30 September 2012

Earthdawn: Part 12 - Discipline List

This is the twelfth part in an ongoing series about Earthdawn. Introduction and Index.

Core Disciplines (4E)

Expanded Disciplines (Updated to 4E)
Cathay Disciplines (Updated to 4E)

New Disciplines (Unofficial for 4E)

Core Disciplines (3E)(1)

Expanded Disciplines (3E)(4)

Cathay Disciplines (3E)(5)
  • Beastlord
  • Daughter of Heaven
    • Restrictions: Female
  • Guardian of Cathay
  • Merchant
  • Monk
  • Pugilist
  • Samurai
  • Scholar
    • Restrictions: Male
  • Sorcerer
    • Spells
  • Sword Dancer
  • War Rider
    • Restrictions: Gar

(1) From Player's Guide, 3E, unless otherwise noted.
(2) From Player's Companion, 3E.
(3) From Kratas: City of Thieves.
(4) From Namegivers of Barsaive, 3E, unless otherwise noted.
(5) From Cathay: The Five Kingdoms Player's Guide, unless otherwise noted.

29 September 2012

Anima Prime

Anima Prime, not to be confused with Anima: Beyond Fantasy, is a fantasy-ish action game that sets out to emulate the genres staked out by action anime and Japanse console RPGs (notably various incarnations of Final Fantasy). For those definitions that include explosives, guns and vehicles as a default assumption in the setting. This is an assumption that I find to be pretty awesome much of the time. It is fast paced and highly tactical in play - this does not mean miniatures - with a system that inhabits some interesting territory between narrative freedom and structure.

The primary focus of the mechanics is combat; big, flashy group-oriented conflict with lots of crazy powers happening. This isn't to say that Anima Prime is only about combat; simply that everything outside of conflict is left up to the role-play to determine. This may appeal strongly to some people, or be a turn off to others. The skill mechanic can be easily extrapolated to non-combat applications, but it is not something addressed within the text.

How the combats proceed is the main strength of Anima Prime. Each character has three skills (there is a list, but it hardly matters so long as it fits), one rated at 4, one at 3, and one at 2. These skills form the basis from which you perform Maneuvers. Maneuvers will generate Strike dice and Charge dice. Strike dice are used to accomplish goals - be it murder, saving children, or whatever is appropriate to the conflict. Charge dice are used to activate the aforementioned crazy powers. This structure seems a non-intuitive at first: you have to perform actions to generate dice so you can then accomplish something. In play, however, it works very well as a piece of genre emulation - it keeps the action moving, allowing different characters to shine in different parts of the process, and giving clear goals.

Taking a closer look at the mechanics, to perform a Maneuver choose a skill that fits however you want to go about doing things. For example, explosives would be appropriate for tossing a sack of grenades in the middle of a squad of mooks, or taunt for enraging an officer in the Emperor's personal guard. It doesn't particularly matter how appropriate your tactic may be (if you can intimidate a peon, you can intimidate a tank), but there are some limitations to what effects you can describe your target as taking based on their "size". There are three sizes of opponents, individuals, squads and swarms. You can take out several nameless things in a swarm, injure (but not cripple) some squaddies, and describe your intent with an individual. Based on the results of this roll, successes become Strike dice or Charge dice and go to their respective Pools.

There are a few complexities to this. Other players can gift you dice and if you use all three of your skills, you get free dice, two in some combination of Strike and Charge. This encourages you to use all of your skills in some way. Combined actions can also be performed where multiple characters work together to generate more dice, also a great way to mark your lowest rated skill. A number of powers are available which improve combined actions even more.

Now that you have some dice in your Strike Pool, you can start accomplishing things. Whether this is taking out enemies, or accomplishing Achievements which weaken the boss and allow you take it down, or work towards other goals for the encounter. Attacking something is straight forward and just need to get successes equal to the target's Defense to inflict a wound. What applicable Achievements are will depend on the encounter and can keep the fight exciting and ever evolving through clever usage of this mechanic. Accomplishing an Achievement requires spending Strike dice and getting successes equal to the difficulty. You can always work as a group to do this and it is generally a good idea to do so. The results of this can include reducing an opponent's defense, rescuing prisoners, grab possession of a hotly contested item, call in an orbital strike, or score favors in a kung-fu fight/debate/noodle-making contest (it made sense in the context).

Achievements are one of the best ideas that Anima Prime has to offer, and it has more than its fair share of clever ideas. They provide a structure to hang an encounter on and clearly communicate that there is more to accomplish than taking a guy out (perhaps calling in the righteous might of your deity, a mysterious weapons platform in low orbit), or goals that the group needs to work together for. It can bring a lot of depth to an encounter and ratchet up the tension by including time limits or further complexities. The text of Anima Prime goes into detail about various ways to implement this structure in your game.

Charge dice are spent on your charge powers to generate their effect. Typical effects include conditions (like blinded, empowered, or poisoned), a modification to an attack (such as a firestorm or leap attack), or some other effect (healing or opening gates). The premise behind this is to prevent an "alpha strike" by the players in combat. An alpha strike is when you unload with you biggest guns right off the bat in an attempt to end the conflict before it has truly begun since that will cost fewer resources in the long run. It tends to be anticlimactic and followed by a slog. This sidesteps that by forcing everyone involved to build up to their more powerful abilities, which makes encounters more involved and tactical in how you approach building your resources.

The other powers you can get include passive effects, soulbound weapons, and eidolon summoning. The former are self-explanatory: bonuses that are always around. My only issue with the passive powers is that it is called out specifically in the text that you will want to take Resilience (it adds to Defense) at least once, and you should have a good reason for not doing so (such as being frail). Things like this always are a little dissonant to me as it feels like an extra, unnecessary step since everyone should take it - and they should, it's really good. At the very least, it is made abundantly clear and the GM should warn players of this ahead of time.

Soulbound weapons are unique pieces of equipment (not necessarily weapons) that provide additional powers that you can select from a menu. There are also powers that allow you to switch out the powers your weapon has at any given time. It is simple in implementation and always fun to build your ultimate custom gear; like Exalted, only significantly easier and with less balance issues to worry about.

Anima Prime also features a subsystem that is often a rarity within games - a summoning system that actually works. It is the most complicated aspect of the game. While it works within the same framework, some of the ways it does so is different than the rest of the game. I wouldn't call it complicated by any stretch of the imagination, just takes a little sorting through to get moving quickly. It preserves the economy of actions: you or your eidolon get one action in a turn; and still encourages both of you to interact in the conflict: there are some actions with the summoner is better suited for, while others the eidolon is better at. Eidolon are customized with some examples, and are quite a bit of fun.

While combat is the primary focus of the mechanics, it is not the only aspect of the game to receive support. All characters will have passions (like anger, love, or self-loathing) that generate Charge dice for a specific trigger. As well, each character will have three traits which can be marked during character scenes. These help develop your character and can include things like: "I will earn my father's respect", face of an angel, or the darkness always finds me. If you have a marked trait in an action scene and you can think of a way to incorporate that trait, you can remove the mark to reroll all failures for one roll. These traits can also be marked during combat by spending your turn to have a flashback scene, including another character. These scenes can reflect anything from plans just before the conflict (maybe there are mines throughout the battlefield), or a scene between the characters that wasn't previously shown. Each character gets to mark one of their traits, and this is a neat way to build character relationships during the action and allow players to include elements after the fact.

Each character will also have background items and links. The names don't really tell the story: background items are things that the GM does not involve in the plot, while links are things that the GM can use for the plot. It is an unambiguous way to tell what is free to use and what is not for developing the story. This appeals to me because it removes that potential issue when a character element is used in a way that the player is not okay with.

Finally, each character has their story seed (what is pushing you into action) and their mark. The mark is some in-human physical feature that makes the character standout from everyone else. This is in-genre and represents the character's access to supernatural powers, but this may not appeal to all players. It isn't particularly hard to build a character without any supernatural powers, instead focusing what could be considered determination, skill and teamwork.

Let's make a character. I think for the tech-magic setting a charming rogue with guns sounds about right. First are the easy ones: an appropriate name, Connor, and his mark will be silver circuitry under his skin that shine brightly the more he uses powers. Next Connor needs a passion: after looking the options over, I think that Vengeance looks interesting. It gives a Charge die at the beginning of a conflict and when I take a wound. Now onto his traits; I know he has guns, is fast, charming, and out for blood (for some reason). Building on that, I go with "Face of an angel, tongue of a devil", "Quicksilver moves", and "No more regrets". I had originally toyed with "I never had a chance to tell Heather I loved her", which I think is his path of vengeance, but I didn't know how applicable it would be.

Connor will get three skills - I pick Firearms, Quickness and Taunt, assigning 3, 4 and 2 to them respectively. With that, there are 9 powers to select and this is going to be the most involved part of the game. Luckily there are some premade power packages - select a basic package (3 powers) and a specialization package (6 powers) and you are good to go. Before everything went down, Connor was a solider and selecting that package gives me Resilience, Squad Tactics and Stamina, which is a solid set to build from. None of the specialization packages are quite what I am looking for, so I strike out on my own. Connor is going to have an awesome gun, so I pick up Soulbound Weapon and Weapon Upgrade twice, which leaves me with three picks left. I don't have any Charge powers, so I take Leap Attack, Quicken, and Whirlwind Attack to give me some good options in a combat.

Looking over the options for his gun, I like the cut of Soulcharge's jib - it will give me a Charge die every turn, but costs all of my weapon picks. I go for it because that way I will always be able to use my Charge powers. Actually, I would probably want to invest soon in some powers that use a lot of Charge dice and that increase how the maximum size of my Charge pool. With that, he's pretty much done. The number of powers isn't exhaustive, but it covers pretty much everything that you would want; this is, without a doubt, a good thing.

In the end, I enjoy this game a great deal and find it to be fast in play, while still maintaining mechanical depth. The lack of mechanics for non-combat may be off-putting to some, and I cannot blame them, but sometimes I just want to let how things play at the table determine where events go. Anima Prime operates at its best when you have some encounters outlined ahead of time with Achievements to make them exciting and not just a fight to the death. If this sounds interesting in the slightest, you can download the rules for free - check it out!

27 September 2012

Earthdawn: Adventure Log 02 - Journey to Lang

This is the second Adventure Log in an ongoing series about Earthdawn. Introduction and Index.

The Serpent River and its tributaries are the lifeblood of trade and travel throughout Barsaive. They snake across the province from Iopos, in the northwest, past the Blood Wood, along the northern face of the Throal Mountains in the northeast, down to Urupa, in the Southeast, then west to Travar before terminating in the Scarlet Sea and creating the Mist Swamps (a side effect of a major waterway pouring into lava). Trade from Kratas has only a short overland journey to gain access on the Tylon River, and Throal has a well traveled route to reach the Coil River, both which feed into the Serpent. It comes as little surprise that the two major cities without access to the Serpent, Jerris and Vivane, are noted for their airships.

There is little doubt that access to the Serpent is controlled by the various t'skrang great trading houses, known as aropagoi, each with their own section of the Serpent that is jealously guarded against the other houses. The functional unit of t'skrang society is collection of families, or niall, that come together and form a village. Complex and likely draconian arrangements exist between the various families that allow access to other parts of the river, including other houses' territory for the particularly influential and crafty. The relationships of these various factions is typically kept away from the prying eyes of outsiders (it is never good for business to air your dirty laundry), right up until it explodes in a big, fiery mess on the deck of the offending riverboat (sometimes business be damned).

Travel along the river is primarily conducted on the highly personalized t'skrang riverboats. Keeping the secrets of their construction and power source are one of the few things that the t'skrang houses can agree. They are essentially steamboats that would trawl the Mississippi two hundred years ago. Complete with all of the reputations and miscreants. The simple act of getting on a t'skrang riverboat can be an adventure waiting to happen all by itself. The are powered by True Fire through the fire engine and may mount fire cannons for defense (sometimes for a very proactive defense).

I have always liked travel in Earthdawn. It has a certain character to it that not many other games replicate, similar to the understandable love of trains and zeppelins in pulp genres (though it wouldn't be much of a stretch to consider Earthdawn pulp). Travel is unavoidable and often lengthy, as it can take you across the province in search of some bit of forgotten knowledge. Towards that end, I like to make it interesting - to introduce characters, encourage interaction, and develop the setting more. The Namegivers characters are travelling with have seen places, heard things, and possess some insights about the world. Also, those plot hooks aren't going to drop themselves.

Sins of the Father - 02 - Journey to Lang

Recorded By: Elmod of Glenwood Deep

Date: 15 Raquas – 19 Raquas, 1506 TH
Group Name: Mismatched Steel
Group Members
Elmod the Nethermancer
Honeysuckle Sunspray the Windmaster
Jak’Tak the Weaponsmith
Ting the Swordmaster

I am Elmod the Nethermancer of Glenwood Deep(1).

I was traveling along the Serpent River, generally headed towards Bartertown in search of work. A steamboat came to town and a curious dwarf(2) in a rather nice red and blue trimmed waistcoat, looking agitated, asked if any adepts were in town.

Replying to him at the Smiling Rabbit Inn, a few other motley adepts discussed his offer of traveling to Lang, a small village off of the Serpent River. His missing couriers worry him that his village and strong box have been compromised. If we accept his offer of 200 silver we are to find his couriers, return the strongbox to the headmaster of the village and return for the last half of our pay.

The only other info is that an obsidiman liferock is near the village. He paid us out 100 silver each and we arranged to leave for Lang by riverboat. We also collected provisions and bough gear.

The riverboat dropped us off at the tributary to Lang; we took a large row boat to the dock near Lang. I made a fabulous banner favor for Captain Chandra(3).

On the way to Lang village we found the dead couriers and strong box, apparently killed by lightning lizards, who we eventually dispatched on the path (with more bodies on the path). We took their eyes for souvenirs.

The village itself was obviously troubled, ransacked by some creatures. Some other villagers and dead obsidimen “revived” and attacked us posing no major threat, though a minor undead battle ensued.

Eventually we found the villagers holding a spot underneath the town’s main building. We talked with them, healing our wounds. They spoke of a tainted obsidiman liferock(4) a day’s journey away. We pledged to do our best to protect them.

When we went to investigate, a number of crazed obsidimen charged us. We fought brilliantly and courageously to stop them. While doing so, I looked into the astral plane and found them dripping with black ichor and sporting a strange symbol. I sketched it and later had if confirmed as a Horror Mark (that Honeysuckle and recognized from a journal Valara had)(5).

After defeating the obsidimen we sought out their liferock a day’s journey away: It appeared tarred and still occupied by some dark thing which we didn’t bother to stick around to find out more(6).

The village was happy to hear of our defeating the obsidimen, have us a celebratory feast and a letter for Darron depicting our heroism. We returned the strongbox.

Leaving town we returned to meet Darron, collected our remaining pay, and an extra bonus. Jak received information of a forge to use in Bartertown, which is where we travel to next.(7)

(1) Also "the Humble".
(2) His name is Darron (see later in the entry) and is a Bartertown merchant dealing primarily with shells from Lang. He has some connections to Maester Bleys.
(3) Who is Captain Chandra?
(4) That sounds bad.
(5) Refer to entry under Adventuring Groups: Miscellaneous: Mismatched Steel - 01
(6) That is bad. I recommend we kick this up the ladder. Talk to Jana and Caramon.
(7) Received and edited by Ela Pono

*          *          *

This marked the first adventure with the "core" group of characters and is considered by most of the players to be the first adventure, which is an entirely valid way of looking at things. The originally planned adventure was based around a Beastmaser and a Nethermancer, so I delayed that again (it would never actually be played). This was the immediate solution and it worked well as an introduction for the three players that had yet to play Earthdawn before - the other player had one game under her belt. Having one player with a little experience went a long way in bringing the other players up to speed on how resources were best managed, which is a major part of Earthdawn (though hardly unique to Earthdawn). A considerable amount of the plot that would evolve was laid down here, some of it obvious, some of it less so. In particular, a key piece of information was given (not recorded here) that sheds light on a great deal that took place later.

I have mentioned previously that I like to run tactile games, and this is where I introduced that aspect. A common feature of creatures in Earthdawn is that parts of them are valuable and can be harvested and sold. Writing things down on a character sheet is fine for bookkeeping, but it isn't very visceral. So I made some lightning lizard eyes using some glass beads that were clear with a blue iris. Initially I tried to etch them with an etching cream - it did not turn out so well. That plan will require a sand etcher to work how I intended and that is more of an investment than I wanted to make, even with a 40% off coupon at Michael's. Employing a silver marker produced the almost final result.

They were very popular, in fact more popular than I had imagined. Two things came from that development. First, the players didn't want to give all of them up; they wanted to keep some of their treasures. Second, the silver markings were rubbing off from excessive handling. The second issue was resolved with some matte sealant. I didn't want to take the loot away from the players, but I did want to give them the rewards they had earned. To solve this, I created a house rule about decorating loot. This allowed them to receive the Legend Points (and more), expend money, use artisan skills, and keep their toys. It was a win for everyone. The difficulties of the tests as the value of loot increased was still being ironed out, but it is fun and that is what this is all about.

In the forthcoming entries in this series, I will be covering the other game aids I made as they come up.

25 September 2012

Earthdawn: Part 11 - Putting a Group Together

This is the eleventh part in an ongoing series about Earthdawn. Introduction and Index.

A request was made to help some players that are new to Earthdawn (3E in this case) put together an effective Group along with some ideas on how to play to their strengths (especially in combat). The characters are an elf Air Sailor, elf Elementalist, windling Swordmaster and human Weaponsmith (likely going Horror Stalker). Looking at this line-up, I immediately note that it is not combat heavy, but leaning towards support roles and social interactions. They will likely have on the high side of defense ratings (nearly everyone gets bonuses to dexterity, perception and charisma), but not be up for a protracted fight (plenty of penalties to toughness to go around). With that in mind, let's start putting things together.

Whenever planning a character for a Group, the first thing to determine what role you will be fulfilling. This is going to influence your Talent Options and skills. When looking at Talent Options, it is important to see if multiple characters with a particular Talent is valuable. For example, Melee Combat versus Haggle: having more people to fight is always going to be useful, but having more than one character negotiating isn't going to have a great benefit. If a Talent Option falls into the latter scenario and another character has it as a Discipline Talent, don't take it - even if your associated attribute is better. It will not take long for the Discipline Talent to outpace natural ability and that Talent Option can be spent better elsewhere.

Another thing to keep in mind with Talent Options is "how useful will the Talent be if it doesn't keep pace with your Circle?" This is particularly applicable to combat Talents, like Throwing Weapons. Those Talents will require constant maintenance, much like a Discipline Talent, to remain relevant, while Talents like Etiquette or Fireblood are always useful - the former because not all social encounters will have aggressively scaled Social Defense, and the latter because there is no difficulty to roll against.

For skills, you need to know if the optional rule "Aligning Skills and Talents" is in effect (referred to as "the optional rule" from here on out). This will have a major impact on how you look at skills. If it is in use, then picking up a skill early can give an early boost in effectiveness in that area, then convert to the Talent when you take that. This will also save a few Legend Points, but nothing game changing. If it isn't in use, then skill ranks spent on something you will get as a Talent later on are wasted and it is better to look elsewhere.

Similar to Talent Options, select skills that are always going to be useful no matter how many ranks are in them. The effort required to improve a skill is considerably greater than a Talent; the costs are higher for less payoff. Unless there is unusual dedication, skills will always lag behind Talents - and that is as intended. This shows off the advantages that adepts have over non-adepts. It just means that the Avoid Blow skill you picked up at 1st Circle is going to look pretty sad when Journeyman rolls around.

Air Sailor
The Air Sailor is a well-rounded Discipline that can be built towards a few different goals. They are effective in combat, but will generally not be a primary combatant - their Durability is average, which limits their staying power with regard to Strain and taking damage in general. The Swordmaster is going to be more focused on combat and social aspects that the Air Sailor, but since they are also a windling, damage is going to be an issue and the Air Sailor may need to play a more significant role in that regard than normal.

Their Discipline Talents are all solid and show the flexible nature of the Discipline, as well as its team-oriented nature, which will become more pronounced as they gain Circles. This makes the Air Sailor a natural leader that can be built towards filling any perceived gaps in the Group. For this particular Group that will likely be in combat, assuming the typical exploration-style Earthdawn campaign.

Planning Talent Options and skills will involve looking for ways to increase that effectiveness overall and the Air Sailor has more than a few options in that regard, such as Air Dance and Great Leap when combined with Down Strike. Their Durability is average (6/5), which means they will not be up for a protracted engagement constantly spending Strain on Talents. If the optional rule is being used, there is also the opportunity to take a number of skills that can later be aligned as Talents (including one Discipline Talent). This can be taken advantage to get a jump start on their effectiveness.

The Elementalist's role will be support, and they have few peers in that regard. They do not have particularly strong combat damage options, lacking access to mystic damage that most magicians capitalize on in combat. What they do have are some interesting control and support spells, as well as eventual access to elemental summoning. Spells are their major contribution to any Group and they provide additional healing that will make every member of the Group grateful, and not other can provide.

Outside of combat, or any circumstance where time is not of the essence, they effectively have full access to their spells. However, 
Spell Matrices are their limiting factor in combat. Having two Matrices at 1st Circle is excellent, but picking up a third should be based on needs since as Circle increases, the Elementalist will get access to more and better Matrices. The other notable Talent for an Elementalist is Astral Sight; this is pretty much a must for any magician.

Selecting spells is the most important task for any magician. The Elementalist spell list is full of great buff, debuff, control, support, and utility spells, but also some that are not so good. Most of those are damage spells that seem powerful, but have strict requirements, such as Flame Strike which requires an open flame nearby. They will want one damage spell, Earth Darts at 1st Circle is probably the best up to 3rd Circle, but that is not their area of expertise.

The Swordmaster is a social character and will be the "face" of most adventuring Groups (barring a Songsmith or Troubadour). As a windling, this is even more true; they have the best charisma bonus in the game and are rather weak combatants. Social Talents, such as First Impression and Winning Smile, support this and should be selected when the opportunity arises.

Not only will they be the face, but also the combat specialist. Being a windling can make that difficult, so this Swordmaster will rely on assistance from their companions more than they may like to admit. Like all Swordmasters their strength is in one-on-one conflicts, but patience is where they will always be rewarded. Their Talent interactions are some of the more complicated, using Maneuver with Taunt to control the tempo of the conflict and set up their allies as well.

Finding ways to improve damage is going to be important and armor-defeating hits aren't something you can generally rely on all the time. Skills to improve damage and tactics with allies are going to be boon, and create a more lively experience as slogging it out isn't going to be a good option. Spend time thinking about how your Talents work and particularly work together. This Discipline takes considerable work to figure out, but can be a terror when it all comes together.

Another support Discipline and a major asset to any Group lucky enough to include one. Nearly every Weaponsmith I have ever seen tends to assume the role of quartermaster for the Group. This is natural considering they have the most Talents regarding resource management. Their ability to Forge Weapons will save money and grant early access to more-or-less permanent damage increases, and Haggle will save additional money. During downtime their abilities are always in demand and can turn a tidy profit while training and/or research is taking place.

Their ability to handle Thread Magic is also considerable and they will spend considerable time with all of the Thread Items the Group comes upon. Once they get access to Thread Weaving, they and the Elementalist will be able to being crafting Thread Items and can combine their considerable abilities in to great effect. Additionally they have strong defenses against magic. Many magicians (and Horrors) have had their day wrecked by a Weaponsmith on a hot streak.

While not a combat Discipline, they are capable of holding their own. Fireblood will help considerably with this and as a human, this Weaponsmith will be able to cherry pick Talents to fill whatever the needs are that develop over time. The Weaponsmith and Elementalist make a natural team in keeping any Group at the top of their game through their support abilities, but since they are both lacking in the direct arena, the direct route (or "Plan B" as it is known around my table) isn't often going to be the best course of action.

22 September 2012

Earthdawn: Adventure Log 01 - Misguided Ambition

This is the first Adventure Log in an ongoing series about Earthdawn. Introduction and Index.

As requested, I am starting a new column as a part if the ongoing series on Earthdawn: Adventure Logs. My goal is to use these to not only showcase actual play in Earthdawn, but to introduce setting elements, discuss GMing in general, using props, and adapting material that is already out there for use in an ongoing campaign. These are the logs as recorded by the players in-character. All of the players for this game had never played Earthdawn previously.

Adventure logs are a clever piece of the setting that gets players to take notes on the session - something that players are not always willing to do (it can feel like work), but Earthdawn puts an in-setting spin on it that provides rewards. The premise is that the Great Library of Throal will purchase logs detailing the activities of adventuring Groups and make them available to in the Library to others for research. Their stated goal is to gather as much information as possible, particularly the dangers, new environs and kaers that have been opened, but as well the cultures, people and happenings within the world. The Group is paid based on the "importance" of the work, and it goes into the Library to be referenced by others. The payment is a fraction of the Legend Points earned during the events in the logs, and additional Legend Points are earned when it is turned in to reflect that the characters' legend spreading through others reading of their exploits.

Within my setting, there are some other things taking place which are not openly discussed. The Great Library processes astounding volumes of intelligence from around the province and beyond through these adventuring logs. This information is potentially vital to the security of the dwarf kingdom, particularly with regard to the looming conflict with the Theran Empire and other more local threats (Horrors, Iopos, scorchers, crystal raiders, etc). The Great Library performs the public mission statement, but the scribes are also intelligence analysts. The junior scribes will read incoming logs and if anything raises a flag, it will be handed off to a more senior scribe who will route the log appropriately and it may be altered during transcription to be entered into the Library; originals are never on the floor (adventurers and dirty hands). This goes unnoticed; few adepts are so narcissistic that paying to read their own exploits is worth their time. Handwritten copies are also prone to all of the errors that come with handwritten copies.

This means is that the original adventure logs contain footnotes from the scribes of the Library which reveal Throal's interest in the contents, as well as the identity of the scribe who performed the detailed analysis (and some personality of the scribe). These notes are not available to those outside of the senior scribes. The out-of-character goal behind providing this extra analysis to the players (not the characters) is to communicate some of the bigger picture if they are interested.

Adventure Log - 01 - Misguided Ambition

Recorded By: Honeysuckle Sunspray of Glenwood Deep

Date: 13 Raquas, 1506 TH
Group Name: Mismatched Steel

Group Members
Honeysuckle Sunspray the Windmaster
Valara the Beastmaster

It was time to be going. Leaving Glenwood Deep for a life of adventure was a difficult decision to make because my teachers wanted me to stay and be a Windmaster for the community. I wanted to see Barsiave and the great cities. Travelling alone for the first few weeks was lonely; outside of Glenwood Deep you don’t see many other windlings(1), but I have seen many new races like orks, trolls, and dwarfs that don’t usually travel through Glenwood Deep. I met Valara at a fork in the road, she was also pondering the way to go as she too had just left her home for the life of adventure, we decided to head into the nearest town together and stock up on supplies before continuing on our journeys.

This was a small town near the woods and many of its people were lumberjacks. Upon entering the town of Tsennan(2) you could tell something was not right. Hearing that Valara and I were adepts, the townsfolk asked up to head into the woods to look for a group of missing lumberjacks; including three humans, two orks, and a dwarf. They were to return days ago and have not been heard from. Before leaving we met with the local healer Genna (who was the mother of Tartuk, one of the missing orks), who gave us some healing supplies to help us on our journey. We reached the camp before sundown and found it abandoned and in ruin. Food was left of the table rotting (knowing how poor this village was, food would never be wasted like this) we knew something terrible had happened to the lumberjacks. We took some time to search the camp finding a trail in one direction and no other clues. I could tell we were being watched as we searched. I checked out a strange rustling in the brush and was nearly eaten alive by a snow leopard cub(3). Valara insisted we pursue the cub to care for it and after tracking for a bit we caught the cub and Valara turned it into her new pet. I can see that being friends with a Beastmaster will be more dangerous than I originally thought.

We headed down the trail left by the attackers and found the first body not too far past the camp. This body fit the description of one of the lumberjacks, the dwarf Geleem, he was badly beaten but you could tell this was not done by animals. Following the trail we came upon a clearing with a cave entrance, tied to the trees were the bodies of four more lumberjacks, the only body missing was Tartuk. Wandering around this area strangely were these creatures that looked like they should be dead. We went toward the opening of the cave when these things attacked us. Valara and I knew we had to fight, though Windmaster training didn’t cover bodies that rise from the dead(4). It was a gross, ugly fight. As we fought these things they exploded with a vile stench spraying everything in the vicinity. It took almost everything we had, but we defeated them. As disgusting as we were we didn’t wait to go into the cave, whatever was happening must be coming from there.

The cave was dark down the tunnel and then opened up into a large room where a fire was going, with a large pool of blood and a large troll was performing some type of ritual. I thought we had seen the scariest part of this and boy was I wrong. Out of the pool of blood arose one of the missing lumberjacks with axes for hands, it was Tartuk(5). He had been sacrificed for something evil. Not wanting to see what happened next we rushed in to fight this evil Nethermancer and the unwilling sacrifice. Turns out this was a really bad idea after the fight we had outside. This sorcerer sent his sacrifice after us and then casted some type of magical darkness in the room making it impossible to fight. Valara and I decided to retreat and regroup. Outside the cave we took time to clean up and rest while strategizing what to do next.

We headed back into the cave because we couldn’t return to the town with one of their lumberjacks being controlled by this Nethermancer. It took all of our tricks and strength to defeat the sorcerer and put the sacrifice out of his misery, but we managed to be victorious. Searching the cave we found the Nethermancer’s journal(6) bound with the skin of some poor creature and the mark of a horror upon it. This was bigger than we had imagined, this Nethermancer had been corrupted by a Horror(7).

We returned to the town to deliver the devastating news of what had happened to the lumberjacks and warned the townsfolk not to go up there. We spared Genna from what actually happened to her son; instead we told her he was simply killed by the Nethermancer. We didn’t stick around the village very long; it was too depressing after what they had been through. Valara and I headed off for our next destination, whatever that may be. (8)

(1) I hear that Glenwood Deep is infested with them.
(2) Find location of Tsennan, see further footnotes.
(3) If only...
(4) This is a curious and unexpected piece.
(5) Perhaps this bears investigation.
(6) This journal should be found for safekeeping.
(7) Tragic, but unsurprising.
(8) Received and Edited by Ela Pono.

*          *          *

This was the first adventure, though not all of the players were able to make it. Instead going with the original plan (which never happened as intended), I used an introductory adventure that used to be available on Redbrick's website and adapted it to fit where I wanted things to go. It has all of the rules you need to get started along with pregenerated characters. The adventure itself has some good moments and strong horror elements. It is a fine, free adventure, though fairly challenging for only two characters that are highly specialized and unfamiliar with the rules.  Both players were initially reluctant to use Karma; it is a resource that is not infinite. Both remarked, in retrospect, that they would have used Karma more often if they had understood better how easy it was to get more. The Beastmaster and Windmaster can use Karma with starting Talents that improve damage, Claw Shape and Dive Attack respectively. These Disciplines are not the most straight forward, particularly the Windmaster which has some of the more complex Talent interactions.