Thursday, February 14, 2019

Fate of the Norns – Fafnir’s Treasure – Session 1

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

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

Player Characters

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

Missed the Session
Einar – a male Galdr, Enchanter subtype (Essence: 6, Destiny: 2), Gravedigger

[All characters started as Level 10 for character creation, which is at the top end of low-level characters.  Each character archetype has three subtypes that help differentiate characters playing the same archetype a bit.  Powers and Skills chosen during character creation do that better.]

[Galdr are runecasters, one of three types of magic in the game.  The other two types of magic are Seith and Spellsong.]

[Daughters of Ratatosk emulate Ratatosk, the cosmic squirrel that runs messages up and down Yggdrasil between the eagle that lives on the top of Yggdrasil and the dragon that gnaws on the roots of Yggdrasil.  Ratatosk twists the messages to keep the two antagonistic towards each other and the Daughters of Ratatosk taunt opponents into brash actions that they can dance around.]

[Ulfhednar are warriors with a wolf motif and a tendency to turn into a giant wolf.  We are starting to think they may be overpowered, but we’re not certain yet.]

Day 1, Sometime in the 2nd year of Fimbulwinter
A group of viking would-be heroes and one hero of renown [Vigdis] heard that the mine near the town of Evingard had mysteriously stopped producing ore.  Rumor had it that there was a reward to be had for re-opening the mine and defeating whatever was the problem.  The group traveled by longship to Evingard, across the ice-choked sea and surviving several monster attacks on the way.  They and the captain of the longship were the only survivors of the trip.

Evingard was a walled town that showed signs of a recent attack by raiders.  Parts of the wall were still smoking and charred, bodies were still being cleared, and blood was congealing in the snow and on the walls.  The local town guards at the gate challenged the group to state their business.  Gunnarr stated that the group had heard the mine was no longer producing and were here to do something about it.  Masrur, a mountain of a man, just growled at the guards.  Vigdis stated she was here to see Hakon, the Captain of the Guard.  Satisfied with these answers, the guards let the vikings into Evingard.

The vikings split up to find different locals they knew who might provide more information as to what is going on.  [Part of the set up for the adventure, the Norn (the GM) assigned three local contacts to each PC based on their background occupation.]  Masrur suggested going to the tavern for drinks [which our group immediately renamed to “The Snugly Duckling”] and those not going there agreed to meet there later.

Gunnarr went to the local house of pleasure where he knew the owner, Astrid.  Astrid was talking with a client to get him paired off correctly, so Gunnarr patiently waited as he had no money to spend after the trip to Evingard.  Once Astrid was available to talk, Gunnarr greeted her, telling her he was in town about the problem with the mine.  Astrid knew the mine had stopped producing ore but little else.  The one thing she knew that caught Gunnarr’s ear was that the mine was considered un-owned now.  While this meant no owner would pay to have the mine issue fixed, being able to claim a known, profitable mine was a reward in itself.  Astrid suggested Gunnarr talk with Sven at the Snugly Duckling for more information about the mine.  Then Gunnarr and Astrid exchanged news and gossip about other places that each had heard.  Once those social niceties were complete, Gunnarr headed over to the tavern.

Vigdis went over to the barracks for the town guard, looking for Hakon.  She found some other guards who recognized her standing around a fire pit to keep warm.  Vigdis asked where Hakon was and was told he was questioning some troublemakers.  Knowing Hakon was a bully who kept control through power and domination, Vigdis knew that “questioning” was really “beating up on” and making enemies of the guard was not what she was here for.  She instead stood with the guards around the fire pit and made small talk until Hakon came out from the back of the building.

Hakon and Vigdis talked.  Vigdis learned that about four months ago, no one returned from the mine.  When the owner went to see what the problem was, he never returned either.  A few more went to see what the trouble was and they never returned.  With no ore from the mine, commerce through the town stopped.  Hakon indicated that he had some additional information Vigdis would want, but he needed a favor done before he’d share the information.  There was a group of rowdies over in the Poortown part of Evingard who were causing no end of trouble.  If Vigdis would “take care of them”, Hakon would share this additional information.

Vigdis thought it over and then accepted the proposal.  Hakon told her where the rowdies would be and how to identify them.  She then left the barracks and headed to the Snugly Duckling.  It never hurt to have some friends backing you up.

Masrur, Bodil, and Elric had walked from the town gate to the Snugly Duckling.  Along the way, they saw a pair of owls, one black, one white, sitting on a roof.  Both owls took off as they were noticed and Elric interpreted this as an omen that someone would lie to and betray them this day.  [He made a successful Omens and Portents check per the adventure.]

At the Snugly Duckling, Masrur and Bodil were warmly greeted by Sven the bartender and owner of the tavern.  Elric and Sven were introduced to each other and then the group fell to talking.  Sven knew some about the mine and shared that information with the trio of vikings [same information Vigdis gained from Hakon], but he also knew one other thing – rumor was that Fafnir’s Treasure had been located within the mine and the curse on that treasure was why people were disappearing and the town was being attacked.

Sven shared a brief retelling of the story of Fafnir’s Treasure.  As he was wrapping up with the story [this was Read Aloud text in the adventure], Vigdis and Gunnarr arrived at the tavern.  They were introduced to Sven as friends and the group exchanged information.  Gunnarr got into a side conversation with Sven, focusing on the ownership of the mine and how Gunnarr might acquire it if the previous owner was dead [and Gunnarr wasn’t above helping that worthy achieve Valhalla if it came to it].  Gunnarr was aware that the local Chief would need to be approached about this [successful Etiquette check] and learned from Sven that Ingvar held that title as his clan house was in town, an unusual location for a clan of the Wolf Tribe, which favored the wilds.  The previous owner [Olaf Olafsson] had a deal with Ingvar to share the profit and ore from the mine in order to claim ownership.  Sven suggested that Gunnarr would have to make the same deal to claim the mine for himself.  Gunnarr was fine with this.  Gunnarr arranged a tab with Sven in exchange for news of other places and ordered the house specialty – raspberry salmon fishcakes  and some mead.

Vigdis explained to the group that she might have access to additional information from the Captain of the Guard, but had to go clear out some rowdies in Poortown.  The rest of the group volunteered to help and the group left the tavern to go find the trouble.

When they left the tavern, a group of wild-eyed villagers accosted them, threatening violence.  The vikings responded with actual violence and rapidly beat them down, Masrur immediately turned into a Blood Wolf and Elric cast rune magic to put all eight down quickly.  Gunnarr took the time to drag the bodies out of the road and placed them to the side.

[This was an introductory fight to give new players a taste of how combat worked in Fate of the Norns: Ragnarok.  There was no way the PCs could lose this fight and it barely lasted one round of combat.  We initially thought we had killed them all, but I later remembered that the last rune stopped at the top of the wound track when it first entered there.  This made the Denizens (NPCs) unconscious but bleeding to death if not healed in any way.  I like this mechanism as it allows characters to be taken prisoner without adding any additional necessary actions to accomplish it.]

Vigdis led the group through Poortown, to a street on the far north side of town.  There the vikings found a gang of 18 ruffians who thought the vikings were fresh meat until Masrur came around the corner in giant wolf form [about 17 feet long, snout to tail tip].  Masrur charged in amongst the ruffians, biting and clawing them as he went, and dropped most of them to the ground.  Elric, Bodil, and Vigdis took down most of the remaining ruffians, leaving a lone survivor at the end of the round [Gunnar summoned and maintained a Rune Blade, but this took both of his runes to do and left him with no runes to advance or attack with – the downside to a 2 Destiny].  Masrur ended the final ruffian before he could run.

End of Session

[The session ran very long as we spent an hour+ at the beginning finalizing characters and equipment and putting them all on character sheets.  I wish Pendelhaven made a version without the background image – it uses a lot of toner to little effect on a black-and-white printer.  Same with the play sheet (for handling runes and damage during combat) and, in fact, the rules themselves.  I printed out the metatags section and the conditions section for quick reference during the game and they just suck down the toner.  I don’t have to print sections out, but with only two rulebooks for the playtest and six players, extra copies speed things up.]

[Fafnir’s Treasure takes place after the first year of Fimbulwinter.  The implied setting in the rules is some time after all three years of Fimbulwinter have happened, but before the Jotun complete their ship to sail and attack Asgard.  Actual dates are never mentioned and there is no timeline in the rules, though there is a text description of the general sequence of events regarding Ragnarok.  I think the odd timing is because the adventure was written for an earlier edition of the game that is set in Fimbulwinter, not after it.  As a technical writer and editor by trade, this is at least distracting and worries me that they did not think to update all of their materials when they went to 2nd edition.  What else is going to be wrong or out of synch with the current rules?]

[The Ulfhednar archetype feels over powered right now (although the player is very much enjoying it), but we’ve only faced opponents significantly weaker than us so far, so I’m not certain how out of balance it might be.  Masrur is easily equal to the entire rest of the group in combat, which seems like an issue.  This is another place where we’ll have to wait and see if there are big things later in the adventure that justify that level of combat prowess in starting characters.]

[Incidentally, I’m thinking of changing Gunnarr over to being a Skald.  I’m playing him as a form of information broker/news exchange person anyway, and that’s really the realm of the skalds.  The Norn is allowing us to change up our characters for the first two or three session as we get more familiar with the system and see what works and what doesn’t.  This might be a bigger change than he was expecting, but I’m going to look at the skald power and skill “bingo charts” to see if it has things I want.  More on this later.]

Session 2 [Not written yet]

Friday, February 8, 2019

Barrowmaze using ACKS - Compilations

This page provides links to the compilations of my session notes for my Barrowmaze using ACKS campaign.  It will be periodically updated as compilations become available.  Links also appear in the Downloads sidebar on the blog.

Season 1

This is a PDF of Sessions 1-11 of the campaign, comprising the rise and eventual TPK of the first adventuring group, The Motley Crew.

Book 2: Rise of the Revengers [Not compiled yet]
This is a PDF of Sessions 12-35 of the campaign, comprising the the creation of the adventuring group The Revengers and continuing to the end of the first adventuring season.

Season 2

This is a placeholder for the next adventuring season's session note compilation, once it happens.  

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Fate of the Norns: Ragnarok - Session 0

Fate of the Norns: Ragnarok is a new game for the group, so Session 0 was part character creation and part explanation of the rules and world.  We have two copies of the rules [both purchased at PAX South by one of the players] and one copy was left with me to read before Session 0.  This allowed me to have some familiarity with the rules and where things are in the book.  I should note we are using the Second Edition of Fate of the Norns: Ragnarok.

Some notes about the book design.  It is covered with artwork that is evocative of the sagas and the feel of Norse artwork from the 900's, at least to my eye.  One of the players doesn't care for folk art and was a bit put off by the artwork.  He later came around and is excited to play after we [mostly] finished character creation.

The organization of the book makes it a useful reference document, but a bit awkward to learn the rules from.  Concepts like rune chains [groups of runes played together as one action] are used pages before they are fully explained.  I was able to get the gist of what was meant, but was scratching my head as to implications.  Having read the rules entirely and then gone through character creation, I think I might need to read through them again to get a fuller understanding of the rules.  This is a barrier to entry for new players and new gamers might be inclined to return the game at this point, especially considering the hefty price tag [$70 for the paperback, $90 for the hardcover].

That said, the rules seem interesting and I'm very interested in seeing how things play out.  The game uses Futhark Runes as randomizers.  I made my own using some wooden disks I had plus Sharpie markers in Red, Blue, and Black [should have been green to match the colors used in the game, but I didn't have a green Sharpie].  The runes are divided into three sets of eight and color coded to align with the three primary Traits: Physical (red), Mental (blue), and Spiritual (green).  I could order a set of wooden runes from the publishers, Pendelhaven, but at $24.95 for what might be a one-shot, creating my own seemed a better bet.  I might change my mind later after we play for a while - we'll see.

Unlike other games, the Norn [FOTNR's term for the GM] decides what level the players start at.  Low level characters seem to be from level 5 to 10, but there is nothing in the rule book that actually says that.  Our Norn started us at Level 10 as the adventure he's running, The Treasure of Fafnir, recommends that.

[Sidebar 1: The Treasure of Fafnir is an intro adventure for the game and seems to be written for first time players and GMs.  It might be the "other book" containing the rules and guidelines for GMs I feel are missing from the main rule book.  As it is the adventure we are going to play, I can't read it yet, so we'll see.]

Levels are used as build points to purchase Essence and Destiny.  Essence is how many runes of the total 24 runes are attached to your character.  Destiny is how many runes you draw when you need to draw runes [which happens for several different reasons].  Each point of Essence costs 1 level and each point of Destiny costs 2 levels.  With 10 levels to spend, I bought 6 Essence and 2 Destiny, which most of the group did.  This gave us a lot of options, but very few will be available at any one time.  Two players chose 4 Essence and 3 Destiny, which means they have a smaller pool of options to pull from, but pull most of the pool each time they need to draw.  This is a critical choice when making your character and going in blind we agonized a bit over it.  Once we start playing, we'll see who chose wisely.

The runes that make up your Essence are used to select Active Powers, Passive Powers, and Skills off of what we called "bingo cards" that are unique to each character archetype [class equivalent].  There is a bingo card each for Active Powers, Passive Powers, and Skills that list everything available to that archetype.  You place your Essence runes on the card adjacent to each other, starting from the center square (no diagonals).  Each rune you place "unlocks" adjacent squares and allows you to place runes on them, unlocking further squares.  The upshot of this method is that each character of the archetype will have a different selection of powers and skills, differentiating them from each other.

The rune used to select a power of skill is also tied to that power or skill.  This matters a lot for Active Powers, but doesn't seem to matter as much for Passive Powers or Skills.  If it does, the rules don't explain how.  The rules also do explain that you can double up runes on squares, but the sample characters in the downloadable PDF for Treasure of Fafnir clearly have for their Skills.  It would have been nice if the rule book explicitly said this was an option and when as opposed to me having to infer it from the sample characters.

[Sidebar 2: There are two PDFs with sample characters that you can download from the website for the game.  The file labeled Pregenerated Dwellers provides characters of archetypes that are NOT in the main rule book.  I have no idea where they come from.  Without the bingo boards they are not very useful.  The PDF labeled Saga: Fafnirs Treasure printable materials has sample characters of the archetypes in the main rule book, but with some differences.  I suspect they were made using the First Edition rules and never updated for the Second Edition changes.  This is speculation on my part, but it fits the evidence.]

There is an option for using the first four runes each player draws to randomly determine some personality traits and starting profession/social standing.  I recommend doing this the first time to help establish the appropriate atmosphere/flavor for the player characters, especially if you do not have a lot of knowledge about things viking.  The downside is starting gear/money is likely to be uneven.  We had a range starting money from 100 to 700.  [Warning: the money is called skatt.  It may be historically accurate, but means something else in English - so be aware of that when introducing others.]

Our group ended up with 3 Galdr, 2 Maidens of Ratatosk, and 1 Ulfhednar.  Galdr use runes to cast magic, either inscribing the runes into things or tracing them in the air.  Maidens of Ratatosk are devil-may-care women living life to the fullest, taunting their foes before cutting them down, making them warriors of finesse.  Ulfhednar are shape-shifters who are all about the hunt and the kill, making them warriors of fury and power.  No one selected to play a Seithkona (wielders of spirit magic) or a Skald (casters of spell-songs).

That's about how far we got in Session 0.  With the wide variety of powers and skills and more players than rule books, we had to do a lot of sharing, which slowed things down.  We were supposed to play our first session this past Monday, but the Norn was unable to attend due to school things, one player had a work meeting, and one was ill.  The few who showed up finished building our characters and buying our starting gear.  Due to the high cost of weapons and armor and low starting money, I suspect the game designers do not expect the players to buy much.  Some players only had enough to buy a single small weapon or shield.  I had enough (after bargaining using my Negotiation skill) to buy medium graceful armor, a longsword, a short bow, a ceremonial knife, and a reinforced shield.  I based my choices on generating a high Parry as a defensive action to avoid being hit.  I'll post information about my character in a later post.  I am likely the party healer.