I started taking the PCs through the second of the Starter Adventures from the set. This time, they were a bit more confident, although Nathem’s player is still quiet. However, they talk when the spotlight’s on them well enough, and they know the others and everyone likes each other, so it seems to work out. When I asked the group if they enjoyed it, I got the answer I wanted. So. The session!
(Naturally, this is spoilery for the starter set.)
After last session’s Divine Intervention, Jorrim was very low on POW, and as we’re not running a long campaign, I let the player swap in for a new character, Dazarim the Yelmalio initiate. Jorrim-player didn’t know this, but while Dazarim was low on armour, he had a very important blessing of Yelmalio. He doesn’t burn easily.
I started off with an intro. Dazarim’s Heortling is non-existent, and I wanted to underscore he had bad tradetalk, even though I didn’t want that to get in the way of play later. So, I set up that he already knew the Storm Bull, Mago. In trying to find Mago, he managed to give the impression of wanting to fight him, so there was a comedy moment to break the ice where Mago tried to work out what was going on and a young Lay Member of Storm Bull was hoping to see a fight, but everything came out well. After that I didn’t really press the Tradetalk/Heortling thing, but it had been dealt with.1In a longer campaign I’d have put it onto Dazarim’s sheet at a low number and given him a tick or auto-training every season for a while.
Then when the players were not sure what to do next I hung a hat on the awkwardness and moved straight forward to where they smelled burning. Nathem passed his Scan roll and saw the smoke rising up. Mago fumbled his, and smelled (and saw) a nearby barbecued meat stall, complete with beakers for ale. He went that way. At first he ignored Nathem trying to get his attention. Dazarim was on Nathem’s side but lost for words, but after a while they got through to Mago what was going on. Mago’s player was wondering if ze should do the in-game thing and go for the drink, or the obvious plot hook thing2In a longer campaign, again, I’d totally tell zir to make the decision and trust me to give them interesting consequences, but we didn’t have a lot of time, so we worked out a way that Mago could change his mind IC. In general, I love how these people are happy to flex into a fumble. They’re gleeful when it happens., given that they knew there had been a lot of fires lately, but in the end Nathem managed to point out to Mago where the smoke was, and Mago forgot about the food and drink in case there was something interesting to fight. Dazarim followed.
They quickly found the fire, and immediately looked around to see if there was anyone injured they could help. Mago set Nathem to helping Elena, the coughing woman, because, as he said later, “You’re smart and I thought you’d know how.” Nathem, with his 20% First Aid, did his best but failed. Mago, who had a far higher score, was busy bullying the citizens into forming a bucket chain. Dazarim asked if he could use his Sing to inspire them, and I said it would be good for projecting his voice and showing leadership, but he failed that roll.
Mago realised that Nathem was failing, so they swapped. I forgot that Elena had already had a failed First Aid roll on her, but as it was not a matter of individual wounds, I don’t think that mattered anyhow. She needed to recover for the sake of the plot, and Mago’s the one who got the credit. I explained that he was good at using Air, and could show her how to breathe, and so they found out that Markel was in the house. Dazarim immediately dashed for the door, because he was, as he put it, a Yelmalian. He’s used to playing someone of very high honour in a different game. It was very satisfying, because his gift helped him, but he was not thinking about that at all; he was just thinking of saving someone.
After that I introduced Jojera, who gave them the rest of the plot to do. Mago was in favour of working for her in case he got to fight Chaos again. The others were in favour of helping her because she was powerful. She gave them a great deal of authority but did not offer them money, because they were already obviously keen3I chalk up their inexperience in not asking for cash to their inexperience in RPGs in general, but later they met their friend Jorrim again, and he gave them a master class in getting money out of people..
At that point, they all looked blank. They hadn’t got very much idea about how to play these characters in this situation, or what their options were – they are relatively new to gaming, and I think they were a bit dazed, and didn’t want to get things wrong. They also haven’t been able to read the Starter Set themselves, because I’m the only one with a copy of it, and their time for research is limited. So, I gave them some options: visit the places where fires had been, talk to the watch, talk to people nearby, do other things I hadn’t listed… They elected to look into the fires and the places where they had happened, but even then, they didn’t get straight to it. I think they’ve been trained on video games where you can click on a map to go to a place, and they tend to explain what they want, instead of speaking in the first person, but it’s fine, they don’t mind me taking over and explaining. I only mind a bit – I’d like it to be more immersive, but I can’t really give them that with the set-up I’ve got. At some point, they’ll get the game, and read more, I hope.
They did some investigating, which had a lot of me paraphrasing the main things I wanted them to learn from the text, as soon as they asked a related question. It felt a bit messy to me, but they were absolutely getting things from it. I gave them Scan rolls to notice things that I thought they’d have seen if they’d been really in the world. They didn’t know they COULD potter around in burned places looking for clues, so Scan rolls gave them the info instead. They bounced around slowly finding out more, but they did the houses in the order 2, 3, 1, 4. After doing 3, Dazarim got the idea that they could put people on the streets to watch out for arsonists, because they had noticed that places on the main streets did not get burned. It was an original idea, and I like to reward those, so I had Jojera OK it. Eventually I have Nathem an INT check, as he was a hunter, and he worked out that Dorasa, wife of the scribe, would probably enter and leave the city a lot. They ended up at the South Gate, talking to the guards, and they asked about Dorasa the hunter. When they found that she went in and out a lot, they decided to set up a watch there.
At that point we had a very amusing kerfuffle. Mago wished that Jorrim was there when they were talking about reading. The players who were not Dazarim decided it would be amusing to watch him talk to his old PC, and sent him for Jorrim, and then they wanted to watch, so they all wanted to leave the gate… I gave it a bit of time and then pointed out that they could watch OOC. Dazarim met Jorrim, who came back to the gate and found the others hadn’t really wanted to talk to him – it was just an OOC thing… However, Nathem’s player came up with an amazing sliding save, because they said that Jorrim should be writing the group’s saga. I felt this was a splendid idea, and so did Jorrim, who tends to get paid well for this sort of thing.
At this point, with an NPC in tow, I could steer people, and I made shameless use of Jorrim, who asked for the saga’s sake what the guards had said about the other people they were trying to track. Nathem made hurried noises and went off to ask, while Jorrim cleaned his stylus very carefully and ignored the talking. Soon they knew that most people went into and out of the city, and they decided that while it would be safest to have the city guard pick them up at the gates, that made a terrible saga, and to be written up and sung about as people of action was preferable to being known as people of cunning. They set off into Lorthing Vale. Jorrim went with them, which was a good bit of GM hinting; I asked IC rather than OOC, because even though he was a spot character, I wanted them to be thinking with their saga-brains.
Nathem failed his Track roll, so Dorasa found them before he could find the camp. Dazarim noticed her – I decided that a Special on Scan would be required – and saw that she had her bow with an arrow already nocked. Dazarim remembered OOC that there were some words for arresting people, and for the life of me I can’t remember which game or which character he was, but it sounds like something I’d do. We went with a direct order to surrender and an appeal to the authority of Jonstown. Dorasa, who acts first and thinks later, shot him.
Nathem stepped behind a tree and told his cat to pounce. I got him to roll a POWx5 to see if the cat understood what was going on; he failed, and it looked up at him adoringly. Dorasa had put Dazarim down, so she went for Mago with her second arrow, and missed. She missed low, Mago decided she was trying to cripple them, and decided not to bring out the big magic. A third shot from Dorasa hit Mago in the left arm, and did indeed cripple.
However, Jorrim had also stepped behind a tree, and had javelins, and he was able to get two off, while Dorasa had not yet realised he was a threat. He did enough damage to kill her, in theory, but as it was to an arm and a leg, and she was plot-central, and he was there as an NPC, it would have felt wrong. It would also have put the PCs in conflict with the rest of the group, and I didn’t want there to be a massacre. So, I massaged the rules along a bit. Dorasa surrendered, Jorrim asked for danger money and advised them that they now had a ransomee rather than a prisoner, and the group went to meet with the Seven Mothers initiates.
They found out about the Wyter having gone mad, and the initiates having set the fires mostly by accident in trying to see it off. At that point, we drew the session to an end so they would not pause in the middle of a battle or exploration. So, more when they take it up again, probably a month from the last session.