A playtest of something called, at least in theory, Dark Waters. At time of writing not yet sent to Chaosium
No, another session to go, as I write this.
Follow-up. Always two sessions?
No, I’d have have expected it to take one, but I did do some of this backwards. See OOC notes later.
There was an inn in Wilmskirk. Hengrast Silorson and his friends Sian Quillsharp and Jon Pol Joni were meeting there, possibly because Jon had been passing through the area and sent word to come for a drink or two, or maybe they just felt like it.
Rastar the Bard and his crew, a warrior Anelifififkkfifk and an Earthwife Laika, were there and present, and they had all been mixing up a few days and were polite &c.
Laika, having fumbled Intrigue, was sure they had been sent there to make sure everyone had heard of their deeds on Colymar lands, and pressed Rastar to sing about it. Rastar, who had passed Intrigue, was pretty sure they were there because the Colymar wanted them out of the way while the mess of cattle-stealing Greydogs and cattle-eating goddesses got sorted out. Laika was perplexed to find the broker for the cattle she thought they had been sent to buy had not arrived, or did not have the cattle, and many other such things.
Hafly, the steward of Chief Ernakt Greyrock, stopped in to applaud the heroes of Rastar’s song. What he needed was heroes! And as he recognised his lord’s friend’s son Hengrast, he was very fortunate to have had many heroes to hand. They got volunteered to go help Ernakt, for there were bandits all around the place, especially around Greyrock Mill. Hengrast was genuinely pleased to help, and the other group got bounced into it a little.
The next morning they set out, first of all finding out what gossip they could – the bandits did not seem to be a terrible problem, Chief Ernakt was badly stretched for manpower, and after the trolls had gone, bandits had burned Greyrock Fall and the palisade was destroyed. (Rastar fumbled Intrigue.) They met Ernakt, who gave them the hospitality of his camp and told them the fisherfolk were worried enough to have left the river at Greyrock Mill. With the local bandits in the area, he could not dedicate manpower to what was probably not a job for violence, and asked them to investigate as a favour to him. They talked to the fisherfolk, and learned that (what did they learn? Don’t really recall, but there was stuff.)
Jon managed to ask questions in the wrong way, and annoy Hatha Fisher, but it was smoothed over.
Laika, a woman slightly larger than Hatha, the woman leading the fisherfolk, was invited to sleep in their humble turf-roof, while others had the open sky and their hides. In the evening, Ernakt asked Hengrast about his man Anneflik, and Hengrast said he stood for him. Ernakt gave Anne[fli]k his helmet, including his horsehair crest. (failed listen roll from Anneflik. Ernakt crept up. Annelifk had a bad moment.)
The next morning they set out for the Mill village. Laika felt very guilty that it was Earth Season and they were not helping with the harvest. They arrived around noon, briefly met Hohfng who greeted the chief and offered them hospitality, and then they passed straight through to the mill, which was silted up so that the wheel was entirely landlocked. Lakia went upstream to look at the top of the silted mill-race, which was not far away, and then downstream to talk to some people there who were doing a thing called gold panning, extracting the expensive parts of the river’s bounty from what was going downstream. They told her that they had been doing this for some time.
Meanwhile, Annelifk had been doing the rounds of the mill and discovered a herb garden that was overgrown by about 4 weeks (thanks, Farm Roll!) and the others had discovered a rather more interesting but probably bad thing – an unmarked grave by the front of the mill. As they were discussing going into the mill, a ghost rose up and asked for proper burial, and to be avenged – or for justice. They agreed to give him this, and once she heard his lineage and antecedents from him, Sian worked out that she knew the correct burial rites. Jon and Rastar both lost their lunch in that episode, offering the goodness back to the river, or at least the silt channel.
The group went into the water quern building, and found there was a lot of wood and stone inside. Search rolls found a trapdoor under grain sacks, and Sian found a lot of records that made her squee with delight. There was some reading, and she was happy to show the very very very important records to everyone. Ortasis the Quernmaster had kept track of everything he did, and samples of what he had ground, in wax on slivers of wood, going back right to the beginning. There was also love poetry to Iyarala the naiad, and some notes on improving grain and cattle stock.
They prepared weapons just in case of further horrors and opened the trapdoor. Ratty spider eyes peered out, and Sian entirely failed to notice them and leaned down. Jon DID notice them, pushed her out of the way, and got his left hand covered with ratspider spit. That went numb, and then ratspiders poured out to attack things that had disturbed them. They were easily dispatched, and Sian went down into the cellar with a lantern on a string behind her, and killed the last two. Laika, the farmer, explained what Ratspiders were, and that Jon would get the feeling back over the next day or two.
While that was happening, Annelifk the ‘warrior’ was keeping a look-out, and so were a few others. Jon spotted a farmer watching them when he should have been harvesting, and with a bit of farsight could see enough to identify him later. Sian found more of the records down in the bottom of the cellar – there were many, many examples of ground grain, which related to the index she had found in the records.
Rastar, poking around, had found a shrine to a water god in a private room of the water quern. In an attempt to show respect (fumbling his water rune) he spat in the water, and an elemental grew up and began to chase him in amusing slow speed. Annelifk cast mobility on him, and he went for a chase that led him through the village, watched by just about everyone. Jon recognised the farmer who had been watching him among the people there, with a group that included Hohfng.
While the chase was going on, and people were gathering again, Laika went to warn the gold-panners that someone had just angered a water elemental, and they decided to take the rest of the day off. Laika talked with Jon over the technique, and after deciding that anyone could do it, and it was not a problem for her to try, she did a little panning, finding a nugget of gold in the shape of Ernalda’s Rune. It obviously meant something, but she had no idea what.
Rastar returned and went to refill the water bowl in the shrine. The others investigated the quernmaster’s roof-level sleeping quarters and found a long shallow bowl there, by his bed, adding weight to Sian’s suggestion that the love of Ortasis was reciprocated and the naiad loved him too. Hengrast noticed some people creeping up on the other side of the river. (Fumbled scan roll. They were deer.) Jon and Sian used farsight to check, and then laughed a bit.
Hohfng and a few of his sons arrived to make sure that the adventurers intended to burn the water quern. Sian persuaded people to move the records out first. Tosar, the most talkative of the gold-panners, asked Laika to stop that from happening because if the naiad was angered then it might stop the gold from coming down. He said that there had been a bargain that the naiad would move the quern wheel, and without a quern wheel he was not sure what would happen.
A small child tugged Anneflik aside and brought him to where a woman who looked foreign and probably Lunar was sitting like she thought she owned the place, dressed in very poor clothes. She had thought he was in charge, but on finding out he was not, sent him to take the message to the person who was – that anyone of good breeding should know how to sacrifice to the river, of course. And that her ransom was a thousand Lunars. Anneflik took the message but left off the bit about the Lunars, interpreting it to mean someone like Hengrast or even he himself should know.
Hengrast went looking for the head man of the village, and in doing so found out that Hohfng was not the head man. There was no real village head here, because of the size and location. It seemed that the village was divided along several lines, chiefly young vs old, who also mapped to those willing to use Lunar improvements and those who stood by the traditional ways.
Massive spoilers. Players currently playing should not read past this point.
Ooooh, so many errors. First of all, I started by calling the thing a water mill. It made it seem familiar, and it should seem alien, weird, and new. It’s a piece of Lunar Technology. It falsely gave everyone, including me the GM, the idea that people should understand it. That’s now a Devise or Elder Race Lore (Mostali) to understand it, with maybe a Homeland Lore (Lunar Empire) to be familiar with the concept. That’s now covered in a cutaway box.
There are too many places called Greyrock XXX. This should be New Stead now, and is henceforth.
I didn’t have a map. This wasn’t utterly crippling, but it meant that people gallumphed straight through the village to the mill, to ‘solve’ the problem. They did get greeted by Hohfng, who offered them hospitality, but they just left straightaway. Having them arrive in the evening would help. I had the fisherfolk in camp, and I could have had Ernakt offer to bring them, to slow down arrival, or I could have had it be a half day to where he was an another couple of hours to the village. They could have eaten their lunch meal with him instead of an evening meal.
Putting them up in the village would have made intrigue and talking to different people much easier. Then too, I knew who the significant NPCs were, but not how they would make their introductions. This is a weak point of me as a GM, as I more usually make up NPCs rather after their greetings have happened and I’ve worked out what plot is needed. Writing interlocking plot in advance gives me a moment of freeze-up.
It was good that Laika contacted the gold panners. It could easily have reached the point where the adventurers burned the mill without exploring the complexities of it. This is a path that can happen, but I felt it would have been unfair to do that given I hadn’t built the village enough that they could be warned it might be a bad idea. Now they can make decisions.
Ortasis first asked for vengeance, but then I bottled out and made the adventurers promise justice instead. Whether or not he gets it is a REALLY interesting call. They laid him to rest, but he could presumably come back. However, he was satisfied when he left. However, I need to think about what justice means.
The rat-spiders were a joy to run. Or to skitter. However, they should have been behind a door, not a trapdoor. The players were genre-savvy to trapdoors. Search/Scan rolls to find them before a surprise round would be ideal.
I suspect that if a group does just go through as this one did, then village gossip should gather people here, or there should be attempts to get their attention. That needs to be a sidebar in the mill or the village sections. The village is probably not as far from the mill as I made it, but Hengrast had not seen it, so I went with his understanding and put it 100m away. Which is really not far anyhow. People casually drifting over is not impossible, but they do potentially fear the mill. Which is not a mill but a Lunar water-quern.
I need to know who fears it, if anyone. And why the women don’t speak to women in the group. I made them too sensible in my factions list, and some should be prepared to stand up and say they liked the mill, even if it was new.
Zelpha, sister of the Lunar Commander, was very good fun. She is a noble dressed as a thrall, and she has yet to turn her derision on the group properly.