Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Fate of the Norns – Fafnir’s Treasure – Last Words

So with our play-through of Pendelhaven’s introductory adventure, Fafnir’s Treasure done, I’ve been able to take a look at what is actually in it and have some final thoughts on the game.  I want to wrap up my thoughts on the game, Fate of the Norns: Ragnarök and the introductory adventure before we move on to the next campaign (more on that in the next blog post).

First and foremost, the books for this system are beautiful.  The stylized artwork evokes the feeling of viking art from the 900’s without copying it.  This was not bog-standard Medieval art for a generic European knock-off fantasy.  The art was pervasive through everything that wasn’t core rules, and I’m led to believe that was a design choice by the translator to indicate material he reworked to present better in English.

The down side to all of this beautiful artwork is when you need to print out a character sheet or a play sheet for keeping track of your runes during combat.  These drain toner/ink tremendously due to the are and the background pattern.  While Pendelhaven made all the pages you might want to print out as hand-outs a free PDF (sample characters, play sheets for tracking runes in combat, a hex map, initiative tiles, and so forth), they are just the same pages in the book exported into a separate file.  Pendelhaven would do well to make versions of these pages with blank white backgrounds to ease printing costs.

Fafnir’s Treasure starts with a simplified version of the rules.  This, theoretically, allows a group to just buy Fafnir’s treasure and play through it with only the rules necessary for the adventure and then graduate up to the full rules if they want.  What it actually did was provide a simplified version of the 1st Edition rules that our Norn learned from while the rest of us learned the full version of 2nd Edition.  Changes happened between editions that occasionally led to arguments when the Norn tried to do something the 2nd Edition rules prohibited, but the simplified rules allowed.  In some places, the material had been updated to 2nd Edition in Fafnir’s Treasure (write-up of the trolls, notably), but it was spotty and inconsistent.  I’ve seen a PDF of the original Fafnir’s Treasure and it feels like Pendelhaven spent a lot of money on upgrading the appearance for a 2nd Edition release and very little money updating the contents of the adventure actually to 2nd Edition.

On top of this, the editing the book was not the best, particularly doing the maths.  For example, weapons that clearly do 3 damage in the equipment description unexplainedly do 4 in the summation of basic attacks for Zealots.  Grizzled Warriors have an actual power that covers this gap and I wonder if this is a cut and paste issue that was never caught.  Things like this happen often in both Fafnir’s Treasure and in the main rulebook.

While I’m on the NPCs (referred to as Denizens in the rules) – almost every opponent faced has weapons with Piercing, meaning they bypass a certain amount of armor, usually as much or more than we had.  The notable exceptions are opponents that do Mental or Spiritual attacks which also tend to bypass relevant defenses.  This made having armor almost pointless.  This would be fine as a design choice, but it would have been nice to know that the game made that choice before we bought gear.  Armor is some of the most expensive gear available and turned out to be a waste of time.  As the introductory adventure for the game system, this gotcha downgraded our enjoyment of the system as a group.

In neither the main rulebook nor Fafnir’s Treasure was a section expectations and assumptions built into the game system.  We went in cold not fully understanding what the game was designed to do, so we really had no way to lean into that curve to increase our enjoyment of the game.  We spent nearly half of each session digging through the rules and hashing out what they meant, especially when what they said contradicted themselves or seemed to.  Editing flubs made this worse (for example, the description of Taunt is missing a critical last half of a sentence explaining how to end the condition).

Finally, combats were very slow.  We are not certain if that was due to all of us being new to the system, but we also play HERO System and these fight felt longer than a HERO System fight.  Take that as you will.

Despite all of the above, there were aspects of the game we liked.  We liked making characters, even though some guidance would have helped avoid the case where we built a Maiden of Ratatosk that could not invoke the Taunt condition, a major aspect of the archetype.  The charts for powers and skills (we called them “bingo boards” as you put runes down on them to select powers or skill) worked well and forced us to make design choices, but also provided different flavors of the same archetypes based on which direction you spent your runes.  Again, some guidance or design philosophy would have helped.  We eventually worked out in play which archetypes benefited from more Essence or more Destiny, but some recommendations from the game designers would have helped.  [You may be detecting a theme here.]

Fafnir’s Treasure has the option of a very condensed version of the adventure (basically the Norn reads the setup and then cuts directly to the final fight).  This led to two different sets of expectations.  In the condensed version, the reward is “one item from the treasure” with no explanation if that is one item for the group or per viking.  The expanded version mentions in the descriptions of the relevant NPCs exactly which treasures are being offered (there are enough for 1 each for 5 vikings) and lets the PCs decide who gets what.  Our Norn remembered the first part but missed the second part, a small mistake caused by combining the two versions of the adventure, but it changed the way our vikings felt about the guy that hired us.  We were certain he was not who he said he was and was going to rip us off.  At the very least, if we had continued playing with these characters, our group would have been more likely to side with the Jotun after this adventure and not the Aesir.

Summary:
There were aspects of this game we liked very much and it is beautiful, but I wouldn’t shell out the money they are charging for hardcopy.  The base rules are US$70 and seem incomplete (need Norn guidance at the least).  I suspect the Norn will also need to buy the Denizens of the North book (another US$70) for opponents (I do not recommend Fafnir’s Treasure at all) and everyone will need runestones (the Norn will need 2 sets to have enough).  

PDFs are available for the rules, but they seem pricey and printing out anything will be ink/toner intensive.  Runestones can be hand crafted (which we did with wood bits I was using for wargame minis and colored Sharpies) or purchased.  If purchased, prices vary based on the quality you want – Pendelhaven sells a wooden set for US$25 that looked OK.  One of our players bought just a set of runes online for something between US$10-US$15, but I don’t remember exactly.



Session 1
Session 2
Session 3
Session 4
Sessions 5 and 6


Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Fate of the Norns – Fafnir’s Treasure – Sessions 5 and 6

[Fafnir’s Treasure is an introductory adventure written by Pendelhaven to introduce the game to players and gamemasters.  The Other GM is using it for our playtest.]

[Spoilers – This will spoil the intro adventure for this game system, so if that’s something that worries you, be aware.]

Player Characters
Bodil – a female Daughter of Ratatosk, Death Dancer sub-type (Essence: 6, Destiny: 2), Town Guard
Elric Windgazer – a male Galdr, Diviner sub-type (Essence: 4, Destiny: 3), Liberated Thrall
Einar – a male Galdr, Enchanter sub-type (Essence: 6, Destiny: 2), Gravedigger
Gunnarr – a male Galdr, Enchanter sub-type (Essence: 6, Destiny: 2), Foreign Import Merchant
Vigdis – a female Daughter of Ratatosk, Death Dancer sub-type (Essence: 4, Destiny: 3), Hero of Renown
Masrur – a male Ulfhednar, Wolfen sub-type (Essence: 6, Destiny: 2), Hunter/Trapper

Missed the Session
Bodil missed session 6.


Day 2, Sometime in the 2nd year of Fimbulwinter
[Session 5 resumed mid-fight, right where we left off at the end of Session 4.  The photos we took on our cell phones let us set up perfectly and resume immediately.]

Gunnarr moved around on the left to flank two of the trolls attacking Bodil.  He sang into existence Muspeli Nightmares, the heat and vapors escaping through the rents grinding on the trolls.  Elric cast Wrack on three of the trolls [activating the Multi metatag by chaining a Physical rune to it].  This knocked out the troll Masrur was fighting and injured the other two.  With the troll blocking him laid out on the ground, Masrur stepped over that troll and attack one of the others, which knocked it out, relieving some of the pressure on Bodil.

A separate troll that had been threatening Einar was now drawn by Bodil’s Taunt condition to attack her.  Luckily for Bodil, the troll had to use its remaining runes in-hand just to get to her and had none left to attack.  This left only two trolls attacking Bodil.  She was able to parry the attacks from one of the trolls, making use of Turn the Blade to force it to attack itself, but the final troll hit her twice, wounding her significantly.

Gunnarr and Masrur lowered the auras on them from Einar’s casting of Beckon Yggdrasil [back in Session 4].  Both vikings knew they were going to close in on the fight [for different reasons] and did not want to accidentally kill a companion with the aura effect.  Einar, pushing his aura to the limit, moved around on the viking’s right to flank the trolls.  Masrur moved into the trolls to attack [and out of Einar’s now 20-foot aura].  The trolls moved in to encircle Bodil and attack her, but Vigdis was able to aid in Bodil’s defense [finally realizing she could do so with one of her Passive Powers], so Bodil took no additional damage and was able to turn all the troll attacks back on them.

Gunnarr retreated on the viking’s left to get closer to Elric’s current position [and receive some much-needed healing], which triggered a contingency move Bodil had prepared and she stepped out of the ring of trolls.  Elric healed Gunnarr [returning the rune Gunnarr had tied to his sole healing power from the damage track] and then threw another Wrack attack at the trolls.  The fight ground on for a bit, the troll’s regeneration ability keeping them just up and attacking.

Gunnarr and Masrur both dropped the auras on them.  Gunnarr used his Agility to climb and jump over and past the trolls between him and Bodil to get to Bodil’s side [using his Tactician power to move during Upkeep without spending a rune].  There he loudly started singing Apples of Idun [with Amplify and Maintain metatags activated and making a Minor Sacrifice so only friends are affected], healing Bodil and Vigdis significantly.

With the vikings finally surrounding the trolls and their powers arrayed properly, the vikings put down the trolls.  [This fight was the entirety of Session 5.  See my notes at the end.  Session 6 starts below.]

After defeating the trolls in the Groaning Woods, the band of vikings hiked up the side of the mountain until they reach the cave Skridnir.  Cold water flowed from the cave, filling the bowl-shaped area just in front of the cave mouth with water that spilled over a fall opposite the cave mouth.  The sides of the bowl were steep and became impassible near the cave mouth.  Testing the water, the vikings found the shallowest parts to be chest high on most of the group [Masrur was noticeably taller, so it was only stomach-high on him, plus he was the only one with the Swimming skill].

Not wanting to get drenched wading through the high water, Gunnarr formulated a plan to make an ice raft and pole their way into the cave.  Elric used Beckon Jotunheim to thin the barrier between Midgard and that cold realm, freezing a 10-foot by 10-foot block of ice as deep as the water.  Einar then used his Power over Stone to shape stone poles out of the rock walls.  Gunnarr started lining the top of the ice raft with pine branches and needles to provide traction for the vikings when they stood on the ice raft.

While the vikings were crafting the ice raft, four watery hags rose from the waters and attacked!  [They were Rusalki, but none of us made the Lore check by enough to learn that.]  The hags used songs and screeches to attack the vikings or assist each other and catching the vikings flat-footed.  [They did a lot of Mental damage early, pre-empting most of our attacks the first round.  See my notes below about their powers.]

Einar cast Beckon Yggdrasil so Vigdis could take complete advantage of it [gaining maximum Aura and maximum Shroud, unfortunately this meant Vigdis could not initiate her power that granted her Taunt, which required the enemy attack her so she could defend against it].  The vikings got their wits about them quickly and mounted concentrated attacks against the hag with Taunt on it, quickly knocking it down.  The vikings then concentrated their attacks against the other hags, one-by-one, until they were all dead.  [This fight took less time than the last troll fight as we now knew how our powers worked and how they interacted with each other.]

Once the hags were dead, the vikings finished their ice raft and poled into the cave.  In the back of the cave, under the water, was a vast treasure.  The vikings searched for and located the ring that was their goal and then claimed their rewards from the treasure [see notes below] before leaving the cave.

Day 3, Sometime in the 2nd year of Fimbulwinter
The vikings returned to Evingard after a rest.  They snuck into town to avoid the town guards and made their way to the Snugly Duckling tavern.  Up on the second floor they knocked at Volstagg’s door and turned over the ring to him.

End of Session

[After playing all the way through the intro adventure, our opinion was that we liked aspects of the rules (like character creation and being able to boost powers by combining runes) but combat took waaaaaay too long (and we play HERO System).  We aren’t entirely certain if that is an issue with the rules or the fact that it takes a while to learn the rules and how they work.  The last fight “only” took one session, whereas the second troll fight took two sessions in their entirety.  But we never did better than one fight per session when facing opponents that were at our level.  Plus, we spent a lot of time working out how the rules interacted with themselves.  There is a lot of stuff that is vague and seems to assume you know what they meant.  On top of that, there are a very noticeable amount of editing issues, notably inconsistent usage of language forms.  This made it difficult to learn aspects of the system when no one knew “how it was supposed to go”.]

[Fafnir’s Treasure, the introductory adventure, is mostly a simplified version of the full set of the 1st edition of the rules.  Powers listed in the adventure do not always match up to the same power in the 2nd edition rule book, the edition currently for sale.  As a result, we are not certain if the discrepancies are due to different editions or going from simplified rules to complete rules.  Our Norn learned from the simplified rules, while the rest of us read the full rules, which caused some communication issues over the rules and how the Norn was doing things.  This would have been simplified if the main rules had a chapter that talked about how Fate of the Norns: Ragnarok is supposed to play – it does not.]

[Finally, there are definite document organization issues with both the main rule book and the introductory adventure.  It was difficult for us to find specific rules for things as parts were spread all through the books and there was no index.  I don’t know if this is part of the original source material or due to the translation to English, where things were, according to the translator, shuffled around a bit.  Combined with two versions of the rules (one in the rules and one in the introductory adventure) and this was much harder to use than it should have been.]

[TL: DR is this game is an attractive-looking product, but editing issues and needing an experienced player to learn the rules from means we will not be playing Fate of the Norns again.  This is a shame as it seemed to have a lot of potential, but its execution is lacking.]


Session 1
Session 2
Session 3
Session 4




Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Fate of the Norns – Fafnir’s Treasure – Session 4

[Fafnir’s Treasure is an introductory adventure written by Pendelhaven to introduce the game to players and gamemasters.  The Other GM is using it for our playtest.]

[Spoilers – This will spoil the intro adventure for this game system, so if that’s something that worries you, be aware.]

Player Characters
Bodil – a female Daughter of Ratatosk, Death Dancer subtype (Essence: 6, Destiny: 2), Town Guard
Elric Windgazer – a male Galdr, Diviner subtype (Essence: 4, Destiny: 3), Liberated Thrall
Einar – a male Galdr, Enchanter subtype (Essence: 6, Destiny: 2), Gravedigger
Gunnarr – a male Galdr, Enchanter subtype (Essence: 6, Destiny: 2), Foreign Import Merchant
Vigdis – a female Daughter of Ratatosk, Death Dancer subtype (Essence: 4, Destiny: 3), Hero of Renown
Masrur – a male Ulfhednar, Wolfen subtype (Essence: 6, Destiny: 2), Hunter/Trapper

Missed the Session
None!


Day 2, Sometime in the 2nd year of Fimbulwinter
Having finally rested, the group of Vikings packed up their camp and resumed making their way through the Groaning Woods.  As the group pressed through the eerily quiet woods, they heard the heavy tread of trolls ahead.

After a quick consult, Masrur ran a little ahead in his Blood Wolf form.  He kept the immense trees of the Groaning Wood between himself and the trolls, but one of the trolls heard him moving and called out, “What’s that?”  Masrur stopped moving and listened.  He heard troll voices talking amongst themselves and determined there were at least four trolls.  Masrur turned to return and deliver this news to his fellow Vikings when one of the trolls saw him, calling out, “Food!  Get it!”

The other Vikings took cover behind several trees and waited for Masrur to lead the trolls into an ambush.  Masrur ran through the group of trees and when the first trolls spotted the Vikings, the Vikings attacked.  The group focused their attacks on the first troll, attempting to put it down and shift the odds as they could now see 6 trolls.  Gunnarr took tactical advantage [a Passive Power allowing him to move up or down the initiative order] of the situation to be ready for the trolls.  Einar used runes to cast Stitch Kindred on himself, Bodil, and Vigdis.  They would share healing and divide wounds amongst themselves.

Gunnarr had Muspeli Nightmares ready on his lips and sang the words, letting the heat and air of Muspelheim leak through into Midgard.  This did little to stop the troll from attacking the first thing he saw in reach of his sharpened tree – Gunnarr.  [This knocked one of Gunnarr’s runes all the way through the wound track and moved a second rune half way down and gave him Impeded.  The worst part was that these were the rune tied to his healing power (Apples of Idun) and his lone Mental rune, which I wanted to use to Maintain Muspeli Nightmares – the worst two runes for Gunnarr to lose and they were gone at the start of the fight.]

As the two groups closed in and attacked each other, the trolls landed more injury than the Vikings, even though the Vikings killed one of the trolls outright.  Sensing some level of desperation Einar gestured the runes to Beckon Yggdrasil in the air, thinning the boundary between worlds.  The alkas [the thinned areas] landed on Einar and Masrur and adjacent to Gunnarr and Elric.

Unfortunately, with the Vikings packed together to kill the first troll, the otherworldly auras now emanating from Einar and Masrur injured the Vikings more than the trolls.  Gunnarr staggered through one of the alkas and continued past it so he would not affect the others.  He cast Muspeli Nightmares again to harm the trolls, singing loudly to increase the area effected [I chained a Spiritual rune to the rune I used to cast the spellsong, allowing me to double the area to a 20 foot radius].  Although only one troll was initially effected, Bodil drew the ire of all the trolls with her cruel taunts and suckered them into the area of effect [I don’t remember the name of the power she used, but all the trolls now must attack her or spend one rune to allow them to attack someone else – a dangerous tactic with trolls].

Elric picked up the fourth alka and then cast runes for Wrack on a troll attempting to flank the Vikings.  Musrur moved forward to move the aura emanating from him away from Bodil and Vigdis and take the attack to the trolls.  This left him within reach of two trolls.

[By now it was late, but we all wanted to complete this fight to its conclusion, so we took pictures of the battle map, the initiative order, and all the play mats (used to show damage on the characters and the NPCs).  We will resume in mid-fight next week and hope we can fight our way out to success or ascend to Valhalla by our heroic deeds!]

End of Session

[Holy smoke did Beckon Yggdrasil make things complicated.  All three characters part of the Stitch Kindred spell were inside the area of effect of two auras, meaning they took full damage from both.  Ouch!  The auras do not let you discriminate between friend or foe – they just damage everything within 10 feet and our party was all within 10 feet of each other at the time.]

[It also took us about 30 minutes to work out the timing of damage done by the Degeneration condition I placed on the trolls versus their Regeneration power.  The rules say both powers happen during the upkeep phase and allows characters to choose the order they are applied.  This allowed the troll in question to regenerate before taking the damage that would have killed him, meaning he stayed in the fight another round until we finally dropped him with the Auras.]

[These are the kinds of things we wanted to learn by working all the way through a real combat and why we didn’t want the Norn to call the fight at the end.  Some characters were able to use their powers for the first time and also take damage for the first time and see how the damage track really works.  As such, we are keen to finish this combat, no matter what happens.]


Session 1
Session 2
Session 3

Sessions 5 and 6

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Game Delay Due to Lack of Norn

We haven't played in two weeks due to the Norn having heavy coursework, so nothing to report there.  The Norn says his classwork will be lighter next week so there will be a game.

I've done the red-line edits to Book 2 of the Barrowmaze Session Notes.  I have about half those edits entered into the text.  I'll get most of the rest in tonight, but it might not be all of them - the document is 84 pages in length and I have 37 pages of edits entered.  Once the edits are in I'll make it into a PDF and put in the bookmarks.  Once that is done I'll post the Book 2 file here on the blog.

[UPDATE: Done and posted.  See the Downloads section to the right or go to this blog post and follow the link there.]

After that, I'll go back and do another edit and format check on Book 1.  Once it is formatted the same as Book 2, I'll combine the two files into one big file consisting of all of Season 1 and post it on DriveThruRPG as Pay-What-You-Want.  [I still need to set up my account there, so that's another step I need to take care of.]

I've had an idea for a small bridging campaign after Fate of the Norns but before we start back with Barrowmaze.  I want to run a short campaign where the players are students at the university Vorgand, Daphne's porter, attends during the rainy season.  They've heard Vorgand's stories and formed their own Dungeon Delving Club to explore a local ruin with some odd legends.

I want to talk with the rest of the group to see if they are interested in the idea and which game system they would like me to run it in.  I'm leaning toward HERO System as it would be most flexible for low level characters, allowing differentiation between characters that 0-level D&D characters don't get.  I'll let folks here know once I have a chance to discuss it with the rest of the group.

Later!

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Fate of the Norns – Fafnir’s Treasure – Session 3

[Fafnir’s Treasure is an introductory adventure written by Pendelhaven to introduce the game to players and gamemasters.  The Other GM is using it for our playtest.]

[Spoilers – This will spoil the intro adventure for this game system, so if that’s something that worries you, be aware.]

Player Characters
Elric Windgazer – a male Galdr, Diviner subtype (Essence: 4, Destiny: 3), Liberated Thrall
Einar – a male Galdr, Enchanter subtype (Essence: 6, Destiny: 2), Gravedigger
Gunnarr – a male Galdr, Enchanter subtype (Essence: 6, Destiny: 2), Foreign Import Merchant
Vigdis – a female Daughter of Ratatosk, Death Dancer subtype (Essence: 4, Destiny: 3), Hero of Renown
Bodil – a female Daughter of Ratatosk, Death Dancer subtype (Essence: 6, Destiny: 2), Town Guard

Missed the Session
Masrur – a male Ulfhednar, Wolfen subtype (Essence: 6, Destiny: 2), Hunter/Trapper
[Masrur’s player could not make the game due to illness.]


Day 1, Sometime in the 2nd year of Fimbulwinter
[We resumed right where we left off last session.]
Vigdis, Bodil, and Gunnarr, fresh off of picking a fight with the town guard [See Session 2], hustled into the tavern to talk with a prospective employer.  The trio picked up Elric and Einar, telling the two that they had a line on an employer, but they needed to move quickly.  Einar asked Gunnarr if there was room for another on the job [thinking about Rolf the street urchin].  Gunnarr said he had no idea – they should find out what the job was first.  Einar accepted that reasoning.

Following the directions given by Hakon [before Vigdis started a fight with him and the rest of the town guard], the five vikings went up to the second floor of the tavern and rapped [politely] on the first door on the left.  A man with brown hair, a long beard, and standing at least ten feet tall opened the door.  If the group had not traveled to Evingard with someone just as tall, this would have been near to shocking.  The man asked what the group wanted.

Gunnarr explained the group had heard that the worthy man was looking to hire servants for a quest and this group was here to serve as best they could.  The man raised an eyebrow and then looked the group over.  Nodding at last, he explained the quest.

His name was Volstagg and he was a newly created Einherjar.  He was assigned by Odin to come retrieve Fafnir’s cursed treasure.  However, being new to his immortal state, Volstagg was prone to bouts of rage where he would attack and kill all around him.  Therefore, he needed servants to go out and retrieve the treasure while he stayed in his room to continue to adjust to his new immortal form.  The vikings were charged with securing a ring in the treasure, the ring Andvaranaut, and return it to Volstagg to prove the job was done and the path to the treasure clear.  In exchange for doing this, the group of vikings would be allowed to keep one item from the treasure.  When asked [by Gunnarr] what would happen to the rest of the treasure, Volstagg stated it would be taken to Odin to help prepare for the coming of Ragnarok.

Harboring some reservations about the whole thing but needing to get out of town, Gunnarr looked over to see if the other vikings we willing to accept the quest.  They all nodded, so Gunnarr accepted the quest on behalf of the group.  Volstagg told the vikings that the treasure could be found in the cave Skridnir, near the mines this town was famous for.  Gunnarr thanked the einherjar for the information and the quest and bid him farewell.

The group of vikings went downstairs and discussed what they knew about the approaches to Skridnir.  Looking at a map, they could see that Skridnir was west of the town and there seemed to be three routes to the cave: through the Ancient Barrows, through the Groaning Woods, or up the icefall known as Hreidnar’s Tears [the map handout did not actually show this, but the Norn explained it to us – see my comments about the map later].  None of the group knew any more than that, but Bodil and Elric knew a local druid, Ivar, and Bodil asked if they should go talk to him.  The rest liked this idea and so they all went to Ivar’s home.

Ivar’s home was on a low hill inside the town walls [we think – the adventure was unclear on this point].  Ivar and his many wives were home and the druid was willing to talk with Bodil, Elric, and their friends.  Bodil and Elric led the discussion with Ivar, asking him about the possible dangers on the three routes to Skridnir.  Ivar said the Ancient Barrows were cursed – haunted by the ghosts of four children whose parents’ graves had been desecrated.  The Groaning Woods used to be safer, but since the beginning of Fimbulwinter, trolls had taken up residence there.  The rumor was that there is a cave deep in the woods that leads to Jotunheim, which is where the trolls came from.  Hreidnar’s Tears is now completely ice-covered and impassible.  [This sounded odd to us, but the Norn said there was no explanation other than it was impassible.  We, the players, wrote it off to “plot reasons” and let it go.]

The vikings discussed the routes in light of this new information and decided that the woods seemed to be the easiest path: they knew they could hit trolls – ghosts they were not as certain about.  Bodil and Elric asked Ivar if there was any other help he might be able to give the group and Ivar offered six healing potions.  The vikings gratefully accepted the potions and then left.  As the vikings left Ivar’s home, Gunnarr noticed some town guards making their way towards them or possibly Ivar’s home.  They decided to not find out which and “walked casual” away.

The vikings then fell to discussing how they would get to Skridnir: skis or snow shoes.  While most of the vikings had skis or both skis and snow shoes, Gunnarr only had snow shoes, which would make him fall behind.  Gunnarr countered that by getting a cart and ox he had stored in Evingard.  They would all ride and stick together.  The rest were quite OK with riding rather than walking and agreed.

After travelling for some hours, the group arrived at the Groaning Woods.  Elric’s navigation saved the group a fair amount of time getting there.  The trees were immense – it would take six adult men linking hands to encompass just one of the trees.  The branches grew high and thick, blocking out what little light there was from the stars so that under the trees all was dark and ominously quiet.

With no sun or moon to track the time in the dim twilight of Fimbulwinter, the group had been active nearly non-stop since arriving at the docks.  Feeling tired and somewhat safe away from the town [and the town guard], the vikings decided to stop and rest before pushing on.  Tents were set up and a fire started for warmth and to cook food.

Before anyone could get to sleep, the thumps of heavy tread alerted the vikings to approaching danger.  The vikings circled the fire, facing out.  The heavy thump sounds came from all around, and then five immense trolls appeared, surrounding the camp.  The trolls brandished tree trunks with sharpened branch-stumps sticking out of them.  Both groups stared at each other for a moment and then the trolls started their attack.  The trolls got several easy attacks in on the vikings due to their reach, with the viking counter-attacks doing little damage to the troll’s thick hides.

Feeling desperate and needing a way to tilt the battle to favor the vikings, Gunnarr sang the spell song Muspeli Nightmares with as much fervor as he could.  A small aperture formed and the atmosphere and heat of Muspelheim spread out, covering the entire battle.  The fumes and heat paralyzed the trolls, who, being ice creatures, slowly started melting.  The other vikings cut down the trolls to quickly end their suffering.

End of Session

[Muspeli Nightmares is a bit complicated, despite the short description given of its effects, and should be explained as it provides an example of several Fate of the Norns: Ragnarok game mechanisms.  Gunnarr had wyrded (drawn) the rune he tied to this power (Uruz in this case) and his sole Mental rune this round.  Activating this power required use of Uruz and a Minor Sacrifice +1, meaning he drew one of his runes from his Essence pool and put it into Stun, leaving three runes in his Essence.  It took a separate Minor Sacrifice +1 to only effect enemies in the area of effect (an option granted to spell songs).]

[Next Gunnarr chained his Void rune (which is always available each round) to the Uruz rune – meaning he played it along with the Uruz rune.  The Void rune acts as a Physical rune for Gunnarr, which granted the “Area” meta to the power, doubled the free Area meta all spell songs get to a 40-foot radius.  He also chained his lone Mental rune, which activated the “Maintain” meta for Muspeli Nightmares, allowing him to keep the power active over multiple turns (without Maintain, all powers only act for the current round and then end).  This tied down his Void rune and two of the six runes in Gunnarr's Essence for as long as he kept the power active, plus activating the power put two runes in Stun (he’d get them back in the next Upkeep phase), leaving only two runes in his Essence.  That was a significant investment of runes into one attack, but paralyzing the trolls at this juncture seemed worth it.]

[Muspeli Nightmares does Mental damage (which for this casting stole runes from the trolls In-Hand category first) instead of Physical (which pulls them from Essence, moves one of them at a time down the wound track until they hit Death category, and then pulling the next one down).  The power also invoked the “Degeneration” condition on the trolls, meaning they took half their level as damage each Upkeep.  With the expanded area, all of the trolls were affected.  When the power was cast, and during each Upkeep phase while maintained, Muspeli Nightmares steals two runes from each troll and they were only drawing two runes each turn, leaving them with zero runes In-Hand.  With zero runes In-Hand, they could perform no actions as every action requires the use of a rune.  As long as Gunnarr maintained the power, the trolls were paralyzed and slowly dying.]

[Not surprisingly, the Norn called the game for the night once the trolls were paralyzed.  It was stopping time and the players were just going to slaughter the trolls at this point.  Several of the players wanted to continue so they could actually use their powers and see how they worked, but the Norn was done for the night.]

[So is Muspeli Nightmares over powered?  I don’t think so, especially compared to some of the other powers available to the players.  This was the first time I had drawn that rune in four fights.  Also, I was lucky to have drawn my single Mental rune at the same time, and it is necessary to Maintain the power.  Plus, I sank four of my six runes plus my Void rune into that one attack.  That left me only two runes as hit points and/or to move or defend myself.  A Skald with only four Essence would have had zero left and been rooted in place.  Archers (far enough away) would have been safe and able to target Gunnarr.  Is it OP for this adventure?  Probably.  We’ll see.  The Norn says we are within a session or two of completing the adventure and then I can get a better look at how it is written.]

[Speaking of.  The map handout is terribly inaccurate and doesn’t match the adventure text very well.  The text says Evingard is divided into two parts, but the map clearly shows three.  The text says that Skridnir is near the mines, but the map shows Skridnir to the west of town and has an arrow pointing off map to the north, locating the mines in that direction.  The map shows that you must get past Hreidmar’s Tears to get to the Groaning Wood, but the text lists it as a separate option.  This is bad editing and lack of paying attention to the details, which seems to be endemic to this adventure.  As this adventure was written for an earlier edition, I would have thought fixing those issues would have happened as part of an update, but it looks like no update actually happened to the adventure between editions, just a change in the copyright information.  This does not bode well for their other products.  Their other, very expensive, products.]

[The players have also decided that sticking together is way better than splitting up.  The archetypes each do something very well, but other things poorly.  They seem to be designed to require the group to always stay together or fall flat on their face.  This is not bad from a design standpoint, but it would have been nice if there was a GM section that explained things like that to the Norn.  There is no guidance for running in the main rules and I’m hoping that that material is in the notes for Fafnir’s Treasure and our Norn just missed it.  It is sorely needed advice if you do not have an experienced GM to explain things.]



Session 1
Session 2

Session 4

Monday, March 4, 2019

Quick Status Update

I just wanted to post a quick status update of the various write-ups I have due this week.

Barrowmaze Using ACKS, Book 2: The Revengers is assembled and formatted, but I need to give it an edit before posting it.  I expect to post links to it later this week.  I will also be doing a format touch up on Book 1 for consistency between the two.  Next week I plan to post a combined PDF to DriveThruRPG as a Pay-What-You-Want item.  I would not say no to some pizza money in exchange for my content, but the free downloads will remain active here.  Depending on interest, I might do something similar for the other campaigns I've documented here (the Shadowrun campaign, the Dyson's Delve using Pathfinder campaign, the Traveller using HERO System campaign [see the Fragments summary page], etc.).  I'll post a link when it's ready and available.

Fate of the Norns: Ragnarok, Session 3 still needs to be typed up, but should be posted tomorrow, I just don't know if it will be early in the day or later in the afternoon yet.  Worst case is that it will be posted Wednesday morning.

1650: The Miniseries has completed its run.  The the first pass of the session notes for Session 4 have been typed up, but I need to go back and add additional details and perform an edit of the content.  It should post later this week, possibly as late as Friday.  Depends upon how busy the Day Job ends up being this week.

That's it for now.  Thank you for reading!

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Fate of the Norns – Fafnir’s Treasure – Session 2

[Fafnir’s Treasure is an introductory adventure written by Pendelhaven to introduce the game to players and gamemasters.  The Other GM is using it for our playtest.]

[Spoilers – This will spoil the intro adventure for this game system, so if that’s something that worries you, be aware.]

Player Characters
Bodil – a female Daughter of Ratatosk, Death Dancer sub-type (E:6, D:2), Town Guard
Einar – a male Galdr, Enchanter sub-type (E:6, D:2), Gravedigger
Gunnarr – a male Skald, Wanderer sub-type (E:6, D:2), Foreign Import Merchant
Vigdis – a female Daughter of Ratatosk, Death Dancer sub-type (E:4, D:3), Hero of Renown
Elric Windgazer – a male Galdr, Diviner sub-type (E:4, D:3), Liberated Thrall

Missed the Session
Masrur – a male Ulfhednar, Wolfen sub-type (E:6, D:2), Hunter/Trapper

[Masrur’s player could not make the game and Einar’s player was able to make it this time.  Gunnarr changed archetypes to match more closely the way he was being played.]


Day 1, Sometime in the 2nd year of Fimbulwinter
[We resumed right where we left off last session.]
After dispatching the group of rowdies in the Poortown part of Evingard, the group of vikings checked the bodies for things of value.  There was a short discussion about whether taking things of the body of the recently dead counted as graverobbing and was therefore a major social breach or not.  The consensus was that these individuals were not worthy of the attentions of Valkyrie nor buried yet, so they were still exempt.

The gang had a total of 16 skatt [local currency] total on them.  Divided 5 ways made 4 shares of 3 and one share of 4.  As killing the gang was done to help Vigdis get more information from the captain of the guard, Gunnar only asked for three of the skatt so he could pay his tab at the tavern.  Vigdis gave him four as her food and lodging was covered for free [the advantage of being a renowned hero].  Vigdis also took the red cloth bands the gang members wore as identification.

Elric and Einar decided they wanted to speak with Rolf, a street urchin they knew who traded in information.  They eventually tracked him down digging through the refuse from the tavern for food and anything of value.  Einar asked if Rolf knew anything about the goings on at the mine.  Rolf said he didn’t, but he knew something useful that might or might not be related.  Einar gave Rolf a day's worth of food and Rolf told the two vikings that he’d heard a Jotun named Aud was in the area looking to hire capable servants for a quest he was on, and by capable he meant able to fight.  If they were interested in the job, Aud was staying in a warehouse outside the walls of Evingard.  Einar and Elric thanked Rolf for the information and went inside the tavern to wait for the others to get back.

Bodil and Gunnarr, meanwhile, followed Vigdis back to the barracks to see what information Hakon, the captain of the guard, might share.  Hakon was in the main chamber of the barracks alone when the trio arrived.  [There was a discrepancy here – the Norn said Hakon was alone in the building and we assumed there were no guards in the building.  Apparently, he was alone in this room, with guards in other rooms.  This difference might have changed what Vigdis did.  Or it might not have – she was spoiling for a fight after not getting to do anything against the gang of rowdies.]

Vigdis threw all 16 cloth insignia at Hakon and asked for the information.  Hakon looked through the cloths, noticing that most had some blood on them.  Satisfied that Vigdis had taken care of the problem for him, Hakon told her there was a person named Volstagg renting a room on the second floor of the tavern who was looking to hire strong warriors for something.  Hakon described Volstagg as a large man with a long beard and brown hair.  As the conversation was winding down, Hakon insulted Vigdis [he referred to her as “Missy” in an insulting tone].

Vigdis pushed Hakon up against the wall and asked him to repeat himself.  When he didn’t, Vigdis drew her smaller longsword [she has two, one regular sized and a splendid one that was larger than normal].  Hakon apparently felt threatened enough to call for help and attack Vigdis with his axe.  She parried the axe back upon Hakon and he injured himself with it [she performed a Defend action and reduced his damage to zero, which activated her passive power Turn the Blade, forcing Hakon to defend against his own attack at full strength].

Gunnarr and Bodil initially stayed out of the fight, as it appeared Vigdis could handle Hakon by herself, but when five guards showed up, weapons drawn, they went after the guards.  Gunnarr stepped up to face two of the guards, but was quickly overwhelmed.  Bodil taunted the guards with wicked insults while parrying their attacks, drawing all their ire upon her and saving Gunnarr.  Gunnarr repaid the favor by power attacking two of the guards trying to bracket Bodil with cheap attacks [Bodil could easily block any one or two attacks made against her, but five attacks was wearing her down quickly].  Vigdis repeatedly redirected Hakon’s attacks against her back into himself, bloodying him.  Then five more guards showed up, calling for the vikings to surrender.

Knowing that meekly surrendering would make a poor ending for the tale of actions [and likely lead to Hakon abusing the trio], Gunnarr instead scrambled through a nearby window, ready with the song of the Apples of Ildun on his lips to heal Bodil’s wounds when she joined him in fleeing [Gunnar had two runes in contingency, one to cast Apples of Ildun, a healing spell he finally drew the rune for, when Bodil got close enough and the other to run after casting the spell on Bodil].  Bodil quickly followed Gunnarr through the window, gracefully jumping through it [she has the skill Athletics while Gunnarr doesn’t].  As soon as she landed next to Gunnarr, he sang of the Apples of Ildun healing Bodil as they ran down the street.

Back in the barracks, Vigdis could see that the tide had turned against her and she danced around the guards and climbed through the window.  She quickly caught up with Bodil and Gunnarr and the trio laughed and ran through the streets back to the tavern, well aware that they needed to leave town quickly.

End of Session

[As you might have noticed, I did switch Gunnarr over to Skald, hence his use of spell song this session and not the Rune Blade.]

[After the session we worked out the Norn was using one of the attacks the guards had incorrectly, allowing them to do much more damage than they should have.  Even so, the armor they had blunted most of our attacks.  We also discovered the weakness of only having a Destiny of 2 and Essence of 6 – your options were limited in combat and you rarely got the exact power you wanted.  Gunnarr never drew the rune tied to his single healing power until it was time to flee.  Bodil had to keep her two runes ready for defensive actions, and never drew the attack that would allow her to attack more than one guard at a time.  Vigdis, who had a Destiny of 3 and an Essence of 4 almost always drew the runes she wanted or at least a usable combination of runes.]

[We are starting to believe that 4 Essence/3 Destiny is a better solution for a starting character.  Not for all circumstances, but for most, being able to draw most of your runes and having a consistent mix is beneficial.  The downside is that your Essence is also your hit points (indirectly), so having a 6 Essence when you take damage allows you to stay in the fight longer and keep options.  When Vigdis started taking damage, she quickly lost options as her runes were lost to the wound track.]


Session 1

Session 3