So our group started with some collaborative setting creation, and we decided on a maritime campaign (I pushed for it as I wanted something different than the usual tropes, and fortunately everyone was open to it). We each added an island and some currents to the map, then made characters; we wound up with a Druid (played by me), a barbarian, a fighter, and a wizard, and established our character bonds.
We decided we were “good” pirates who got our current ship (the Wasp) by dumping the last (evil and tyrannical) Captain overboard (oops! How unfortunate, sea travel is dangerous, you know). The actual situation is the Druid is good alignment (he just wants to help people and things grow, the poor naive fellow) while the others are fairly mercenary, so he tends to be the conscience of the group (“no, they surrendered, you can’t just kill them for the gold in their teeth!”).
My backstory was that I was from a different archipelago, told in visions by the spirits to come to this place, because great evil (a threat to the land) was on the rise here. I tied this into my bond with the wizard: “the spirits spoke to me of a great danger that follows him”. I didn’t want to go, and had to leave my girl behind, but she said she’d wait for me. Just how far will my character go to follow the spirits is my question of interest.
So the GM opened the action aboard ship, with us realizing we were being followed by another vessel. I turned into an eagle and headed over to the pursuing ship to see what their deal was. It turned out to be a warship from the Cycanthic kingdom (one of the islands we’d made up earlier), a warlike theocracy that sought to cleanse the impure. They were much faster than our ship, so were bound to catch us soon. In fact their arbalest (sp?) was coming into range, so I used one of my eagle moves to tangle a soldier up in the works, incapacitating the mechanism for awhile.
When I got back to the Wasp, we tried to figure out why these guys were after us. Finally the barbarian wondered if it had anything to do with the crown he’d stolen, from another gang of thieves on the last island. The wizard grabbed the crown and performed a ritual to analyze it. The player flubbed the roll spectacularly, and became possessed by the spirit of “The Serpent King.” Glowing ethereal serpents flowed out of his body and thrashed along the deck. Our sailors freaked out, and the barbarian tried to solve the problem by beating on the wizard (it didn’t work). I tried to help the wizard, grabbing him and trying to talk him down, but this led to my spirit being transported to the same plane his was on. The Serpent King had the wizard in his grasp, but working together we were able to free ourselves: a large part of my role was reminding the wizard of who he was and what he really wanted (“it’s not what this *thing* is telling you! Come back to your friends!”). I really liked this scene, and the interaction between the wizard and druid.
Meanwhile the Cycanthic warship had closed in, and then they pinned us with grappling lines. As their soldiers prepared to board, I attempted to distract them by grabbing the crown and running along the side of the ship, crying “hey, you guys lose this?” I leaned over the side, preparing to drop the crown into the water. This worked, and the Cycanthic leader (a huge cleric with a magic war hammer) started frantically shouting orders; the soldiers turned to focus on me. This confirmed they were after the crown, and I hoped this would give the rest of the group the opportunity to get some tactical advantages. The barbarian was having none of it though (his goal was fame and glory) and charged, bellowing as he ran at the soldiers. The fighter led our crew after the barbarian, while the wizard tried to get to a better position, but flubbed again and the poor fellow actually fell off the ship. I turned into an eagle (the crown changed with me as part of my magic), hoping I could get to the enemy ship and maybe parley with the crown as a prize, before too many people got killed.
I flubbed my roll. Although I still transformed, my spirit was immediately taken to confront the Serpent King once more. This time, the figure tried temptation: “look at all the lands of the world, laid out before you. With my power, you can remake the world into your image. Imagine your perfect world, all the animals and humanoids living and working together in peace, as your heart truly desires. Just put on the crown, and all this will be so.” The Druid was tempted, but retained enough wits to look more deeply into what was going on. A bit of discern realities revealed that a lot of this was deception: although the crown was a tremendously powerful artifact that allowed one to change the world profoundly, it was not likely to just grant your wishes. When I hesitated, the Serpent King’s eyes glowed with rage. “You WILL put on the crown!” it shouted, and used its will to try to control the Druid. I made a successful (Defy Danger with Wis, I think) roll, and narrated how I felt my magical connection to the Land, and how this reminded me that I was not a ruler of it but a simple servant. My very being was essentially this, and so I could not remake or destroy the Land, nor yield my will to any other creature. The King’s power flowed over me without effect, and I found myself free and back in eagle form. This was my moment of awesome for the game.
Meanwhile, a bunch of soldiers battered the poor barbarian almost to a pulp and were tying him up, while the evil cleric really beat the hell out of the fighter, using that magic war hammer of his. The hammer had the interesting property of, when you were hit, giving you visions of past events that you felt guilty about. As the unfortunate fighter failed roll after roll, each time he failed he narrated a new incident of something unsavory he’d done earlier in life. I loved this, as we got a lot of new insight into his character.
The wizard, while floundering in the water, somehow managed to blast a hole into the side of the warship and climb in. Once there he fought a giant snake and set the belowdeck on fire. He stumbled out onto the main deck, smoke billowing around him, to see the situation I just described. He sent magic missiles at the guys tying up the barbarian.
I knew now that the crown was much too powerful to give to the imperialist Cycanthics, so any thought of parley was gone. The fighter had few hit points left so I swooped down to help him out. I was a bit concerned I’d be interrupting his dramatic fight, so I checked in with him and he said “no, no I’m almost out of hp, get him off me!” I used my eagle move to grab the cleric and drag him off the ship; he shouted defiant, fanatic slogans on his way down to the waves. With the fighter freed, he and the wizard made short work of the remaining opposition, and the burning warship sank beneath the sea.
Reflections: overall I really enjoyed the session, appreciated the amount of player input the GM was willing to incorporate, and liked how we found out more about each other’s characters in-game.
Based on my understanding of the Big Model, it sounds like mostly narrativist play – there was no Story Before, and any story emerged from playing our characters and interacting with the setting, so Story Now. Does that sound correct?
I do wonder about one player, the fighter. He grumbled a bit when having to come up with regrets, and seemed mostly interested in tactics. So maybe more gamist?
Anyway thanks for reading, and I’d appreciate any insights or feedback.