Soul's Calling Internal Playtest I

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Omnifray:- fantasy roleplay in the mysterious Enshrouded Lands, "a thousand worlds in one", where magic bubbles away beneath the surface, beyond the ken of the common folk, with a unique, detailed, highly flexible rules system

Soul's Calling Internal Playtest I

Postby Omnifray » 12:12am on 29 Jul 11

This playtest group so far looks likely to consist of:- Al; Bekka; Emma; Gemma; Richy; me. "Internal" in the sense that I am involved, so this is not an untainted, "pure" playtest by external playtesters.

For various reasons all that has happened on this so far is that Emma has pitched up for CharGen, on the back of three hours' sleep, bless her cotton socks. And a bottle of WKD (and she's a lightweight). With that behind her and virtually no help from me* I think she found concentrating on CharGen difficult, but to be fair, if I'd had only 3 hours of sleep, I would have been scrunching up character sheets and throwing them at the GM. After about 90 minutes she had completed all steps except (in essence) choosing her character's name, backstory, personality and general description and noting her Advancement Points (which is a fixed number, always 2,270 for starting characters) on the character sheet, plus choosing eldritch powers (the extra step for spellcasters / mystics).

* I mostly gave such helpful responses as --- figure it out for yourself! ... this was because I wanted to see how that would go, from a playtest point of view. The thing is, the CharGen chapter of the draft core guide is basically written in such a way that you have to actually read it... depending on the particular topic, sometimes you can't just glance at the page and guess what it's all about. If I'm doing things in a somewhat new and different way in some minor respects, I think that's almost an inevitability. If there was an area where I gave her more concrete help, it was totting up the combat stats as adjusted for armour and weapons. I would rather have left it to her but with 3 hours' sleep...

[Earlier on in the evening she managed to gen up the basics of a character rather more easily using the LARP rules I am mid-way through writing (my first attempt at writing LARP rules, and I'm very excited about them)... but those rules are much simpler, as they are designed to be playable as a LARP where everyone has to basically be their own ref.]

An interesting character is emerging - basically if you can imagine a Scottish blacksmith who uses the forge as a place to meditate during her work. She seemed to find the CharGen options quite interesting/engaging.

More to follow hopefully in due course...
Looking for playtesters for the Implodarc Tabletop RPG. If you'd like to playtest it and post public feedback or an AP thread, ask me for the private link to download it, or I can e-mail it to you. At least compared to my usual stuff, it's meant to be simple and quick to play with quick CharGen.
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Re: Soul's Calling Internal Playtest I

Postby Omnifray » 12:23pm on 02 Aug 11

Moira's father Garrick was an affluent merchant trading out of the city of Dar'holme in northern Olbia; her mother Siebhoya was an initiate in the druidic orders of the neighbouring but relatively savage and primitive Northern Wilds. Garrick was an adventurous merchant and first met Siebhoya while visiting the Northern Wilds for a trading venture. Siebhoya converted Garrick to the Elder Faith, the practice of which is illegal in Olbia, and when he took her back to Olbia to be his wife, living in Dar'holme, they worshipped in secret together. A small cult grew around them. They had a daughter Moira, whom Garrick paid to have educated in every field which he felt could be useful to her - the laws of Olbia; the logistics and valuation skills of a merchant; even the art of shipbuilding, so that she would be better able to judge the seaworthiness and value of a vessel.

Garrick has long been missing, presumed dead in a shipwreck or taken by pirates, and as Siebhoya has no interest in trade, Moira has taken over the family assets. She is, obviously, a member of the secret family cult.

Planning a merchant venture which may involve some danger and the need to defend oneself and certainly to cope with harsh climes, Moira is out training in the forests near Dar'holme when she chances upon a witch-hunt. The local peasants are about to dip a poor, trussed-up girl into a river to see if she floats (and is therefore a witch). Moira manipulatively persuades them to seek out a priest first. She follows them at a distance to the next village, where the priest is currently away (being reprimanded by the local bishop, for something involving a goat). The peasants are arguing with the altar boy over whether it would be appropriate to execute the "witch" in the middle of the church. Moira persuades them that she will go to the town and fetch a priest. The peasants leave the "witch" at the bottom of an old well while they wait, knee-deep in slime. Moira goes home and speaks to her mother about getting a wagon ready to transport this girl away, then prays to the godlings she worships - Syech, Fisdail, Reigha and Breyit. She goes off to find the most useless priest in the town - a drunk called Dyonni - and basically lures him with alcohol to officiate. On the way she bumps into one of her fellow cultists who has just joined the town guard [the answer to her prayers?]. He agrees to go with her to the witch-trial as the official guardsman present and they form a plan to get the peasants and priest so drunk that they can get the girl away without anyone understanding what's going on.

Moira then manipulates the priest, with in effect bribes of alcohol, into getting the peasants to drink heavily "for ceremonial purposes and in honour of the angels". It takes quite a lot of doing but eventually most of the peasants are drunk or asleep and the priest is snoring. Moira ushers the remaining peasants (who are all drunk) into the woods with her to collect firewood for the burning, and she and the cultist-guardsman Vaughn both go off with the peasants and thus have alibis. Moira's mother Siebhoya [who has been quietly positioned nearby with a wagon but has not shown her face to the peasants] then quietly whisks the girl out from under the sleeping peasants' noses (freeing her from the wooden frame they have attached her to), puts her in the wagon hidden under some stuff, gets her back into town and takes her home to warm her up.

In due course it becomes clear that this girl is in fact some kind of pagan, and has a network of fellow cultists who are under warrant of death from the King (well, his formal title is the Grand Duke of Olbia - he is the primus inter pares of the four dukes) and are all in hiding (she was the last one to be discovered). She is desperate to get them all out of Olbia - but the Northern Wilds won't do, as the Grand Duke has reached a treaty agreement with the chiefs of the main clans to hunt down these cultists as traitors. (They in fact held a ceremony at the edge of the grounds of a church where the Grand Duke's daughter got married the next day, which was only later discovered under torture, so there is some doubt as to whether the church's grounds had been desecrated and were technically not a holy place fit for a wedding, meaning that the Grand Duke's daughter would be having sexual relations outside marriage in the eyes of the Church, hence the Grand Duke's particular indignation and willingness to bribe clan-chiefs into hunting these hapless people down.)

They will need to get a ship ready to go to Northholme where one of the cultists was a thrall (taken in a raiding mission) before he was freed for services to the local people, and where the cult believe they can find safe haven. But who to man such a ship? Moira will need to find a hardy band of adventurers... probably the other player characters!


So, yesterday evening Bekka turned up to do character genning.

She took rather a long time over it (over 2 hours), but a lot of that was her giving me feedback on the layout of the character gen chapter and us debating that feedback. (The fact is that although I am unlikely to change the actual rules I will probably end up completely re-writing the chapter to make it much shorter with references to a second chapter for more in-depth information if desired.) She went for almost the maximum Skills-flange and has ended up with a character who is an expert jurist, an expert merchant, a skilled cook and also (and this is where it gets slightly bizarre) a skilled shipwright. And now she has a backstory which justifies it! These skills have very little opportunity cost in Soul's Calling because they are not central to the game. Anyway, her character majors on persuasion and empathy, is respectably good at hiding and sneaking and spotting things, is highly intelligent and is pretty damn average at everything else, except for having a very broad education and lots of odd skills as a result. She has chosen a desire for freedom, especially freedom of worship, for herself and others, as her fundamental driving force.

After character gen (and I will confess I did the weapon stats and helped with the Skills math - the latter only because she was getting close to having every Skill on the character sheet...), we did one of the warm-up exercises (ref's patter) - don't know if it was any use to her or not but she went along with it. Then maybe half an hour or an hour of one-on-one roleplay, hence the above mini-story.

I get the feeling that I am going to be constantly breaking my own rules during this game - for instance as to the strictness of in-character versus out-of-character dialogue - which makes me wonder whether what I run at Indiecon ought to be my new LARP instead of my new tabletop RPG. [Yep, I am also writing a LARP. I'm aiming to keep it under 50, certainly under 60 pages.]
Looking for playtesters for the Implodarc Tabletop RPG. If you'd like to playtest it and post public feedback or an AP thread, ask me for the private link to download it, or I can e-mail it to you. At least compared to my usual stuff, it's meant to be simple and quick to play with quick CharGen.
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Re: Soul's Calling Internal Playtest I

Postby Omnifray » 1:13pm on 04 Aug 11

Sister Aveline is a kick-ass nun from a convent in Dar'holme in northern Olbia, near the borders with the Northern Wilds. When I say "kick-ass", don't get me wrong here:- we're not talking some kind of martial artist Zen nun trained in the oriental tradition; in fact, the oriental cultures are known only in legends of the ancient past in the Enshrouded Lands. No, I simply mean that she has a hand-axe and a shield and she's not afraid to bury them in a nasty person's head. Quite how this compassionate and merciful religious lady ended up wearing a full suit of cuir bouilli and carrying a shield and a hand-axe is perhaps a story for another day, but if I mention now that coastal abbeys are often attacked by marauding Northholmers, it is perhaps not implausible that a nun should have picked up a wood-chopping axe to defend herself, taken a shield from a fallen raider and ended up discovering that she was rather good at that kind of thing. A special dispensation from the abbess was probably required before she could even order a suit of cuir bouilli, let alone wear it.

The secret truth is that Sister Aveline's soul is so pure that she is akin, in grace, to the angels. She is angelkin. She in fact has, in theory at least, two powers of angelic magic:- the power to be magically transported (as if carried by the angels? - though instantly), either to safety or in pursuit of righteous avengeance or similar; the power to force those who are not Damned to cough up their dark souls out of their mouths as she purges them (in a rather deadly and brutal way). However this magic is currently rather weak; the power of purging of evil is something Sister Aveline will probably not use if a blow with a hand-axe will do; the power to be transported by angelic magic is something which even after a lengthy ritual would be almost 100% likely to result in Sister Aveline being consumed by dark spirits as the magic fails [this is something I might address when I revamp the magic system; the power would of course be eminently useable if Sister Aveline were far more powerful]. Sister Aveline's magical abilities are, like any magic, a secret to be kept hush-hush - the common folk are never to know.

Anyway, Sister Aveline and the Abbess are both of an unusually tolerant religious bent (considering that the Talean Faith is known for its witch-hunts, excommunications and so forth). The Abbess has heard tell that just north of the borders there are Wilderner folk who are not willing to take a full part in the pagan rituals officiated over by the local druids, and that these folk are being oppressed for their failure to attend festivals and so forth. The Abbess wishes to give them shelter if she can, even though they are probably not of the Holy Talean Faith and whatever religious practices they follow would probably be illegal south of the border. She secretly dispatches Sister Aveline to investigate, together with a guardsman, Bannis.

Bannis is a somewhat avaricious fellow who turns up unenthusiastically to church and has no real faith in the angels; in fact, though this would not be outwardly discernible, his soul is Damned. Bannis is essentially an ordinary human, and has no magical abilities. He is however a very competent fighter (say, 8/10, compared to Sister Aveline's 7/10) and exceptionally stealthy (say 8/10 in wilderness settings, but 11/10, yes, that's 11 out of 10, in urban settings).

Bannis and Sister Aveline journey north to the border (this is a journey of several days, and they rest along the way at wayside inns in Olbia). Just north of the border they chance upon Ceridwen, a blacksmith who has left her clan's lands because she found their druidic practices in part distasteful (especially the human sacrifices). Ceridwen is, in fact, secretly a follower of the mystical faith, a strange and new faith based on meditative and contemplative practices and without any clear pantheon of gods. Through meditation and contemplation she has cultivated strange mystical powers which when she uses them can give her enhanced ability in combat, massively improved speed and greater empathy (not necessarily all at once, mind...) and she can even heal herself of minor wounds. This, of course, is highly secret.

Sister Aveline inquires where the nearest village is and Ceridwen, who fortunately speaks the Sassenar language of Olbia (otherwise there would be communication issues), points the way. At this stage Ceridwen has the vague feeling that there is something interesting about Bannis and Sister Aveline, and they feel vaguely the same way about her; this is because they are all anointed ones, chosen to tread the borderworld between the ordinary experience of mortals and the hidden secrets of the occult. Sister Aveline begins to gingerly inquire as to local events (with a view to discovering something about religious oppression), and Ceridwen tells her of the various cattle raids which those on each side of the border perpetrate against those on the other.

Then a scream cuts through the air.

Screams, and more screams - from the direction of the nearest village. The adventurers run towards the screaming. They approach the brow of a hill some 800 yards from where Ceridwen met Sister Aveline and Bannis. Dropping to the ground and crawling to the edge of the hill they can see a small village of 20 or so houses which is being razed to the ground by marauding raiders. This is odd, as they are some 15 miles from the coast - a long way inland for such a raid. They can see about 8 raiders in the middle of the village - probably too many for them to handle (you would think...).

Down and to their left they see two more raiders chasing a girl who looks about twelve or thirteen into the woods. [The girl is in fact a few years older than that, but somewhat slightly built due to undernourishment, and the adventurers see her from some way off, so they don't have the best view of her at this stage.] The clothing on the upper half of her body has been ripped at. The adventurers run down the side of the hill towards the edge of the woods, going from bush to bush and hoping to avoid being seen. They seem to be in luck. They reach the woods and can see that one of the raiders has just grabbed the girl. The other is not far behind, undoing his belt, but turns round and readies his weapon as the adventurers rush towards him. Bannis charges in for the kill and thrusts his spear through that raider's gut, dropping him instantly. He lies in agony on the ground. The adventurers then swiftly engage with the second raider; they kill him outright, and Sister Aveline goes to comfort the shaking, speechless, sobbing girl. Praise to the angels, her lower vestments are intact and undisturbed. Then Bannis spots a third raider sneaking up on him to slit his throat! Bannis and Ceridwen engage that third raider and Bannis kills him, then slits the throat of the first raider who is still lying on the ground.

The adventurers, beholding the sobbing girl's despair and noting that they have managed three so far, help the girl to climb up a tree where she may be safer, and rush back towards the village. The first sight they come across is that of two lads - probably the girl's brothers - using staves to try to fend off four raiders. Bannis and Sister Aveline sneak up on them. Bannis gets close but is seen at the last minute - as the raider starts at his sudden appearance, Bannis thrusts his spear into the raider's side before he can properly turn round to defend himself! Sister Aveline is luckier. She gets right up behind one of the raiders and simply slits his throat with her dagger. [Actually I think I may have made a mistake with the rules here as you probably can't normally do that with the full dice-bonuses I allowed while holding a shield and hand-axe in your off-hand... it doesn't really matter though; it's still plausible she could have slit his throat and then dropped her dagger and took her hand-axe into her right-hand as she did.]

As Ceridwen rushes in, Sister Aveline and Bannis engage with the remaining two raiders. As the adventurers fell them, four more arrive! Blood and guts are spilt in all directions, and the fight ends with the raiders all dead or seriously injured, whilst Bannis and Sister Aveline have each suffered a minor injury. That neither of them suffered a grave injury must be due to the favour of the Fates or the intervention of the angels, for the spear-thrusts which injured them would have severed tendons and blood vessels aplenty had they been but half an inch or so to one side. [In fact, Gemma playing Sister Aveline used three of her luck tokens to allow Bannis's player Richie a third re-roll of what would otherwise have been a grave or was it even a terrible injury.]

Bannis coldly executes the injured raiders, save for one whom the adventurers will want for questioning. Sister Aveline patches up that raider's injuries as best she can, while Bannis holds a dagger to his throat. Sister Aveline begins questioning the raider, and as she is very persuasive, she has little difficulty in extracting a full explanation from him in return for the promise that he can die in combat (and thus enjoy a glorious afterlife). He is, simply, a Northholmer raider. (They speak the same Sassenar language as Olbians, with a slightly different accent and minor differences of grammar and vocabulary.) Normally his sort of raiding crew would raid only coastal areas, but they have reached an agreement with the Grand Circle of Wilderner Druids only to raid certain areas shown on a map. His understanding is that these areas are inhabited by folk who have not participated to the druids' full satisfaction in human sacrifices and other pagan rituals. The belief of some in the Elder Faith may even be open to question. He doesn't explain and probably wouldn't know the full details of the deal but one possibility is that a money payment may have been involved at some level. The adventurers are good to their word and give the raider a knife to defend himself with (something which he didn't even ask for - he was happy to fight unarmed had they required him to do so, as long as he died in combat, but they don't know that...); Bannis takes him on in single combat with a knife, and being very quick off the mark plunges his knife into the raider's chest, killing him. {Not sure if I used the right dice-check for this actually, but that's a trivial thing.}

The adventurers are now left to help the remaining villagers begin to rebuild their shattered lives (most are dead and their buildings burnt out), and then, sitting by a fire built by the villagers, to discuss among themselves what is to be done. [I'm not sure yet if Ceridwen has a convincing enough rationale for staying with Sister Aveline and Bannis, but if not, she can have some kind of prophetic dream or something... that's pretty much how things work with the Anointed.]


Next up, a little something on the nuts and bolts of the gaming session...
Looking for playtesters for the Implodarc Tabletop RPG. If you'd like to playtest it and post public feedback or an AP thread, ask me for the private link to download it, or I can e-mail it to you. At least compared to my usual stuff, it's meant to be simple and quick to play with quick CharGen.
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Re: Soul's Calling Internal Playtest I

Postby Omnifray » 1:57pm on 04 Aug 11

So, last night, Emma, Gemma and Richie turned up for more of this playtest [for the write-up of the in-game events, see my previous post].

[Current player roll-call:- Emma; Gemma; Richie; Al - absent due to work-related reasons; Miley - was going to come late after work but didn't in the end; Bekka - absent due to work-related reasons. Yours truly reffing.]

First step was CharGen for Gemma and Richie. This time I was steering things to speed up CharGen, as I have seen people doing CharGen essentially on their own with the draft book and, largely thanks to Bekka's input, have some ideas for a major repackaging of the CharGen rules (not a change in what the rules are, but rather in how they are presented*). I was interested to see how long CharGen would take with me pushing it along as fast as reasonably possible. Gemma had had the draft book since the day before and had had a flick through the CharGen chapter but Richie had no such advantage.

Well, within 55 minutes we had finished all the essential steps except for calculating weapon stats and working out Gemma's character Sister Aveline's magical powers. In the meantime Emma had also rejigged her character Ceridwen's equipment because we realised she had bought ring armour despite having chosen metal armour casting penalties for her mystical powers.

It then took some further time (10 minutes?) for me to calculate the weapon stats for all three player characters (Ceridwen's had to be recalculated - she had completely changed her armour and also, I think, her weapons) and we were then busy with choosing angelic powers for Sister Aveline and mystical powers for Ceridwen, which involved the players leafing through the eldritch powers section of the draft Core Guide and then me helping them work out which lines of variation to choose, writing up their powers and writing up quick-reference stats for typical use in play. This whole exercise will be dramatically shortened if I rewrite the magic system in the way I plan to (this is going to be, again, not really a major change to the fundamentals, but rather to how it is packaged and presented). This probably took about another 50 minutes in total, so altogether CharGen from scratch for two players, plus a bit of CharGen for a third player, took around two hours, but I think I can get that down to an hour and twenty minutes or so if I repackage the magic system, and for non-spellcasters an hour is sufficient. Emma, despite having some kind of flu and being fairly sleepy, also made a start on a character for another player, Miley, who might have turned up later when he finished work (but didn't in the end).

I then took a couple of minutes to think things through and we got ready to play.

We started with the "ref's patter" warm-up exercise. [Feedback on this after the game was highly encouraging. Both Richie and Gemma said that it helped them get more into character, especially considering these were new characters, and that they will be trying a similar approach when they go off to do a boffer LARP quite soon. Richie was asking for a copy of the text of it, so I have said Gemma can photocopy that page of the draft Core Guide for him. Hopefully Emma will be able to give more energetic feedback when she isn't flu'd up.]

We then moved on to the "Meeting of Spirits" warm-up exercise, which was an utter fail. It just drew blank looks of not knowing what to do; Richie kind of got the idea in the end but neither of the girls did. I'm going to have to either jettison it completely or put a health warning on it, unless I rewrite it completely, which would mean re-envisaging it. It might suit people who have done stuff like theatre studies or amateur dramatics, or it might not, but it hasn't really worked for any of my players so far.

Then we had about an hour, maybe an hour and a quarter to play, the results of which are in the story-style write-up (previous post). When it came to combat I used the detailed combat system, mostly treating the raiders as mooks, but occasionally treating one or two of them as mainstays (i.e. tracking their injuries).

Why throw the party into combat so soon, and detailed combat at that? Well, if you've been following my musings on immersive roleplay, you may have read what I say about immediate excitement at the outset of the game. This doesn't have to be combat; it could be, for instance, some exciting discovery or immediate triumph. The point is to give the players a buzz straight away. The way I was reading the players at this point, they didn't know enough about their characters' backgrounds or about the wider events of the game-world to really get into heavy dialogue-based interaction just yet, and the game could have stalled, so I wanted to give them an immediate, simple source of drama and excitement. It turned into detailed combat because I felt that the player characters were seriously threatened by the raiders, as they were outnumbered and although Bannis in particular is quite hard, none of them were in metal armour, nor were any of them first and foremost fighters (Bannis is more of a thief-type, Sister Aveline is more of a persuasive type and Ceridwen is a mystic - but, perhaps wary of the Shrouding, did not use her mystical powers; in fact she could have gotten away with using Spiritual Warrior if she wanted, but it's tough to cast).

The interrogation of the raider was an opportunity to see the Persuasion system in operation again, which as expected seems to be a problem-free zone. We also saw the Stealth system in operation with three attempts at backstabbing/throat-slitting, one of which was NPC v PC, and the others were PC v NPC (not that there's much difference).

Both Richie (as Bannis) and Gemma (as Sister Aveline) ended up spending Fate - Richie I think spent 2 points, and Gemma 1. They may, however, have earnt some back - I will have to look at their Tendencies and think about it. I could have handled that at the time if I had used the Ref's Prompt Sheet (a combination of basic standard Soul's Ties info and a kind of "character sheet for the party" which the ref keeps hold of), and am looking forward to seeing that in action next time.

Feedback after the game was great. Gemma and Richie were both vocal about how much they enjoyed it, and Gemma thinks her man Al will enjoy it too (he wasn't able to attend last night due to work-related reasons). As I've already mentioned, Gemma and Richie both want to use my "ref's patter" warm-up as an inspiration for warm-ups for boffer LARP. Gemma also said she liked the tokens system (fate tokens, luck tokens, energy tokens). She did say there were a lot of dice to roll in combat, but the way I reffed it worked as the game was a lot of fun; of course, dear reader, you will know that there is an impressionistic combat system in Soul's Calling as well, so the dice don't always have to be rolled in full quantity. Gemma also liked the idea of angelkin, which she hadn't come across before, although I'm sure other games have a similar thing, and in fact the commonplace notion of a holy knight or paladin is not a million miles away (an angelkin could be a more generalised version of a holy knight or paladin - not necessarily combat-oriented, but the purity of soul is essentially the same). Emma was a bit too flu'd up to give energetic feedback but she did seem to be quite excited during the game, so I think she enjoyed it.

So anyway, overall, I think, a tick in favour of the "ref's patter" warm-up exercise; a cross against the "meeting of the spirits" warm-up exercise; a tick in favour of the tokens system (which for instance Dana in Internal Playtest II thinks is too complicated); a tick in favour of CharGen at least when pushed along by me; a tick in favour of the detailed combat system at least when pushed along by me; a tick in favour of the Persuasion system, I think; no problem with the Stealth system either.

* basically I am going to split the CharGen chapter into a "Basic CharGen" chapter and an "Extra Bits" chapter; the first will reference the second where necessary, and will be designed to be as far as possible a cut-down step-by-step CharGen menu.
Looking for playtesters for the Implodarc Tabletop RPG. If you'd like to playtest it and post public feedback or an AP thread, ask me for the private link to download it, or I can e-mail it to you. At least compared to my usual stuff, it's meant to be simple and quick to play with quick CharGen.
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Re: Soul's Calling Internal Playtest I

Postby Omnifray » 12:20am on 12 Aug 11

The girl that Moira rescued - let's call her Freya - tells Moira about one of her fellow cultists, Calum, who is believed to have returned to his village in the Northern Wilds, but to be in some danger there, as the King (whose formal title is Grand Duke of Olbia - but who is primus inter pares of the four dukes) has reached a deal with the chiefs of the highland clans to hunt down the members of this particular cult. Moira hatches a plan to travel north ostensibly in a merchant capacity, as this particular village is in the right region for a particular breed of grey-eared sheep which are very valuable, so Moira can pretend that she is there to buy some sheep. She travels north without escort and somehow arrives without mishap at the village in the night... only to discover that much of it has been razed to the ground. It is, of course, by the strange sort of tangled coincidence which you would expect, the very same village where Bannis, Sister Aveline and Ceridwen that very day killed 11 Northholmer raiders. Moira sees the unguarded barn where the villagers and Bannis and Sister Aveline are currently seated around a large fire, pushes open the door and lo! Moira meets Bannis and Sister Aveline for the first time. (But not Ceridwen, who has gone off for a walk in the woods for some strange reason.)

Bannis is a little perturbed that the two villagers he set to guard the door are nowhere to be seen. It turns out that this particular village had a flock of grey-eared sheep which one Calum (the very same) looked after as shepherd, but the villagers were less adept at looking after the sheep in his absence after he was hauled off by local chief Aber's men to the Chief's Hall some 20 miles away, two weeks ago. When the raiders attacked the village, all the sheep went missing - one was subsequently found in bits, obviously having been snacked on, possibly by one of the raiders before the attack was launched. The two villagers who were supposed to be guarding the door have run off into the woods because they thought they saw one of the sheep - which they did, and they return with said animal to general applause from their fellow villagers (those who are still alive at any rate). Meanwhile Bannis and Sister Aveline had been getting their respective knickers in a twist over what might happen to the two villagers, but all is now resolved.

Bannis, Sister Aveline and Moira after eventually bottoming out what has happened to Calum mull over the possibility of helping the villagers chase down their missing sheep in the morning, Moira doing most of the talking as she speaks native-level Cymraeth (the Wilderners' language), whereas Bannis and Sister Aveline know nary a word of that tongue. After much deliberation they decide to head straight for Chief Aber's hall at sun-up.

On the way, Bannis buys a jug of some dodgy drink from a pedlar. Nearing the settlement around the Chief's Hall, Moira converses briefly with a druid.

It transpires that all the men of the settlement around the Chief's Hall are more heavily armed than usual because a contingent from Northholme is due to arrive later for negotiations. Chief Aber is coming under pressure from the Grand Circle of Druids to ensure a more rigorous observance of the druidic faith among the people of the surrounding villages, and the Northholmers are involved in some capacity - behind the scenes (though precisely what Chief Aber knows for an absolute fact is unclear) the Grand Circle of Druids has effectively bribed the Northholmers to raid only those parts of the Northern Wilds which are not particularly diligent in their practice of the faith.

Bannis, Moira and Sister Aveline have of course come looking for Calum, and speak in the Sassenar tongue of Olbia to a ginger-haired, weasely-faced man by the name of (erm) Merbhil who happens to be relatively fluent in it and who is one of the Chief's top men. (The Chief is seated nearby but speaks little or no Sassenar.) It turns out that Calum escaped not long ago, and hunting dogs were unable to track his scent beyond a particular glade in the woods.

Bannis, Moira and Sister Aveline are offered quarters in the upper floor of the Chief's Hall but are expected to retire to them and stay there out of the way of the druids and Northholmers until the Northholmers leave the next day around noon... of course the Wilderners are not going to be sleeping while the Northholmers are under the same roof (they're not crazy) but they anticipate that some rather forced "festivities" will last all night. Bannis, Moira and Sister Aveline utterly fail to spy on any of the negotiations or goings on, being too afraid of being caught. In the meantime, Merbhil approaches Bannis and offers him a 500 silvers bribe if he can track down Calum and return him, as the King (well, technically Grand Duke) of Olbia is offering a large reward to Chief Aber (under a private arrangement between rulers) for the surrender of that particular miscreant. Bannis is well up for it, and Merbhil gives detailed directions to where exactly the scent trail mysteriously ended.

And that is of course exactly where Bannis, Moira and Sister Aveline end up shortly after the Northholmers and druids have left. (A little short of sleep as the "festivities" were quite loud once the alcohol flowed freely.)

It's a glade, with a weeping willow tree under which the scent trail ended. Looking around, and Sister Aveline even shimmying up the tree, the adventurers experience a number of strange little sensations, tricks of the light and that sort of thing. (This is in fact, though the adventurers do not know it, a possible sign of being spied upon by the Fae from their invisible Seelie Realm.) Moira, worrying that the Fae may indeed be involved in some way, or at least baffled as to where Calum might be and hoping for some sort of a sign, prays to Reigha, the horned lady of the woodlands. The sensations she is experiencing seem to intensify. And then...

"Hello. You're not very normal are you?" says the little wooden man seated on the floor...

... who happens to be one of the Seelie Fae. He indicates that a small offering of gold will be enough to bring forth a more powerful fae, Gorbhal. The little wooden man, whose name is something like Pomdumperdink, knocks on the trunk of the tree, causing a strange narrow elongated face-like or mask-like door to emerge from it. Pomdumperdink takes four gold coins from Moira, places three by the trunk of the tree and runs off with the fourth as his cut.

The door creaks open and a four-armed little man bearing some resemblance to a mole or a cross between a gnome, a goblin and something else which I won't name for copyright reasons emerges to negotiate. He takes an immediate dislike to Bannis, but has a favourable attitude towards Moira because she is of Primal soul's calling and was praying to Reigha, and finds Sister Aveline somehow exceptionally persuasive and charming, although he does require her to put away her nasty, nasty holy symbol which represents the halo of the Archangel Sabradiel. (This she does, and will now no doubt feel guilty for it as it sinks in that she has in effect denied her faith to appease a foul spirit...)

The adventurers do their best to persuade him to tell them what he can about Calum's disappearance and how to get him back, but whether Sister Aveline slips up by accident or whether she does so on purpose, she somehow persuades Gorbhal that the price for his help should be that Bannis prove himself in combat... Bannis, as you can imagine, is less than delighted!!!

So Gorbhal who (though as a Seelie Fae an enemy of the Unseelie Fae) has pact-bound Vorghalad the Riddler, a dark Unseelie Fae thing, promptly magically summons the said Vorghalad, a seven foot tall spindly jet-black, horned and boney man-like creature with six-foot-long arms ending in claws, who emerges from a maggot-, slug- and worm-filled hole for single combat with Bannis. It is a bloody battle, but the favour of the Fates - and in part their favourable inclinations towards Sister Aveline and Moira rather than towards Bannis alone - see Bannis dodge a number of savage blows, taking only a minor injury, and injure Vorghalad first gravely, then, impaling him through the stomach, with immediately fatal effect.

If you are feeling sorry for Vorghalad at this point, please do not worry. He will reincarnate soon enough, for the Fae never truly die. Also, as he dies, his essence curls around Bannis's spear and consumes it. So, Bannis has no spear, just a dagger.

Gorbhal is not completely satisfied and makes further demands on the adventurers. He gets Bannis to drink the strange jugful of something that Bannis bought from the pedlar... it turns out to be Watchman's Brew, which enhances your senses, but is mildly addictive and has other minor drawbacks. So basically Bannis is on the equivalent of a fivefold dose of espresso coffee. Gorbhal takes ten gold coins from Moira, and agrees to help the adventurers get Calum back if Bannis will spend a minute in the hole. Yep, Vorghalad's hole. Gorbhal is, however, quite impressed with how Bannis fought, so he promises to get Bannis out of the hole after that minute.

(He doesn't say quite how long after that minute... but Bannis is lucky so...) once Bannis has spent about three minutes chest-deep in slugs, maggots and worms, Gorbhal gets out a rope. And pulls down an article of his clothing. And does something with the rope which let's just say is not exactly repeatable on a family-friendly website but leaves it with a thin brownish coating for extra slippiness. He then, true to his word (for once) lowers the rope into the hole and lucky Bannis gets to cling to that very same rope with its very same sheen as he crawls out.

Lucky Bannis!

Gorbhal then invokes the spirits to provide answers for the adventurers, supplemented by what he has observed himself. And it turns out that... Calum went through Gorbhal's door into the Seelie Realm, and had some sort of a strange scrollcase with him, which was not magical, but very strange - the strangest thing Gorbhal had ever seen? ... Calum is a captive of a beautiful but cruel dryad called Trehina who will be at the golden waterfall in the Seelie Realm when the adventurers find it... the adventurers will have to do a deal of some kind with the dryad to free Calum... the major threat to the adventurers in trying to retrieve Calum comes (no surprise) from the Seelie Fae themselves... the adventurers should accept no gifts from the Fae... Gorbhal promptly offers them a map of the Seelie Realm, and dammit, they refuse!!

Gorbhal ushers the adventurers towards the door into the Seelie Realm - but hey - who's that?? ... - that's Ceridwen, just arrived somehow and watching the other adventurers from just a few yards further into the woods!!
Looking for playtesters for the Implodarc Tabletop RPG. If you'd like to playtest it and post public feedback or an AP thread, ask me for the private link to download it, or I can e-mail it to you. At least compared to my usual stuff, it's meant to be simple and quick to play with quick CharGen.
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Re: Soul's Calling Internal Playtest I

Postby Omnifray » 12:45am on 12 Aug 11

So, last night Internal Playtest I reconvened, Bekka, Gemma and Richy in attendance (see the write-up in my previous post). No Emma this time, hence Ceridwen's walk in the woods.

It was a good session, even though I once again woefully failed to prepare anything at all really, save for thinking about possible plot events on two separate occasions during the day for about five minutes each time.

We started with soft roleplay to warm up with while scoffing on pizza / chicken / chips / strawberries (not all of us were scoffing on unhealthy items, though I won't name and shame the guilty parties apart from myself). Then when we put the food away we interrupted for some preliminaries such as explaining the advancement points earnt on the previous occasions (nobody spent any), handing out tokens, filling out the Ref's Roleplay Prompt Sheet with everyone's tendencies and doing the ref's patter warm-up exercise.

My first try at using the Ref's Roleplay Prompt Sheet was essentially successful though it may take a little more practice to get maximum advantage from it. The Persuasion system had a good test-run with Gorbhal and seemed easy enough to operate even if I think as it's still early days I may have been a little crasser about it than I might have been with more experience.

The combat between Bannis and Vorghalad was detailed combat and both Bekka and Gemma helped Richy out with luck tokens so he didn't end up crippled or dead.

Stealth and ranged combat didn't really come into it, and neither did any active use of the magic system by PCs. (I think Richy thought my invocation patterns looked a bit intimidating, but they're not in final form yet, and I swear, they're going to be perfect... in my personal and totally biased opinion anyway...) I should try to fit stealth, ranged combat and PC-magic / special fx in next time. There was an opportunity for the adventurers to sneak about spying on the druids and Northholmers, but they were too chicken.

Richy and Gemma again really seemed to enjoy themselves, and Bekka enjoyed herself too, though with one (and expressly only one) reservation which was that she was narked that I had Gorbhal mention in front of the other PCs in an off-the-cuff way something about Bekka's character Moira's prayers to Reigha (the fact that she is a pagan was something she was trying to keep secret). Of course I happen to know it won't disadvantage her in the campaign, but it was more the fact that my reffing deprived her of the chance to roleplay that secretiveness. She has plenty of other things to be secretive about though! Ah well.

Richy's particular testament to how much he enjoyed the game was that for the last hour of it he forwent a trip to the loo because he was enjoying the game too much to leave the table. I hasten to add that this did not have any particular consequences!! He also mentioned having done something along the lines of the ref's patter thing daily at a boffer LARP event, leading to a more immersive experience for him at that LARP event (if I understood his comments correctly at any rate), and if memory serves all three of the players felt that it was useful to do the ref's patter thing again, even with now somewhat more established characters. So, that was good. Gemma also said the rules were starting to make more sense to her, which I hope doesn't mean that total fog had descended beforehand!!

In the meantime, by way of mini-downtime, Ceridwen has had a dream about what looks like a silvery scrollcase, with some connection to Bannis or Sister Aveline or both. More on that next time, if you haven't already worked out the obvious link.

Anyway everyone seems keen to meet up again next week so --- so far, so good!
Looking for playtesters for the Implodarc Tabletop RPG. If you'd like to playtest it and post public feedback or an AP thread, ask me for the private link to download it, or I can e-mail it to you. At least compared to my usual stuff, it's meant to be simple and quick to play with quick CharGen.
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Re: Soul's Calling Internal Playtest I

Postby Omnifray » 2:35pm on 18 Aug 11

A brief aside:-

What has Ceridwen been up to?

Let's go back in time briefly to what happened after Ceridwen, Bannis and Sister Aveline dispatched the Northholmer raiders in defence of the small village they had come across in the Northern Wilds...

During the first night at the village, after everyone has done the basic cleaning up, burying of the dead etc., the adventurers all hole up in a big barn together (one of the last buildings standing) with a big fire going. They take a little nap, and Ceridwen has a strange dream about what looks like a silvery scrollcase, which has something to do with Bannis and Sister Aveline, and which, in the dream, she dreams of wanting quite badly.

Somewhat puzzled, Ceridwen upon awaking leaves the barn to go and meditate in the woods. She prefers to stay out in the woods that night for greater tranquility. The next day she sees the other adventurers walking past the woods where they are with a woman [Moira - but Ceridwen doesn't know that] in very good quality clothing, a full suit of cuir bouilli and a cuir bouilli helm (this is a rather luxury item, as a simple helmet is cheaper and similarly effective for most purposes) who has a hand-and-a-half sword and a hand-crossbow (another luxury item - a very small crossbow). Ceridwen is unsure of this woman at first, and decides to keep to the woods and follow the other adventurers from a distance.

Ceridwen follows the other adventurers to Chief Aber's hall. All the men of the settlement appear armed, and Ceridwen feels unsure of their purposes, so she stays in the woods as the Northholmers and druids come and go; in the meantime overnight Ceridwen sleeps in the woods, occasionally disturbed by the raucous noises of [what she perceives as] feasting and festivities in the hall some distance away. It is a cold night and she wakes early in the morning feeling grotty and cold-ridden, unsure whether she has had a second dream about the scrollcase-thingy or whether she is imagining it.

By midday Ceridwen has shaken off the cold and presumably eaten something. She sees the other adventurers leaving the hall and entering the woods some distance from her. She follows them at a considerable distance, knowing that she is not good at staying hidden, so she needs to keep a good distance from them in order not to be detected. Twice she briefly loses them. On the second occasion, when she sees them again, they seem to be speaking to a very small child standing under the boughs of a willow tree... as Ceridwen gets closer, she realises it is not a child at all, but a four-armed little man who bears some resemblance to a mole [Gorbhal, though she doesn't know that yet]. There is a door in the trunk of the tree which bears some resemblance to a face or mask, and which is open. Gorbhal sees Ceridwen and points at her, and the adventurers turn and recognise her...
Looking for playtesters for the Implodarc Tabletop RPG. If you'd like to playtest it and post public feedback or an AP thread, ask me for the private link to download it, or I can e-mail it to you. At least compared to my usual stuff, it's meant to be simple and quick to play with quick CharGen.
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Re: Soul's Calling Internal Playtest I

Postby Omnifray » 3:14pm on 18 Aug 11


The adventurers call out to Ceridwen and she approaches them. She admits that she has followed them from the village. Moira and Ceridwen introduce themselves very briefly to each other in Sassenar (Ceridwen has a noticeable Wilderner accent). Sister Aveline and Moira explain that they are going to enter the faerie realm to retrieve the village shepherd whose name is Calum, and that Gorbhal has helped them with advice. Bannis is still picking maggots, worms and slugs out of his hair and clothing, and even out from inside his clothing. Ceridwen is very much unsure of whether it can possibly be a good idea to enter the fairie realm, but Gorbhal is threatening to close his magic door if the adventurers don't be smart about it, so Ceridwen relents. As a preliminary, Gorbhal motions the adventurers to come closer, and they feel the hairs on the back of their necks tingle - and Sister Aveline senses magic of the school of soul, which she also sensed when Gorbhal summoned Vorghalad the Riddler. Gorbhal peers at the adventurers intently, and starts as his gaze falls upon Ceridwen. He pronounces her to be a thing most unnatural, one of the strangest things he has ever seen, and strange and unnatural in the same way as the item that Calum was carrying. Still, Gorbhal is one of the Tricksier Fae, and perhaps figures that Ceridwen's presence in the Seelie Realm will be a cause of mischief for her or for others, so he proceeds. He gives the adventurers "special hugs" (in Sister Aveline's case of a most inappropriate character) to squeeze them thinner (magically) so that they can fit through his little door and boots them in, except for Ceridwen who doesn't want Gorbhal's filthy paws all over her and squeezes through the little doorway by physical effort, resulting in general bruising. Her dog follows closely behind. [Poor mutt!] Gorbhal closes the door and is on his way.

The adventurers are now in what is called the Seelie Realm, a place that none of them has any understanding of. It looks much like the Mortal Realm, and from it the adventurers can spy on those who are in the Mortal Realm - such as Gorbhal, whom they see scurrying off. But as time passes quicker in the Mortal Realm, Gorbhal seems to be moving exceptionally quickly - some of his movements appear as blurs. He also appears translucent and insubstantial. He appears unable to see the adventurers as they watch him from the Seelie Realm.

The adventurers proceed on their way, following their noses, with no real clue as to where they are going, continuing to explain to Ceridwen what has been happening. They mention the scroll-case, which Moira said that apparently many people were after, and Ceridwen confesses [!] that she has had a dream about it, and, in the dream, wanted it. The adventurers seem to conclude that this scroll-case thingy draws people to it and makes them want it.

As the adventurers walk on, they encounter a stone cottage built in a very old style. The door is shut and the windows shuttered. Bannis knocks on the door - it is like knocking on stone. He tries the handle, but cannot get it to budge, not even the tiniest fraction of an inch. The adventurers notice strange and insubstantial wisps of smoke darting out from the chimney. Bannis hollers and beats upon the door. An image of the door seems to open through him at speed, and what looks like a phantasm mimicking an old human woman darts out celeritously, looks about and returns within, closing the image of the door as it goes - totally ignoring the adventurers. Bannis hollers and beats upon the door again. Again the image of the door seems to open at speed and the phantasm emerges, scatches its head and goes back inside, closing the image of the door behind it.

The adventurers then notice a stunningly beautiful woman in highly revealing leather clothing with green streaks in her otherwise brownish hair and purplish eyes who is observing them from her position some distance away, her body pressed up close to a tree, her left leg entwined around it, as she is mostly hidden behind it. The adventurers can see the tip of her bow protruding over her shoulder from behind the tree. They approach and hail her [presumably, dear reader, in the Sassenar language of Olbia, which is the party's common language, hence Callendriel will reply in that tongue also, though Cymraeth is more likely her native tongue - as it is the language of the fae, as well as of the Northern Wilds]. She seems wary of them but introduces herself as Callendriel. She pauses and concentrates. The adventurers feel the hairs on the backs of their necks prick up again and Sister Aveline senses magic of the school of soul. Callendriel looks shocked at the sight of Ceridwen, and distinctly unimpressed by Bannis and Sister Aveline.

[Dear reader, if I may interject to explain - Moira is of Primal soul, as are the Fae. Bannis, Ceridwen and Sister Aveline are not - Bannis is Damned; Sister Aveline is Redeemed; Ceridwen is "Unbidden", meaning that her soul is alien to the Enshrouded Lands. Callendriel can sense that Moira is Primal and the others are not; she can also sense that Ceridwen is highly unnatural in some way. Ceridwen is probably the first such being that Callendriel has ever met. As you may by now have surmised, Gorbhal used the same power as Callendriel. Some Fae, though not Callendriel nor Gorbhal, can sense these differences without having to use eldritch powers in an overt way to do so.]

As the adventurers converse with Callendriel she takes umbrage at Bannis's eyes wandering all over her body and asks Moira for her bed-roll to cover herself with so that his eyes may not feast so much upon her form. Callendriel seems to find Sister Aveline perhaps even more offensive - possibly because of her holy symbol? - and clearly finds Ceridwen somewhat alarming.

Callendriel ushers Moira away from the others and talks to her privately, though the others may be able to overhear. She asks what they are doing in the Seelie Realm, and Moira explains. Callendriel is pleased to hear that the adventurers are planning to leave the Seelie Realm soon and to take with them another mortal, Calum, who has somehow ended up there. [The Fae, dear reader, for the most part do not like it when a mortal presence disturbs the natural order of their Seelie Realm.] Callendriel warns Moira that the other adventurers are not to be trusted [they are, dear reader, after all, not of Primal soul]. On the promise that Moira does indeed intend to get Calum, herself and her companions out of the Seelie Realm, Callendriel gives directions towards the Golden Waterfall, and explains a little about the Seelie Realm. She explains that the cottage that the adventurers have observed is a cottage in the Mortal Realm which is mimicked in the Seelie Realm and impregnable there. She explains that there are three kinds of Fae "which we talk about" - Wilder, Tricksier and Nobler Fae - as well as the "other kind of Fae which we don't talk about". She herself is of the Wilder Fae. She asks how Moira plans to leave the Seelie Realm. Moira seems a little clueless about this [as one might expect] so Callendriel fashions for her a wooden flute, with magic, and ties a feather to it. Callendriel tells Moira to play on it when she needs to leave the Seelie Realm, and Callendriel will hear its music and will be able to help her. Moira insists that she exchange something for the flute [so as not to be taking a gift], but Callendriel says that the bed-roll is taken in exchange. As Moira takes the flute, however, Callendriel refers to it as a "gift" - those Fae can be tricky!

Moira returns somewhat perturbed to her fellow adventurers, and explains to them in brief what has transpired.

More to follow shortly...
Looking for playtesters for the Implodarc Tabletop RPG. If you'd like to playtest it and post public feedback or an AP thread, ask me for the private link to download it, or I can e-mail it to you. At least compared to my usual stuff, it's meant to be simple and quick to play with quick CharGen.
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Re: Soul's Calling Internal Playtest I

Postby Omnifray » 3:53pm on 18 Aug 11


As the adventurers follow Callendriel's directions, they notice movement among the plants around them. Bannis draws his dagger; the twenty or so pixie-like Fae hidden under leaves around the party seem to take that as a sign of aggression, and swarm into the air on their little wings, bows out - a tiny arrow hits Bannis in the face! - and others of them are concentrating hard as strange etheric light arcs among them. The party flee in terror, Bannis leading the charge. They outpace the little Fae, but as the adventurers flee, the magic reaches its culmination, and the Fae cast a net of purplish light upon the adventurers. It seems to be trying to penetrate them and their belongings, but unable to find a way in. But as the adventurers leave the Fae further and further behind, the strange light seems to connect with Moira's flute which she was given by Callendriel, and flows into it. The flute begins to emit wisps of mist. Moira tries ineffectually to fan the mist back into the flute. The mist grows thicker and swells to a vast size, quickly enveloping the adventurers completely. The adventurers call to each other and try to get closer to where each other are. They see shapes moving in the mist.

Bannis sees something just in time - claws reaching out at him from the mist! He bats them away, and runs at the creature with his dagger, plunging it into its chest. The creature sinks to the floor. Sister Aveline reaches the creature and hacks at it with her axe, but it is already dissolving into the ground. Ceridwen, rushing to assist but unable to see very well in the thick mist, runs into a tree and breaks her nose! An arm reaches unseen around Sister Aveline's neck - she notices it just before it can tear out her throat! She jumps away and hacks at it. Ceridwen invokes her eldritch power of Spiritual Warrior using the invocation pattern of Subtle Celeritous Adaption - she channels her mystical power into the deadliness of her blows in combat; this works perfectly, and will last for an hour (the "fourth harmony of time"). Then as the mist starts to clear, Bannis runs up to the creature and rips a chunk out of the back of its leg with his dagger. It collapses to the ground and dissolves away. Ceridwen's dog moans in fear in the whingey way of cowed mutts.

As the mist clears completely, the adventurers debate what to do with the flute. They conclude that they will keep it for now, but throw it away if there is a repeat of this episode. Though it was mid afternoon when they met Gorbhal and they have spent only some fifteen minutes in the Seelie Realm, it is quickly growing dark. [Time passes differently in the Seelie Realm...] The adventurers see four lights, perhaps torches, in the distance off the path, but [wisely...] elect to stay on the path.

Not long after this, the adventurers see a lantern being carried down the road in their general direction. Ceridwen is still benefitting from her Spiritual Warrior power. Bannis decides to try to hide in the woods so that if whatever is approaching is hostile, he can sneak up on it and murderise it. The creature draws closer - it is alike unto a man, but with the head of a stag. It wears bronze ring armour and carries a bronze broadsword and a bronze-bossed shield, as well as a short bow. The creature - we may fairly call it an "elf" (for it is a Fae of human size and almost human appearance, save only for the head) - spots Bannis [just!] at a distance of some 50 yards from the adventurers, and unslings its bow. Bannis puts up his hands in a gesture of peace or surrender, and the elf ushers him back onto the path to where his companions are.

The elf draws closer, closing to 20 yards' distance from the adventurers, its bow still unslung, and still the party do nothing, though Ceridwen, buzzing with her Spiritual Warrior power, has her sword and shield out. The elf seems to peer at them closely. [Dear reader, it is sensing that they are mortals, and not all of Primal soul.] No doubt noticing that most of the party are wearing clothing in the Olbian style, the elf calls out in the Sassenar tongue of Olbia - "your presence here defiles this place - prepare to die!" ... and an arrow hits Sister Aveline in the chest, near the shoulder, leaving her gravely injured!

Bannis gets out his dagger and charges headlong towards the fae, Ceridwen just behind him. Sister Aveline pulls out the arrow and gets her axe and shield ready. Moira bravely hangs back and pulls out her crossbow. The elf drops his bow, readies his sword and shield and charges to meet Bannis and Ceridwen. Bannis takes fright enough to hesitate for a few crucial seconds and the elf slices into Bannis's side, gravely injuring him. Ceridwen slashes at the elf, but he parries, despite whatever favour the Fates might have shown to Ceridwen. The elf then swings his sword at Ceridwen and this time the Fates are really not on her side [what was initially rolled as a grave injury Emma insisted on using energy, luck and fate tokens to re-roll repeatedly... ending up with a terrible injury, the worst kind! but the 1st and 2nd re-rolls would have been outright kills, so it's not as bad as it might have been...] - his blade buries itself so deep in Ceridwen's leg that tendons are ripped and torn and she is permanently maimed! She tries to stay on her feet - in effect on one leg - as Bannis finally finds his courage and launches himself physically onto the elf. [We call it a grapple, which frankly is partly a case of Matt - that's me, the ref - realising that if it's a dagger-stab, the party have no chance and we might be looking at a TPK - grappling is more favourable- and...] Bannis [rolls a 12 for his first dice-roll and an 11 for his second dice-roll, after I let him keep the rolls despite rolling them together and not singly, mainly because things were looking really bad for the party otherwise, and] jumps right on top of the elf and, somewhat improbably, pins him to the ground. With Bannis doing all he can to hold the elf still, Ceridwen limps and hops closer, and in one swift motion, gritting her teeth through the pain of her terrible injury, swiftly decapitates him!

Ceridwen bagsies the bronze-bossed shield, Bannis nabs the bronze sword [and takes Ceridwen's old wooden shield], Ceridwen uses her Wilderness Skill to make a bivvy in the woods and the adventurers, nursing their wounds and doing their best to avoid bleeding to death, prepare to set watches and rest. But before they do, they will probably realise that, though it is dark, they don't actually feel tired...
Looking for playtesters for the Implodarc Tabletop RPG. If you'd like to playtest it and post public feedback or an AP thread, ask me for the private link to download it, or I can e-mail it to you. At least compared to my usual stuff, it's meant to be simple and quick to play with quick CharGen.
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Re: Soul's Calling Internal Playtest I

Postby Omnifray » 4:43pm on 18 Aug 11

So this time it was me [ref], Richie [Bannis], Gemma [Sister Aveline], Emma [Ceridwen] and Bekka [Moira] in attendance for about two and a quarter hours of Soul's Calling, not counting preliminaries.

All combat was handled using the detailed combat rules. I was planning on using impressionistic combat for the pixie-things, but the party decided to run away!

The new magic system had its very first outing, albeit that it was being used for Ceridwen's mystical powers, which are not strictly magical. The paperwork isn't all in order yet - had it been, the CharGen bit prior to the session where I had Gemma and Emma picking invocation patterns for their characters could have functioned without my input, but as things are, there's no written list yet of which invocation patterns go with which eldritch powers [well, there is for 10 out of 37 powers, but I haven't printed it], so it was a case of me having to point them in the right direction at that stage. But in actual play, it was simply a case of Emma putting her Spiritual Warrior eldritch power together with the Subtle Celeritous Adaption invocation pattern she has for it, and kapow! - an eldritch power ready to be rolled for. That bit went without a hitch, as one would hope, so, so far, so good.

I also had Richie and Emma make Fear Checks when their characters were charged by the stag-headed fae. This is something I possibly should have had more of thus far (e.g. when Bannis had to fight Vorghalad). I am not sure philosophically speaking whether fear checks for player characters are in principle a good thing in any system intended to produce immersive roleplay, but I think it adds certain angles to the game, and I'm not up for ditching it at the moment. Anyway that aspect was perfectly simple and not a hindrance to the game on this particular playtesting occasion even if I did have to flick through a few pages of the book to find the rules on it. Courage checks of all kinds are in essence used at the ref's discretion so you get to tailor things to your taste. Richie's character Bannis has a perfectly decent Courage score, and Emma's character Ceridwen has a fantastic Courage score if memory serves, and as a Fear Check is fairly low in the order of courage checks, the results were not unexpected. It was, after all, a spirit of almost human appearance which was charging them, save for the stag-like head, and only the one, against four of them, without the advantage of surprise - not the ingredients of a Visceral Horror Check, for sure. I am tempted to hit them with something higher up the scale next session though - perhaps a Terror Check or something.

The adventurers are now very badly injured. Ceridwen and Bannis both need healing beyond anything that any member of the party can provide - though Ceridwen can heal herself, a terrible injury is far beyond her arts, and as for Bannis, though Sister Aveline with her rejigged magic can now heal herself and others, she can only heal those who are Redeemed, which Bannis, being Damned, is not. However the adventurers are in the Seelie Realm and may be able to strike a deal with the fae for magical healing. It will, of course, be pricey. Was that an unbalanced encounter with the stag-headed elf? Richie [the naughty boy] was quietly chanting "TPK" at one point in the fight with the elf, and to be perfectly honest, things were looking a bit close until he managed his improbable feat of grappling, and certainly the death of a player character would have been unsurprising. But the party were not ready for combat. They could have had missile weapons out. Moira and Sister Aveline could have had their crossbows loaded and ready [not that they're brilliant with them]. Someone could have given Bannis a better weapon than a dagger! (Especially Moira who ultimately didn't enter combat.) Bannis was a bit unlucky being spotted hiding in the woods by the fae and could have re-rolled that with fate or luck tokens but didn't [partly to be fair this is influenced by how I reffed the situation]. But above all, the silly so-and-so's decided to go into the Seelie Realm. Despite being mortal humans. And all but one, not even of Primal soul. So, if they didn't encounter horrendous danger, that would be rather hard to explain. In the end each member of the party got 16 out of a maximum possible of 21 advancement points under the "ref-plotted danger levels" head, which I guess means that I felt that a significantly more dangerous encounter could have been justified. [But the players would have had to be more careful tactically to survive such an encounter... they only got through this one by the skin of their teeth.]

The party have been gaining advancement points as things have been rumbling on, and spent some at the end of the session - Sister Aveline improved her ability in melee, ranged combat and stealth; Bannis improved his ability in melee combat; Moira improved her ability with ranged combat, and still has tons of advancement points to spare [Bekka is waiting for an opportunity to acquire more Skills because she is a bit of a cheeky one and thinks it will be funny to max out every Skill in the system... well it might be, but that's not the route to true power in this system! - anyway, you can only acquire a Skill if it fits the roleplay].

Once again I forgot to ask everyone to pick Player Stances so they were all Mixed Stance by default. Advancement Point awards have generally been fairly low all round. This time out of a max of 105 the highest award anyone got was about 55, and that included points awarded under the head of "exceptional enthusiasm" (out of a max of 21 points for that) for the player concerned (Richie) due to the personal inconvenience he is putting himself to to make it to the sessions and walk one of the other players home. So after attending 3 sessions out of the 4, three of the characters have gained in the region of 130 Advancement Points, which in theory you could earn in one four-hour or even (just about) three-hour session. However, I think it's a good system for awarding Advancement Points. We go through the Advancement Point awards after the session and the players are conscious of what they have to do to earn more.

In playtesting terms, one thing which has come out of this session is that the players would like to see the "Ref's Patter" warm-up shortened, so I will be taking a red pen to it in due course and maybe halving it in length, "half" being a concept based on the fact that apparently the exercise is a bit too long for Bekka and loses her about half-way through. Less verbiage, more focus on questions for the players to answer in their own minds.

Gemma was a bit unsure about when you need to roll high and when you need to roll low. I might write out a cheat-sheet which explains that a bit more, as I guess players do need to understand whether their rolls are any good in order to decide whether to use their booster tokens (energy/fate/luck tokens) for re-rolls.

It is very easy to forget to add in your dice-check modifiers for things like injuries, eldritch impairment, herbal concoctions etc., especially as the game flows so quickly and one tends to get a little caught up in things. I am going to have a think about little reminders of some sort to assist with this, although in practical terms there's not a lot to be done about it.

Miley, who due to work reasons (shift patterns) has been unable to attend Internal Playtest I so far despite being on the invitation list, will very likely be taking part in Internal Playtest III when that gets off the ground in hopefully a few weeks' time with otherwise new players (thus far looking like Heather, Kev, Rachel and possibly Graham). Last night we were ideally hoping for Chris to be joining us part-way through the game and I was going to let him play Calum as perm. a-ref, which would have been the first playtest of perm. a-reffing in Soul's Calling. However if Chris doesn't make it to any of the games in Internal Playtest I, I would like to see what Rachel can do as perm. a-ref in Internal Playtest III. As I say, that's a few weeks off at the moment.

I have been out shopping today and acquired 10 red/orange d12s, 36 green glass tokens for Blessings Tokens and one set of black Fantasy Flight tokens for Hex Tokens, so I will actually be playtesting this game with almost the full complement of recommended paraphernalia.

Anyway, bottom line:- everyone is still enjoying themselves, and I am enjoying reffing, even if when it comes to the encounters and scenarios of the adventure, I am more or less totally making it up as I go along, and haven't really written anything down in advance yet. This is totally contrary to my own reffing advice, which sooner or later I am going to start following. It is more or less a certainty that I will be reffing this at Indiecon. [One more playtest session before I give my "man up or shut up" confirmation on the Indiecon forum.]
Looking for playtesters for the Implodarc Tabletop RPG. If you'd like to playtest it and post public feedback or an AP thread, ask me for the private link to download it, or I can e-mail it to you. At least compared to my usual stuff, it's meant to be simple and quick to play with quick CharGen.
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Re: Soul's Calling Internal Playtest I

Postby Omnifray » 3:13pm on 24 Aug 11

Not sure whether tonight's session will be going ahead as Gemz and Emma are trapped by work, Miley is probably going to be just doing Internal Playtest III [and is probably trapped by work too] and Chris has family commitments so we would be down to just Richy [who may also be working], Bekka and me. Fingers crossed though and there might possibly be something further to report soon!

In the meantime, Internal Playtest III is going to start some time in the next few weeks. It will be interesting to see what Rachel makes of it, as CharGen is her favourite part of any system... (!)
Looking for playtesters for the Implodarc Tabletop RPG. If you'd like to playtest it and post public feedback or an AP thread, ask me for the private link to download it, or I can e-mail it to you. At least compared to my usual stuff, it's meant to be simple and quick to play with quick CharGen.
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Re: Soul's Calling Internal Playtest I

Postby Omnifray » 12:37pm on 05 Sep 11


The four adventurers are camped up in the woods. Ceridwen takes fright as she notices worms crawling out of Sister Aveline's ears. Sister Aveline can't feel them, but meanwhile she sees blood pouring out of Moira's nose. Bannis can feel strange sores on his leg. Moira sees what looks like a hole in her hand... she presses her finger to it, and it seems to part flesh - she can't hold her finger back, as it presses through her hand and clasps around it. Sister Aveline feels a worm crawling out of her nose.

It's a shared dream, a nightmare of some sort, and waking in a cold sweat the adventurers feel troubled and disturbed... and strangely unrested, though it is now the middle of the day. They decide to get on their way towards the waterfall and see strange blurs of activities in the woodlands, glinting of metal and phantasms of falling trees. [Dear reader, this is how those watching from the Seelie Realm perceive the felling of trees in the parallel areas of the Mortal Realm - time passes quicker in the Mortal Realm, and the boundary between the two Realms makes things which exist in the Mortal Realm seem phantasmal.]

The adventurers soon reach the Golden Waterfall and find the dryad Trehina there with Calum, who is strikingly handsome. Trehina is partly human in appearance, but partly tree-like - she has bark over parts of her skin, and twiggy bits in her hair. Calum seems to be beholden to her in some way. It turns out that Trehina is keeping hold of him because her lover Tribellyan, the Horned Lord, has been ailing for several weeks in mortal time. [Dear reader, this is but a few days to the Fae, but Trehina is obviously impatient...] Trehina mentions in passing that Tribellyan draws his strength from the trees in this area, centred around one particular tree which she points out, and which is somewhat taller than the others.

The adventurers search around and chance upon a diseased tree - the first sick thing they have seen in the Seelie Realm. By the base of it is a strange phantasm of a healthier tree, otherwise similar, which looks as if it has been felled to the ground. [Dear reader, the felling of the tree in the Mortal Realm damages the corresponding tree in the Seelie Realm.] They encounter a small fae creature, Nugrael, who is one of Tribellyan's servants. He explains that woodcutting in the area is harming his lord. The adventurers promise to try to stop this activity, so Nugrael [who, dear reader, cannot reveal himself to ordinary humans for it would blatantly breach the Shrouding] shows Moira how to work one of the nearby Seelie Nexi, a link or portal between the Seelie Realm and the Mortal Realm. It is a large boulder which depending on the time of day and conjunction of the stars and so forth may be operated at certain times by spilling blood then circling it several times.

All five enter the Mortal Realm, Nugrael spying on what goes on there from a hidden position but occasionally conversing with the adventurers. The adventurers seek out some of the woodcutters, and discover the background to this new woodcutting activity:- they are not ordinary woodsmen, but refugees whose villages were attacked by Northholmers. They have noticed that the Northholmers attacked their village, but ignored other villages. They are seeking to settle new lands which they hope the Northholmers may be less likely to attack, and which (given the landscape, hills and so forth) can be more easily defended.

By a lucky coincidence and the favour of the Fates, it turns out that Ceridwen knows a druid, Leigrel, who lives not far from here with a companion, Gerhaim. The adventurers, having failed to persuade the refugees to go elsewhere [and of course being unable to mention the Fae], seek out this druid, and persuade him (as a favour to Ceridwen) to look at this particular area of the woods to see if there is some way it could be considered sacred. [Leigrel asks in return that Ceridwen send word to her father... Ceridwen has left her family because she objects to their role in druidic sacrifices.] Moira and Sister Aveline both have some skill with herbs and try to keep a look out for plants which might be of interest to the druids as they inspect the area, but it is Nugrael who from his hidden position throws a stone at Moira, then when she approaches him whispers to her to inspect a particular rock. It is not one rock but two resting against each other, and when prised apart, there are human skulls hidden at their base in a fashion which marks this as a former site of druidic significance. The two druids are most excited by this find.

Leigrel and the others visit the refugees' nearby encampment and tell them to hold off felling trees in this area while the druids hold a meeting with other druids to discuss whether the site should be regarded as sacred. The adventurers meanwhile patrol the woods to ensure no surreptitious tree-felling occurs in the interim for some four uneventful weeks (during which time Ceridwen caught a nasty case of Pale Rot on her leg, though it has finally cleared up now). The endeavour is finally successful and Leigrel returns from a meeting with other druids excitedly announcing that this area of woodland is now regarded as protected. The refugees must decamp and move elsewhere.

[In the interim two things of significance happen. First, Nugrael teaches Moira about the Fae, in return for a promise that she will keep other mortals away from the Seelie Realm unless their presence there is strictly necessary. Second, a black-skinned, four-horned she-demon, whose name can hardly be transcribed but at a best approximation is Ghroe'gh, approaches Bannis secretly and offers him gold if he will take a small box to the Seelie Realm for her and open it there - a black box with a shrunken human skull pressed into it. The deal is swiftly done. Dear reader, this box is a Cask of Corrosive Corruption, and its function is to turn the minds of the nearby Fae to dark things while its magic lasts. It cannot taint their souls forever - they are Fae, and forever wild and free - but it can lead them to do great evil, to the demon's twisted satisfaction. Bannis is given a down-payment of 15 gold coins.]

Nugrael and Moira lead the adventurers back into the Seelie Realm. They approach Trehina and explain that they have prevented the cutting of trees - Nugrael is able to confirm their account, before scurrying off. Trehina releases Calum to them - what she would describe as a "gift". He has a leather bag, which looks as if it might contain a scroll-case, but denies having a silver scroll-case thing when Ceridwen mentions it. [Dear reader, he does of course have it. Perhaps more dreams will follow...] Moira decides that it is time to mention Freya [the "witch" she rescued], which prompts greater cooperation from Calum. Moira is then pressed by Sister Aveline to admit the fullness of her knowledge and comes clean about Freya and her fellow cultists. (There are a dozen or so.) A plan is agreed to return to Dar'holme.

[Meanwhile, Bannis does the deed with the cask of corrosive corruption, under pretence of taking a leak.]

The nearby Seelie Nexus is not open at this current time, and Bannis seems urgently desirous of leaving the Seelie Realm, confessing (for some reason best known to himself) that he has "done something" which may endanger the Seelie Realm. Sister Aveline practically has a fit.

Moira decides to play Callendriel's flute. Callendriel takes some ten minutes to arrive, which gives the adventurers more time to quiz Bannis, though he is now attempting to downplay his previous confession. When Callendriel appears, she looks different. What were green streaks in her hair now look black. Her eyes have a reddish hue. In return for transport, she says that she would like to know, just for a moment, what it feels like to be worshipped as a goddess - she wishes a human sacrifice to be made in her name. Bannis immediately agrees, over the protests of the other adventurers. Callendriel weaves strange magic. Mist surrounds the adventurers. They remain within its compass [they could have stepped away!], and feel its magic, which Ceridwen and Sister Aveline try unsuccessfully to resist. They are returned to the Mortal Realm, and begin their journey back to Dar'holme.

[Bannis, paid a visit that night by Callendriel telling him that he has until midnight to perform a sacrifice, chances upon a cottage with an unshuttered window. Sleeping inside is a ten-year-old girl. Eeh, even Bannis has his limits! He tiptoes past, finds the girl's parents in the main living area of the cottage making nettle soup and swiftly orphans the girl. Ghroe'gh pays him a visit, gloating over the effect that the cask of corrosive corruption has had on Callendriel, and gives Bannis a further 25 gold coins.]

In a week's time or so the adventurers will have reached Dar'holme and made basic arrangements to leave for Northholme on Moira's ship with Calum, Freya and their fellow cultists. When the cultists name the spirits they worship, their names are not known to the adventurers (even Moira, steeped as she is in knowledge of the local druidic faith) - the cultists explain that these are very minor demi-gods or spirits.
Looking for playtesters for the Implodarc Tabletop RPG. If you'd like to playtest it and post public feedback or an AP thread, ask me for the private link to download it, or I can e-mail it to you. At least compared to my usual stuff, it's meant to be simple and quick to play with quick CharGen.
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Re: Soul's Calling Internal Playtest I

Postby Omnifray » 12:59pm on 05 Sep 11

So, Internal Playtest I convened again last night, me reffing, Emma as Ceridwen, Bekka as Moira, Gemma as Sister Aveline and Richie as Bannis.

Once again forgot to ask people to choose Player Stances so everyone ended up in Mixed Stance by default. (Doesn't make a lot of difference though.)

We started with an abbreviated version of the Ref's Patter exercise and I had positive feedback on that from Gemma, Richie and Bekka. (Emma was a bit knackered after work and after the game finished she was kind of falling asleep.)

The shared nightmare at the beginning led to a Severe Trauma check with the result that the adventurers all felt troubled, though that has now worn off for Ceridwen. In practice, I have been giving the players "hints" from their characters' points of view, which are troubling in various ways.

The most-used aspects of the system were General Observation for spotting stuff, Persuasion for interactions with NPCs and the rules on Wound Infections, plus a tiny bit of Empathic Observation.

There was no combat until the very end when we used impressionistic combat for when Bannis murdered the two peasants leaving a ten-year-old girl orphaned. [Oops, technically I forgot to ask for tactics.]

Bannis has gained a point of Vice for doing a deal with a demon. Not sure if Richie [who plays Bannis] knows Ghroe'gh is a demon or might be imagining her to be an Unseelie Fae. Well, I think he probably knows she's a demon.

The players didn't earn all that many advancement points - only 40ish each (varying from player to player) out of a possible 125 or so. This was partly because they didn't get much of an award if any for "ref-plotted danger levels" this time, but maybe also partly because I'm a bit stingy when it comes to regarding something a player does as evidence of "cunning shown" or "exceptional enthusiasm".

Again, Richie and Gemma were very enthusiastic about how much fun the game was, and I think everyone enjoyed themselves, although it seemed to go a little slowly to me. Maybe because I hadn't done much prep and was a little worried I might stall, which thankfully I didn't.

I let the players roll for me for Persuasion rolls for interaction with NPCs and I think in retrospect that was a mistake. I did it to speed things up but the net effect was that players had too much information regarding how biased I was likely to be in their favour or against them, which meant that the ones who were expecting to do well spoke up and the others stayed quiet as far as they could. Note for the future, the ref should always roll the NPCs' Empathic Observation dice himself.

That said, headline point, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.
Looking for playtesters for the Implodarc Tabletop RPG. If you'd like to playtest it and post public feedback or an AP thread, ask me for the private link to download it, or I can e-mail it to you. At least compared to my usual stuff, it's meant to be simple and quick to play with quick CharGen.
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Re: Soul's Calling Internal Playtest I

Postby Omnifray » 12:09am on 13 Sep 11


The adventurers journeyed to Dar'holme in northern Olbia. Ceridwen {who meanwhile had dreamt again of the scrollcase which she believes Calum to be carrying - and perhaps could sense it vaguely when very close, physically, to his bag...} found it somewhat difficult dealing with Olbian customs but by remaining behind closed doors managed to avoid the ducking stool. Moira's mother having gathered the other cultists at her home waiting to board the ship for Northholme, preparations were swiftly made to begin the voyage. Aboard ship the cultists explained that they wished to visit the lands of Migoern, a Northholmer chieftain who rules over an area near the Winterlands. One of their number (Lucien) had been Migoern's thrall and had performed some great service for him, earning his freedom, so the cultists hope to find safe haven there.

The cultists sought and received Moira's permission to conduct ceremonies for the worship of their patron spirits, Glemnoth, Kamarguhl and Zhabvarrzzidh - namely wholly unknown to the adventurers. The adventurers also noticed the shadows aboard the ship moving strangely, but took no steps to prevent the cultists from engaging in their religious practices, which involved chanting in an unfamiliar language, the names of Glemnoth, Kamarguhl and Zhabvarrzzidh being audible from time to time. Half-way or so through the three-week voyage a particular ritual took place at night. The adventurers watched, save for Sister Aveline who for some time had been confined, delirious, vomiting and fever-struck, to her quarters. Perhaps half an hour or so before the critical juncture of the ritual at midnight, the cultists began chanting a new word with some repetition - it cannot be easily transcribed in English, but Kharkhilchade will do. Moments passed, then the shadows flickered strangely, and a svelte, female figure emerged swiftly from just behind where the adventurers had been sat watching. The adventurers catch a glimpse of jet-black skin and four horns - Ghroe'gh!

Swords flashing in the moonlight Ghroe'gh strides forward and immediately slays two cultists, plunging her blades into their chests in rapid motions. Bannis tries to tell the adventurers to hold back; Moira rushes in to attack Ghroe'gh, but sees into her eyes and is paralysed with fear and compliant out of sheer terror; Ceridwen drags Moira away from the demon {who simply snarls "stay out of this"}, then, seeing Bannis walking towards the hold, heads in that direction too (to get Calum's leather bag which may contain the scrollcase - what priorities!).

But Ghroe'gh so swiftly slays the cultists - though they leap like fanatics at her - that Cerdiwen has not yet reached the trapdoor down to the hold when Ghroe'gh speaks. She claims {and whether the adventurers will believe her is another matter} that these cultists worship not the usual kind of spirits of the Elder Faith, but the Apocalyptic Spirits, monstrous entities who see it as their sacred duty to defile the world. (Would this matter to a demon, you might ask? - perhaps not, if the Apocalyptic Spirits did not also see it as their sacred duty to destroy or at the very least subjugate all of demonkind...) Ghroe'gh interrogates the adventurers and, learning of their mission to bring the cultists to Migoern, commands them to investigate that chieftain and if he is in league with the abominable foe to slay him, recommending that they do so in any event even if he is not. Ghroe'gh did express her appreciation for the fact that the adventurers had arranged for these cultists all to be on a ship in the middle of the ocean where Ghroe'gh can act freely without fear of breaching the Shrouding, especially as it so happens that these cultists were of the anointed one and all, destined by Fate to witness magic. She also gave away that she is most able to be active at night - she fears that the cultists' ritual may possibly have begun to summon something, but she can keep an eye on the ship (as the adventurers are, as she sees it, in her service...), so the ship may be safe from attack at night... At some point during these proceedings, Ceridwen got a bit too close to Ghroe'gh and started in fear, running away briefly in a panic - but nothing quite so embarrassing as Moira's little episode!

Once the demon had gone, Bannis looted the cultists' belongings and threw their corpses overboard; Bannis found but through a desperate and hopefully not to be fulfilled bargain Ceridwen ended up with the scroll-case; Moira locked herself in her quarters in abject terror scarcely able to speak!


So, we convened again {for a fairly short session} - no Gemma this time (hopefully she can join us next time!). We did the abbreviated ref's patter thing. Probably unfortunate that Moira's expert knowledge of the legal system gave her insider tips on who might be up for the ducking stool as a common scold, as Ceridwen's response to being told about that was to stay locked inside the townhouse until she left Dar'holme. Apart from that, the Terror Checks that Ceridwen and Moira had to make really showed the benefit of having Courage 12 (Ceridwen) rather than 6 (Moira - and that much only after she spent advancement points raising it at the start of the session!). We remembered to choose player stances at the start of the session this time too.

In other news, moves are rumbling on to get Internal Playtest III started soon; it looks as if Muse will be replacing Heather in the line-up.
Looking for playtesters for the Implodarc Tabletop RPG. If you'd like to playtest it and post public feedback or an AP thread, ask me for the private link to download it, or I can e-mail it to you. At least compared to my usual stuff, it's meant to be simple and quick to play with quick CharGen.
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Re: Soul's Calling Internal Playtest I

Postby Omnifray » 12:39am on 29 Sep 11


Moira remained shut away in her quarters whimpering and vomiting out of nerves for most of the remainder of the voyage. Occasionally she emerged to give pointers as to how to keep the vessel heading in the desired direction.

Sister Aveline on the other hand eventually emerged from her quarters as her sickness passed. She was, to say the least, not amused by Bannis's antics as related to her by Ceridwen, and indeed punched Bannis more than once and tried to knee him in the gut and headbutt him, while Ceridwen, spurred on by this display, tried to knock him out with the pommel of her sword. Bannis showed remarkable tolerance but gloated smugly about how much he was being paid by the demon he had done a deal with. He did try to explain that he was hoping to prevent the rise of the Apocalyptic Spirits by killing their foul and horrid cultists, but Sister Aveline and Ceridwen gave no credence to the demon's words.

What to say about the horrid creature which attacked, in the daytime {when Ghroe'gh, being a demon of night, was not invisibly defending the ship} a few days after the cultists were murdered by the demon Ghroe'gh? It was a large, thick-set vaguely humanoid figure, standing some 8 feet tall, with rough blue-green slimey skin, stinking of rotting fish and fungus, with a hole right through the centre of its stomach, lined with small tendrils; with no visible eyes, nose or ears – its face was mainly a fanged mouth; with one right arm, ending in a clawed paw like a bear’s, but two left arms, the upper one ending in a hand, the lower one ending in talons like an eagle’s; with no visible sexual organs; with webbed feet.

After the monster climbed aboard at the far end of the ship, Sister Aveline shot it dead through the centre of its mouth with a single quarrel as soon as she had recovered from the gripping fear of the sight of it. And that was a considerable piece of luck for the adventurers! The monster then dissolved into a corrosive liquid which the adventurers scooped off the ship as fast as possible.

They then proceeded to argue and debate at length about what to do. Ceridwen tried to turn the ship around in the night, but didn't really know what she was doing. Without Moira's hands-on assistance, in fact, the vessel largely drifted about. Bannis prayed to the demon Ghroe'gh; Sister Aveline prayed to the angels; Ceridwen medidated, hoping for insight (she also meditated on her silver scrollcase, which was becoming more and more tarnished as she did so, and eventually became completely black and unopenable). At one point the demon Ghroe'gh visited Sister Aveline while she was praying, but Sister Aveline kept her eyes closed and refused to look at the demon or listen to her words, uttering instead words of defiance and prayers to the angels. Sister Aveline interpreted this as the sign she had been looking for - from the angels - that Bannis was beyond redemption; however her subsequent dreams were more ambiguous. Ceridwen had a strange vision of the monster Sister Aveline had slain standing in a circle of salt surrounded by five of the murdered cultists [alive in that vision]. When she related this, unknowingly in Ghroe'gh's hearing {it being night-time}, Ghroe'gh then appeared to her, questioned her, told her that this sounded like a Child of Kamarguhl (one of the abominable Foe), demonstrated what such a creature looked like {and Ceridwen admitted it was the same beast} and offered to procure further information for her if she would ensure that the vessel proceeded to Northholme and meanwhile get Sister Aveline to lighten up a little. Ceridwen appeared compliant and her soul was briefly tainted...

... then Ceridwen decided try to scope out the ship to figure out how best to damage the ropes, rigging etc. and stop it reaching Northholme, but Bannis noticed what she was doing and confronted her, and while he was thus distracted, Sister Aveline shot him through the shoulder with her crossbow! Bannis fled towards his quarters, grievously injured and with a now permanently gammy shoulder, but as he tried to defend the doorway Ceridwen cut him down, leaving him unconscious from blood loss. The ladies patched him up, trussed him up like a pig on deck and turned the ship around. Meanwhile he dreamt of Ghroe'gh expressing her disgust at his puniness and saying she would send the adventurers some playmates.

These came in the form of drowned sailors raised from the deep whose ship came alongside Moira's vessel. The ghosts drifted onto the ship and slashed incorporeally at the adventurers, but for the most part the adventurers' spirits were strong enough to turn away the blades of these poor drowned damned wretches, once ordinary fisherfolk lost to the waves, now doomed to haunt them, though Sister Aveline, frozen with terror and therefore unable to ward the ghosts off with her holy symbol, took a nasty knife-thrust just below the shoulder. The ghosts, their spirits sapped by the effort of will of attacking the adventurers' physical bodies, then departed.

With Ghroe'gh (a demon of night and darkness) no longer invisibly defending the ship (as she had been between dusk and dawn), an attack by the abominable Foe during the night (as revenge for the deaths of the cultists and interruption of the ritual to summon Kharkhilchade) would have been an inevitability, and with Bannis trussed up like a pig, it is entirely possible that all the adventurers might have been slain. But out of nowhere came Bannis's desperate prayer to Ghroe'gh to let the ship reach port safely, and by some twist of Fate the demon saw in him perhaps some chance of being useful to her despite his weakness, and fended off the Foe. Unbeknownst, of course, to the adventurers - at least for now.

The ship took several weeks to return to port, which gave Sister Aveline plenty of time to preach at Bannis about the Holy Faith while he was gagged and bound. The adventurers were lucky - their many wounds did not become infected. As I write, they are just off the coast of Olbia, drawing near to Dar'holme, where we shall catch up with them next...


So, a further session of Internal Playtest I convened last night, with myself in the chair, Emma as Ceridwen, Gemma as Sister Aveline and Richy as Bannis. We started with the shortened version of the Ref's Patter exercise after sharing out dice and tokens and running through the rules on Soul's Ties (the Vice, Virtue, Passion and Principle stats).

This was the first time I had fully prepped the adventure, and most of it I had prepped on the assumption that the party would continue on to Northholme - though it's not effort wasted, as I can transplant a lot of the individual encounters to Internal Playtest III.

The heavy PvP was a massive drain on the PCs' fate and luck tokens, and really I thought when the second of the abominable Foe attacked the ship [due to Ghroe'gh's protection having been withdrawn] with Bannis unable to act (due to being trussed up like a pig) and the party almost totally out of fate and luck tokens it would be a TPK. Quite why it occurred to Richy to pray to Ghroe'gh at exactly that point in time and spend 2 fate tokens getting the prayer to work, I don't know; perhaps he feared that the drowned sailors were not the last of Ghroe'gh's wrath, and they had after all attacked him, but in fact that would have been the end of Ghroe'gh's revenge; it was the revenge of the Apocalyptic Spirits which the party had to fear. By a lucky coincidence, the prayer to Ghroe'gh led her (though only because of the substantial fate token investment by Richy) to protect the ship from exactly that threat, just as she would have done if the party had been carrying on to Northholme.

I think these three players are still very much enjoying the game; certainly, they are keen to get their advancement points at the end! Bekka, on the other hand, [who was working this evening] has been telling me that a roleplaying game ought to have four stats, six spells and no tables. I've rehearsed the arguments one way and the other about what is more immersive, and I can definitely see the case for saying that a freeform game or a game with minimal statting may be more immersive. I think the answer in the end is - what causes immersion in character for one player may frustrate it for another. Even a specifically immersive roleplaying game is never going to capture the whole "market", such as it is.

As far as the mechanics are concerned, you need to be on the ball to remember simple things like - roll your d12 every day to see if you are exposed to wound infections (on a 1, you may be exposed and need to make a roll with modifiers); remember your terror checks etc. when horrible monstrosities attack.
Looking for playtesters for the Implodarc Tabletop RPG. If you'd like to playtest it and post public feedback or an AP thread, ask me for the private link to download it, or I can e-mail it to you. At least compared to my usual stuff, it's meant to be simple and quick to play with quick CharGen.
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