War-torn Lands Arc – Session 2

We established that two months had passed between the sessions, the bard was unable to attend but we had a new player, Ryan, who chose the Immolator playbook and named him Solomon Searskin. Mark chose to make a Halfling Thief named Sketch, and I allowed him to begin as a lvl 2 character.

Mark established that his Halfling was in league with the militant halflings from session one, that he was a fanatic and was working with Rebus despite knowing that Rebus was a different faction. That he was a spy of sorts, infiltrating the party and sharing information back to the militant faction.

We took some time to establish that the halflings had spread their faith and many adherents had seized on the promise for rebellion and had identified with the militant millennialism of the halfling monks. Their adherents are called the “Flames of Randall Army” or “the Reds” or “the F.R.A.”

Ryan had been following along and was excited to create his Salamander Immolator. He chose the neutral alignment and said that his character concept involved encouraging others to sacrifice their comfort/safety/complacency in order to pursue their inner desires. I asked him what a Salamander was, and he described a snake-like body roughly 10’ long that had arms. We established that we were all holding a “naga” concept in our minds and discussed a few advantages and disadvantages of this form. I made sure that he wanted to commit to this form instead of something with arms and legs and he affirmed.

I asked him then if he was the only Salamander, which he considered and then hesitantly affirmed. Sensing his uncertainty, I asked if he had an origin idea or if he would like me to propose one, as I had something in mind. He assented to my proposal, and I suggested that the great weapon that the dwarves had unleashed to destroy the forests had been an opening of many portals throughout the forest into the plane of fire. I suggested that he might have come through the portal then. Further, I said that I did not want his race to become central to our campaign by making him so monstrous that he would be the focus of each social encounter. I described that the setting could have an element from Planescape, where it is commonplace for townsfolk see an entity of which they had never before been aware.

The players liked these elements, and Ryan reconsidered the desire to be the only of his kind. He said that perhaps many entities from the plane of fire had come through when the portals had opened. I assented but suggested that if many entities had come through then they might be more of a known faction.  Seeing his agreement, I went on that many locals still harbored ill feelings towards the “Ashen,” or those who had come out of the fire.

New Bonds

Since we had only one character from the first session, we did all new bonds.

Rebus added a bond for Solomon, suggesting that he had stood by him in a battle. Also, Rebus respects the beliefs of Sketch, but hopes that they will change in time.

Solomon said that he had burned something belonging to Rebus, and owed him a service in return. We discussed this a bit as none of us really understood what it meant, but we decided that Rebus had known about Solomon’s ability to read the inner desire of others and had sacrificed a token of his past to the past in order to secure Solomon’s assistance with his quest. Ryan then added that Solomon sought to teach Sketch the true meaning of sacrifice.

Mark created a single bond, suggesting that Rebus would have Sketch’s back.

I asked everyone to take a short break, after which we would begin a scene.

The Execution

I framed a city scene in which many of the working poor had begun to wear red patches on their clothing. We saw the townsfolk pause what they were doing after a heavy bell began to ring. As the fourth strike echoed through the streets the people seemed incredulous, all knowing that four bells signaled a public execution. I asked the characters where they would be, if they would be near the execution.

Rebus stated that he was likely meeting with a noble, but perhaps they were on a veranda or in an apartment with a view of the public square. Solomon said that he would also be in the meeting, but Sketch said that he was likely in the crowd at the execution. Sketch and Rebus had a brief in-character conversation about public execution and about the tension between the two religious factions. We established that Rebus was a moderate of the “Randox” faction, short for the Randy Orthodoxy, and that those who would be executed were “Reds” of the militant faction inspired by the Halfling monks from the first session.

Rebus claimed that he had long known those who were to be executed, and that they used to belong to his parish. We talked a bit out of character about the city and the power structure of the factions, I also asked Phil how he pictured his role with regards to the parish. He saw that he had been ceded a structure that had been damaged in the war, and further that he had a number of loyal “Randox” adherents in the ranks of the low and middle classes of the city.

I brought us back into the flow of character play by introducing the sound of a rattling tea pot on a platter, and a door swinging into the room to reveal the beautiful Lady Constance, a war widow who had become a charitable leader responsible for feeding many of the poorest in the city. Solomon gazed deeply into her eyes as she sat, using the Immolator ability “Give Me Fuel, Give Me Fire.” He saw that while she was passionate about her mission to feed the poor, she had an inner revolutionary spark that hated the system for which her late husband had fought as an officer. She despised the outdated morality and rigid social structures that her husband had unjustly given his life to defend.

The Gallows

I hard framed a scene-fade, knowing that we had been neglecting to pull Mark into the discussion. The image I painted was of the hastily-erected gallows set against the old wall of the inner fortification. This was a place of power for the Johnstone nobility, but was just outside the walls so formed a main public square. I began to describe that the noble Johnston was approaching the stage, and that the square was heavily defended by town guards and noble retainers.

I asked Sketch where he would be in the crowd. He asked if he would have observed a place where he could make a difference, at which point I suggested that he seemed to be trying to Discern Realities. He rolled a 7-9 and asked where he would see something of value. I pointed out two things he had noticed, one was that the guards were on edge and seemed on the brink of violence, the second was a group of three men who he knew to be sceptics of Randy but seemed disturbed by the execution and thus possibly open to conversion. He decided to position himself near the three skeptics.

I asked if anyone was trying to do anything before the execution, and after everyone declined I narrated Lord Johnston’s denouncement of the crimes of these three “Reds” fanatics who had desecrated statues of “The Founders” and who stood opposed to “the forces of order, industry, and progress.” The trapdoor was triggered, and three necks snapped as six feet twitched and kicked in the air. After a few tense moments the bodies stilled, and the crowds began to disperse. I asked Sketch if he was following the skeptics, he assented.

The Plight of the South Ward

Back in Lady Constance’s sitting room, the Lady seemed much disturbed by the violence. We had a lengthy discussion about her mission of feeding the poor, and as players we realized that we did not know why Rebus and Solomon had sought her out on this afternoon. When they did not have an immediate idea, I had Lady Constance prompt them by saying “I don’t believe I will be able to help you with the plight of the South Ward, my resources are stretched thin already.” This was all the prompting that the players needed to begin riffing off of, and after a few minutes of good dialogue Rebus tried to convince the lady to assist them by rolling a “Parley” where the offering was that they knew the lady was interested in bettering the city and the stakes were that she might be offended by their impolite insistence. Sure enough, Phil rolled below 7, so she asked that they leave her be to grieve the unnecessary deaths and to consider her next steps.

Ryan wanted to bring the party together, and asked if he had seen Sketch pursuing the men through the streets from the vantage of Lady Constance’s room. I agreed but added that they were a bit behind of Sketch and that the streets were thick with the dispersing crowd.

I asked Mark where the three sceptics had stopped, suggesting a bar in the South Ward. He assented and I asked him to describe the bar to me. He suggested a low thatched roof building amidst muddy streets. I added that there was the sound echoing through the street from a nearby smithy and the smell of animals. Further adding that he had just seen an emaciated goat bolt across the street, pursued by a scrappy youth.

I said that the men were Edan, Herne, and Maddox. I asked Sketch what he did as they took a seat in a corner table and ordered a round. He approached them and began a discussion of the execution. After a few minutes of dialogue we had established that the men were much disturbed by the execution, but didn’t believe that either religious faction could offer any answers to them. They complained about corruption and incompetence, asking what Lord Randy could do when the Baron Garrulo continued to rule the South Ward with an iron fist and exorbitant taxes.

I declared that this was overheard by Solomon and Rebus, as they entered the bar. Sketch parleyed the skeptics by offering assistance to take up arms against the Baron that very night if they would take up with the Reds. As players we discussed that while the Randox and the Reds were opposing factions, they were united in their opposition to tyranny and unjust rule.

The Barony

I asked Sketch to roll 2d6+dex to establish how they approached the Barony, as we were low on time and I wanted to get us right to the action. The result was 7-9, so I described an infiltration where the three party members and the three skeptics had snuck into the fortified manor house occupied by the baron. I hard framed a scene where they had entered the sitting room and saw a lantern light about to round the far corner.

Solomon immediately acted, saying that he wanted to use the move “Zuko Style” to have the lantern light flare and blind whoever is holding the lantern. Ryan rolled a 7-9, and I began to narrate a situation in which the lantern had exploded violently, killing the guard and making a loud noise. Ryan read the text of the rule, asking if instead of my narration the effect could be short lived and that no noisy explosion would have taken place. I assented after reading the Move, and described the guard as shouting out as his eyes were blinded by a brief flash of light.

Sketch ran forwards and tackled the blinded guard, after a brief struggle he stabbed him in the neck. I had him “Defy Danger” with strength to succeed. He rolled a 7-9, and offered that the guard had shouted out as he was tackled. The man was dispatched, but the sounds of feet rounding the corner alerted the party to the arrival of the Baron and three guards.

Solomon attempted to use “Burning Brand” to conjure a weapon of fire but he rolled a 6-. I asked Ryan what it looked like when Solomon attempted the conjuring and he imitated the drawing of a scimitar from a sheath. I added that as he drew the weapon, it had taken form but had not stopped growing, eventually overtaking his control and growing into the ceiling to spread on its own. I explained that he had tried to summon his fire directly from the plane of fire, and that it is difficult to limit such a connection.

As the fire spread down the hall, Rebus took a defensive stance and Sketch stood up from the ground. Solomon attempted to use “Zuko Style” to attack the four foes with fire. He succeded with a 7-9, so I had him roll damage. He rolled a 7, so I killed the three guards but had the Baron charge him with fury in his eyes and a mace held in his thick fist.

During the combat, I mixed damage results with combat positioning and the threat of fire to make every moment count. Solomon left the hallway, attempting to prevent the spread of the fire into the foyer and guarding the retreat route. Rebus retreated from the combat, believing that the fire would end the life of the Baron. Sketch dealt the killing blow as the ceiling was collapsing around him. The baron hit the ground and a necklace slid into view, I made it clear that it would require a “Defy Danger” roll with dexterity if Sketch wanted to get the necklace as the ceiling was continuing to collapse around him. He chose to forgo the attempt and to run for safety.

Session on March 8th, 2018