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The headwaters at the continental divide

For anyone who's wondered what happened to the Spelens Hus RuneQuest game, I'm here at last to tell you that we have played our fourteenth session, which means five more for you to see. We shifted to screen play for safety purposes, and the editing is pretty hard core, so I'll be adding episodes to the playlist and commenting here for a while to notify you.

This one - #10, our first by screen - is really long, and I also messed up relative screen time with a couple of characters getting shorted. But after that we were used to the medium and kept the participation more even and the session length down. So maybe editing won't be as exhausting as I go on.

Also, in this one, Sandra and Nate are just icons, but as the sessions proceed you'll them get their cameras going until we're all visible.

Other changes include the addition of Mikal to the group. You saw him in session 9 as a guest, but this session introduces his player-character Ikindu. I began the game with the concept of halfsnakes in place, but no one chose the picture of one (she was pretty human-looking), so this time I included a more snakey portrait and that's who Mikal chose. His name is a not-liable twist on "Enkidu" as that's who Mikal referenced when we started talking about him, but as it's turned out, Ikindu is a very civilized, very positive kind of guy. Like all halfsnakes he's involved with the racial cult, but he's also a member of a mercantile cult called the Open Way.

The setting continues to expand by leaps and bounds, and now we also have the political and religious situation exploding into proto-Hero Wars too, just like a RuneQuest setting is wont to do, Glorantha or not. Patrons have access to all the cult writeups I've done, which is now almost a whole Cults of Prax, and I'm even working up the culture "on the other side of the horizon" as we are situated at the geographical border.

The five sessions represent a whole chapter of mayhem and morality. You'll see in this session (#10) that I have drawn heavily upon Circle of Hands in terms of establishing what sort of fantasy this is, and how we experience it through food and cultural activity. You can see it too in that no, this is not D&D Hollywood "olden times" fantasy with its inns and coins.

Department: 
Actual Play
Games: 
RuneQuest

Comments

Ron Edwards's picture

In which the midnight events of the previous session prompt social upheaval.

For this session, I had prepared what I needed for the arrival of the giant at the village, thinking to myself that it would be a few days of game-time and I'd better be ready.

As it happened, the players were very invested in the immediate interactions and I tightened my focus, so that almost the whole session concerned the next morning. Which is fine! You'll see that when I realized this, I slowed down the passage of fictional time and also froze it for a bit while we went back a few hours and played what people said they'd be interested in doing immediately.

This marks the moment, for this entire game, when I softened the hard cuts and framing I'd been using constantly until this point. It's related to my resolve that we would also be shifting to more NPC nuances and to a more extensive, ongoing supporting cast.

The video is a bit better this time, with less incidental noise (still a little bit) and now we can see Sandra, although Nate's still an icon.

Here's the direct link to the session, which is now in the main playlist - the whole thing is, at this count, 84 freaking videos!

Ron Edwards's picture

Here's the direct link. Sandra added her camera this time, so we're stuck with only one icon-panel, for Nate. (He gets his cam going in session 13, currently in edits.)

This session continues and especially displays the transition from the initial mode of play/GMing, which used significant intersession transitions and hard scene framing, into the current mode of "you're living in this place, what do you want to do."

At about the time of the destruction of the Buried Dead temple, I realized, or the players decided for me, that we were no longer showcasing a bit of fantasy adventure RPG experience, but playing invested characters in an apparently engaging setting. Therefore aside from the exigencies of landing them in danger in the Insect People nest/temple, play has focused more on their initial statements and desires at the start of each session, relative to my descriptions of the immediate environment.

For example, Mikal really liked the cult writeups and incorporated their details and ideas frequently. It really "popped" the halfsnakes as a subculture as well as connecting Ikindu as a person to the other player-characters in what seems to me to be a very solid, believable, non-arbitrary way.

You can see very clearly that I've shifted into Circle of Hands mode in a lot of ways - the food, the linguistics, grounding all activity in the social and daily activities of the community, and the hard-driving, status-heavy priorities of named NPCs. As usual, for one or more players, that entails scraping off standard-RPG-fantasy tropes and expectations: "buying a round at the tavern," that sort of thing. I should have caught the mis-used term "blacksmith" for the bronze crafter, but it got past me - and it could have been a really nice instance of showcasing how bronze things are made, which is badly excluded from dramatic moments in fiction in favor of the famous iron-mongery techniques.

The tougher or more aggravating side of that transition shows up here too: specifically, that I did not want to shut down anyone's desire to do a "thing," but that saying, "I want to talk to person X," with no description of the character going anywhere or doing anything, effectively stops play. It's kind of non-play, like punching a button in a digital game to "see what he says." You can see me trying hard to keep everything happening in fictional locations with a landscape or a room or a place in the village, but it wasn't easy.

Furthermore, that kind of play tends to eat up time and also to spawn more of itself. It took over an hour for me to get to the Bang that I'd intended to begin with (the giant's arrival), when I realized that plan, ask for another clue, devise, plan, devise, ask for another clue, devise, plan just wasn't going to stop. Again, I wanted to honor players' desires for their characters to do things, but at a certain point I realized the announcements were getting repetitive.

The third third of the session, however, was pretty harrowing - all the mechanics were used properly and so, yes, Skava could have been mentally blasted into idiocy with just more point on the damage roll against her, and in that case, could not have channeled the womens' collective Power into the wild magic directed against the giant. Erko could indeed have fallen to his death or at least significantly delayed their arrival at the giant's head. If Zort had been Bound by the magic attack, he would not have been able to defend Skava (currently physically helpless) against Vang. I was in pure "what happens" mode in managing the actions and effects, and a couple of times I was thinking, shit, this is going to be tough to say. I'd love to see what you think of how it turned out!

Ross's picture

That was nail-biting! Excited to see what the characters do next - are they invested in the settlement or will they be wandering off home?

I feel like I could see your struggle with the "plan, ask for another clue, devise, plan," cycle as the players kept proposing things that as you dug into them were full of potential. But as you say this required grounding them in social interactions etc. and less asking "please may I" of you as the GM.

 

Ron Edwards's picture

Well, two more to finish editing, so you'll see how things went, and briefly, there are some really nice interactions between Ikindu and the others that make all their "let's try" and "what abouts" much more character-centric. I'm getting better at enforcing naturalistic locations for every bit of play too.

Some comments:

Sorry for the blacksmith, second language unfortunately sometimes means “I don’t find the word I’m looking for”. I had no intention to suggest ironwork.

As for the “eating time” part. For me that was necessary and showing the groups dynamics quite nicely. Zort and Skava lost their leader/employer, Erko and Jalla lost the connection to their god. Before that point in time we frankly were to busy surviving to realize the vacuum we are in. Everybody actually wants different things right there and then. Skava is set on getting the giant out of the way before he reaches the village and the children. Erko would rather do some more studies before even contemplating fighting it. Zort and Ikindu would rather leave the settlement sooner than later. I think all of that plays out rather nicely. As is the fact that Ikindu as a newcomer to the group had a rough start and is at that point in time watched with a considerable amount of distrust by both Skava and Erko. My point is, even though an hour is on the long side we would have missed something if we just had gone straight out in the mountains and fight him face on.

As for the third part of the session. Loved every second of it. Don't get me wrong.  Both me and Skava know very well that life has a tendency to end violently if you seek fights the way she does. It's ok.

Ron Edwards's picture

Thanks Helma!

Ron Edwards's picture

Our first no-combat session, and in some ways, my attempt at restoring cultural knowledge and immediate location to the first priority. Also, all welcome guest participant Max, with no player-character, who wanted to be with us during play just for the fun!

You know I'm in this game because there's a decorated scary chaos skull and a great big translucent egg with a developing bug in it.

You'll see session 14 soon, but I have a job for you: identify their failed rolls in this session, and then session 14 will make a lot more sense.

Love D's picture

I can imagine that the failed chaos lore roll when they found the ritual skull can create some problems for them! I'm exited for the next session!

Ron Edwards's picture

They somehow missed every roll that would orient them into the larger cultural and theological clash they are in the middle of. In session 14, as you'll see, therefore they walked face-first right into the result, and were asking, "wait, why did that happen so suddenly and how did it start so violently?"

So until they get a chance to make sense of what happened, I am saying (to myself), "Because you didn't get '2' from the skull, and didn't get '2' from the egg, and without even one of those there's no way you could have made it to '4,' and this is what life looks like without '4.'"

Ron Edwards's picture

The session starts here! We did meet for another session, but technical difficulties shut us down.

This may have been our most savage fight yet. I call attention to the effectiveness of the Shimmer spell, which saved Skava from direct attack twice, and the luck of hitting charging foes hard in the legs, which kept her from getting swarmed.

I used an illustration that Nate Marcel posted to his Facebook page, and it was incredibly good for its purpose here.

Sean_RDP's picture

I noted how Ron narrates successes and failures. In particular I noted the Cult Lore roll early on (it was a 91 - failure) where you explained the failed roll as information overload (I think). I thought that was a clever way to frame what happened.  I would not categorize it as a "fail forward"; the roll did indeed fail; but I felt that the context of the failure kept the action moving forward.  As if skills rolls are more conversation? Am I off base there? 

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