Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Delvers Guild – Session 1 – Moon Manor Ruins

[The adventure begins.  This game uses the Fifth Revised Edition of the Hero System rules along with the Fantasy Hero supplement.]

Player Characters:
Jala – human female – a person of discretion, studying aspects of the Law [to avoid them] at the Dust Academy
Clarence – human male – studies Religion in Temples district, coincidentally the group healer
Vargand – human female – professional porter and Adventurer’s Aide, irregularly attends classes at the The Tested military academy, practitioner of Steel Serpent martial arts
Zarek – fox male – a cerebrally-unfettered spell researcher [read: Mad Scientist] turned into a talking fox, studying Natural Philosophy at Monarch University to find a way to become human again
Ricky the Astrologer – human male – has a thirst for knowledge but doesn’t know what he’s searching for, currently studying Astrology at Monarch University
Nick Stalwart – human male – part of the Stalwart family of merchants, studying Mathematics at The Interesting Institute of Profitable People, a college at Monarch University

Non-Player Characters:
Lester “Les” Stalwart – human male, younger brother of Nick and general tag-along [DNPC]

Cromsday, October 10th, 1st year of the reign of King Vladik the Gamesman
The founding members of the Delvers Guild set out on the guild’s first official adventure – exploring and mapping the Moon Manor ruins on the other side of Dragon’s Bay from the capital city, Aegea.  Ricky the Astrologer did the research and suggested these ruins as an easy start, being relatively nearby and both unoccupied and unclaimed.

The Delvers assembled at the City Docks and caught the early morning ferry across the bay to Little Wytheford.  They saw many merchant ships and fishing boats out on the bay as they traveled.  Most of the Delvers napped during the trip  being students they were more accustomed to being up late and not waking before the dawn.  Jala and Ricky, in fact, had stayed awake just a few hours longer than normal rather than bothering to sleep before embarking.

The ferry put in at the River Docks at Little Wytheford at Noon.  The River Docks were just outside the town walls, actually on the Moofolk River [as opposed to the Guild Docks, which are inside the town walls].  Needing horses to get to the ruins in a timely fashion, the Delvers pooled their knowledge of the town and found they knew very little.  Nick noticed a building with his family name on it [he comes from a mercantile family] and went over to find someone who could provide him directions.  A few minutes later he returned with directions to a reputable horse trader [reputable for a horse trader anyways].  The group purchased five riding horses and one pack mule [with tack] using guild funds [and getting a guild discount – it’s good to be an official guild].

After placing their packs on the mule and setting up a place for Zarek to curl up on the mule [who was not entirely pleased with having a fox on its back], the Delvers rode across the eastern river bridge and followed the Moofolk River south for three hours before turning east on the far side of Faemount Mountain.  This brought them within sight of the Moon Manor ruins, where Ricky and Nick noticed a thin trickle of smoke above the ruins, as from a campfire, apparently coming from inside the supposedly abandoned ruins.

Despite being just a day away from the capital of the kingdom, the mountainous region was only sparsely populated at best away from the coast.  Not certain who might be camping on the back side of the mountain, the Delvers decided some scouting might be appropriate.  Jala volunteered to do so and used her Shadowwalk spell to teleport between lengthening evening shadows to approach the ruins discretely from the west.

The Moon Manor ruins had once been a walled manor owned by elves hundreds of years ago, before the rise of the Kingdom of Aegea.  At some point in the past the southern gate house, the southwestern tower, and the southern walls of the outer courtyard were attacked and destroyed, leaving low piles of stone sticking up out of the underbrush now growing over the site.  The ruins were on a raised platform, three to four feet above the surrounding area and the adjacent lake to the east.  Jala finished her series of teleports in the cover of this platform, peeking over it to look for the current inhabitants.  She could just see a fence blocking off the inner courtyard, which was covered in bushes and tall grass, but she could see no people.

Seeing no guards or sentries, Jala stealthily advanced on the ruins, sticking to the mostly there western wall until she found a gap.  The tendril of smoke seemed to be coming from inside the old chapel.  Jala could not see a doorway into the chapel from where she stood, so she advanced across the outer courtyard to the side of the chapel.  She could just hear the sounds of people inside the chapel.  There was a gap in the wall of the chapel that faced the courtyard, but that felt too exposed for Jala.  The building adjacent to the chapel was missing most of a corner and a wall and she thought it might present another entrance to the chapel, so she decided to sneak in that way.

Jala quietly stepped over to the gap in the wall of this building and stepped in…right in front of two sentries who were flabbergasted to see her.  Both sentries had a light bow and Jala’s instincts kicked in – she immediately turned and ran back the way she came, not stopping until she was outside the western wall and hidden behind it.  Then she listened.  She heard the two sentries scramble out into the courtyard and discuss between themselves if they should say anything to the others.  Jala did not stay to hear any more and used the cover of the surrounding brush and trees to scramble back to the rest of the Delvers.

After Jala reported her findings, the Delvers discussed their options.  They could camp where they were or approach the ruins and see if they could safely camp inside the ruins [their original plan] with the other people.  They decided to approach the people inside the ruins.  They preferred camping in the ruins over camping on some random spot in the brush.  If nothing else, they could evaluate whether the people in the ruins were competitors or some other danger or not.

When the Delvers entered the outer courtyard of the ruins, the found a group of people in the the sentry area.  Their leader called out, “Stop there or we’ll shoot you.”  While there were only two people with bows, the other four had swords at the ready.  The Delvers stopped and let Clarence do the talking.  Clarence and the leader of the other people discussed the situation across a distance of 20 feet.  Clarence told the truth of why the Delvers were there [to map and explore the ruins, something the other Delvers complained about later] and the other person, Jasper, mostly didn’t explain anything other than to ask if they were guards from one of the nearby coastal forts [most of the PCs are fully armored, albeit in various forms of leather armor].  Once Jasper was confident that the Delvers were not guards, he and the other swordsmen stepped back behind a wall to confer.  Zarek, realizing that as a fox he was short enough to be completely hidden by the brush growing in the courtyard, scooted out and around the standing gatehouse to the same gap in the wall Jala originally used to enter and exit the courtyard.  This gave him a better field of view to cast spells if things turned nasty.

The other people had not factored in the extremely acute hearing of Ricky, Zareck, and Nick [who made their Perception roll by 8, 5, and 5, respectively].  Those three heard Jasper decide to let the Delvers share the camp, but promising the others “if they have any valuables, we can kill them in their sleep and take it.”  Ricky quietly shared this information with the other Delvers as Jasper stepped back out into the open and welcomed the Delvers to share their campsite.  The Delvers accepted, cautiously.  When Zarek trotted up, he was mistaken as a pet dressed up in people clothes by Jasper’s people.  Zarek played along and the rest of the Delvers did as well, having pulled this prank on unsuspecting townsfolk in the past.

While both groups ate their dinners, Clarence chatted with Jasper’s group, subtly pumping them for information [using his Conversation skill].  He was able to confirm that Jasper’s people were bandits hiding out from the soldiers in the coastal forts.  They had been raiding the outer farms around Little Wytheford when they ran into a patrol and had to flee.  They holed up in the ruins to recuperate.  Two of the group were still too wounded to move around freely [making the total number of bandits here 8].  When he could, Clarence discretely shared this information with the other Delvers.

As the evening progressed, the tension started ratcheting up between the two groups.  Eventually Nick broke and cast Mage Armor on himself.  This startled the bandits, who were not expecting any kind of spellcaster.  One of the bandits was heard to whisper “I think they’re on to us” louder than he expected in the sudden silence.  Zarek took this as the sign to attack and cast his lesser Lightning Bolt spell at Jasper, staggering and heavily injuring the man.  The rest of the Delvers took THIS as the sign to attack and did so.

Over the next 12 seconds, the Delvers killed 4 of the active bandits with Zarek and Jala each taking an arrow wound and Ricky some minor damage [Stun only] in return.  Nick vocally confronted the last two bandits [ironically the two guards with the ready bows] and told them to surrender and become torchbearers for the Delvers or make peace with their immanent death [a solid Presence attack with tons of bonus dice for the high level of violence the Delvers had just unleashed].  The sentries took his words very seriously, put down their bows, and asked how many torches they needed to carry and did this take them off guard duty?

End of Session

[I'm using Dyson Logos' Griffinwatch Ruins map for the Moon Manor ruins.  The bandits were average humans with partial leather armor (covered shoulders to thighs).  They were not wearing their helmets when the fight started, which contributed to their quick loss.  The next session deals with the aftermath of the fight and further exploration of the ruins.]

Delvers Guild
Session A, Character Creation Part 1 
Session B, Character Creation Part 2

Session 02 [Not Written Yet]

Thursday, May 16, 2019

No blog post this week

There will be no official post this week [I know, Thursday might be a little late in the week to say this].  Two things going on right now.  The first is that the DayJob got busy as I had to do some research to set up some projects that were fairly time-critical and the DayJob pays the bills.  The other is that I want to get back into a pattern of posting session notes the week after the session happens so if work blows up, I have the weekend to write up the session notes [which is what I'm doing this week].

Session 1 will post Tuesday morning (Houston-time).  Hope to see you then!


Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Delvers Guild – Session B – Character Creation, Part 2

This week was part two of the character creation session for our next campaign: The Delvers Guild.

We created characters for the players who could not make last session and finished up everyone else’s, including last minute tweaks.  For example, Zarek is now a human changed into a fox and only stands about two feet tall when on his hind legs [his name is also now spelled with a 'k'].  Zarek’s player was looking through a master list of disadvantages I have and noticed “Talking Animal” as a Social Limitation.  It seemed to fit with his character motif and provided motivation for his radical spell research – he’s looking for a way to become human again.

Vargand also took shape and focus.  She is an ex-squire to a disgraced master at The Tested, the military academy for the Kingdom of Aegea.  As previously documented, she spent the summer break up north partying with adventurers and occasionally hauling things for them in and out of Barrowmaze.  This has not helped her reputation any in the capital’s social circles (as excessive drinking is one of the reasons her master is disgraced), but has made her a minor legend among the students at the various centers of learning in the city.  Her master taught Vargand the basics of Steel Serpent, the martial art style practiced almost exclusively by the Dragon-Knights, an order of knights descended from Herjolf Diamondarrow, who slew a dragon that took up residence in the mountains across the bay over a thousand years ago.

Player Characters:
Vargand – human female – professional porter and Adventurer’s Aide, irregularly attends classes at the The Tested military academy, practitioner of Steel Serpent martial arts
Jala – human female – a person of discretion, studying aspects of the Law [to avoid them] at the Dust Academy
Zarek – fox male – a cerebrally-unfettered spell researcher [read: Mad Scientist] turned into a talking fox, studying Natural Philosophy at Monarch University to find a way to become human again
Ricky – human male – has a thirst for knowledge but doesn’t know what he’s searching for, currently studying Astrology at Monarch University
Nick Stalwart – human male – part of the Stalwart family of merchants, studying Mathematics at The Interesting Institute of Profitable People, a college at Monarch University
[Unnamed Character] – human male – studies Religion in Temples district, but didn’t leave the GM with enough information to tell you what he’s about [Bad, player!  Bad!]

Non-Player Characters:
Lester “Les” Stalwart – human male, younger brother of Nick and general tag-along [DNPC]

I’ve done some work creating the bare bones of the setting, mostly the areas the Delvers will be exploring initially and the city that is their home base, the city of Aegea, Capital of the Kingdom of Aegea.

City of Aegea
The city of Aegea is the capital of the Kingdom and home of the Otterberg Palace, official seat of the government and home of the Royal Court.  The city contains the following districts:

  • Otterberg Palace - seat of the Royal Court and winter home of the King of Aegea, currently Vladik the Gamesman.
  • Old Town - oldest part of town and now a curious mix of Old Money families and just old families who refused to give up their ancestral homes as the city grew.  Some buildings are well-kept, others appear to be rundown or plain on the outside.  Rumors run that some homes are opulent palaces inside, rivaling the King.
    • Potemkin Street - main street from the Otterberg Palace to the City Square.  Always kept pristine by Royal Decree so the King is not disturbed when he travels through on his way to the Aegea Royal Theatre or when leaving city to the Summer Palace.  Forms the border between Old Town and Court Borough.
  • Court Borough - homes of those who serve the Royal Court or work in Otterberg Palace.  Most of the property is owned by the Castilian and rented out to his staff and employees.
  • Crafter District - contains a mix of factories and warehouses as well as the Guild Docks, reserved only for guild ships.
  • City Docks - contains the public docks for those not part of the guilds.  Always busy and inferior to the Guild Docks in the Crafter District.
    • There is a ferry service that travels to Little Wytheford.  The ferry leaves at dawn and at Noon and takes half a day to reach its destination.
  • [an unnamed merchant district]
  • [an unnamed mixed-use district]
  • Temples - just off the City Square, Temples is home to the city’s temples and shrines.
  • [an unnamed Wealthy Residences district]
  • The Tested - a prestigious military academy in the city, adjacent to the Sword Gate
  • [an unnamed residential district]
  • [an unnamed government district]
  • City Square - massive city market, full of an ever-changing assortment of stalls and vendors selling food, goods, and anything else that can be had for a price.
    • The Dust Academy - a.k.a., The School of Hard Knocks.  “Held” in the city square by rogue teachers.  It is possible to pick up an eclectic education here, if you can find (and convince) the right person to teach you.
  • Monarch University - major center of learning, recognized across the kingdom
    • The Interesting Institute of Profitable People - business school at Monarch University, sponsored by the guilds.
  • University District (a.k.a., “Student Slums”) - residences and shops necessary for the university students.
  • The Dons - moderately wealthy district where the University professors and administration live.  It consists mostly of residences with a few exceptions.
    • The Library - a student-favored tavern built in a failed library on the edge of The Dons.  The few remaining books are those no one wanted when the previous contents were repossessed.  The staff know some magic, particularly the spells Water to Booze and Get Me Drunk.  They are not licensed by the Wonderworkers Guild and it is speculated that some form of arrangement with the Tapkeepers Guild keeps the Wonderworkers away.
  • [an unnamed district of rental properties]
  • The Shops - merchant district full of retail shops, just inside the Coin Gate.
  • Guild Square - contains the guild buildings for every major merchant guild in the kingdom.  Some of the smaller guilds have to share buildings.
  • Aegea Royal Theatre - home to the arts for the Kingdom.
  • [an unnamed district of rental properties]
  • [an unnamed district of warehouses, just inside the Sword Gate]
  • City Gates:
    • Sword Gate to the west
    • Coin Gate to the north
    • Hart Gate to the east
    • King’s Gate - inside the city, entrance to Otterberg Palace
  • Sword Village - a district of taverns, hostels, and other questionable businesses just outside the western walls of the city, favored by attendees of the Academy.
  • Coin Town - a cluster of businesses catering to traveling merchants located just outside the northern walls of the city.  Several inns and caravanserai are here, especially for travelers arriving after the city gates have been closed.
  • Hart’s Farthing - stockyard, tanners, and butchers district, mandated by law to be outside the western walls of the city.  There are docks here on the bay, but as the run-off from the butchers and tanners dumps here to be carried away by the northward current, it smells and is generally unpleasant.

Little Wytheford
Little Wytheford is a farming and craft town across Dragon’s Bay from Aegea.  It provides food for the city of Aegea and smaller craft items for the merchant guilds based there.  The best docks are reserved for Guild ships, but there is a ferry service between Little Wytheford and the city operating out of the River Docks that takes about half a day to make the trip, leaving at dawn and at Noon.

[Little Wytheford is not fully detailed out yet, but I have a map of the small town and will assign locations in it as needed.  For the campaign, it will probably need a tavern or three, maybe an inn, a place of healing, and locations to buy supplies and gear for adventuring that the PCs forgot or didn’t know they needed.]

Moon Manor Ruins
The Moon Manor Ruins were once a prosperous elven domain in the mountains south of Aegea that fell before the kingdom existed.  Stories tell that a dragon once made the ruins its home, but Herjolf Diamondarrow slew the dragon and established the domain that eventually became the core the Kingdom of Aegea grew around.  [This is also the source of the name of Dragon’s Bay, which Aegea rests on the northern shores of and Little Wytheford the southern.]

The ruins have been picked over repeatedly in the intervening centuries.  Sometimes creatures or bandits take residence in the ruins, but the Kingdom never allows that to last very long.  All current research by the Delvers Guild shows that the ruins are currently empty with no active legal claim on them.  This makes them perfect for a training run expedition and a fun weekend out of the city on an adventure!

Delvers Guild
Session A, Character Creation Part 1 

Session 1 [Not Written Yet]

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Delvers Guild – Session A – Character Creation, Part 1

This week was part one of the character creation session for our next campaign: The Delvers Guild.

This campaign takes place in the same world as the Barrowmaze game I previously ran [and will run again later this year] (see the Downloads sidebar for summations of Season 1).   The connection between the two is Vorgand, Daphne’s porter NPC.  With the start of the rainy season [and the consequent closing of the Adventuring Season], Vorgand returned south to the Aegean Military Academy she attends in the capital city, Aegea, along with all the cash she earned working for Daphne and many good drinking stories to share.

Back at the capital, Vorgand freely told her stories about dungeon delving, much to the interest of the other students.  A core group of students from the University and the Military Academy quickly formed and established a club for the purpose of delving ruins.  One of the students went so far as to take up a collection and file the paperwork with the city government, establishing the club as an actual guild [due to the abrupt transition between kings earlier in the year, a little money goes a long way in getting paperwork approved and filed without too many questions].

The Delvers Guild has identified some ruins about a day’s travel away, known as the Moon Manor Ruins.  These ruins have been abandoned for a very long time and no one is expecting to find loot or anything unusual.  The plan is to verify their camping and mapping skills are up to par and that everyone is up to the challenge before trying a real delve.  [Drama, of course, has other ideas.]

Game System
For this campaign, we are using the HERO System, specifically the Fantasy Hero rules for 5th Revised Edition (FREd).  [The current version of HERO is 6th Edition, but I’m of the opinion that the FREd version of the rules works well and 6th edition did not add anything I felt was needed.  YMMV.]  Characters are built with a Base of 50 points and can take up to 50 points in Limitations, making these 100-point characters, which count as Competent Normals in the game system.

I’m also using a highly experimental set of rules where spells are treated as skills.  The PCs have to buy the skill roll for each spell and I, the GM work out the game mechanics of the spells.  As I own the Fantasy Hero Grimoire, the two characters using magic so far went through that and selected spells, which saved me a lot of effort and them a lot of time.  This is experimental for me, so we’ll see how it plays out.  Normally Fantasy Hero spell casters sink a lot of their points into buying spells and therefore have few spells but I wanted the players to have access to magic but also be new to adventuring and therefore not have tons of points.  We’ll see if this balance works or not.

Not all the players could make it to this session, which is one of the reasons character creation is taking two sessions.  Next session we’ll finish up character creation and the session after that we’ll start actual play.  Below is what I have for PCs so far.

Player Characters:
Vargand – human female – professional porter and Adventurer’s Aide, irregularly attends classes at the Military Academy
Jala – human female – a person of discretion, studying aspects of the Law [to avoid them]
Zarec – human male – a cerebrally-unfettered spell researcher [read: Mad Scientist], studying Natural Philosophy
Ricky – human male – has a thirst for knowledge but doesn’t know what he’s searching for, currently studying Astrology
Nick Stalwart – human male – part of the Stalwart family of merchants, studying Mathematics

Non-Player Characters:
Lester “Les” Stalwart – human male, younger brother of Nick and general tag-along [DNPC]

That’s it for now.  Next week I’ll have one last character added to the list and I’ll produce a small gazetteer for the campaign area [with official names and everything…well, maybe not EVERYTHING – my players read this too].

Delvers Guild
Session B, Character Creation Part 2 [Not Written Yet]

UPDATE: I named the capital city since posting this and corrected a couple of other minor points, like Vorgand attends the military academy, not the university, but drinks with friends from both at The Library, a tavern in an old library that attracts student drinkers.

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.

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

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