that affect your stress boxes (the amount of damage that you can take in combat) and determine how likely (or unlikely) you are to succeed at a task.
This is the default Fate Core skill list:

  • Athletics
  • Burglary
  • Contacts
  • Crafts
  • Deceive
  • Drive
  • Empathy
  • Fight
  • Investigate
  • Lore
  • Notice
  • Physique
  • Provoke
  • Rapport
  • Resources
  • Shoot
  • Stealth
  • Will
When I asked Simon (who i’m writing the hack for) how specific he wanted the skill list to be in the trek hack his response was:

Vehicles will be done I think best by general type Star ship, Shuttle, Aircraft, Ground vehicle & I would use an edge to reflect greater skill in a particular vehicle of a given type.


With this in mind i’ve looked at how I can add a few skills onto the list to make it more appropriate for a science-fiction setting without adding too many additional skills; this has mainly come down to splitting some skills like drive, shoot and lore into specific skills.
Then it occurred to me that it would probably be easier (rather than starting from scratch) to look for an existing science-fiction skill list online and then trim it down/expand it to meet the needs of the trek hack; with this in mind I turned to the Disapora SRD skill list (which I had already used as a basis for my 40K hack some time ago).
  • Athletics – physical agility.
  • Brawling (combat) – bare fist fighting.
  • Deceive – convincing people that a lie is the truth.
  • Intimidation
  • Investigate – examining clues and searching for solutions to problems.
  • Notice – spotting things, general alertness.
  • Profession: <choice> – choose a profession to use for this skill; some appropriate professions are listed below:
    • Command officer
    • Communications officer
    • Engineering officer
    • Pilot
    • Science officer
  • Rapport – relating to others socially.
  • Stamina – how tough the character is (affects physical stress track).
  • Stealth – sneaking, thievery, etc
  • Survival – surviving in the wilderness, roughing it.
  • Vehicle – driving (non-space) vehicles.
  • Weaponry (guns) – knowledge of how to use and maintain weaponry of the appropriate type.
  • Weaponry (melee) – knowledge of how to use and maintain weaponry of the appropriate type.
  • Will – how strong of will the character is (affects the mental stress track).

Fate: Boldly going where no-one has gone before…

For those of you who aren’t aware I play in a small (1 GM + 3 players inc. myself), very interesting Star Trek inspired game run by my friend Simon at our FLGS Spirit Games; the game is set in a pre-Enterprise (the series) era and involves the players being the crew of an earth experimental ship built to test out new technologies. In the first session we were conducting tests on an experimental warp drive that effectively created a stable wormhole through which a ship could pass rather than folding space the way I believe a standard Star Trek warp drive does (although I may be wrong, although I enjoy Star Trek, i’m not the font of knowledge where it is concerned).
In a plot reminiscent of Star Voyager (although as Simon pointed out “Without the rubbish all-powerful alien bit in it”) something went wrong during the testing of the experimental drive and a motley crew of scientists, engineers and communications officers found ourselves hurtling through the galaxy at ridiculously high speeds, facing the prospect of eventually starving to death if we couldn’t find a way to de-activate the drive, which seemed to be emitting an energy field that barred access to it. Eventually we managed to use the point defence lasers on the testbed ship to damage the drive enough so that we could de-activate it without splattering ourselves over whatever quadrant we happened to be in.
As the game stands at the moment (about 3/4 sessions in) we find ourselves in a strange area of space where a human-like species called the Destroyers are waging a genocidal war against all other species in the area; giving that these Destroyers are human-like (and may possibly be descended from the earth population, although they have evolved separately since) we feel a certain responsibility and have decided to stay and try to help resolve the problem with them. Given that the Destroyers are extremely unreasonable and see their attempt to wipe out an alien life as some sort of holy crusade this means that we have effectively pitched our testbed ship into a war, and are now trying to weld together an alliance of the Talansidry, Athlar and other species we have encountered to deal with the Destroyers.
So what does this have to do with Fate?

Well, when we originally started Simon was going to use the BRP system from Chaosium (made famous in Call of Cthulhu and other games); however, without really having a lot of prep time due to the spectre of real-life interfering with roleplay preparation (the way it is wont to do from time to time) it hasn’t been possible for him to get the game ready for using the BRP system.
Given that I spend so much of my time banging on about Fate, Simon has volunteered me to write a quick and simple Fate hack for the game; this is a task that I was happy to undertake, especially since i’ve already done a Fate Core science-fiction hack (Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader), albeit of a very different sub-genre.
Before I even started to look at creating a hack I plan to send Simon a few questions so I can be sure that the hack does what he wants, the questions are below (Simon’s answers are noted in blue):
  • How detailed do you want the list of skills to be? For example, are you happy with just having a pilot skill or would you prefer a pilot skill for different vehicles?

Vehicles will be done I think best by general type Star ship, Shuttle, Aircraft, Ground vehicle & I would use an edge to reflect greater skill in a particular vehicle of a given type.

  • How detailed do you want the handling of equipment to be? Would you prefer each bit of equipment to be noted down and have an effect are are you happy to hand-wave this and focus on just major pieces that have a plot impact?

Largely yes, as it’s the narrative which matters most, however equipment will be listed by name as most of it permits use of skills in a way an unequipped character just cant. For example a perception check with a tricorder or equivalent will allow the character to see stuff his unaided eye would never notice at all. Same goes for the ships sensors scanners and computers used in analysis and research.
Weapons would work in a bit more detail as no one wants their character killed by gm’s fiat however its axiomatic to the setting that weapons are designed to kill and do so rather well especially the higher tech ones. This is one of the reasons for the seeti8ng emphasis on resolving conflict by negotiation.

  • How much detail do you want to put into space battles and the like? Are these just going to be handled narratively or do you want solid rules for them (either is not a problem)?
Space battles I would do most of them narratively with success or failure at skill checks where requested driving the narrative in a particular direction. 
With these answers gathered i’m about ready to start work on the hack.

Mooks – Fate Accelerated GM prep time saver and one of my favourite things about the game.

Please note that in this article I am mainly talking about the mook/henchmen systems out of Fate Accelerated, however Fate Core has a similar (but slightly more detailed system) for the same thing and much of what I say in this article applies to that rules system as well (although the specifics of the actual rules differ slightly).

Recently I was preparing the session notes for my Serpents Fall Fate Accelerated fantasy game that I am running online for a group of friends via G+ hangouts (further details about this campaign can be found in previous blog posts and videos on my Youtube Channel), and I came to the oft dreaded part of the proceedings, generating the stats for the many NPCs to be included in the session. I often find this part of the session preparation fairly arduous and time consuming as I work out what stats the NPC needs to perform as expected; the complexity of this varies from system to system. Many may point out, it is possible to just fudge the stats of NPCs and run them in an improvisational manner, however I tend to prefer having something written down to maintain consistency in the setting.
In my opinion Fate Accelerated has an excellent solution that bridges the gap between improvising and planning the stats of NPCs and this is the section of the rulebook that deals with generating Mooks.
What are mooks?

Mooks are unnamed thugs and monsters that are there to provide a brief distraction for the players, to use up a few of their resources or to act as henchman for the main villain/s of the piece; they would be the stormtroopers in the Star Wars films or the legions of henchmen beloved of so many James Bond villains.
Effectively in Fate Accelerate you create these mooks by coming up with a couple of Aspects for them to reinforce what they are good and bad at and a give them 0-2 stress boxes depending on how tough you want them to be (this is relative, mooks cannot take any consequences and are taken out once their stress boxes are filled, player characters normally wade through them occasionally sustaining a little bit of damage). The only other stage is that you come up with a few descriptions of what the mook is good at and, when this applies, you add +2 to any rolls they make, you then come up with a couple of things they’re bad at, and these things apply a -2 penalty to rolls when applicable, otherwise the mook just rolls at a skill level of +0.
This delightfully simply system allows you to generate all of your background NPCs and henchmen (with accompanying stats) in a very short space of time, it still allows them a narrative impact and allows you to maintain consistency should this NPC (or NPC type) ever be used again; if a henchman should be “upgraded” to a main NPC it is a simple matter to add additional Aspects and full Approaches as you would do for a main character in Fate Accelerated.
Overall it took me about fifteen minutes total to come up with the stats for the mooks that were featured in my recent Serpents Fall game, I have included some of the stats below so you can see what a potential mook looks like:

Wild BoarAspect: Ferocious charge, Blind to pain.Good (+2) at charging, goaring, shrugging off pain, tracking. Bad (-2) at intelligence, resisting provoke attempts.Stress [ ][ ]

Saxon commander (Aedelred)Aspects: For the safety of the village, I fight for honour and my lord, the law must be upheld.Good (+2) at commanding his troops, throwing/fighting with an axe. Bad (-2) resisiting challenges to his honour.Stress [ ][ ]

Please note: The following stat blocks use the group rules from Fate Accelerated, which essentially just involves lumping a group of similar mooks together into a mob and assigning the mob one stress box for every two members.

Saxon warrior group (6)Aspects: Glory & honourGood (+2) at fighting in a group. Bad (-2) at fighting on their own.Stress [ ][ ][ ]

Outlaws (20)2 bands of 10.Aspects: We’ve given all we’re going to, rob from the rich, the woods are our home & shelter. Good (+2) at fighting from ambush/in the woods or when lead by a strong leader. Bad (-2) when fighting against organised opposition.Stress [ ][ ][ ][ ][ ]

In conclusion, the system is a great time saving and removes one source of potential stress from the storyteller/GM during session preparation, given that getting a session ready can involved a fair amount of work and plannning, anything to minimise stress has to be a good idea.

Serpents Fall: Death in the Forest – Session 3

Thinking about recent events Ozuchi calls on the knowledge of his ancestral spirits and asks them “Where will the dark corsairs target next?” A whispered voice on the wind speaks to Ozuchi as a flock of seagulls take to the air and spiral around the stygian medicine man, the spirits of the air tell him that the dark corsairs will strike next on the western coast of Saxony; as Ozuchi relays the information and Horesh points out that it’s a very long journey, Gunnar rankles at the fact they can’t even take a boat due to Benito’s curse.
Meanwhile their captive, Captain Hannibal Hawkins, observes them from where he is confined, Benito says that he’s going to interrogate him and asks for aid from the rest of the party; feeling unsettled with the notion of interrogation and possible torture of an enemy who cannot fight back, Gunnar sits in to make sure that no dishonourable methods will be used to extract information from their captive. Hannibal Hawkins, is a bald, weather-beaten man who obviously mucks in with his crew and is used to feeling the lash of the elements as he works on deck, he breathes in sharply as he is ungagged since the gag restricted him breathing through his mouth and his nose was still bloody from the fight, he spits on the ground at Benito’s feet.
“It is good to see you” says Benito, attempting to remain conversational
“The feeling is not mutual, how do you come to be here? I was told you were dead – better for you if you were” spits Hawkins
“I’m Captain Benito, you can’t kill me, how do you think I came to become pirate king?” asked Benito glibly
“I don’t know, i’m more an expert on how easy it was to depose you” replies Hawkins with a spluttering cackle
“Cutting, but you’re not really in a position to make insults are you, bound as you are on your own ship that we’ve taken from under your feet?” says Benito
“How do you think the real pirate king will respond when he realises you’re alive?”
“He’ll prob piss his pants and get someone else to deal with it, like he normally does” said Benito with bravado
“Things have changed, there’s a new order in the Sword Isles Benito”
“Who?” asked Benito
“Captain Blythe, he has promised to return the Sword Isles to a position of rulership over the world, as it was before Atlantis sank”
“He’s taking his time”
“Only a fool rushes his plans, as you should know”
Benito asks Hawkins where they were taking the slaves to be sold and Hawkins says that they weren’t selling them to anyone and that he was buying, not selling; they were providing herbs & spices to the Picts in return for the slaves since some of the ingredients are hard to get on the mainline, but the more tropical environment on the Sword Isles are ideal for growing them. Hawkins says that he doesn’t know why the pirate king wants the slaves since he doesn’t reveal his plans to Hawkins.
“So he’s not revealed his plans to you, that is a quite intelligent move on his behalf, for once” says Benito, his opinion of the usurper Pirate King Horningold Blythe obvious in his expression
Hawkins refuses to say anything further, Kron picks him up and carries the beaten pirate lord to the brig of his own ship, securing him soundly in the brig; Gunnar says that, before they deal with any thoughts of what is going on in the Sword Isles, they need to get the survivors back to their village, but before they depart Benito renders the ship unsailable without a few hours work re-tying all of the ropes and supports that he has undone.
Moving back through the tunnels, Horesh becomes aware of his spirit companion as he moves within range and that the villagers are still okay; they enter the cavern leading the survivors from the ship and the young girl Keira is re-united with her mother Kayla, both breaking down in tears of happiness. Gunnar says that they should escort the people back to the remnants of their village and make sure there’s enough for them to survive.
The party begins leading the group of malnourished villagers through the darkness of the Great Forest, Horesh and Gunnar moving carefully whilst Ozuchi and Benito moving ahead quickly, scouting out the way ahead of the group. Ozuchi becomes aware of dark shapes moving just behind the treeline, quietly seeking to surround the party and briefly sees crouched human figures with dimly glowing eyes; he holds his hand up to indicate to the rest of the party that he has seen something and then leaps into the thick foliage of the treeline.
Benito draws his weapon, Kron does likewise whilst moving up to take a defensive position besides the villagers, Horesh draws his daggers; Ozuchi dives towards what he thought was the light glinting off one of the pictish blades, but he finds that it is actually a decoy, a blade deliberately stuck into the tree so as to reflect the light, before he can retreat the stygian feels a jagged flint blade stabbed into him. Captain Benito hears Ozuchi crying a pained oath in stygian, he attempts to assess the situation but can only see silhouettes running through the trees a short distance off; yo Benito the enemies move so silently that they seem less like people and more like spirits of the woods, he has heard tales of the Picts and how they worship strange unclean spirits and perform ceremonies seeking to make them like unto spirits themselves.
Horesh sends his familiar raven spirit into the air so that, via his spiritual link with it, he can get a birds-eye view of the situation; the picts are skillfully blending into the forest (almost supernaturally so) but, sharing the senses of his familiar Horesh can see a pict fighting with Ozuchi, two are closing on himself and Kron whilst a third is drawing near to Benito. Horesh relays what he has seen to Kron; using this information Gunnar strides across the clearing and attacks as a pict rushes out of the undergrowth, the warrior is clearly taken aback that the norsican has seen through his camouflage and Kron swings his hammer at his opponent. The warrior manages to throw itself to one side, avoiding the blow although it drops its knife in the process.
As the warrior fighting Ozuchi prepares to attack, the stygian shaman sees that his opponent seems to be in the grip of the hallucinogenic woad, almost as though looking through him, the look is similar to someone viewing the spirit world; the stygian summons his komodo dragon spirit to join with him, his skin briefly becoming scaley and rough, and easily able to turn aside the knife attack of the pictish warrior. Sparks spray into the air as the pictish knife glances harmlessly off Ozuchi’s skin. Benito runs forwards to help out Ozuchi as he sees the shower of sparks shortly ahead of him, he is taken by surprise when from the undergrowth besides him another warriors bursts out of the foliage, slamming Benito down to the floor and jabbing a thin flint knife into his ribs.
Horesh thinks about running to help Benito but realises that he would be leaving Kron and the villagers at the mercy of two warriors, so he holds his position as another warrior emerges into the clearing; seeing the spirit-stare of the approaching warrior, Horesh briefly wonders if the effects of the hallucinogenic woad goes far deeper then they had previously thought, but he doesn’t have much time to think about it as the pict moves to attack.
Looking for a weakness in his enemy, Horesh takes advantage of his opponents drugged state as he ducks under the blow of the warrior and jabs his twin sacrifical knives into the underside of the pict’s skull who gurgles and topples to the floor dead. Kron leaps to the side of the remaining crouching warrior, as the warrior glances over at his companion meeting an end on the sharp blades of Horesh’s knives, the norsican swings his hammer down, impacting squarely with the pict and slaying him. Further up ahead Ozuchi, still engaged in combat, strikes his opponent in the chest and then, in an impressive display of stygian martial arts, flips the pictish warrior so that his body falls onto his own decoy-weapon, killing him.
Benito pushes off the warrior rolling around with him and, grabbing some of the hanging vines, attempts to swing clear but the pict grabs him and stabs the ex-pirate king in the neck; the warrior leaps clear of Benito’s return blow, scuttling halfway up a tree with it’s flint knife gripping between it’s teeth. Hearing the noises and cries from up ahead Horesh concentrates on the spirit world, summoning a lesser spirit of the forest to aid his companion whilst, being reluctant to leave the villagers, Kron lets out a loud norsican battle-cry in an attempt to distract whatever picts are still fighting; he feels a bestial presence briefly enter his body, making his cry reverberate around the forest as the spirits summoned by Horesh re-inforce his action.
The warrior fighting Benito is scared by the unholy sound, a fearful look entering his eyes; Ozuchi meanwhile runs back into the clearing to where Horesh and Kron are protecting the villagers. The pict leaps from the trees at Benito, his knife held high but Benito neatly sidesteps the attack, avoiding it, spins around and stabs his sword into the chest of the warrior, bringing him a quick death. The forest once again fall quiet, the echo of Kron’s mighty roar still fading slowly, Benito searches the body of the fallen warrior and takes his flint blade from him.
Thinking about the stares of the picts, Ozuchi summons up his ancestral spirits and asks them to reveal to him, what sort of spirit power the pictish warriors are using; all of the birds filling the trees turn to look at Ozuchi, and amongst their cawing, a voice says “The warriors call upon blasphemous creatures of the Outer Darkness, they are not of the spirit world.”
Ozuchi explains to the others that the anient almost mythical empire of Atlantis trafficked with spirits from the Outer Darkness and it destroyed their empire, Benito wondered whether that was what Horiningold Blythe was up to. Benito explains to the others about how the Inner Sea used to be Atlantis, and that the landmass sank after they meddled in forbidden magic creating the Inner Sea and the Sword Isles; most of the atlanteans and their slaves the lemurians were killed but some of their bloodline continued in the modern world, Benito himself has lemurian blood. Benito says that he needs to go home to stop whatever Blythe is up to, but that he can’t do so with the curse still hanging over him; Kron asks Ozuchi and Horesh if they can break the curse and Ozuchi, thinking for a moment, says that the curse is permanent must be extremely powerful and that someone of equal or greater power would be required to remove it.
Ozuchi tells his companions that the more information he has about how the curse was cast, the better; Benito suggests that, one they have made the villagers safe, they return to Hannibal Hawkins and see if he knows anything about it.
Arriving at the burnt out remnants of the village, a number of the survivors break down weeping when they see the dead bodies and the ruins of their former home; both Ozuchi and Gunnar find the experience quite moving, Ozuchi because his home village was destroyed, and Gunnar because he destroyed many such villages before he saw a way to a more honourable life. Feeling a little uncomfortable Benito removes himself from the situation and begins wandering through the wreckage; in the treeline he spots a large flat leafed plant called Arrowleaf that he remembers being used as a ships spice by one of his cooks, he tries a bit and finds it has a peppery taste and has a little heat to it. Benito picks some, planning to dry and grind it and put it in a pouch so it can be thrown in an opponents face to distract them.
Ozuchi goes to begin preparing graves but Kron stops him and suggests it may be better to make a funeral pyre; Ozuchi sells the villagers on the idea of the pyre and they agree to help build it whilst Horesh begins to delicately broach the subject of last rites. Ozuchi suggests to the villagers that they use the ashes of their dead to fertilise the land, blessing it, and keeping the spirits of the dead with them; Horesh leads them in a simple khemrian death prayer as Ozuchi and Kron place the bodies on the pyre, the villagers seem more at peace and have a renewed determination to rebuild their lives and their village. The villagers make some temporary lean to shelters and sit around a fire telling stories about those they have lost, saying that the group will always be welcome in their village.
Calling on his experience of the norsican tradition of oral storytelling, Kron tells a tale of a saxon settlement of the northern edge of Saxony, which was one of the first to be raided by the northern tribes before the horse people existed as a buffer between the two nations. In the story, there were many norsicans who gave into their anger and bestial sides, becoming something more and less than human, becoming berserkers who could shift their shapes into monstrous creatures. Despite their strength these individuals were cast out when their comrades saw the depravities that had been wreaked on this village by the deviants, for the deviants could not stand up against the pure of heart. Kron tells the villagers that they are pure of heart and no evil, no setbacks, can prevent them from rebuilding their village and story, the only thing that can is their own fear.
Horesh leaves his familiar on lookout whilst they all go to sleep. Gunnar Kron awakes first and is helping the villagers move the larger pieces of rubble ready for the rebuilding project; Ozuchi looks around to make sure there is no danger but, given that the picts seem to prefer attacking under cover of darkness, there is little sign of any trouble. Benito approaches Ozuchi as he awakes and says that, noble as helping the villagers is, there is a much larger issue and they should perhaps press on with their efforts to halt whatever nefarious scheme Blythe has afoot; Ozuchi agrees and rounds up the rest of the party, they make their way back to the burial mound and through the tunnels to the small bay where Captain Hawkins is still confined on his ship.
Benito asks Horesh to conjure some spirits to lend support to their attempts to intimidate information out of Captain Hawkins; as they move down the scree slope towards the waters edge, above the sound of tumbling rocks, Horesh hears a human scream coming from inside the boat, he shouts to the others and they break into a run towards the boat. Benito and Kron get to the boat first and jump aboard, drawing weapons and running towards the brig; Kron leaps through the trapdoor drawing his hammer whilst Benito grabs some hanging rigging and swings down after him pulling out his sword.
Hannibal Hawkins is being held up by his throat by a figure of living shadow that is throttling the life out of him; without pause Kron hurls his hammer at the strange, dark elongated figure, it strikes home causing it to drop Hawkins onto the deck. Benito draws his sword and attempts to begin negotiating saying “Now we have your attention”; as it turns towards Kron, part of the oily surface peals back to reveal a skull like head/face. It raises a skeletal hand towards Kron and begins to slowly close it’s fist, the norsican feels an increasing pressure on his heart and cries out in pain as he clasps his chest; Benito’s sword flashes out, aiming for the creatures outstretched arm, it screams and the skull collapses back into the oiley mass of it’s body, although it continues moving.
Horesh drops into the chamber and instantly recognises it as a manifested death spirit that has been summoned and empowered by someone to act as their assassin, he slices out with his daggers, striking the creature, the skeletal hands collapse back into the mass leaving just an amorphous black, thrashing blob that lashes out at Horesh; the khemrian death priest nimbly sidesteps the attack. Bereft of his hammer, Kron glances around and then grabs a barrel before smashing it down on the huge blob, it screams and lies still, before it slowly begins to fade away.
Kron rushes over to Hawkins and sits him up as Ozuchi arrives in the brig, the stygian medicine man examines Hawkins crushed throat; Benito tells Hawkins that, since they’ve saved his life and if he cooperates, they’ll help him, Hawkins nods in response. They give him water and Ozuchi applies some medicinal herbs to help sooth the inflammation of his throat; on a suggestion from Benito they take Hawkins upstairs so that he can take in some of the healthy sea air, this seems to revive him somewhat.
“That thing would seem to have been sent by Blythe since he must have realised that you’ve not been successful” says Benito to the bedraggled pirate as he once again becomes capable of talking, his throat soothed somewhat
“The pirate king does not tolerate failure” splutters Hawkins. Meanwhile Horesh tells them that a lot of power must have been used to allow the spirit to manifest at such a distance, but that the spirit itself was only a lesser spirit; Benito tells Hawkins he needs all the information he has on the curse.
Hawkins tells him that a short time before Benito was deposed that Blythe recovered something from the shores of the Inner Sea, and it was afer that he first started talking about his new world order and making arrangements to overthrow Benito, shortly after this he began to negotiate with the pictish tribes; all Hawkins knows is that the slaves are apparently essential to usher in Blythe’s new age of atlantean supremacy. He tells Benito that somehow Blythe used the blood of lemurians to lay the curse and that the solution might also lie within that blood, Ozuchi nods and says that they need to find some more lemurian and that their best chance for this is to head for a larger settlement to see if they can find an other people with lemurian blood.
To prove he is a better king than Blythe, Benito returns Hawkin’s ship to him on the understanding that he no longer traffic in human lives or have dealings with those who use black magic; Benito threatens to hunt him down if he breaks this bargain and tells him to let people know that the true pirate king still lives, Hawkins agrees. After a short discussion the group decide to head to one of the larger cities of Saxony, and begin heading towards the capitol city of Winchester.

Serpents Fall: The Darkness Beneath – Session 2

Horesh leads the group through the darkness of Celtia’s Great Forest, following the strands of death energy ahead of him, Ozuchi follows behind, his eyes darting over the varied vegetation of the Great Forest, occasionally he pauses to pluck some herbs and roots that he thinks might help with his healing arts. The trees they pass are huge and ancient, having been there for many years before they were born and will no doubt be there long after their deaths; the ground, covered in moss, rises into a burial mound or Tor infront of them. Horesh snaps out of his spirit-trance as they reach the burial mound seen in his vision, he is momentarily disorientated but is re-assured when Gunnar and Ozuchi tell him that he’s bought them to the place where the savage warriors may have come from.
Kron and Ozuchi begin searching the area for tracks and, a few moments later, Ozuchi gives a shout as he spots a concealed wooden entrance to the burial mound covered with moss, Kron congratulates him on a job well done as he pulls the concealing wooden slats aside; the wood covers a tunnel entrance heading down underground at a roughly 45-degree angle, Kron steps forward, hefting his hammer and saying “I’ll lead.”
Inside, the tunnel is narrow, only allowing them to move in single file but they make there way forwards with Kron leading, followed by Ozuchi, Horesh and with Benito bringing up the rear; the peat laden soil is damp and it is dark and cold within the tunnel. Kron keeps a hand on the wall to steady himself and maintain his position, he has them all place a hand on each other’s shoulder to keep the party together should anything unexpected occur. 
Eventually the tunnel widens out into a cavern lined with glowing moss that casts a dim blue light; despite their attempts to remain quiet as they move further into the barrow mound the group are a little bit noisey due to not being able to really see where they are putting their feet. Entering the cavern they can hear a faint sobbing and Kron sees a large cage built of vines and local wood, inside he can just see a number of huddled figures; the norsican warrior peers closer hoping that these are the captives from the small village, unable to see the people clearly Captain Benito hacks a small sheet of the glowing moss from the wall, it dims slightly but still casts light. Benito throws the glowing moss into the cage and, in the increased light, the party can see that there are three women and a couple of children (one male, one female) in the cage, all are malnourished and emaciated.
With the light from the moss fading quickly, Ozuchi looks around and spots a second tunnel leading out of the cavern in an eastern direction; Kron approaches the cage, planning to share his rations with the prisoners, recognising that Kron has the look of a norsican raider the feeble people panic and try to scramble away from him despite his attempts to speak softly with them; realising that he isn’t helping the situation, Kron steps back away. Benito suggests releasing them, thinking that they’ll be able to survive on their own, however Kron points out that, in their weakened states, they may be easy prey for the creatures of the forest; the norsican throws some of his bread ration towards the people and slowly, hunger overwhelming their fear, they move forward and start eating the bread.
Ozuchi asks Benito to keep an eye on the eastern exit from the cage, whilst he slices some moss from the wall and begins to wring moisture from it to quench the thirst of the captives, having eaten and drank a little they begin to regain a little of their colour. Captain Benito smells something strange, an odd, smokey, herblike odour drifting down the eastern tunnel that he stands next to, he moves to stand beside the tunnel entrance so that he can be hidden from view should anyone emerge from the eastern tunnel, there is a loud crunch from beneath his feet, and he looks down to see he’s standing in a shallow recess full of human bones. Benito examines the bones and sees they are recent and appear to have be scored by flint tools that stripped the flesh from them; he shouts to the others that the savages may be cannibals.
Horesh removes his hood and steps forward to speak to the bedraggled villagers, they begin screaming and attempting to scramble to the far side of the cave from Horesh with even more violence than their reaction to Kron; Kron and Benito recognise the look of absolute fear on the eyes of the panicked villagers as Horesh backs off. Benito steps forward and, comforted by Ozuchi’s medicinal skills, the villagers engage him in conversation; one of the children (a blue eyed, young girl with red hair & dry tear tracks down her cheeks) runs towards Benito and accepts some food from him, she asks him whether or not he has seen her mother (describing her as tall with red hair). Benito trys to comfort the child, who explains that her mother was taken by “the men” down the eastern tunnel and that the men have been taking villagers down the tunnel at intervals, they have heard horrible noises, screaming and laughter from down the tunnel.
Trying to establish why the people panicked at Horesh’s presence Ozuchi mentions the word Khemri but they don’t appear to respond, Benito asks the young girl why they were scared of Horesh, she apologises and says that they thought he was one of the dark men who have been taking them away; Kron feels anger growing inside him at the thought of these warriors preying on innocent women and children who cannot fight back, he says that there might still be survivors and that, if they were taken down the tunnel, then that’s where the party needs to go.
Kron opens the cage whilst Benito advises the villagers that it might be in their best interest to wait until they return so that they can guide them back in safety; the young girl appears to have taken a bit of a shine to Benito and the villagers agree to wait. Horesh leaves his familiar raven behind, relying on his spiritual link with it to inform him should the villagers face any future peril, and they begin to continue their exploration with Horesh now in the lead.
The herby, smokey smell begins to grow stronger and more pungent as they move further down the darkening tunnel, Kron speculates that perhaps the savages are sacrificing the villagers in some sort of religious ceremony; as the smoke thickens the party pull strips of cloth over their noses, unfortunately the fumes catch Ozuchi by surprise and his pupils dilate as he begins to feel the effects of the strange narcotic fumes come over him, causing the shadows and drips of water to form into dancing, geometric shapes. Benito wraps a piece of cloth around the dazed Ozuchi’s face to prevent him inhaling further fumes as the sound of distant drumming reaches their ears from further down the tunnel.
Benito looks at the others, saying “Should we get ready for a fight boys?”
“I’m always ready, I was born ready,” responds Kron gruffly.
The tunnel splits in two with the smell of the fumes far stronger from one of the tunnels, travelling down it (with Horesh moving a bit ahead) the tunnel opens into a side chamber, there is a flickering fire in the chamber and sat around it are are three savage black, woaded tribesmen; two of them are muscley warriors whilst the third is a scrawny, wiry figure wearing a rams skull atop his head. The thin figure is tattooing one of the warriors with a strange oily black substance being melted in the fire, the design is a strange intricate geometric one.
Horesh heads back to the group and explains what is occurring, he then peers into the spirit world and perceives the spirits of maddening fury that populate the tunnels, he summons a spirit that resembles a skeletal man but with an animals skeletal head and persuades it to aid them in their fight agaist the savages. Kron charges forwards into the cavern, hefting his hammer and growling a savage norse war-cry; in response the shaman reaches a hand into the embers of the fire and blows a handful of ash and dust into the charging vikings face. Briefly Kron feels like someone is exerting pressure on his skull and mind, but he shrugs it off the sorcerors mental attack, leaps the fire, grabs the shaman and crushes his head against the wall with his hammer.
Still under the effect of the fumes Ozuchi engages the warrior who easily evades his inebriated attack but is unable to land a blow on him, Benito swaggers across to the same warrior and, as the warrior swings at Ozuchi, lops his arm off and then slices his throat, the warrior topples dead into the fire. The remaining warrior leaps at Captain Benito but the pirate manages to avoid his attack, Ozuchi attempts to take out the warrior with his stygian martial arts but the influence of the fumes has slowed him and the warrior avoids his attack, pulling a burning log from the fire and swinging at him.
Ozuchi’s komodo dragon spirit and the skeletal figure that Horesh negotiated with earlier grab hold of the warrior as he swings, pulling him backwards and meaning that only a slight blow lands on Ozuchi; Horesh pulls out his twin ceremonial daggers and, being skilled with the ceremonial death knives, delivers a vicious slash to the warriors midriff. As the warrior steps sideays to avoid further cuts from Horesh, Gunnar Kron steps inside his guard and smashes his hammer into the savage’s ribcage, throwing him across the cavern where he slides to the floor dead.
With the fight over Benito searches the shaman and finds that he is holding a long antler/bone needle with a reservoir carved into it that contains some of the thick black substance; near the fire is a carved wooden bowl also containing some of the black ichor, the scent they have been smelling emanates from it; Benito takes the needle and looks at Ozuchi who is slowly starting to recover himself, he asks him to examine the substance in the bowl. Ozuchi believes it to be a narcotic mixture of poisonous berries, herbs and snake venom – it’s a dilute poison that, in the correct dose, causes hallucination and makes the taker immune to pain.
Kron looks over the bodies of the warriors, thinking that perhaps they are from the village and were mind-controlled, one of them does look similar to the locals whilst the other looks vaguely norsican; Gunnar lays them to rest and whispers an apology to their gods since he was forced to kill them and that they didn’t know what they were doing. Horesh uses his spiritual connection with his familiar and finds that the villagers left back in the initial cave still seem to be fine; the group returns to the other passageway and begin exploring it, the wall of the cave begins to become more damp with thin rivulets of water dripping down the walls as they move further down it. The khemrian death-priest realises that they must be travelling underneath the Spiritwood river that rivers eastwards through the Great Forest of Celtia.
As they continue moving Captain Benito gets a strange stomach churning feeling as they draw closer to the Inland Sea and recognises the effects of his curse; the feeling grows as they move down the tunnel, as he mentions his feeling Ozuchi urges them to press on and reluctantly Benito agrees. Kron grunts and says “We have to press on, there may be survivors,” Benito agrees but urges caution, worried about the stability of the tunnel given the weight of water on top of them. As he starts feeling progressively works Benito pulls out the tattoo needle and asks Ozuchi whether or not the stygian medicine man believes that he could safely dose him with a small dose of the hallucinogen in order to counteract (temporarily) his curse.
Ozuchi administers the poison and Benito feels slightly fatigued from the effects, but there is at least some relief from the feeling of nauseous bought on by his curse. The group emerge from a cave mouth into a small, sheltered bay partway up a scree slope on the southeast shore of Celtia where it meets the Inner Sea; a storm is raging out at sea, but the weather in the bay itself is curiously calm, a small ship bobs up and down on the waters of the bay.
Horesh hears the sound of movement from within the bay and peers out of the cave mouth, he sees a couple of the savage warriors herding some ragged villagers towards the gangplank up onto the ship; a black robed corsair beckons for them to be bought onboard. As he emerges Benito notices that the flag on the ship flies the flag of the Black Eye, emblem of Captain Hannibal Hawkins – an atlantean descended pirate who was one of the first to flock to Blythe’s banner and call for Benito’s overthrow. With his knowledge of ships Benito estimates that the pinnace could be crewed by up to 60 men and has a compliment of ten cannons – Benito shouts this to them as they scramble down the slope towards the ship.
The crew of the ship spot the group, the five cannons facing them are craned upwards and fire at them, a cannonball impacts near Benito and Ozuchi spraying them with razor shards of rock that slice their flesh whilst another glances Horesh’s arm causing it to fall limply by his side with a sickening crunch; Gunnar Kron is struck a glancing blow by one of the cannonballs tearing the beach to shreds around him and lets out an irritated howl as he hefts his hammer and continues running towards the boat. The crew on the boat begin to reload the cannons as the group run towards them; Ozuchi sprints across the beach, dodging the two warriors, running into the surf to the bottom of the gangplank, Benito follows after him shouting “Get inside the range of the cannons, they won’t be able to shoot us!”
Kron runs towards the warriors but his anger at the recent cannonball strike causes him to over-extend himself and the savage lashes out, slicing into Kron with a razor-sharp flint knife, whilst Horesh begins to summon one of the spirits of the water, offering it a future favour in return for it’s aid. The two warriors turn on Gunnar Kron, drawing their flint knives, but Kron easily avoids their blows. On the ship Ozuchi knocks a load of barrels over, the cannoneers let out a cry and begin to stumble over the rolling barrels; capitalising on this Benito leaps up onto the railing, cuts a rope and swings across the deck, slicing a mans throat before landing on a barrel and pedalling it across the deck. Stabbing out with his sword, Benito makes short work of the ten cannoneers on this side of the deck, the ten on the other side begin reaching for their weapons.
Distracted by the pain of his arm, Horesh is unable to land a blow on the warrior attacking Kron; as the warrior leaps forward, knife raised, to attack Horesh, Kron leans forward and swings his hammer, catching the warrior in the stomach and killing him. The remaining savage moves to attack Kron but the seaweed and water seems to bubble and come alive around him, pulling the savage back and causing his blow to miss Kron as the spirit of the water makes it’s presence felt. Ozuchi leaps up and swings one of the ships sails towards the remaining cannoneers, as they duck to avoid it Benito snags one of the ropes from the sails and swings past them, slaying four of the cannoneers; the remaining warrior fighting in the surf deftly avoids the blows aimed at him by Horesh and Kron.
The surviving six cannoneers attempt to pull Benito down from the rope he is holding and stab him, but the flamboyant Captain pushes off, swinging the sail back over to the other side of the deck and carrying him away from his assailants; dropping into a martial arts stance, Ozuchi manages to hold his own as the cannoneers surround him, their weight of numbers begin to show however and they slowing start dragging down the stygian medicine man.
As the weight of his injuries are starting to show on Kron, Horesh leaps on the remaining warrior and stabs his knife into the man’s skull, killing him; Kron nods and begins limping up the gangplank.
Benito grabs one of the torches from a now abandoned cannon as he swings back onto the deck and hurls it at one of the robed cannoneers, catching his clothing on fire; capitalising on this distraction Ozuchi dispatches the remaining cannoneers using his knowledge of Stygia martial arts, flipping them into the water. Captain Benito begins looking for the captain of the boat, meanwhile Horesh leads the surviving villagers out from where they have been hiding under the gangplank, he spots a woman with green eyes and red hair and explains that they have freed her daughter; the woman almost faints with happiness and relief.
Suddenly the trapdoor to the lower decks bursts open and a barrel chested man with a peg leg and tattoos across his arms, head and back strides through; Benito doesn’t recognise him personally but, due to the way that the man is carrying himself, he believes him to be the captain of the ship, the muscley figure bellows “You dare to trespass on my ship!”
Ever ready with a witty report Benito snaps back “Well i’m the king of the Scarlet Brotherhood so that makes it my ship,” before attempting to punch the muscular figure, it barely seems to phase him, and in response the man pulls out a belaying pin and smashes Benito in the face, bruising beginning to rise almost instantly on the injured pirate’s face. Ozuchi ducks under the Captain’s arm and jabs the poisoned needle into it, causing him to stagger slightly. Benito uses the pommel of his sword to push the needle further into the muscular Captain’s body, he remains standing, although he appears to be struggling; the Captain swings his belaying pin, it connects with Benito’s head and there is a sickening crunching of bone. Suddenly, from nowhere, Kron launches his hammer towards the mighty figure of the Captain, it strikes his shoulder and drives him down onto one knee; seizing the advantage Ozuchi leaps forward attempting to deliver an incapacitating blow but the Captain manages to roll out of the way.
Staggering, Benito drives his sword through the Captain’s shoulder, piercing flesh and pinning the hulking figure to the deck, knocking him out with a final elbow to the face; Benito nods, satisfied, before pausing to relieve him of a ruby signet ring with a dark imperfection in it (as well as the finger it was worn on).
With the threat removed Ozuchi begins trying to patch up his companions injuries; as he finishes the only injuries remaining are Benito’s patched up skull, Ozuchi’s cut arm and Kron’s bandaged skull. With their pain somewhat relieved the group search the ship and find numerous slaves of various extractions below deck, when freed they all tell the same tale of being taken captive by the Dark Corsairs (as they call them); as a final act of defiance Benito replaces the flag on the ship with his own pirate emblem.

Handling Absent Players in Fate

Handling Absent Players in Fate
We’ve just gone through the lean winter months of RPing running up to Christmas when family events and real-world commitments start to really make it hard to get a game going, even regular groups start to experience trouble (unless extremely commited) as plans have to be made and re-made in order to accomodate all the many various social events and other things that occur in the time surrounding Christmas; having had to reschedule a number of games recently due to this my thoughts have recently turned to how to handle absent players in my online Fate game.
I’ve recently been reading “Odyssey: The Complete Game Master’s Guide to Campaign Management” (a review can be found here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-350PrvUUA), and it contains some good advice for setting down the rules of the social contact between the GM and the players in a roleplay group; from that and my own ideas i’ve been able to start formulating some rules that I intend to adhere to in my game going forwards to help minimalise last minute disruptions/cancellations, i’ve noted them below and then gone into my reasoning in a little more detail.
  • Choose a more regular time for the game to take place.
  • Determine how many players are the minimum for the game to go ahead.
  • Come up with rules for how to handle the characters of missing players.

Choosing a more regular time for the game to take place
At the moment we tend to negotiate the date for the next session when we reach the end of the currently running one, initially this was because the players had trouble committing to a more regular time (due to altering work rotas, etc) and it was thought that through choosing it nearer the time it would minimise the amount of absences; this hasn’t really proven to be the case and I feel that not having a regular time causes players to feel less committed to the game or likely to be able to make plans around a session date, so it is my intent (at the beginning of next session) to discuss a regular day for the game with the players, if someone can’t make the odd one then hopefully the next couple of points should still allow the game to progress.
Determine how many players are the minimum for the game to go ahead
My current minimum of number of players for whom i’ll run the normal game is going to be 50% of the player party (in this case 2 players), should I have lower than this then, rather than abandoning the game, I will run a flashback/side-quest for the player that I do have, filling in some part of their character’s history and will then return to the ‘present day’ of the game when we have 50% or more players.
Come up with rules for how to handle the characters of missing players
My current plan is that the characters of any missing players will be available as an Aspect that can be used to aid the players who are present, for example, if Gunnar Kron’s player can’t make it then the group will gain “Gunnar Kron, haunted norse warrior” or something similar as an Aspect, although Gunnar would not take part in a combat or encounter normally, if a PC found themselves in a situation where Gunnar could conceivably help then they could spend a Fate Point and invoke Gunnar Kron like any other Aspect.
I’ve not yet decided what i’d do regarding potential compels on these Aspects.

Numenera style Fate Accelerated character generation

Just before this Christmas I spotted a copy of Monte Cook’s Numenera RPG in my FLGS (Spirit Games) and, having read some interesting reviews on the book (and being quite a fan of Monte Cook’s variant D20 supplements) thought i’d treat myself to a copy as an early Christmas present. The setting is an intriguing blend of science-fiction and fantasy sent in a future version of our own world, but many million years in advance of present day; the inhabitants of this world call it the ninth-world since eight great civilisations have risen and fallen back into the dust before the beginning of the game, each leaving their mark upon the game world. A large part of the game involves the inhabitants of the ninth-world digging in the ruins of the past, discovering oddments and technology that can help them survive in their own world.
So how does this relate to character generation in Fate?

I hope to do a full video review on Numenera for my Red Dice Diaries Youtube channel, I wasn’t massively sold on the rules system, but the background and the blending of sci-fi and fantasy (along with the theme of exploration and discovery) is a great one and extremely compelling.

One of the mechanics that I did like was that a short sentence is used as a character descriptor that takes this form: “I am adjective noun who verbs.”


For example, a suitable description might be “I am a tough warrior who carries a sword forged from dragons scales” or “I am wise shaman who speaks with the spirits of the dead.
In the Numenera rules the adjective helps to determine your character stats, the noun determines character class and the verb determines your characters focus (the various cool abilities that you can call on during the game).
It will come as no surprise to those who know me that, as soon as I starting reading this, my mind turned to how this could possibly be used in a Fate game; although I plan to give this more thought after the Christmas period, my current idea is that it could be used to aid character generation in a streamlined version of Fate.

So how would that work?


Well the player would start with the sentence and would pick one of the Fate Accelerated approaches as the adjective, the noun would be the high concept of the character and the verb would be a stunt.

For example: “I am a quick pirate who is captain of the ship, the Crimson Dagger.

The player would get a default skill roll of +0 for all approaches and a +2 for the approach chosen in their adjective, the noun would represent the high concept and could be invoked/compelled in a normal way; the verb would be a stunt using the normal Fate Accelerated rules for stunts (either a +2 bonus in specific circumstances or a 1/game rules exception).
For example: If I created a character with the sentence “I am a sneaky thief who is deadly when striking from the shadows.

This character would get +0 on all approaches besides sneaky (one which he would receive a +2), could invoke/have compelled the concept of thief as per the normal rules and would have a stunt that allowed them to gain a +2 when striking from the shadows.

This isn’t a 100% foolproof or completely defined method at present, but I certainly think that it has potential.

RPG dilemnas – Fate and Encouraging hesitant players

It occurred to me recently, following a character genning session that took an awful lot longer than I expected for a Fate Core game (so long in-fact that we had to reschedule the game for another evening), that a character creation system that seemed so streamlined and simple for myself may not be so for other; as a die-hard Fate fan I personally find the creation of Aspects and generating a character very simple and easy to do, because i’ve always got a fair few ideas for characters and the system allows me to create something that matches these ideas.
But what about people who perhaps don’t have such a lot of character ideas buzzing around in their head? This doesn’t make them any worse roleplayers by any means, however, whilst there has been some discussion about the fact that Fate adopts a certain approach towards a game and that it doesn’t suit all games equally (after all no one system is going to be perfect for all styles of game “out of the box” as it were), perhaps the default method of character generation isn’t necessarily suitable for all people.
I observed a few main “issues” during the character creation for a repeat of my Wild Blue one-off during character generation (I have put some suggestions for resolving this in blue underneath each point):
  • Some players had difficult thinking up suitable powers or working out how to frame them within the rules system.
    Greater familiarity with the rules would help here and perhaps creating a list of example powers would have given them a good starting point.
  • There was some trouble with thinking of reasonable ways to link the different characters together using the ‘three phase method’ listed in the Fate Core rulebook.
    Perhaps toning down the number of phases to just having a starting story/phase for each character and then allowing them to come up with their Aspects in a more freestyle manner; although doing this would then require a different method of linking the characters together.
  • Stunt creation caused some notable pauses as the players struggled slightly with deciding on what they wanted their stunts to do.
    The example stunts listed in the Fate Core book helped in this regard as did referring back to the characters core concept.
I think that in retrospect I would probably have been better to create some (either fully or partially complete) pre-gen characters that the players could choose from and perhaps tweak to make more to their liking since, whilst I think having a full session for character generation is all well and good for a longer running campaign, it seems a little OTT for a one-off. Hopefully coming up with some pre-gens in future would also make it a little easier on those people who struggle with getting over that initial imagination ‘hurdle’ when it comes to creating a character idea.

Possibly the worlds simplist Fate magic system?

I think there has been possibly more discussion about magic systems in Fate than anything else so i’m not going to go into a massive study of it or detailed system creation in this post, an internet search will reveal no shortage of inspiration for people in that regard.
So why the post then?

Well, inspired by the “Avatar: the Last Airbender” fate game that my wife ran recently, the excellent “Spirit of Steam & Sorcery” web expansion by Tom Miskey (available here – http://evilhat.wikidot.com/sos-s) plus some other games i’ve played in recently I decided (as an exercise) to see if I could come up with a very simple magic system that would be ready to use and could be used with either Fate Core or Fate Accelerated.
So here it is…

In order to use magic the character must devote one of his Aspects to it mentioning that they are both a spellcaster along with one word that defines their magic style.

Examples: wizard of fire, druid of the earth, sorceror of death.

It also allows them to justify certain actions within the game fiction because of their powers.
For example:
  • The wizard of fire could justify an attack by shooting a fireball from his hands.
  • The druid of the earth could justify adding bonuses to perception by sensing vibrations through the earth.
  • The sorceror of death could add the bonus to recruit a minion, representing them summoning a spirit.
Spellcasters must then also spend 1 refresh on the stunt Spellcaster.

The Spellcaster stunt allows the player character to add a +2 bonus to their dice rolls (in addition to any other bonuses from Stunts/invoking Aspects, etc) whenever using sorcery (that can be described appropriately according to their style) in order to accomplish a task.

    Anything else…?

    This system doesn’t posit the addition of a magic skill (in Fate Core) it assumes that the players will use the appropriate Skill/Approach and that their effort is re-inforced by magic; however a magic skill would be easy enough to add if desired.
    Edit: Christopher Ruthenbeck on G+ was kind enough to point out some errors in the initial post and these have now been amended, he also had issues with the spellcaster Stunt being too powerful given that it allows a +2 bonus for a larger range of actions that is normally permitted. I can see his point, a large part of this system is based on the “Avatar: the Last Airbender” style game we ran where pretty much everyone had some form of magical power so it wasn’t an issue.

    That can said I can see a couple of easy solutions:

    1. Restrict the actions that the spellcasting stunt can perform or split it into a number of Stunts with narrower purviews.
    2. Increase the refresh cost of the Spellcaster Stunt.
    Edit: Paul Kießhauer has revealed a far simpler system for magic in Fate that you can look at here – https://plus.google.com/u/0/b/100662698267895582168/112230078537377625576/posts/WkXBEgMcMnA