Swords without Master in… the Desiccated Temple of the Worm!

April 2014, Google+

So last night we joined Snorri, Manyara, Muaphet Ram, and Asha & her lion-sister Beletsunu for what could best be described as a vignette. I talk a lot about the table, and how thing were going between players, below.

We were all meant to hang out for a four hour window, but last minute hang ups collapsed that into more of a 2 hour window. I didn’t think we could actually play it in 2 hours, when I would have to teach the rules to two new players so we put it off. Fast forward to only having an hour, hour-and-a-half left and I’ve got them begging to play it so what can I do?

I have nothing prepped, except I wanted it to take place in the past. I have the players draw two playing cards, choose an Oracle from In a Wicked Age and I interpreted an initial situation from the resulting elements, fitting the opening Overtone.

Oh, for teaching the game? I opened with paraphrasing much of what I read in City of Coin and Fire and just riffing on what I and the players from last night already knew:

•The game is played in jovial and glum tones, because Conan the barbarian had gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirths.
•Its a talking stick game, where the stick is the dice, and their position at any moment establishes our speaking rules.
•This is an Overtone; always try to make this tone sing, until you roll the dice and get your own tone.
•This is a Motif card. We need 9 motifs written down before we can stop. Since we don’t have time, lets do two cards instead of three.

And I taught everything as we went.

Opening scene was Glum, a shadowy cavern within the Mountain of Blood and Fire with the rogues lurking in the darkness watching an altar overflowing with vines and honey, watching a mysterious skulking cave woman sing a haunting tune to the altar bathed in the fading light of day through an opening in the roof.

So, I opted to open with a Rogue Phase, and not a Perilous Phase. My reason for this was: last night, Perilous was the most start and stop and clunky of the three phases. Maybe because it was the very first thing they did in a brand new game, maybe because they’re just used to traditional games where the GM feeds them everything? I don’t know, but I don’t think the reason is more important than the fact that the highly freeform Perilous Phase made teaching and playing difficult last night. So this time, the semi-structured Rogue Phase worked nicely to ease them into narrating freely.

Rogue Phase went:

Manyara, show me how you distract the cave woman from the others – Overtone Jovial Mystery: struggling, captured by vines and the louder, frantic singing cave woman. “what magic enchants the vines to restrain me?”

Muaphet, show Manyara how you reach the Altar and retrieve the prize – Jovial: he rockets across the room on fiery magics and slices through the altar to get to the prize.
(This was a new player, who keyed into “going big” quickly and it was great. He just went for it, and that made him a blast at the table and it got everyone’s energy up. He engaged with the procedures and was asking questions about Tones and when the dice rolled, it was great).

Asha, show Muaphet how you save Manyara from the cave woman – Glum Moral: Asha skulks across the cavern silently and swiftly snaps the woman’s neck, concerned briefly for her pregnant-seeming witch belly. I narrate all the plants in the cave wilting as the woman dies, specifically the massive roots throughout the mountain, which causes the cave to collapse all around them. “don’t take lives unnecessarily.”
(Again, new player here, and she owned it. I took a moment to explain, since she and Manyara were interacting through the same situation, that when someone else rolls they are the star and everyone else should reinforce why they’re cool. It made for good back forth between Manyara’s player and Asha’s and that set the standard for everyone else afterwards).

Snorri, show Asha how you save everyone from the cave in — Glum Success. He catches a massive slab of falling rock and gathers everyone beneath it as he silently grits his teeth and strains his back to hold it and all the falling rubble off the heads of his companion rogues.

Muaphet Ram (they started another round!), show Snorri how you saved the prize from the collapsing temple — Jovial success. The collapsing rubles bursts the protection spells over the prize and he snatches it up and rockets across the room, sliding in underneath Snorri and his slab.

At this point, I took the dice and tried to transition into a Discovery Phase so they could learn about their prize and the remains of the temple around them. However! Muaphet Ram’s player, intent on engaging 110% instead opted to trigger his Trick, forcing the next scene to be Perilous with the Maw of the Worm as the Storm. It was great.

At this point, with time waning we opted to only play with a single Motif card. It had Magic Vines, and Collapsing Temples as its elements so far.

And we kicked off a Perilous Phase. It was highly freeform, but they got into it quickly enough and we played out the Maw wrestling Muaphet to the ground to a bitter standstill, until the assassin’s knife blade began to elongate and press against his neck. Muaphet rolled the dice – and got a Mystery! His spells weren’t affecting the Maw, “what dark magic protects this assassin?” was the Mystery question and I chose to escalate into the new Glum overtone by narrating how the assassin’s mask was pulled down by the thrashing nest of worms that made up his lower jaw and throat.

Manyara slipped and struggled trying to hack away at the Maw to no effect, and I brought the Storm by having a tide of worms pour out of the seams of the Maw’s robes and reconstitute themselves as a worm-munculus that begun crawling up Manyara’s swords and arms as she tried to slice through it.

A player wrote that on the Motif sheet an we entered Endgame.

She rolled the dice, and hacked through the worm-munculus, slicing through a mysterious satchel on the Maw’s side — destroying the worm-munculus, and no doubt destroying the Maw’s magic protection. She reincorporated “what magic protects the Maw?” by revealing it was a satchel holding a dark artifact. 2 more reincorporations to go.

Asha leapt upon the Maw as its worms began to reach out to Muaphet’s face and crawl inside his mouth and nose, and jovially bit down into its throbbing worm-nest-neck and ripped and tore and finally tore the head off, throwing it across the cavern where it splattered grossly. She narrated that while the head lived, the body began to wither and blacken and burn like works on a sidewalk. She reincorporated the motifs “Worm Assassin” and “Magic Vines,” echoing the fact that the worm assassin was withering away as the vines did when the cave witch died. 1 more reincorporation to go.

Before I could barely narrate the worms arranging themselves into tentacle legs on which the Maw’s rotten skull now walked — Snorri rolls the dice and gets a Jovial moral. The player opts to use her Feats Heroic to make it Glum instead, and sardonically recites northern poetry about always destroying sorcerers where you find them, as Snorri hefts up a slab of rock and splatters the worm-skull across the floor. She picks up the moral “Never kill unnecessarily” and tells us with a straight face: killing is always necessary with sorcerers.

I tossed it to Muaphet Ram to tell us a short epilogue, and he opted to tell us about the Thunder in the Maw scene (riders on horseback, in the distance, headed their way) arriving long after the rogues were gone. They find nothing but worm corpses and the cave woman’s body and the prize is gone… But they stab a spear into a piece of Muaphet’s tunic, left behind in the fight, and they see his sigil. The lead rider recites a poem, saying to always destroy a sorcerer should you find it…

So in 1.5 hours we got through a Rogue and Perilous phase, used a Feat Heroic and a Trick, and filled out three Motif elements. The players had a blast. They latched onto rules quickly and ran with them. The new players handled the Perilous phase more smoothly than they did last night, for whatever reason. Everybody wants to play again, which is the biggest compliment to the experience, obviously.

I could probably share more, but I’m not sure what specifically to comment on. Any questions, I could definitely answer though. It was excellent.


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