We concluded our campaign in The Sword, The Crown and The Unspeakable Power. It lasted up to 14th session, which ended in magical storm, about sealing off the Wanton Death (deva Kali) and bringing two deaths to player characters.
For a referrence, I do recommend reading my first two submissions about this campaign:
11th to 13th session
Firstly, I wrote separately the sessions, which lead to the final one. I hope it will bring some clarity to this Actual Play Post, because I don't remember much from the 11th and 12th session…
From the perspective of an each player character
Yaghadis (The Beloved, he/him)
- He consecrated once again the Niramaya Snana sacred healing pool, while fending off Talking Tigers of Bangaluru's counterattack. However, it turned out that he needed to rejuvenate this place by literally merging the "dark" and "light" aspects (the crocodile deva Apas and the river goddess Reva) into one. Essentially, the sacred pool had been dedicated to both of them!
- Finally confronted his former apprentice Arya and denounced her from The Watchers, seemigly from her "crimes of mingling with Talking Tigers".
- Attempted to venerate Horus (PC) as a "Hero of Maratha", while talking with commander of the Citadel, Priyanka. It was about granting the sacred artifact, "The Elephant Armour" to Horus. However, Horus needed to "cleanse their soul and body" first. While for the duration of those three sessions Horus met many requirements, the remaining one (being possessed by Hema, by a marriage contract) put the topic to the halt…
- He investigated and fought off the first signs of Wanton Death's second return. How? Some dead cows outside of Maratha had been raised from the dead, and still kshatriyas thought that "they are sacred, so they cannot simply kill them without risking the anger of the First Caste". He manage to investigate and settle the issue (cows killed, the source of zombie raising found), with some complications, like "three dead elephants charged into his group of followers".
- Organized the expedition to the Observatory, where once ago the seals of Wanton Death had been broken. The goal was to at least halt and tick back "clock of Kali" there.
Svatka (The Voice/The Hex, she/her)
- Just before Arya got denounced, she adopted her as her daughter.
- She lost any credibility, by attacking Brahmi Kalidas (her only Patron) in last resort to halt the soul trading. First attempt was unsuccesfull (assassin teapot), so she resorted to stab him. She got caught and imprisoned. There, in Maratha University, she transformed as The Hex, found her familiar (guenon).
- She faked her death by succesfully poisoning herself in the prison, so she emerged back into life, while left alone at one of the towers of silence. She left Maratha and met her new faction, Untouchables (Dalit caste, as the referrence).
- She attempted to slow down Yagadhis' expedition, by thickening the jungle and making some other tricks. Including the attempt of stealing Yagadhis' amulet (using her familiar), which was unsuccesfull. Her guenon had been shot by Horus.
The Horus (The Black Hood/The Gauntlet, he/him)
- Valiantly defended the consecrating ritual of Niramaya Snana sacred healing pool, by fending off Talking Tigers. With a cost of another Debility.
- …just before that, he made an exchange with some Tiger scout: she looked into his eyes as a price for the magic soap, which will lift the Rakshasa's blood curse. However, the player rolled 10+ at that Custom Move, so he chose the option "You may break a contact with the Tiger. Nobody can learn a taste of your soul, until someone literally possesses it!"
- Knowing that getting the lightweight 2 Armor as "The Elephant Armor" artifact won't be easy, he sticked to wearing the shield.
- He tried to negotiate the alliance with The Black District (coalmakers and illegal smoked meat smugglers) in behalf of his faction The Curtain, but it falied. He learnt that The Black District also trades with human meat and they requested one ("his body or another else') as a condition to make any talks possible in the future! No harm involved however, people of that district got threatened by Horus' fame and perceived might.
- Joined the expedition to The Observatory
- The player took End of Season Move called "Sow Discord, Harvest Blood":
Every time you hurt someone, physically, socially, or emotionally, make a notch. When you reach 3 notches, you face the reckoning. Those you love will suffer and die, undeservedly. Those you trust will betray you, laughing at your misery. As you have sowed discord, now you shall harvest blood. After it all goes down, if you live and the game continues, you may choose to retire your character to ceaseless misery and create a new character with one free advancement. Or you may press on, erase the notches, and start over. Will you ever reconsider your ways?
The final, 14th Session
Svatka attempted to curse Yagadhis, after she managed to find the strand of supposedly his cloth. However, she failed Moloch Move, so I've returned (as MC) that move against her: she cursed her daughter, Arya! In the meantime, she send her faction to follow the expedition.
When the expedition (Yaghadis and Horus) arrived, they encountered some old scarred Talking Tiger, who wanted good death and warned them from mingling with The Observatory. Horus accepted the duel with her (and learning her name, Xemzuo) and barely won (he lost like Two Debilities in the process, in order to save himself from death). However, that was the moment, when the third notch of "Sow Discord, Harvest Blood" had been ticked!
Then, among Yaghadis followers, twin sister of back then Horus' colleague in crime (Samira) emerged and told the truth. And some sacred fakir followed with something back in years (another Horus' assassination). And so on. After tense moments, Yaghadis tried to save Horus' grace, but only he convinced the expedition to leave Horus alone!
The ritual of sealing The Observatory was about bringing back the magical hail with thunders, which "sooths Kali from her anger". Long story short, it succeed.
Just before that, Svatka attempted to whisper into unspeakable power called Kali, but failed roll resulted in ten Talking Tiger arriving at her back (they hate Kali for defeating their patron deva, Durga!). And in that moment, Svatka finally gave up all her intrigues and accepted the offer from Albino Tiger Priestess to "take the absolution from Durga and reincarnate as one of her tiger cubs". This corresponded with her End of Season Move and – post factum – the player chose the outcome of soul transfer as "Something esoteric and beautiful entices you into a world far away. Describe it, in all its indescribable grandeur. Retire your character to safety. If the game continues, create a new character with one free advancement."
Horus met Arya at his returning trip, just to have another tense dialogue, interrupted by lift of the curse, with Arya recently got. Horus decided to turn back into the expedition, in the last ditch attempt to "prevent the enclosure of the seal". However, it turned too late, and after just one bloody incident (killing Samira's twin sister in the duel), he abstained from charging to like 20 people of remainign expedition. Both parties parted their ways. Horus called the Unspeakable Power in guidance of how to lift the seal in the far future, but in return, he got turned into stone by some angry storm deva (player's description of Horus' death).
I feel like End of Season Moves saved us from impression, that The SCUP is mostly Apocalypse World' re-skin. OK, it is, but just in 90%. Remaining 10% are Honor mechanics, Patron Move and End of Season Moves.
They literally turned the individual story arcs. Svatka got her savign grace after her life collapse and she got degraded into the lowest, fourth caste. Horus almost completed his redemption arc and became an ultimate hero, but the world turned distrust against him.
That's why I feel relieved by concluding this campaign. I've started to become a bit weary of this, and actually the game itself do recommend playing in seasons (dozen or so sessions). Also, I felt like sometimes, the Patron Move stands in the way of characters ending the fiction in the previous session. You see, the last Horus' roll about his superior Adil was superficial and actually didn't bring anything at all, just because Horus didn't returned to Maratha at all. The sessions in The SCUP were supposedly to be divided by "some time has been passed", but not always you can manage the end of the session, when fiction allows for time skip…
We played 14 sessions for 17 weeks. A bit impressive, if you think about it. We literally stayed together for like four months, with only some December struggles of playing each weak.
I doubt that we ever return to play The SCUP. First of all, there are plently of other games. We chose to play Godsend next. Titles like Blightburg, Legacy: Life Among the Ruins 2nd or Rebel Crown were also at the table. Maybe I'm personally interested at experiencing The SCUP as a player, but not much else. My concern whether "Fallen Empires" hack to Apocalypse World 2e could work better than The SCUP in sword-and-sorcery fantasy also adds weight to it.
Nonetheless, playing this campaign was valuable and satisfying experience to me. I thank to my players and their will to stay together, even with my struggles with reverb at my new place of living…