Actual Play – Skyrealms of Jorune (5/31/2015)

skyrealms-of-jorune-3rd-editionGM: Edmund Metheny
Players: Sophie Lagacé and Sean Nittner
System: Skyrealms of Jorune, 3rd edition

Edmund pulled out and oldy but a… well, oldy. Skyrealms of Jorune is pretty fascinating for what it was trying to do, even if it was pretty impeded by it’s own trappings. More on this below.

History Lesson

3000 years in the future humans abandon earth and colonize the planet Jorune. Unsurprisingly it’s inhabited by a race of people called the Shantha, and equally unsurprisingly the humans pushed these peaceful creatures to the bring of extinction in their greed to colonize the planet. Finally the Shantha hit a breaking point and called upon the magic of the planet (which they can control reflexively) to destroy the humans. The result was near mutual destruction and each species was reduced to a fragment of their former population and resources.

500 years later the humans have adapted somewhat. They have found ways to live on Jorune, and genetically modified many other creatures (bears, wolves, and cougars) to be bepedial and sentient. There are also other alien races present (some native, some not), and in a “golden age lost” theme all the great technologies and wonders of old are now either lost, broken, unusable due to lack of knowledge, or just very rate.

More here: and

Where we are now

Burdoth, empire of the humans, had two forms of citizens. Those protected by the law and afforded basic civil rights (not sure the name for these folks, but it’s most people) and the Dren, who are full citizens capable of running for office, and generally the recipients of great wealth and glory.

There are several ways to become a Dren but the quickest and most foolhardy is to go adventuring and accomplish great deeds that are recognized by other Dren. Folks attempting this are called the Tauther, or Player Character for short.

Who are these two?

Dark Mood (Sophie) is a Bronth (bear-person) investigator. As a child Dark Mood was actually quite scrawny and was protected by Persiphon Wison and the two became fast friends. Now many years later Bronth has an impressive frame, wielding a giant two handed sword with east. As well as fitting in a fedora and suit, because,  Sam Spade.

Persiphon Wison is a durlig farmer who had never really know more than the farm, but like her archetypal predecessor, years to go to Tashi Station and pick up the power converters. Wison has a huge family, which is made larger by the local community which form a co-op that shares child care, resources, etc. Persiphon normally manages Thrombo to pull up the giant durlig root but her Thrombo is sick, and recently has asked Dark Mood to help her with his great strength to pull up the massive roots by hand. Slow work, but the harvest has to come in one way or another!

Thriddle: Flighty, wingless, bird creatures that communicate through vibrating nodules on their rump called quidnodes.

A Thriddle Runs Through It

Down in the durlig trenches, we looked up as we felt the ground rumbling and were then trampled (gently enough) by a Thriddle racing past.

What’s all this funny business? Though we tended to the Thriddle we noticed it was quite cold and too afraid to communicate. We followed it back (easy to track thriddle prints in a recently plowed field) and found it came out of the ground where there had been a cave in. Beneath the loamy soil was a crystal gateway, or Tra-portal, that seems to have appeared out of nowhere. We covered up the cave in to try and learn more, but while talking to the Thriddle, little Jesa went missing.

We returned to our makeshift thatch covering and found it had been opened. Oh no Jessa must have gone through the portal!!!

Skyrealms of Jorune

Garbed in as much cold weather gear as we could muster, we passed through the portal…into a Skyrealm!!!

Cleash: Four armed, hyper-violent, critters banished to the frozen north.

We had clearly traveled nearly to the other side of Jorune and were on a Skyrealm that was traveling through a frozen blizzard. At the base of the portal were many corpses of several different species, all of which who died violently. And no surprise a Cleash guard appeared and violence ensued. Dark Mood drew up a giant axe from a fallen Guard and not only defended Persiphon but also slayed the armed Cleash.

[The combat system in this game attempts to account for situational awareness, the experience, that in the heat of the moment, it’s difficult or impossible to be completely aware of your surroundings. A combination of fear and adrenaline clouding your senses and things happening very fast. The mechanical representation of this is that each round you have to roll for advantage. A low roll indicates you cannot take any actions, a middling roll indicates you can either attack or defend, but not both. A high roll allows you to perform both actions, and a very high roll allows you to perform both actions and you a bonus on your rolls to do them.

The actual attack/penetration/damage system was reminiscent of Rolemaster, but clearly toned down. There were several charts to determine what kind of weapon did what kind of damage, but nothing compared to the miasma or tables found in the Arms Law, which had a separate table just for Two Handed Sword damage and then TWO tables just for the Two Handed Sword critical hits. Seriously, check these out, they are remarkable.

The portal was closed behind us, so after we dealt with the Cleash guard we had no choice but to move forward. On the ground we found Jessa’s Teddybronth. Oh no! She’s been taken!


Exploring the Tower

We navigated through the blizzard  and found a tower, amazingly untouched by the elements. There was no ice on it, and the stones seemed perfectly intact as though brand new, despite our knowledge of Skyrealms telling us it had to be hundreds or thousands of years old.

We stepped inside and the cold instantly abated. In the basement downstairs we found the kitchen where Jessa was hung upside down (but still alive, thankfully) while a Cleash cook prepared a stew. Dark Mood and the creature battled, but this time the Clean used it’s Isho (magic) to paralyze Dark Mood. Terrified of what would happen to her friend Persiphon took up a heavy metal skillet and smashed the Cleash from behind. It did him no harm but it gave Dark Mood the moment he needed to regain control of his body and do the real fighting.

With Jessa then rescued they needed to find another way home. The skyrealms could move but they did so very slowly… and there were still plenty of Cleash to deal with. In order to keep them off our trail Persiphon started a grease fire in the kitchen and then Dark Mood stealthily led us around the Cleash patrols as they rushed to the kitchen to see what was going on.

[Again Jorune tries to do something innovative here. Like Unknown Armies that often does not require you to make a roll for something if you are skilled in it, Skyreams has various levels of proficiency (unfamiliar, familiar, experienced, and seasoned). The more experienced you are, the more situations you will not have to roll at. For instance Persiphon was familiar with cooking, so she didn’t have to roll to start a grease fire, something that is easy to do on accident!

Dark Mood did have to roll, however, to sneak us past the guards, I think in part because the system still fell back on the idea that all contested actions should involve opposed dice rolls]

Finding the Shantha

At the top of the tower we found a thaumaterical lab filled with alien instruments, many of which had been destroyed. Seemingly tossed in the corner was a large prisim that appeared to contain a preserved Shantha inside! These are creatures that were from myth and legend!

Inspecting the somewhat ruined laboratory, Dark Mood discerned that he was inside a crystal that preserved him perfectly, and that the crystal could only be opened by a very precise frequency of sound. As we discussed what would make this sound (and made several vain attempts) we heard Cleash, lots of Cleash coming up the stairs.

In a panic we rolled the prism down the spiral staircase, knowing it was indestructible and very heavy. We succeeded in knocking out or killing all of the Cleash on their way up the stairs, but we also accidentally killed the Thriddle they had captive with them. In his death throws the Thriddle vibrated his quidnodes at the just the right frequency and then prism cracked open, releasing the Shantha that had been contained in it for hundreds of years.

The Q Moment

Like Picard at Farpoint, we were taken to a foreign realm and put on trial to defend the actions of humankind. How could we make amends for the near destruction of the Shantha race? Well, we couldn’t. In fact, we couldn’t even show that we were fit to live on Jorune at all. We couldn’t really breath the air, eat the food it produced, channel the Isho, or other wise sustain ourselves without causing massive damage to the environment.

But…we could get there. We could become something that could live on Jorune. The Muadra were humans that had been changed by the planet, and were better connected to Isho. They were our evolutionary path. In communing with all of us the Shantha either revealed that Jessa was as Muadra, or possibly the Shantha changed her into Muadra (it wasn’t clear). As expected, the future is our children.

The secret was in Lamori, whatever that is.

A welcome home

When the Shantha returned us home the portal was nowhere to be seen, but the Thriddle we tended to returned and introduced himself as Hiosta, an Al-Gorno, which are the bravest of the Thriddle (and a kind of rolalty).  If we wished to know more of Lamori, we should travel to Tan-Sid, and he would personally sign our placards of accomplishment, that got us one step closer to Drenship.

Thoughts on this Game

Gaming with Edmund and Sophie is always a blast. We played  on lots of tired tropes but we knew we were doing it and happily (knowingly) engaged in them. The Teddybronth (Bronth are the Bear people) was particularly adorable.

Jorune tries to do some cool things with the system but it is horribly burdened by an overwhelmingly intricate setting, and the mechanical innovations are stacked on top of conventional rules, instead of being put in place of them. For instance, it’s great if you have a skill that you can just “do”, but if there are 400 skills and you never know what you’re going to need, your wiff factor goes right back up.  We ended up getting some great gameplay but I know a lot of that came from Edmund and Sophie being awesome players who embrace failure and system quirks rather than shy away from them. There are some really good principles buried in here, and I’m glad to have played this new-to-me system

Hahahahahahah. Dren spelled backwards is nerD. Hee!

Ed’s report:

Sophie’s report: 


Actual Play – Star Force (3/29/2015)

star_forceStar Force Officers: Colin Fahrion, Sean Nittner, and my littles.
System: Star Force

I saw Colin was running Star Force at Square One and had room for three players. I asked if it was okay if I signed up with my girls and he was all for it, so we filled up the game!

Star Force is played with rotating GMs. Each player makes a Star Force officer and they are played in teams of two. In the four player version that means that two Star Force officers are partners while the other two players GM, and then after a successful mission, you switch.

Star Force Operators

Zoz – The cunning envoy from Bizbor, an insectoid alien that used to use his diplomatic status as a cover for assassinations.  When Zoz’s planetary leader was arrested Zoz was given the choice to join Star Force or go with him to jail!

Crouton – The bread cat “explosive” scientist crouton used to work for a company doing science. Then she figured out they were terrible people so she blew up the building they were working in and joined Star Force.

Clover – The temperamental food editor used to food blog but now she saves the universe.

Misha “Hyperspace” Chronoton – The relentless explorer used to work for the Dhalan corporation finding planets and stripping them of all their natural resources. Misha is a cybernetic entity composed of thousands and thousands of robotic bees. BEES! A planet Misha was mining collapsed in itself and she was saved by Clover. After that she changed her ways and joined Star Force.

Wow…. our heroes are not exactly heroic. Except for Clover, they all had pretty sordid pasts!

Just trying to enjoy some Spacebucks!

Star Force officers Misha and Clover were on a patio in a Spacebucks on the the desert planet Brhd (pronounced Bread). They were fishing for bread/sand fish (what kind of fish they were kept changing) and sipping Spacebucks coffee when suddenly they heard a huge explosion and the floating city listed to the side, threatening to collapse into the currently-being-terraformed sand below.

Clover was really annoyed. I’m off duty! She did however pull up a schematic of the entire city and determine the explosion happened on the anti-gravity region under the floating city (the undercity) where the terraforming operations were occurring. Meanwhile Misha seeing that things were falling out of the city, flew around the outer edge and saved a child before he fell from a ledge

The criminal activist Moltov was trying to destroy the terraforming operation. Sounds like a job for STAR FORCE!

After an initial encounter where the under city was narrowly saved by forming a telekinetic net of bees (BEES!) and restoring the anti-grav system via lever pulling, Moltov was driven back… into the city’s primary power core!

There Moltov was once again defeated (though not without putting up a fight) and order was restored. However Moltov did not act without conscience. He was trying to stop the terraforming operation because of the sandfish/breadfish below… they are sentient! Misha, who once destroyed worlds callously but now wanted to redeem herself and clover, who didn’t much like fishing anyway, agreed that we should move the terraforming operation to another part of the planet and make a special reserve for the native inhabitants. We apologized to the fish we had caught and through them back into the desert below!

 Wanted for Theft: Selka the Sly

Officers Zoz and Crouton were called into Captain Doris Liverly’s ready room for a mission briefing. The nefarious Selka the Sly had just stolen a Phantom Field Generator and then disappeared. She must be apprehended…by STAR FORCE!

Before being sent out on this dangerous mission however the Star Force operators were given two gadgets. Spring jump boots and psychic field dampeners disguised as hamburgers.

The officers started by investigating the space station where the Phantom Field Generator was stolen from. They found it powered down, with a large breach in the hull. Inside they used their Star Force shield to give the station enough power to tap into the computer and get the layout. Crouton found the generator had been housed on Floor E75 – right next to the reactor core… and there were still three scientists there!

Zoz moved quickly to get to E75 and found the three abalone Professor Doctor Scientists. There was no life support on the ship but they appeared to still be alive. He extended his force field around them to provide them air — Just when Crouton realized that Selka the Sly’s psychic DNA was still on board…and had infected the Professor Doctor Scientists. They were now Selka Drones!

She communicated it to Zoz but it was too late, Professor Doctor Scientist George was on him like an abalone stuck to a rock! He used it razor tongue to gash the Star Force officer and infect him with Sekla’s psychic DNA!

Crouton the bread cat flew to his aid, and together they defeated the psychic slaves.

Using the psychic DNA footprint Courton and Zoz got on their ship, the Starship Interprize and tracked it down to none other than the fabled Black Mist, Selka’s large industrial space ship that hid in the tail of a comet!

With some difficulty they boarded the ship, found one of Sekla’s drones, and reversed the polarity of the psychic dampeners to force Selka to inhabit the drone herself! Once trapped inside Selka and the Star Force officers had a mighty show down including live electric wires whipping about, polarized beam rays to attack Selka but not her host, and of course psychic domination handled using a clock!

Selka was defeated and it turned out all she wanted the Phantom Field Generator was to make a body that could house her hive mind and still allow her psychic control of the galaxy. See, she’s a sympathetic character.

Thoughts on the game

Playing with kids, especially kids as GMs is a lot of fun. It also requires some patience. My kids have some great ideas (bread cat!) and they are easily distracted. A lot of times though that distraction is a hibernation mode where interesting ideas are bubbling around in their noggins. For instance a lot of times when we’d ask them what something looks like they would stop and draw it. Which is slow, but kind of cook when you think about it. Now we have a physical artifact for that thing!

The rules for Star Force are fun. Based on the same mechanic as Lasers & Feelings you’ve got a single stat (your number) and you want to roll under it for doing fighty things and over it for doing non-fighty things. My 12 year old gear head daughter figured out that if she gave her scientist a 2 and just never fought things but found other kinds of solutions to problems, she’s pratically never miss a roll. In fact because she usually did science and put her shield power in systems, she rolled lots and lots of crits! Zoz on the other hand who had a 4 and was a killer, noticed that he only ever rolled 1 die to attack and that meant that he sometimes failed, but mostly got what he wanted with complications. It’s almost like the game is encouraging people not to use violence to solve their problems …

The point allocation was a lot of fun, but only Colin remembered that you have two actions and can spend them to do something other than reallocate your shield energy and take an action. The rest of us just scrambled with moving our power around and getting worn down after four or five rounds. Fortuitously, that was usually sufficient to resolve the current threat.

Not sure how wacky the game is supposed to be, but our game was pretty gonzo silly. BREAD CAT!

Actual Play – The Secrets of Cats (11/30/2014)

The Secret of CatsGM: Sean Nittner
Players: June Garcia, Julie Dinkins, Christine Hayes, and my daughters
System: Fate Core
World of Adventures: The Secrets of Cats

As project manager of Evil hat I play surprisingly few Fate games. One part because I’m usually playing games at conventions and I take what’s offered, one part because I like to play the new-hot-sexy game de jour and one part because Fate is a bit like work for me. Despite loving it, I see it A LOT and so an idea really has to get me excited for me to run it. The Secrets of Cats got me excited.

I’ve run several games of Cat for my girls in the past and I know that the idea of playing magical cats is pretty, well, magical. I mean who doesn’t want to believe that your cat staring at the wall like there is something there is actually protecting you from an evil spirit trying to get in?

EndGame Square One game days have usually been on weekends I have my daughters so if I run a game, it’s a kid’s game they can play in. On November 30th, all of those would align, so I signed up to run The Secrets of Cats!

Note: I worked with Richard Bellingham (the author), Rob Donoghue (who reviewed the outline), Lenny Balsera (who worked with Richard as a system developer), Josh Yearsly (the Editor), Fred Hicks (layout and art direction) and Crystal Frasier (cover and interior art) on this project, so it was pretty damn cool to see the fruits of their labor turn into a game at a table I was GMing!

Half-baked Characters

TSoC uses Fate Core with minor tweaks in the skill tree and some additional stunts. Any time I run Fate Core, I make sure the characters are at least ready to play. In this case it meant giving each cat a Name, description, three aspects (High Concept, Trouble, Burden), Skills selected (as there are some new ones like Territory and the four types of magic), Magic Stunts and normal stunts.

What this left open was a True Name aspect, a fifth aspect, and technically two stunts (one magic and one mundane) though I only encourage players to add in another stunt if it looks like they are trying to do something that doesn’t quite fit, or if they are using a skill they are bad at in a way that it sounds like their character should be particularly skilled.

I though this might be a bit too restrictive but it worked out great. The players quickly made their cats their own but describing their activities like Tuffy (the big bad tough cat) requiring a fealty from Oregan in the form a single dirty sock from each of her burdens (the family she watched over). They also talked about their burdens and fleshed them out much more than I had. Overall they warmed to the cats very quickly.

The adventure is a Secret…

Okay, it’s not actually a secret at all, but since I ran the adventure in the module Silver Ford, I don’t want to give away too many spoilers. Suffice to say the cats went on a merry adventure, got in some fights they didn’t mean to, but saved the day in the end. The surprise finish was that our visiting cat, who really didn’t have a home found one, NOT WHERE I WOULD HAVE EVER EXPECTED. Turns out there’s a lot to say for how much having a pet can change a old cantankerous man’s disposition.

Thoughts on the game

I wish I took pictures. We had a cool map with aspect cards all over it and several drawings of cats. This was the best I could piece together afterwards.


The group I had clearly really understood cats. Whenever June’s cat Patches was outside of her own territory she immediately showed her belly to whoever owned the territory she entered. But in her home…it was HER RULES.

Bruno was hilarious because he was such a “people” cat. All of the fire crew loved him so when he saw something making off with one of their fire helmets if of course gave chase, and was almost run over because of it. Car are scary!

Many good times, and easily something I could imagine campaigning. Tuffy gained some new territory but could he hold onto it. What would Spark’s family (read: burden) do without her? Could Bruno stop the spirit that was starting fires in his town and causing his Burden’s so much grief? I’d love to play and find out.

Here are the pre-generated characters I used. Oregon, Patches, Sparks, Tuffy, and Bruno

Actual Play – Thora vs. the Ormson Brothers Three (9/28/2014)

sagasoftheicelandersGM: Carl Rigney
Players: Ben Chirlin, Jamil Valis-Walker, Sean Nittner
System: Sagas of the Icelanders

This felt a little nostalgic. Getting a chance to play a new game that I’d been excited about trying out for a while, with Carl, at EndGame. This has happened many times in the past….Dogs in the Vineyard, Don’t Rest Your Head, Apocalypse World, Agon, Monsterhearts, Levearge, Smallville… but as you can tell from the dates of those games, it’s been a while.

The game itself was serendipitous, I didn’t think that I could make it to the EndGame Square One Game Day until just a day or two before the event and by then all the games were booked. I decided to show up anyway and see if there were any openings. Fortune smiled on me. Carl’s game was full but two of the players didn’t show up so not only did I get to play Sagas but I also filled the 3rd player spot that meant there were enough players for the game to run! Huzzah!

Our Icelanders

Thora Sigriddottir – A fierce Shield-Maiden who had gone out Viking once in the past and killed a man with a fine Spanish sword, which she now wielded to the envy of many.

Jorund Bardson – The Man, father of Thora, but now remarried after Sigrid passed. Employer of Ari, the son of his good friend Hrolf. Jorund’s relationships were the ties that kept us all together. Between Jorund’s daughter, huscarl, and greedy neighbors, his life would not be simple.

Ari Hrolfson – Huscarl to Jorund. Ari’s brother Hegg had taken over the homestead and tensions were high between them, and neither felt the distribution of their father’s wealth was fair. Hegg had all the property, Ari had the ship, but he also took his father’s sword, and the last Hegg believed to be his inheritance.

Our History

We built up some backstory to wind up the tension of the game and give us something to spring off of.

Jorund Bardson and Hrolf were good friends who came to Iceland together, founded neighboring homesteads, and traded the fruits of their bounty.  Jorund had one daughter with his wife Sigrid (Thora) but the she passed and he remarried to Helga who already had two sons of her own (Bjorn and Bjarni) from her dead husband Olaf Sigurlson. With her he had two more daughters (Dalla and Osk).

Hrofl had two sons (Hegg and Ari) and a daughter (Ingrid the Seidkona). All of he children Thora, Hegg, Ari, Bjorn, and Bjarni grew up together, fought together, and eventually when a Viking together. Last summer Hrolf was injured while Viking and died during the winter chill. Hegg took the homestead, Ari his father’s boat. Both made claim on their father’s sword (Hegg because he was the oldest, Ari because he fought beside his father last) but in the end Ari just took it and would let the gods sort it out.

Both Hegg and Ari had affections for Thora, but neither had offered a bride price (dowry) yet.

Helga’s first husband (Olaf) had a brother Orm that was always the cheat and vagabond. Together with his three sons Valli the Peacock, Vandrid the Axe, and Vebjorn the Half-Bear, Orm brought hardship to the people and was a know cattle thief.


Our Story

Late at night, just as the sun was setting in early summer, three deep shadows were cast across the homestead of Jorund. In the dim light Ari (who was on the porch watching over the land) recognized the sons of Orm. He advanced to cut them off from Jorund’s cattle, but as it turns out it was he that they wanted.

The three brothers came to him wishing to be taken viking when his ship sailed later in the summer. His father was dead and his brother Hegg would not go, so naturally they should come. Ari began to dispute their claim to a place on his ship when Thora emerged and quickly escalated the confrontation by insulting the brothers by saying they were not brave or swift enough, and not worthy of going viking. Things escalated pretty fast from there. Valli insulted Thora. She challenged him. Valli dismissed her as a foolish girl. Ari boasted that not only could she defeat him, should could defeat all three of them! And a duel was arranged.

When Jorund, despite Helga’s admonitions, came outside it was already too late. The duel had been arranged and his daughter would face three warriors in single combat the next day.

We squeezed in lots of great scenes between the challenge and the duel itself.

Ari and Thora sparred by candle light. At one point Ari fell and Thora was upon him. Violence suddenly turned sexy.

They were interrupted by Jorund, however, who wished to bestow his daughter with words of wisdom.

In the night Ari hatched a plan. He took his mail shirt and oiled it well, wrapped it sound, and brought it to Thora as a gift, which she accepted gladly and the two of them wandered into the night and made tribute to Freyja, goddess of love and sexuality.

In the morning, Thora, who had been admonished by her step-mother Helga asked how she could gain her approval to marry Ari. Helga said that if Thora convinced Ari not to take her sons Bjorn and Bjarni out viking that she would embrace her as a daughter and support her. Thora agreed but soon forgot her promise.

Meanwhile Jorund and Ari talked about the battle to come and Ari asked if he would accept the Ari’s mail shirt as a bride price for Thora. Jorund protested that he would first have to refuse Ari in order to give Hegg the opportunity to propose as Hegg was the older brother. Ari countered that he would only have to allow Hegg to propose if he hadn’t denied three other suitors first. Since a father is only allowed to refuse three offers, after that, he would have to accept Ari’s offer, assuming Thora would take him. Jorund was perplexed but agreed that if three other suitors first approached and he denied them all, he would have no choice but to accept Ari’s proposal.

As people gathered to see the fight, Ari found his sister Ingrid and asked that she do a boon for him. Convince the Ormson brothers to each, in turn, propose to Thora before the duel. Ingrid said she would do this, but the price was that Ari would not draw his fathers sword form it’s scabbard until night had fallen. He agreed and she peace bound his sword with a single hair of hers and a prayer to the gods.

The Duel(s)

The Godi announced the duel, each man would be fought individually upon a small sandbar just a few feet from the shore. Stepping off the small island, having three shields broken, yielding, or dying would all signify losing.

Before the fight Bjorn offered Thora his helmet. Bjarni offered her his shield. They all embraced and boasted of her might.

Ari spoke with Hegg and kept him distracted with discussion of the homestead and sibling rivalry so that he could not approach Thora.

Before the duel was fought, Valli, son of Orm stood and said that their was no need to fight. He had three cattle that he would offer instead, as a bride price to marry Thora. All but Ari and Ingrid (who gave him a subtle and knowing smile) were surprised by this. Jorund, as he had agreed, refused this offer.

Then Vandrid, second son of Orm, stood forward with bags full of coin and offered also proposed. Jorund refused, but by now many were beyond surprise, they were either confounded or outraged. Hegg stood forward and said “This is nonsense, you cannot be hearing these proposals. If everyone is going to propose to Thora, then so will I=”

It wasn’t perfect. Ari had hoped to hold Hegg at bay just a bit longer, but he had to make do. He shouted an interruption “You cannot brother, for I already have. The mail shirt she wears to do battle today is my bride price. Jorund, let me marry your daughter!”

AWKWARD. Hegg protested. He should be the one to be able to propose. Thora called out that he had not gone viking last year, that he was a coward and not a man at all…


As each duel was fought Jorund beseeched Orm to call off his sons but it was to no avail. The old man’s pride was too great.

Hitting Game Mechanics here for a second. Thora had a Youth stat of +3, She was given +1 on all her rolls from Ari’s boasting the night before. She was also given +1 on all her rolls from her father’s counsel and training the night before. When you have +5 on a roll, success is a sure thing, and in this case, Thora never got less than a 10+. Every Ormson brother died and lead Orm alone in the world with no sons to bring firewood to keep his hearth warm. Without a slave to attend to him and with no friends, he would likely not live through the winter.

Oathbreaker or Kinslayer

While this violence occurred Ari spoke to his brother Hegg and ask that he not fight this duel. Ari loved Thora and did not want to see her harmed. But he also loved his brother, despite their differences, and did not want his blood spilled for pride. Hegg thought on this and agreed that he would not Harm Thora if Ari gave him their father’s sword. Ari tried to explain to him the oath he had made to the gods and to Ingrid. He promised the sword and sundown, but Hegg would not hear it. The choice was to let Hegg fight and die, thus loosing his brother, or to give Hegg his sword, pray that he did not draw it from it’s sheath, and put his fate in the hands of the gods. Potential god wrath it was!

When Hegg stepped onto the island to face the now blood soaked Thora he did so ready to die but also ready to speak sense with her if she could here it. The duel was for nothing. She had insulted him but she could simply surrender and thus take back the insult. None would question her prowess with the blade. Hegg held his hand on Hrolf’s sword hilt. Ready to draw should the Valkyrie of death advance on him.

There was this tipping moment where nobody could tell what would happen. Thora would advance and kill Hegg, or one of them would step back into the water and admit defeat. Ari could not see the purpose in his brother eyes and before the sword was drawn he ran through the water to tackle his brother and stop him from fighting Thora. It was moot however, Thora had already stepped back into the water, admitting defeat and restoring Hegg’s honor.

This did not however, stop the two brothers from the wrestling in the water just as they had in their youth.

A Funeral and a Wedding

After the duel the brother were all carried up onto Orms property where they were buried under giant piles of stone (the one thing that was not scarce on the island). Everyone helped carry stones. Many till their own hands were bleeding. Children and the elderly alike. All helped while Orm wept at the loss of his sons.

That night Thora and Ari were married. The walked onto the beach again and consummated the marriage before returning to the feast where Ari boasted that they would go viking this summer and bring back the greatest treasures anyone on Iceland had ever seen. Yay, boasting!

A viking

We were running short on time, so we handled the viking using the Huscarl move of the same name.  Fate was tempted and they stayed out longer than they should but they came back with plunder a plenty. (I supposed two handfuls of silver plus one handful for Thora, Bjorn, and Bjarni each).

Jorund also did well. He expanded and built a new barn for his cattle to keep them safe and protect them from the cold.

A forgotten promise

What about Thora’s promise to Helga that Bjorn and Bjarni wouldn’t go a-viking? Whoops, I guess that is for the gods to sort out.

Thoughts on this game

Ben had never played a roleplaying game before. He was a champ! He took right to being the beleaguered father with mischief making young ones. He did everything he could to keep his house in order and protect his family, but much of that was out of his hands. I think it was a great introduction to gaming for him!

There is a labor & food resources mini game that we got to see a little bit of in play. I didn’t see the moves so I was only getting part of it, but it seemed like a cool way to mechanize at least one “front”. Family disputes, sickness, the dangers of going viking would still come from play, but this ensured a constant challenge of just keeping everyone fed.

I love, love, love, the advancement mechanics. Pick four people to have relationships with. Advance after you’ve made a move involving each of them. I think at this moment this is my favorite advancement system. It forces the game to focus inward, which is exactly the direction you want it to go anyway. Fucking brilliant.

I don’t often feel clever in games, but in this game I felt more like Br’er Rabbit (or perhaps more aptly in this case Loki) than I ever have. Ari first made something of a blunder by challenging all three of the Ormson brothers to fight Thora, but later turned that to his advantage by giving her his mail shirt as a bridal gift and convincing the brothers to each propose to her before they fought, so once Jorund refused them all, he could not refuse Ari, and thus wouldn’t lose face by allowing Ari to marry her instead of Hegg. It didn’t work out that way, but it was close enough, I still was pretty tickled.

Deciding between breaking a vow to the god and being a kinslayer was pretty god damn awesome.

I think it would have been a stronger choice if Thora and Ari weren’t smitten with each other from the start. Yes, Hegg posed an obstacle, but as an NPC there was only so much interference he could run. I think it would have been stronger if Ari was perusing Thora, but she sought Hegg, or that she loved only battle and wanted no man.

The man and woman moves really gave me food for thought. It reminded me a lot of the Day/Night moves from Night Witches. If you weren’t in a certain circumstance (in this case being of one gender or the other) there were some things you just couldn’t do. It’s a very different vibe from Apocalypse World where the basic moves cover everything one might try to do and the playbook moves just create more potent effects or shortcuts to simplify things. An AW character is fundamentally never at a loss for something to try. A woman’s honor was never in question. A man could not goad a man into action.

The shield-maiden was the one character that could break this rule (she got one male move) and I was really glad that in our game, the woman being the kick ass hero that can sleep with whoever she pleases, gets the glory, and is all kinds of bad ass was totally normal. None of the characters, except the small-minded and churlish Ormson brothers thought anything of it.

I super loved the currency as well. A few bits copper, a handfull of silver. Fucking awesome.

There was a great tender moment when it was clear though his look that Hegg was not angry at Ari for their father’s death, he was angry with himself. It was the kind of thing they couldn’t communicate to each other with words, but when the wrestled in the water, both half drowning, I like to think they understood one another and forgave one another.

Carl, after the game, shared this little snippet about arraignment from

All of the family sagas agree that courtship “was the single
most deadly pastime for the young Icelandic male”.
The most important, unwritten rule of courtship was that
the less a hopeful groom saw of his intended bride before
entering into formal marriage negotiations with her family,
the better his chances were of staying alive.

Also, love poetry was punishable by outlawry or death!

Actual Play – The Lost Ones (2/23/2014)

DoGM: Sean Nittner
Players: Tim Sanders, David Schmidt, James Lawton, and my two littles.
System: Do:Fate of the Flying Temple

Mark Diaz Truman is making a Fate Accelerated Edition (FAE) version of Daniel Solis’s great game Do:Pilgrims of the Flying Temple. Beyond using the FAE rule-set, Mark has also made a change to the setting, namely that the pilgrims arrive home to find the temple is missing, and it it’s place is a dragon egg. When the egg hatches it’s their responsibility to raise the dragon, and in turn it aids them. Now, instead of letters being delivered to the temple, they somehow, are sent to the dragon, who burps them up.

EndGame has started a new monthly game day called Square One where GMs are asked to come bring any game their excited about running. Old games gathering dust on their shelves. New games they’ve never tried. Wacky play-tests, you name it.

I’m the project manager for Evil Hat, very invested in making our games successful, I love EndGame and want to contribute as a GM, and I had my kids this weekend. My solution to all three was to run Do at Square One. It was peachy!

Characters – Setup

Each player made a pilgrim first by naming them. The names have two parts, an Avatar and a Banner. These names get fleshed out into aspects on the character sheet (effectively becoming the Pilgrim’s High Concept and Trouble respectively). We had

Pilgrim Small Monkey – A tiny monkey, like, really tiny. She could fit in the palm of your hand tiny. Small monkey helped by swinging through the trees to deliver things, but got in trouble because winds (even gentle ones) blew her away.

Pilgrim Fierce Cat – A small tiger that helped people but sometimes scarred them too.

Pilgrim Quick Deer – Quick always got places quickly but sometimes didn’t look where he was going!

Pilgrim Sleeping Dancer – Elegant and friendly, but he fell asleep all the time!

Pilgrim Impulsive Cheer – Always saw the bright side of things, but did’t think things out too far ahead.

The Dragon

When the arrived and found the Dragon, floating in a green cloud where the temple used to be the Pilgrims went after the egg, but they found that they were suddenly aware they were flying. And of course once you realize you’re flying, then you fall! Quickly the bounded from cloud to cloud, caught winds, and sailed safely to a very small island with a single palm tree. All fell safely in the palm, except Cheer who feel safely in the water with a giant sploosh!

When the egg cracked, the dragon was revealed. Each pilgrim declared one aspect about it:

  • Radiant in the sunshine
  • Playful dragon
  • Perpetually hungry
  • He can fly!
  • He’s really strong

From those we decided he was a golden dragon and shined like the sun. They named him Shiny!

Letter to the Pilgrims

Once safe and secure, Shiny started coughing, making a hacking sound, and then spit up a scroll! When they unrolled it, it was a letter from a young girl named Miko:

Dear Pilgrims of the Flying Temple…

Hi, Pilgrims! I hope you’re having a great day at the Flying Temple. I’ve heard it’s filled with birds and fish and cats and dogs and all kinds of animals! I bet it’s lots of fun.

I wish I lived with you! I’m on a little world that doesn’t have any animals at all. Even though my family brought two cats and three dogs with us when we first moved to this planet, they’ve all vanished! All our animals are missing and no one knows where they went!

I’m writing you today because I think you can help us. Our animals have to be going somewhere, and I bet you can help us figure out where they went. The adults on my planet don’t like it when us kids ask questions, but they will have to pay attention when you come!

Anyway… you should come soon. I’ve got games we can play and we can play tag on the beach and we can look for animals together. And you can tell the adults that they have to listen to us kids for once.

P.S. I think that maybe something in the woods is keeping the animals from coming home. I’ve got a flashlight and sandwiches and a backpack all ready to go if you want to go into the woods to look for them.

– Miko

Afraid that whatever happened to their temple, must have been what happened to the animals, the set off to go help Miko. Shiny carried each of them in one claw, except Small Monkey who was small enough to ride on Shiny’s back (Shiny is still a baby dragon but really strong).

Saving the Animals

When the arrived, the pilgrims found a peaceful town. There was an emerald green river that flowed through the village, a blacksmith, a school, a fountain, and many happy people.  Everyone was healthy and everything was orderly. A bit too orderly though. Children were to listen and learn, not to be heard. Disruptions to the towns happiness and peacefulness was an office that the Mayor Kuge would not abide.

Game aspects: Temple is Missing, Animals are Missing, and Adults Don’t Listen to the Kids.

After causing a ruckus from their arrival the the Pilgrims set off to find out what was going on. Sleeping Dancer was a kid himself, so he started going to school, and learned the teacher Shokunin was new to the town and very kind to the children, but also did not let them explore. Small Monkey got blown by a strong wind and was rescued by fierce cat, but in doing so landed in  the fountain. Soon after, both of them got horribly sick! Impulsive Cheer investigated the doctor and found that she gave the sick animals to some swarthy looking men with a cart. Quick Deer raced up the mountain to find there was a big factory on the river, making the water green.

When the all looked further they found goblins! Very orderly goblins that were making sure the humans were healthy and that the animals, who got sick when they drank the emerald water were cared for outside of town. But they wouldn’t let them go. The animals wanted to go home!

The pilgrims freed the animals and revealed that the mayor himself was a goblin in disguise. After that the town agreed to have fewer rules and listen to the kids (who knew something was wrong all along) more often! They also had sympathy on the goblins who wanted pets and let them still take care of the sick animals, as long as they could go home when they wanted to!

Props and Pretty Things

I didn’t give myself a lot of time to prepare props for this game, but I do have the beautiful game Tokaido, which seemed very appropriate to the game. I taped a few of the cards to index cards, used some replica Ch’ing Dynasty coins as fate chips, and printed out the letter itself. While we were walking to the game, my little one saw a cherry blossom tree, so we pick a few of those as well.

The exciting part for me though, was getting a chance to use my own Dragon in a game! He protects every home I’ve lived for the last 20 years and now he got to come with me to a game!






Thoughts on this game

This was not one of my best games. Partially this is because I don’t have a good feel for creating challenging and fun “young adventures”. I find myself treating young characters (and players) as miniature adults, which isn’t a good solution. Geoff McCool noted that in my Boxcar Children game, that he was terrified about the idea of children wading through cold water that was crashing into rocks to find a secret cave, getting drenched and then sick. It worked out okay, but I did really allow those kids to get into some pretty perilous situations (and that was my youngest daughter who’s character got sick).

The other reason I was a bit down on myself was for scripting too much ahead. I wanted to have an idea of what the goblins were doing, but really as I kept revealing their plans (instead of letting them evolve from play) the idea in my head started sounding worse and worse. Were the animals slave or pets? Why would the goblins be hurting them if they wanted to care for them? A lot of inconsistencies started cropping up (at least in my mind).

Finally, I feel like the opposition was pretty week. The mayor didn’t really have any way to threaten or impose his will. Even should he win a roll, about the worst he ever did was make the townspeople not like the pilgrims. Which is fine once, but as the antagonist I felt he was a one trick pony. He really felt like weak opposition to me.

One the plus side, playing wacky anime characters that can do amazing wuxia acrobatics is cool! And we didn’t have a single physical fight, which I was very proud of (as that is not what the game is about at all).

The dragon was one thing that worked really well in this game. Both causing complications for them, and mirroring their behavior back at them. He got confused when told he should follow the rules and then saw the pilgrims break them, which I thought was a great (in game) teaching moment.