Once again my every-other-week Dungeons and Dragons game fell through, with only two out of four players being able to show up for game day. Thankfully, it was the same two people who I had previously started running a Fate Core game with.
A few weeks ago we sat down and hashed out a Game Concept that was essentially a pencil and paper Fallout 3, only set in New York instead of Washington, D.C.. Sounds awesome, right? The concept looked good on paper, and we had a pretty good second session, but I was having a difficult time coming up with adventure ideas. I felt trapped by the setting rather than empowered by it. So instead of just slogging ahead with something I wasn’t thrilled with, I told my players how I felt and we agreed to shelve the Fallout idea. And then we generated some characters and ideas for a Sword and Sorcery style game! I’ve had some ideas I’ve wanted to explore in this genre for a while now, and I feel way better about the chances of establishing a long running campaign in this type of setting.
I came to the table with a couple of core concepts that I wanted to establish. The first thing I wanted to establish was a lack of fantasy races, like dwarves and elves and such. I wanted this to be a game about humans, with human concerns and ambitions. I also wanted magic to be rare. In true sword & Sorcery fashion, there are of course legends that speak of powerful necromancers and tomes of forbidden knowledge from a bygone era hidden away in ancient ruins. However, most people in this world who know of the arcane arts dabble in simple “hedge magic,” a minor sort of wizardy gleaned from scraps of ancient knowledge, that is generally capable of producing cantrip type effects. In addition to this more scholarly sort of magic, there is also an innate sort of magic that is rooted in animism, which is practiced by primitive tribal folk and others with close ties to the natural world. This type of magic typically manifests as an ability to take on aspects of certain animals, and perhaps in some cases communicate with or see through the eyes of other creatures.
Having established these two facts, we moved on to sorting out the current issues. I just jotted down “Tyrannical Government” and “The Coming Storm.” We established that the area the adventure takes place in is a loose collection of city-states and small baronies known collectively as the Shield Lands. There is no central authority, but one Baron Von Trask is looking to change that. So we are going with the classic ‘evil tyrant bent on conquest’ as our chief antagonist.
Player One is a bard named Edward the Renowned, so his high concept is simply Jack of All Trades. Also, he’s not really all that renowned. His trouble concept is I’m My Own Worst Enemy, because we decided that he tends to put his foot in his mouth, or generally do the wrong thing at the wrong time. But he always manages to land on his feet, so his third aspect is When Life Gives You Lemons… The bard’s fourth and final aspect establishes that he is Charming In Spite of Himself. We decided as part of his bardic training, he would know a little bit of hedge magic. We also decided he isn’t very good at it, so more often than not his spells will probably have unintended consequences.
Player Two is a barbarian named Gazuul. He’s more of a nomadic plains aborigine guy than a Conan the Cimmerian guy, and we decided he has a touch of the animism-inspired magical ability; his high concept is Marked by the Heart of the Stag. He can invoke this to gain bursts of speed or strength, among other things. Gazuul’s people believe that the natural world is full of spirits, and that omens are everywhere. Gazuul himself is Superstitious to a Fault, often compelled to take action based on signs and omens. His people have been ran out of their native lands by the evil Baron von Trask, so he feels like he has Nothing Left to Lose. He is a Champion of the Weak, fighting against tyranny for those less capable.
Our first session began with our heroes and some of their companions held captive in a slave cart, having been captured by the men of Lord Lashington, an underling of Baron von Trask. Their captors have made camp for the evening, and in a shocking development have rendezvoused with a small band of orcs (I decided that in this world orcs are actually created by fusing men with beasts, using vivisection and diabolic magics to create a savage monster. No one has done this in recent history, and many believed the process to be lost, or even a myth). Edward the Renowned wasted no time using his arcane skills in an effort to pop the crude lock off of their cage. He succeeded, though not in the way he had intended, as the lock and the door burst into flames, drawing the attention of more guards than they would have liked. Gazuul was forced to call upon the Heart of the Stag to muscle his way through the crude bars on the other side of the slave cart, thus freeing their small group before they roasted in their cage.
After escaping, things got confusing quickly. An argument that had been escalating between the humans and orcs broke out into a sword fight just as our heroes were making their escape. This occupied many of their captors, but several more who had seen the cage burst into flames were already on their way to deal with the prisoners. Edward and the three NPC captives were able to overwhelm the closest two guards while Gazuul sprinted to the officers tent in the hopes of retrieving their weapons and gear. Things got tricky for Edward and his companions as more guards joined the fray, and Edward was nearly overwhelmed. Gazuul came through just in time though, and the pair managed to escape the camp with two of their NPC companions. Fifteen of Lashington’s men lay dead in the clearing, and our party was unsure whether or not the four orcs that were left from that group were pursuing them or not.
It will be at least another week before we get to play again, but I am much more excited about seeing where this story leads as opposed to the Fallout game.