Actual Play – Fate of the Mouse Guard (3/28/2015)

War-of-Ashes-Front-Cover-Mockup (1)GM: Kit Walsh
Players: Sophie Lagacé, Edmund Metheny, Sean Nittner, and his littles.
System: War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus (re-skinned to Mouse Guard)

End of 2014, start of 2015 when we were still wrapping up on War of Ashes final edits and playtesting we talked about running another playtest, but this time using the Mouse Guard setting.

My little ones who have played Mouse Guard and War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus before were with us and so we got another chance to see how well it played with kids as well!

The setup

Kit emailed us this in advance:

A Mouse team was ambushed by a pair of weasels while on their way to deploy the scent barrier that keeps gigantic beasts like wolves and deer out of the Mouselands. The weasels injured and poisoned the mice and took several of their packs. The able mice followed shortly after, and found that their packs had been ransacked a short distance away. Their papers had been taken, including the map of where the scent barrier was to be deployed and a letter of introduction identifying the bearers as representatives of the Mouse Guard in Lockhaven, addressed to the mayor of a moderately distant town at the other end of this segment of the scent barrier, Mossdown.

The weasels’ trail led, curiously, back towards the nearby town of Goldblossom, rather than into the wild. The survivors returned to town that night, and met up with a second team from the Mouse Guard that was investigating disappearances in the area.

The next steps are up to you!

Good stuff!

Character Creation

When we arrived Kit had a dozen or so prompts on index cards on the table. They were either questions like “why does the mouse Benjax keep getting off the hook when he’s arrested?” or statements like “a history with weazels.”

We each picked up a couple of the cards that spoke to us and made aspects off of them. We had some great ones like:

“I shot the Sheriff [of Goldblossom]”

“My brother the Mail Mouse is Missing!”

“Coal thinks he’s above the law. He isn’t!”

“Benjax won’t get away…again!”

“I stabbed Rostov [the Weazel]. He saved my life.”

Our Heroes

Xiomi – Patrol mouse from Lockhaven going on the mission because one of the missing mice is her brother!

Patrol Mouse with no name – Sibling to Benjax, who got away with his crimes because he blackmailed Gwendolyn with threats of selling information to the weasels.

Coal – A renegade mouse who works on his own. He wears a black trenchcloak and uses spiked brass knuckles he calls “weazel dusters”. He shot Sheriff Grom years ago in the Weasel War because he thought the sheriff was colluding with Weasels.

Daisy – The terrified tenderpaw who traveled with Coal. Here patrol leader Amber was kidnapped, and another patrol mouse was killed in the ambush.

Bernice – A seasoned patrol leader with a sordid weasel history.

Our Adventure

Bernice, weasel sympathizer.
Bernice, weasel sympathizer.

Two patrols join on the road for a common cause. To find the weasels who attack the patrol, to find the missing mice, to get back the letter of introduction, to get back the scent barrier map, to find out what happened to the mayor, to catch the sheriff red-pawed, and to get to the bottom of what looked liked a mouse-weasel conspiracy. Okay… maybe several common causes.

Some major highlights of the adventure:

  • The patrol mouse pushing their brother Benjax into a spider pit he intended as a trap for them!
  • Xiomi’s bee stinging Sable the Weasel.
  • Daisy trying to make up for her earlier cowardliness by sneaking off alone to follow Half-Wisker Willy, and then getting trapped by Benjax but eventually bringing him to justice!
  • Stinky Pete the Junk Mail Mouse handing out leaflets made of literal leaves that all said “Vote for Benjax”.
  • Coal and Sheriff Glom having a stare down at the Honeysuckle Tavern.
  • A spider chase with Daisy dragging the bedraggled Benjax after her.
  • Weasels getting away after Bernice and Rostov traded cold war banter and finding no ideological middle ground.
  • Patrol mouse with no name impaling Rostov with his own katana!
Spider Chase!
Spider Chase!

In the end, we rescued the enslaved miner mice, arrested Benjax, set the weasels packing, and collapsed the tunnel they were digging that would have given weasels a backdoor into mouse territory. Hooray for the Guard!

What rocked

The aspect prompts we really great. Gave us the power to make our own characters while ensuring they were tied into the story.

Based on that I love how personal we made everything. Everyone knew everyone. It felt like a game of Dogs in the Vineyard!

Junk Mail Mouse? Aw man, that is awesome!

Weight (weasels were weight 2) make a big difference and we really had fun playing with it. Zone aspects were also great. Maneuvers to push people were awesome too! Win, win, win!

Spider Chase!

I have just been listening to Tom Clancy’s Command Authority, so my brain was in very cold war era mood. This game fit perfectly!

What could have improved

We forgot about Roar/Froth, mostly due to time running short.

We never got the Sheriff. We’ll just have to hunt him down…next time!

Actual Play – Gods? Enough of this nonsense! (12/28/2014)

War-of-Ashes-Front-Cover-Mockup (1)GM: Sophie Lagacé
Players: Sean Nittner, Karen Twelves, and my daughters
System: War of Ashes


Edmund was sick so Sophie took over as GM. We knew we wanted a social conflict. We had been talking about it over emails and now that Froth was feeling pretty fine in physical combat we wanted to see how it would fare with mouth words.

One advantage we’ve got – We’re not using weapon rules. As many times as I’ve thought “oh, lets use weapon damage to make folks weapon of choice more meaningful” I’ve know that if we have weapons we’ll have armor, and those two create a zero sum arms race not only negates each other but also force everyone to use the best weapon and armor all the time which is counter to the kind of pulp action we want to see.

Not having weapon damage rules turned out to have another benefit when we got into social conflicts, we didn’t to create an social analog. Aces!

“What the Hell?”

That’s what Gailus, the god of Ylark who had just appeared in front of us said. Directly. To. Semela.

Semela, an Elovrix Priest trained in the temples of Atronia knew how to respond to that question. Point the blame at someone else! She found the closest Elovix she could and was just about to say “She did it” when her second Ylark horn (you know the one she grew after casting the spell to make the earth rumble) fell of and landed on the ground with a thud. Then a Ylark fell from the sky on the other side of her also with a thud. Nice compel!

Pretty soon, it became clear that if Gailus was here he wanted to party. Never mind that the town was torn apart. Or that the Kuld would come back. Drinking Kog and a celebration were called for.

No time for that. We’ve got work to do!

We opted for a social conflict between the players. Lele was infuriated that Semela, the self-appointed mayor was drinking Kog and dancing with a short Elvorix buck instead of seeing to the needs of the city. Semela was honoring one of the gods and wanting to make sure that nobody made him angry…or to happy. We’ve just got to endure him, like if Santa Clause arrived and wanted to pinch your cheeks. You just gotta tough it out and get back to work once they finally get bored and leave. Mac and Cheese and Ficca sided with Lele. They wanted to see the town taken care of, not wrecked worse by a giant party.

We made up a zone map that indicated the various audiences that we might want to influence. I didn’t take a picture, so here’s a reproduction as best as I could remember it.

Social Zone Map_Exchange1


The idea of movement here was a little bit physical and a little bit abstract. In order to go from talking to the folks rebuilding brambletown to the people having raucous celebrations you needed to both physically move between groups, but you also needed to give your attention to each of them to win them over.

Imitative Order – We decided that Flash ruled the day in his conflict. It was going to take getting a lot of people’s attention to shift the crowd’s activities.

Roar Phase – Worked as expected. We each made aspects to show how we were preparing for the argument. This worked as expected. Good times.

Notable actions:

Semela started by making a maneuver to add an ally, in this case Gailus himself. We decided that adding an ally increased your weight and the difficulty was based on the ally’s weight. Gailus in a social contest is weight 4 (he’s a god after all) so I had to Overcome at a Great [+4] difficulty to add him to my side. Ficca did the same thing (albeit with just a small force of workers from her zone. Weight 2).

Ficca moved zones to the Elvorix avoiding attention and changed the zone aspect by convincing them that they could avoid the party and be working on fixing up their homes at the same time.  They agreed so she would stop talking to them and thus drawing attention to them. Aspect changed to Working Elvoix Avoiding Attention.

Mac and Cheese spent the first exchange just moving among the people to get the revelers to pay attention to it. On the second exchange it did a maneuver to remove Gailus from aiding Semela by belching a great kog belch and pointing outside the town, indicating that there were better parties out there.

Lele bided her time and waited until she could find a quiet space to talk. We represented that with an Overcome action to create a new zone (and choose the aspect in it). After finding the moment of quiet, she did a maneuver to pull Semela into it “we need to talk”.  Semela had been busy partying creating aspects like “Most important person here” as a form of ablative armor against any would be detractors.

When they finally did duke it out Semela had her big guns (Gailus) removed and was frothing with her worst approach, so she went down pretty quick. She took two consequences “Acting like a drunken fool” and “Responsible for these sentians” before conceding the fight.

Meanwhile Ficca slipped a sleeping agent into the kog of the revelers to they all passed out (we added the word “sleeping” to the zone aspect) and we just kind of left the Vidaar to burn themselves out eventually.

Map by the end of the conflict:

Social Zone Map_Exchange3


Divine Milestones

We ended the session after the conflict and performed out Divine Interest Milestone, where we diced as a grout what aspect we would collectively get as a result of being taken out by divine consequences. Given that Gailus left us to go find a better party somewhere else, we decided on A Disappointment to Gailus. That went on our Divine Interest sheet (one shared by the group) as a permanent aspect.  Woots!

Thoughts on the game

We had some cool things happen in the conflict (winning over various groups, using maneuvers to add/remove weight, and making new zones) but it didn’t represent the simple thing Lele was trying to do in the first place, which was talk to Selema. Or if it did represent it, it imposed a lot of barriers to do it (basically taking a few rounds of fighting with the environment to start the actual attacks on each other.

For something like a political battle where there were many factions with various interests, I see this working very well, but for a more personal argument it seemed like a bit much. Of course we were trying to test out social conflict with the War of Ashes rules so I think it was good we did a full blown conflict. In a normal session we probably would have handled it either in play talking to each other or with a single opposed overcome roll.

What I did like was that tactically we had a handful of interesting options that would be present in Fate Core to work with. While Shieldwall is a miniatures game and doesn’t handle social interactions, I think our Roar/Froth/Weight incorporated the spirit of the game well.

We also, since the god was there had four Divine Aspects in play, with the rule that there were three favorable ones and one “trouble” aspect. The favorable ones could be invoked once a turn as many times as we wanted, but for each time we did, the GM got a free compel or invoke on the trouble aspect. That’s how we lost Gailus actually, was that Sophie compelled the “Not a People Person” trouble aspect and had Gailus wander out of the party and into the snow. I think it worked, but it was hard to tell because we had so much else going on in the conflict that I frankly forgot about the divine aspects (even though we had them on the table as post it notes) most of the time.

One thing I’m very satisfied with is that is clear that we left the world CHANGED. Like you can see with the map zones changing above, and with the new Divine Interest Aspect, our characters changed the world around them and were changed themselves in the process. Most of that is just native Fate tech, but I’m really glad to see it present in War of Ashes.

Actual Play – Kuld at the wall! (12/21/2014)

War-of-Ashes-Front-Cover-Mockup (1)GM: Edmund Metheny
Players: Sean Nittner, Karen Twelves, and Sophie Lagacé
System: War of Ashes

Back to the Playtest Grindstone. My kids weren’t with us but we persevered,

Focus of the playtest session

  • Froth as a separate create advantage action during the Roar Phase. Aspects associated with frothing are tied to the approach used, and if any but the approach or those adjacent to it were used, the aspect is lost.
  • Weight tested with 2:1 odds granting a fixed “+” before the roll and 4:1 odds granting a fixed “++”.
  • Spellcasting both during the Roar Phase as and in the conflict proper.

What all of that needed was a good conflict to test out and thankfully Edmund was more than happy to offer it with a horde of Kuld descending upon us!

Roar Phase

We decided the that the GM would take turns “Roaring” with the characters. So, highest Quick PC Roars and generates an aspect, then our opposition does the same, on through the list. This way a single big opponent doesn’t miss out on the Roaring, nor do huge swarms of little guys get tons of aspects created.

kuldshamen_fullresAll difficulties set at Fair [+2]

  • Vala rallied the Vidaar with Flashy – “Vidaar, to me!”
  • The Kuld Augurst and began summoning forth The Source to suck up all the water in air and leave us “withering with thirst”
  • Lele coordinated the Jarl to intentionally open up one hole in the brambles to channel all of the kuld into the stone wall surrounded temple district where as a choke point. Frothing with Clever.
  • The Argust continued to summon (adding another free invoke to the aspect).
  • Semela called to Atronia, goddess of the earth to make the ground devour our foes, creating the aspect “churning earth” in the temple district zone.  She was frothing with Flashy as well and gained a minor Divine Interest consequence.
  • The Argust finished their battle magic (adding a third free invoke to the aspect) and we all the dry cold chilling our blood.

This worked out pretty well. It meant we all started with a few aspect we could use, were tied to an approach (or in the case of the NPCs frothing restricted to doing anything but what they are listed as “bad at”). and ready to jump into the fray. As I hoped it reminded me of the charging up mechanics from Anima Prime.

Where it was slightly less clear was that the Froth aspect is meant to be a personal one (with the exception of spellcasting) but “Hole in the Wall” (Lele’s aspect) was definintely not something we interpreted as personal, where as “Vidaar, to me!”, was very tied to Vala. More thinking on that later.

The Fight

MahrnnThe first to break through where the Shuda, vomiting horrific bile onto all of us. Mahrn were outside as well but thanks to the Ice Wall aspect created last session by Ficca and Mac and Cheese, they had to work a bit to get through it (Edmund required a number of successful overcome rolls for them to break open enough of the wall to get through.

Oh the havok we caused. Pillars toppled over. Braziers burning with incense for the gods thrown into the open mouths of Shuda, and all the while the earth churning and gobbling up our foes (Semela counted four devoured by the gods).

When the Marhn broke through it was trouble. Mechanically they have weight 4, so even one throws off a battle in a big way, Two is super bad news. Semela used a maneuver “Hey dum dum, look over here” to get the Troll onto the wall with her (and out of temple district with the other). It worked but just barely (tied on the overcome action). Edmund decided the bad news was that I got him in my zone… and that mean it was IN MY ZONE!

Vala and Lele pulled some pretty awesome heroics. Plunging a sword in the foot of Marhrn and then smashing him in the face when he bent down to pull it out. Vomiting Shuda were plugged up with other Shuda. It was a mess.

On the wall Selema ran from the Mahrn who destroyed everything around her. Even though it slipped and fell off the wall, it just clambered over it and kept up it’s chase.  She snatched a farmers sickle and prayed to Atronia to enchant it to delver fatal blow to the Marhn. Mechanically this is a standard use of a spell to make a stunt, in this case the stunt was “once per session, my farmers tool can deliver a lethal blow”.  Charged with a bunch of aspects and a stunt, Semela jumped off a building onto the back of the Mahrn and like separating the wheat from the chaff, she cleaved off it’s head.

Inside sword removed from the Mahrn’s foot, it was them emailed in his stomach!


Notice from the Gods

Semela’s 2nd spell cost another divine consequence, which pushed us over the edge (we had a few others from +4 and -4 rolls that I hadn’t mentioned) and we were “taken out” by Divine Interest.

A huge thunder shook the ground, we heard a massive bellowing voice, and then we looked down. To find a very short Elvorix with Ylark horns (note Semela had grown Ylark horns during the first as a consequence as well so they matched) and holding a keg of kog. He looked up at Selema and asked with divine frankness “What the hell?”

Thoughts on this game

Spell tested (from both PC and NPC) and worked well in the Roar Phase. I’ve got some concern about players getting confused about the difference between a normal ritual (which generates a stunt) and the battle rituals you can do in the Roar Phase.

We haven’t talked about what being taken out by Divine Consequences means yet, but we’ll work on that next session.

Froth as Roar worked well. It put enough aspect on the board that Edmund could hit us pretty hard when he wanted to, but we also had many resources ourselves.

Weight as dice not rolled (but fixed to +) is clunky and hard to remember. We’re going to work on revising it to be easier to manage. We noticed at the end using Fate Coins to mark weight was really helpful.

Maneuvers worked great. Given the weight rules, there is a strong incentive for player characters to push (and pull) around their opponents which is awesome.

To test next time:

  • Froth and social conflicts
  • Divine Interest Milestones

Actual Play – Refuges in Brambletown (12/6/2014)

War-of-Ashes-Front-Cover-Mockup (1)GM: Edmund Metheny
Players: Sean Nittner, Karen Twelves, Sophie Lagacé, and my daughters
System: War of Ashes

After two rounds of alpha and beta playtesting, many internal revisions, and an in depth review of the system from Rob Donoghue, and then a discussion of that review with Fred Hicks, we decided that the existing systems needed more work and refinement, which meant more playtesting!  Instead of releasing a third round of open playtesting we opted to playtest it internally so we can make rules changes on the fly and test them.

Our focus was on testing the new systems introduced in War of Ashes:

  • Magic – A powerful ability that attracts (usually unwanted) attention from the gods.
  • Froth – A pre-combat fervor sentians use to push themselves the extra mile.
  • Divine Interest – A method for tracking the attention of the gods.
  • Weight – A means to measure the advantages one side has over the other when they outnumber or outweigh (in the case of large critters literally outweigh you).
  • Zone Aspects – Already pretty well tested (and vetted) so far, but continuing to play with free aspects in every zone representing the terrain.
  • Lethal Damage – Damage that cannot be absorbed with stress, only consequences.
  • Maneuvers – Tactical options that are meaningful in WoA due to the inclusion of new mechanics: Zones aspects, weight, and lethal damage.

Phew, that’s a lot to test, but we’re dedicated to doing it. Also thankfully some of the new mechanics (zone aspects and lethal damage) have already proven to work very well. Others like weight we’re sure about how to trigger it (2:1 or 4:1 odds) but just needed to tinker on the effects. And lastly maneuvers are just reinterpretations of overcome and create advantage actions, so it’s just a matter of determining how they should interact with exiting mechanics for things like forced movement (moving someone to a different zone).

The two big ones are at the top of the list Magic and Froth. Those are our big nuts to crack!

Edmund, our beloved and beleaguered GM

Since we’re all still in design mode, Edmund offered to GM for us, which was great. That way were were free to think about the systems without also trying to run the game and present story options for the characters.

We opted for a motley group including ever faction (even a Kuld!) to once again see if we thought it was viable within the fiction. Edmund gave us the prompt that we were all refugees heading to a small town after a Kuld attack. We decided that during the Kuld attack Mac and Cheese (my nine year old’s first response when we asked what her Kuld’s belches smelled like) had some epiphany then and realize it didn’t want to eat us. It seems change was gastrointestinal in nature because the other Kuld could smell the difference and now they wanted to eat Mac and Cheese!

Our characters are:

Vala the Loud – A brave Vidaar warrior who fashions herself an inspiring leader.

Lele – A Jarl survivalist long cut off from the other Jarl, Lele has taken to living off the land.

Semela – An evangelist of Atronia, sent to Brambletown to give them aid (and mostly to get her god attention getting self out of Atronia) but her entourage was lost in the attack.

Ficca – An Elvorix alchemist traveling afar to look for strange new ingredients.

Mac and Cheese – A guldal rider (guldal is called Strawberry because of it’s red coloring with white spots) that must have eaten something strange because it suddenly became cognizant of Sentians as something other than food! A monster battling with it’s identity!


We started with the attack that left us stranded. The combat was en media res where our supply caravans were already destroyed and while some of the Kuld had been defeated, more were coming.

Edmund sent a several mobs of Kuld and one Ur-Kuld leader after us.  Here’s the systems we tested (beyond the normal Fate Core rules):

Zone Aspects – worked great. We started in the wrecked caravan. Near us was  snow drift, a frozen lake, and even a “boring spot”. Not only did those aspects get used but they added a lot of fun to the fight. Aces.

Weight – We played with this a lot. As we fought the weight kept changing and moving around in zones made a big difference. Weight put some nice tension in the game but we realized that our current rules (dice fixed with a “+” at 2:1 ratio) prevented us from using the Fate Deck. We also noticed that we kept forgetting to factor in the fixed “+” on the die and that it felt awkward to resize our die pool. “Oh, roll 4dF for most rolls but roll 3dF for these.”  While we really liked the Lethal attack that happened when Vaad ran in and was outweighed 4:1 something felt off about giving one kind of bonus (a fixed +) for 2:1 odds, but a different kind of bonus (Lethal damage) for a 4:1 odds.

Froth – Used but barely tested. Vaad frothed and we realized that the uses of it need to be articulated as “as part of an other action” otherwise they are pretty weak. Locking approaches usable was cool, but we didn’t get the oomph we were looking for. More testing.

Lethal Damage – Awesome. Vaad took a gnarly blow she had to eat with consequences. Six stress could have been a moderate consequence and two stress but this was lethal so severe it was. Which lead us to…

Divine Interest – This was quite awesome. With the new rules players can defer consequences they would take to turn into Divine Consequences that affect the whole group, very much like Collateral Consequences from Atomic Robo RPG. And our first one was a big one. Rain of Ylark!  Oh yeah, it was awesome watching Lele (the atheist) explain that as a strange weather formation!

Not bad for a single combat. Weight and Froth felt like they needed some work but the other were solid.  One change we didn’t expect was in consequences, namely that in Fate Accelerated they go away pretty quickly, and we realized that our mild consequences would drop right after the combat, which felt a lot less “grim” than we wanted, so we added that to the list of rules to review.

A town in shambles made of brambles!

When we arrived at Brambletown we discovered it was named after the wall of brambles that had grown up around the town, serving as a mediocre defense against most foes, but probably just an appetizer for the Kuld.

At first we were told to turn away at the gate, the town was already too full, but when we offered Ylark (and in fact some were still falling from the skies) we were gladly let in. The town itself was divided into four quarters. An large Vidaar district with a grove to Akka-Maas, and Elovrix district, a small Jarl enclave, and a stone walled temple district that the Jarl prohibited any from entering.

When asked who was in charge an Elvorix scholar, a Vidaar bravo, and a Jarl tactician all stepped forward pronouncing they were in charge. Semella then through her hat in the ring. She was sent from Atronia to give aid to Brambletown, she brought everyone Ylark, so she was in charge. I wanted to try Frothing outside a physical battle so I frothed with Flashing (making her Dazzling) and then tried to get Semela appointed as mayor of Brambletown… which was surprisingly easy! Now she got to deal with all the problems!

The first order of business was to enter the temple district, but despite her new appointment, the Jarl would not let anyone in. Lele asked why and was told they were preventing anyone from doing any praying at the temples. Lele suggested that the temples and the stone wall around them should all be broken down and turned into fortifications to protect the town. The Jarl all nodded sagely, liking the idea very much, but Semela was incensed. “You can’t desecrate the gods! Look at all they do for us!” *Ylark Drop*

We decided the debate would be handled as a Contest (First person to win three opposed overcome rolls wins) and I thought “okay, here’s a chance for Frothing with Flashy to shine”. Only… it didn’t. None of our Frothing options made sense in a Contest. I couldn’t do lethal damage (we weren’t attacking), moving my opponent didn’t make any sense, changing my weight was immaterial. Soo… this is a problem. Clearly Froth doesn’t work in a contest, but I also don’t think it would work in a social conflict. That was a problem to address (see below).

The Kuld Are Coming!

The contest end in a tie roll, where the GM is instructed “If there’s a tie for the highest result, no one gets a victory, and an unexpected twist occurs.” What was the twist? Of course, it was the Kuld drawn to our warmth and maybe even the falling Ylark!

Luckily while we had been arguing about what to do with the temples Ficca and Mac and Cheese were working on stacking snow on the wall of brambles and then with the aid of Ficca’s alchemical concoctions turning the snow into hard ice! A frozen bramble wall is better than no bramble wall!

Thoughts on the game

There were some things we didn’t use and should test in future games. Swarm rules, Adventure Approaches, Magic, and Milestones (since we have some new ones).

There were some things we did test that I found wanting, namely Froth.  First off, Froth was hard to define in the narrative, what does it actually “do”, and it’s also doesn’t have a clear mechanical effect in the minis game as it can be spent like currency to give each side a wide range of options. I thought on it for a long while and eventually sent this dreaded email to Sophie and Karen (writer/developer and editor).

I’ve been thinking more (dangerous I know) and part of the reason I’m having a hard time with how Froth should work is that Froth isn’t something that is clear in the fiction.

Zones are easy. Relative positioning. Even if we extend that to social conflicts (threats, bribes, persuasion), they hold up pretty well.

Weight is also easy, even if our 2:1 and 4:1 results end up changing, the concept is simple and makes sense.

Froth is, well it’s a lot of things. In Shieldwall is the ability to do tricks or tweak the rules. It’s also something of a bargaining chip (though since the only person you’re bargaining with is your enemy, that mechanic is not a strong one in my opinion). But what it represents is perhaps a bit of extra vigor, courage, or ingenuity. All of those are pretty damn vague and hard to pin down with rules.

I’ve got a radical idea. And please don’t hate for suggesting this.

What if Frothing is a special phase in conflicts (like it is in shieldwall) where all people can do is create advantages. So the clever folks can devise strategy, the forceful ones can bellow thunderous roars, the careful ones can measure the distance to the enemy, etc. End result is that conflicts would start with lots of free invokes on both sides. More for the sides that rolled better. A suggested “cost” for failing the create advantage roll would be taking a consequence which would be similar a bad roll in SW and it’s also something that could be shifted to DI to get the gods interested in the fight.

This would effectively create a “charge up” round like you see in Anima Prime and it would allow players to call on the advantages created to get the same kind of perks/bonuses that Shieldwall offers them.

Also, this would address the point Edmund made, that it’s hard to hurt the players. If your opponents start the fight with say six free invokes and the GM just waits till the players use up a few of their free invokes, it wouldn’t be hard at all to generate a big monster attack.

I know the major downside of this is that it means removing a section that we have put TONS of work into so we shouldn’t consider it lightly, but lets consider it and see if it makes any sense.

And to find out what misadventures that caused, stay tuned for my next report…. Kuld on the wall!

Once again kudos to Edmund and my girls for having the patience to player a game where we stopped every 10 minutes to discuss (and sometimes change) the rules.

Actual Play – What do you mean, the sword was picked up already? (8/13/2014)

War-of-Ashes-Front-Cover-Mockup (1)GM: Sean Nittner
Players: Karen Twelves and the Mornigstar boys (Scott, Ira, and Jason)
System: War of Ashes

It seemed like due diligence as Creative Director on the War of Ashes to you know, run it at some point at a con.  I added it to my Games on Demand menu at Gen Con and pitched it when Jason and his brother Scott asked what we should play on Wednesday before Gen Con started in full force.

Prep for the game

To get ready I figured I needed a few things.

  • An adventure seed that would compel characters to action and clearly be wide open to opportunities.
  • Characters designed around that seed but still left flexible enough to be tailored.
  • Some minis, because, of course! And fate dice to match!
  • A hand drawn map because maps are awesome.
  • All the normal game props (index cards, a battle map (because WoA), pencils, etc)
  • A printed copy of the game, complete with my normal post it note tags to quick reference needed sections.

It seems like a long list, but it went quick. I think I got all of this ready on Monday and Tuesday before the con. Here’s what it looked like.

Adventure Hooks

Sophie had done a fantastic job creating awesome adventure hooks by building them into the setting materials as “what could go wrong / be interesting /happen to the characters”. I really love the Vidaar, so I elected to flip through their chapter and pull out a few hooks and then mash them together. What I started with was:

The King’s Feast! A huge banquet is being prepared in the Hall of the Warrior King—perhaps for a holy day, a victory, a wedding, or the anniversary of the King’s Naming Day—and the castle is all abuzz. The kitchens are a battlefield and the chamberlain is desperately trying to organize seating so that fights won’t break out too early in the event—there is a time and place for this, after all. Any Fyrdee and Bondee worth his moss is trying to get on duty because that’s where the action will be.

What Do You Mean, It Was Picked Up Already? A Styrsik or Dowodik’s weapon—a family heirloom—was being repaired at the forge; when someone came to take delivery this morning, one of the blacksmith’s assistants packed the weapon and cheerfully sent it home to its owner. Alas, the real courier is here now, asking where the weapon is…

You take a problem like a missing heirloom sword and you compound with an imminent parade where said sword will be featured, and I figure you’ve got no end of excitement to get into. One of my first decisions was that I didn’t want an investigation. Not in this pulp action kind of game, and not in a two hour slot. So we start with a simple premise. The sword was taken by the Styrsik’s son, who everybody knows wants to overthrow his father. He’s taken it and plans to use it to rally the troops against his father. Simple but with plenty of room for nuance (why does he hate his father? is he a better leader afterall?) should the game go in that direction.


Froland the Yellow – Strysik (Commander) Vulgg’s cousin, your Resplendent Golden Fur earned you the prestigious title of Totember, standard bearer of the Strysik. Glorious only if your head stays on! A Totember (standard bearer) for his Uncle and Commander, Froland was called yellow because of his golden fur, surely not because of his cowardliness. Surely.

Sea Legs Sverra – More at home on the sea looking for the fabled isle of Garigla than on land, you’ve been forced to take whatever work you could get ever since your ship, the Reef Crasher, well, crashed into those reefs. Welcome to the exciting life of holiday event planning! Sverra is going to make sure this celebration happens!

Tahyrnn Udvlag – Nothing bristles your fur like putrescent Ylark Cheese. In it lies proof of the one true god Akka-Maas, and through it he speaks, or rather emanates to you. Starting with a horrible premonition that the celebration would gain the attention of Akka-Maas, Tahyrnn was determined to stop it!

Vaad the Kogger – Lazy and as averse to cold as you are to facing your enemies’ blades, the forge is the perfect place for you to drink Kogg, boast of your deeds, and oh yeah, every so often fix a sword or three for the Strysik (Commander). The poor smith that gave up Vulgg’s sword to his son. The start of the problem!

Vadd the Doomed – Your blue fur marked you at birth as the chosen of Akka-Maas. When you opted for a blade rather than prayer, High Priest Ragnhild prophesied your doom. Life has Been rocky every since. The Vidaar that dared to defy the gods, someone had to make sure that Froland was watched over and if anyone could divert the god’s wrath away from Froland, it was Vadd!

Minis and Fate Dice, oh my!

The lovely folks at Zombiesmith loaned me a few miniatures to use in the game. Aren’t they pretty!

War of Ashes Minatures
Left to right: Tahyrnn Udvlag, Vaad the Kogger, Froland the Yellow, Vaad the Doomed, Sea Legs Sverra. Mahrn in the back!

 The map I started doodling

It’s a capture Elvorix seaside port with a temple to Gailus up at the top (that building with horns), a Ylark farm across the main path, a Kogg house in the southeast corner, an arena recently erected by the Vidaar near that, and some (now) ramshackle houses. Way to the north, just outside the town are the docks.

Vulgg recently captured the little port town and renamed it Vulggberth after himself. Nobody paid mind to the temple of Gailus because of course there is only one god ALL PRAISE AKKA-MAAS, and besides it is just full of tightly bound toilet paper that scratches (ancient scrolls).

How does the God of Wilderness feel about the Vidaar occupying the town and his temple? What about them using his holy texts as kindling? Just a question to ask if things get dull during the game.

Normal Props

My bag of Fate stuff includes a few treasured items:

  • Pencils, Sharpies, Dry Erase Markers
  • Index Cards
  • A Noteboard fold-able dry erase board
  • Several sets of Fate Dice
  • Poker chips to use as Fate tokens, which will soon be replaced by Fate Campaign Coins
  • Moleskine large notebook. I love these things.

War of Ashes Beta – Printed

It’s so worth it ofr me to print out a copy of the game, take it to Kinkos to have them spiral bind it and then mark up the hell out of it.

Isn’t it pretty?

I also pulled out some good Vidaar names to assign to random NPCs as needed. Since lots of Vidaar use descriptors in their name (the drunk, the great, etc) so all you really need are some good first names. I jotted down Offrus, Kraka, Gubba, Krula, Volo, and Kobar.  I only needed about half of them, but it was handy indeed.

The Play is the thing

The game broke down into a handful of scenes:

  • Introducing the problems and the character simultaneously.
  • A internal dispute at the Kogg house.
  • Vadd the doomed learning how inept his leader was.
  • Froland the Yellow loosing banner and having to fend for himself
  • A magic ritual to summon a great wind to catch up with the ship that had the sword
  • A great fight on board the Blaggard to defeat Kraka and reclaim the sword.

I was delighted all those scenes fit in two hours!

Highlights of the Game

Froland calling his banner only to attract the attention of bondee’s looking to prove their toughness. Getting kicked around in the mud by a brute named Volo tested Froland’s mettle. He was surrounded, couldn’t run or talk his way out of it so he got crazy. Froland slammed into Volo, knocking them both into the beast pits below and opened up a cage full of hungry Kanid’s to leap on him. It was glorious!

Vaad the Doomed and Tahyrnn Udvlag summoning the might of Akka-Maas to give them wind in their sails. Vaad ate the cheese to show his defiance of of the gods. Tahyrnn know that their god was angry but summoned him anyway, creating a strong wind for them which quickly turned into a storm that nearly destroyed their ship.

Vaad the Kogger abandoning all other concerns to get himself some Kogg, and having to fight off Tahyrnn to do it!

The final battle on a burning ship in a storm, when Vaad was surprised to find a Nildhe Troll burst out of the cargo deck and give him a thrashing. Vaad tacked the boat and sent the boom crashing into him!

Thoughts on the game

Most our playtester say that Divine Interest operates too slowly. I wanted it to be faster! Jason’s character Vulg the the Doomed was constantly tempting Akka-Maas to do his worst. and besides a lot of cosmetic fanfare (thunder, lighting and a ship being stuck in a storm at sea), it didn’t get to the Divine Consequence state which was a bit disappointing. I wanted something to come up from under that Sea! (There can be leviathans in Agaptus, right?)

My playtest feedback of the game:

  1. We’ve gotta work on the organization of data some more, flipping back and forth between character creation and faction/equipment stunts was a giant pain.
  2. Zone aspects are easy to understand and hella fun. Weight is easy to understand but not all that fun. What it does just isn’t very “jazzy”. I’d like to work on making it more exciting to play with.
  3. I think the failing an attack and taking stress just feels cumbersome and easy to forget. We should look back on that for something more enticing.
  4. I forgot to even mention froth. I think we should reconsider making it easier to use.
  5. Adventures that have a +5 approach mean that if a GM spends a fate point, there is a 50/50 chance that players will HAVE to gain divine interest (by getting a +7) to tie or succeed on a roll. I think we need to work on that.
  6. Magic is great but I want to give the players a little more bang for their buck (considering they get DI for casting spells). Wanna work on that.
  7. Forced movement is great.
  8. The cheese, man. Tyromancy is an instant path to gonzo!
  9. You’ll never have enough miniatures or the right ones. I did LOTS of substitutions with the bad guys (they all looked like Kuld).
  10. Trolls hiding in cargo bays are fucking awesome.
  11. Contrary to other playtesters I didn’t have Divine Interest do enough. People took a few boxes of stress but that was is. We only played a 2 hour game, but I think I’d like to see DI be more immediate and less permanent. Example, you get DI, a lightning bolt hits your ship and catches it on fire. DI is over, now just just has a burning ship to take care of. I think this would make it more satisfying for con games (DI does something) and less punitive for campaign play (you’re not constantly in the gods’ cross hairs after 3 sessions).