Category Archives: Actual Play

Chromatica Gaming: Broken Waves Part 1

Chromatica Gaming: Broken Waves Part 1

I’ve been in the mood to do some Burning Wheel – and finally get a hold of my friend Les after the holidays and set up a time to do some gaming online.   We decide on doing a high fantasy game, set in a fantasy/Polynesian-ish setting.

Our Protagonist:

A’lepoi, 27, a man who is a healer with the magical ability to glide atop water without a board.  His family has always had various water-related magical abilities, but actually are relatively low on the caste system, for unknown reasons.  (We worked this out based on the fact that healers with magic ought to have some kind of status, but he’s got a 0 Resources stat, and the lowest of Reputation scores, so it’s sort of a fun mystery we’ll find out as we play.)

Story:

A few hours after sunset, Royal warriors come to A’lepoi’s post by the sea – they tell him to gather his belongings for a trip – the King has orders for him.  As he steps outside, a pair of temple acolytes confirm he has everything before burning the hut he stayed in while praying over the fire.

The task required demands a clean start, even unto destroying the place you begin from.

The Island of Temples is the source of much of the local islands’ abundance – at it’s center is the Great Temple, built around the Elder Tree, which blesses everyone with amazing fertile land.   Three times A’lepoi is cleansed – by water, by purified sands, by smoke of fire, and holy words sung just so.  Within the temple, he is brought past the first layer of curtains, another prayer, another layer of curtains, another prayer, another and another.  Nearly to the center, he stands besides a handful of others – a noble, a warrior, a priestess and a seawoman.  They are brought before The Tree and introduced, as they were called for a task.

No one else is allowed to hear the task, for the seeds of destiny are not lightly planted in the hearts of humans.

The great trunk splits open, revealing a withered old woman, made also of wood.  Achingly she stands from the seat within, and A’lepoi is left awestruck by her mana.  A voice of rough wood drawn across rough wood, of wind through branches, speaks.  “I am at the end of days.  My magic will sustain the land a day and a year more, but not beyond that.  To the east a seedling of mine has kindled life.  Seek her.  Give her my necklace, and bring her back.”  And before he can move again, the elder spirit has passed a necklace to the priestess, and returned to her chair.

A heaving sigh and a gentle breeze of her last breath, a withering of wood, and the trunk seals again, twisting itself as a tree left battered by too many storms.

A’lepoi brings himself to breath again and a single, brown leaf falls from the tree.

Our story begins with the death of a god.

The path out of the temple is silent, and every priest has their heads bowed.  Outside, Ehehene, the priestess looks to the group of souls burdened with this task – “We do not speak of what has happened here.”

Some things are too sacred to repeat.  Some are too dangerous.   This? Both.

The group gathers a small distance away.  Lady Ehehene looks to them – “Before we leave – there is a small matter.  We are going on a quest of utter importance.  But…” – she looks to A’lepoi – “…one of us stands here without rank.  We should grant him a rank before setting off.”   Although addressing the group as a whole, her plea is to the young Arapata, the second son of the King.

For A’lepoi it was always the question of his family…  Everyone knows them as healers, as magically gifted.  But as long as they’ve been around, they’ve never been granted rank.  A rumor sits that perhaps they’ve given some great offense or committed a crime in the past, or perhaps are cursed in some way.   No one knows, and that unease has always lingered.

Perhaps it was too much too soon – to risk changing something that has been the same way for generations.  Or maybe it was just the fact they just witnessed the death of the lifegiver of their kingdom.

Or maybe it was for exactly the reasons that came from Lord Arapata’s mouth, “Although it  would be helpful to grant him a rank should we be divided along the journey, if we are divided… the 5 of us, we would be in much greater trouble than what can be solved with hastily granted titles.   And… if we hurry now, we might avoid troubles yet to come.  Time is short.”

Even without rank, the young man would show his worth.  Perhaps, though, this was a mistake nonetheless.

Hours later, they approach the Island of Southern Winds.  A fierce night battle is seen, raiders and warriors battling just a distance up from the beach.

“Our allies.  We should help.  And gain glory.”, proclaimed the warrior, Inia, who readied his spear.

Kahani, the navigator, gave a sharp look.  “If we fight, we are delayed.  If we are injured, we are delayed even further.”

Lord Arapata again, choose the path of speed, “They have their own warriors.  And if we fail to bring back the Seedling, everyone will starve.  We cannot afford to stop.”  The decision was made.

But not for A’lepoi.

“I will just take a quick look.  To make sure their warriors are doing well enough.” and off he hops onto the waves, gliding across the water faster than a boat would carry him.

At the beach, the raiders have left their boats.  He grabs an oar and quickly begins cracking the hulls and piercing the bottoms.  Many of the raiders will not find their way home tomorrow.  When the raiders realize his deeds, he grabs a fallen flag of the Southern Wind, and dashes across the water holding it aloft.

“The Southern Wind has more allies than the waves! And they will not rest!”

The island’s defenders, heartened by this supernatural feat and brave cry, redouble their efforts, and the raiders are driven away.

“I am a healer.  My duty is in the saving of lives.” Great deeds from simple reasons.

A few hours later, a storm is nearly upon them.  The water is choppy and danger looms.  The options are few: rush back to the Southern Wind Island, drive forward and hope to reach the Land of Three Mountains before the storm strikes… or go to the closest available land – The Isle of Tall Stone.   Three generations ago, there was war between the Temple and the Tall Stone, and neither have spoken since the barest of peace was made.

Some favor retreat.  Inia swears his spear will create peace if there is none.  Lord Arapeta decides on meeting the Tall Stone and suing for hospitality.

They land and are greeted.  A tense and formal greeting ceremony is held… when A’lepoi sees, the raiders, too, have decided to come here to avoid the storm.   The alarm is raised, warriors grab weapons and children are pushed into homes.

Rakapa, a young warrior of the Tall Stone exclaims, “Years ago the last time you came, you brought bloodshed to our shores.  Let us see which side of it you stand today!” as he hands A’lepoi a spear with a grin and a nod.

A’lepoi grabs a flag of the village, ties it to the spear, along with the flag of the Southern Wind, and strides upon the water, leading the warband, screaming to the raiders – “Did I not say the allies were greater than the waves?!?”   Their shock buys a few precious moments where the sling stones and javelins of the Tall Stone find mark and the raiders turn and flee, paddling as fast as possible…

Without striking a blow, two islands have been saved today.  In time, though, some will say it was the water walker himself who summoned the storm to slay the raiders entirely.

Returning to the Isle of Tall Stone, they celebrate indoors as the winds and rain batter the land and ocean.  Rakapa shares drink with his new friend and asks, “I never expected a healer to be the first to seek battle!  Without a boat, striding the water no less! We have never heard of your family? They must be renowned, tell me of their deeds!”

A’lepoi quickly evades, “My family are healers.  I, myself, rescue those at sea who are bitten by sharks, stung by jellyfish – for the Island of the Temple, I am a life guard.  …and yours too!”

Rakapa, pauses.  “Say that again?” and half the room goes silent.  A’lepoi’s words hold more meaning than he realizes.

“I am a life guard… and yours too?”

“So you are!”

An elder stands up and offers a toast:  “Whatever happened with the war before…  That was a mistake.  This summer we will visit!”

As the life magic of the Elder Tree begins to fade, the world will only know it is as the time when the Island of the Temple sent forth great heroes – mighty warriors, powerful kahuna, and diplomats and peacemakers… all from the few actions of a man without rank.

Game stuff:

All of the above happened with 2 hours of gameplay.  I took the initial idea Les gave me and did the math to get his character together in about 30 minutes the day before.  After we worked out “high fantasy” I figured to start with the death of a god to kick it off.

Between deciding on a quest-style game and it being a one-on-one game, I figured having a party of NPCs would be useful for both character interaction and setting up conflicts.  The videogame equivalent is The Walking Dead videogame, where the player is constantly put into choosing sides between various NPCs, most of whom will have a good reason to suggest one option over another.

Instead of doing the full social roll, I just have Les make a social roll as the “tie breaker” one way or another, sometimes giving an extra Advantage die if he has a very valid point, or if he says something in line with the NPC who is most influential on the topic.

Early in the game he was constantly failing the rolls by a single success.  By the end, he made some uber successes, even as Beginner’s Luck rolls.  Even still, this session was a testament to the value of “Conspicuous” as a skill.

Tenra Bansho Zero: The Moon over Iwade

Tenra Bansho Zero: The Moon over Iwade

Hi, my name is Chris Chinn, I’ll be guest posting a bit here on ThoughtCrime with a few other folks to talk about some of the fun gaming we’ve been doing.  (My usual rpg blogging can be found over at Deeper in the Game).

One of the reasons I love roleplaying games is the stories which you make as you play the game – you get all your favorite parts of a genre or series that you’ve always wanted, but just like watching a show or reading a book – you don’t know how it’s going to turn out until it happens.

We started playing a roleplaying game called Tenra Bansho Zero about a week ago – it’s a super anime rpg. Instead of the generic pseudo-Europe fantasy tropes of Dungeons and Dragons, this game is more like sci-fi Japanese Warring States. With power armor. And cyborgs. And magic. And ninjas.

It’s very much like a mix between Ninja Scroll, Giant Robo and Escaflowne.

Our game in progress

In the small state of Iwade, previously having seen peace for many generations, we see just a month after the lord has died, they discover a mine of rare and precious magical ore – which draws the attention of neighboring warlords. The Nijou clan is forced to prepare for battle – with a young untested warlord at the helm and nowhere near enough troops.

Our first player has taken the role of Jahl-Yu, one of the horned Oni people, who has been adopted and raised to adulthood by the human Nijou clan. Though sworn to serve, not everyone in the Nijou are tolerant of the Oni…

The second player plays the expert swordsman Harada Toki, who has recently been defeated by a one-armed swordmaster and now doubting his own ability as a warrior, has agreed to serve General Hatano of Nijou clan, in exchange for a magical transformation which will give him great power… at the cost of his humanity.

Some action highlights just this session:

  • Jahl Yu using his magical powers to snatch assassins into the ground and crush them alive, leaving behind kanji reading “death” in the dirt.
  • Two storms clashing as Harada’s chain sword and a cyborg ronin’s flail arms spin and collide leaving a vortex of death down the street.
  • A village of Oni caught between the two nations, convinced by Harada to go to war… and the unleashing of their magical weapons.

What’s been really fun is that we’re all pretty up on anime tropes, so the genre expectations fall into place very easily, which lets us get into the action and we can all click on the same visual touchstones (“And then I begin attacking them with some crazy low to the ground windmill flair sword style like Samurai Champloo!”).

Although we just finished Act 2 (stories are made of 3 Acts in TBZ), I’m pretty excited to continue on and see where things go next.  I can see a lot of fun growth and character directions for both the characters.

[AP] Dog Eat Dog: Zemmiland

[AP] Dog Eat Dog: Zemmiland

We got a chance to play the brilliant Dog Eat Dog from Liam Burke.  Dog Eat Dog is a game about colonialism.  It is a game about the compromises and lack of compromises that happens when one civilization install itself on another.  It is about fiat and runnin amok.  It is about resistance and assimilation.  It is simple, powerful, and elegant.  It’s a game that, if you’ve read it, looks like one thing, but if you’ve played it is another animal entirely. Dog Eat Dog is a game that demands to be played, so please play it when you have a chance.

Four of us (Me, Dev, De Ana, and Kennedy) played over a G+ Hangout. using Dicestream and a shared google doc.

The Natives were the Zemmies in the country of Zemmiland, occupied by the Elucidar Republic, who Dev controlled.

The Natives (Zemmies)
(Quinn) Ra Jamison, an oracle
(Kennedy) Nam Deta, Ambassador
(De Ana) Theia Lok, Witchdoctor

The Occupation (Elucidar Republic)
Governor Airith
Academician Zissera
Chief Inspector Hiversith
Tila Deta (scholar and daughter to Nam Deta)
Ambassador Crael

 

Traits

Natives

Occupation (“Elucidar Republic”)

Are environmentally conscious.

Profit driven / strip-mining mentality

Narrow view of technology/medicine/religion (holistic/magic)

Naively democratic

Matrilineal

Narrow view of technology/medicine/religion (“advanced”)

They are loud and noisy.

Written words are polite; spoken words are obscene or “familiar”.

 

 

The Zemmies had a lot of magical traditions and powers, none of which the Elucidar believed in.  To slowly squeeze out the magic, they decided to force the magic men/women to get licensed, which required them to get tested.  The Elucidar’s academicians knew nothing about magic, so their tests held no relevance to magic…so everyone failed.

Most of the play revolved around the Zemmies clan ambassador (played by Kennedy) and prominent witch doctor (De Ana) and oracle (me) trying to get The Elucidar to come up with better tests or at least less stringent controls over magic, while a plague ravaged the land. The plague mostly hit the Elucidar, but was now hitting the Zemmies.  Later, we determined that the plague was magically created by the Zemmies to drive off the Elucidar, but the plague had since mutated to also attack Zemmies.

Eventually in the end, the Elucidar learned to fear our magic.  All three natives ended up running amok. I was the first. I had walked away from negotiations after promising the plague would destroy all the Elucidar.Unwilling to wait for my prophecies, I gathered a rebel force and sought to drive a big rig with a large container of plague into the heart of the biggest Elucidar-populated city.  The Chief Inspector enlisted  De Ana’s Witch doctor to try to stop me at the bridge.  In the first actual display of magic all game, she paralyzed me as I drove. I seized up and went off the side of the bridge.

The Elucidar then realized magic was real, and flipped out on the witch doctor.  A dozen dead soldiers later, they finally took out the witch doctor with a bullet to the head.

The ambassador, who was becoming increasingly radicalized, went to use his powers and enter the fight. His daughter, who inherited his powers and was already assimilated after studying abroad for many years, stopped him dead in his tracks with her more potent power.

The Elucidar?  Without announcing to the public what happened, they slowly began to encourage people to move back to their homeland, while still keeping an economic and military foothold in the area.  Zemmiland was no longer hailed as the chief vacation spot of Elucidar’s colonies…

Lastly, our rules:

  • The Zemmies are inferior to the Elucidar Republic people.
  • The Elucidar Republic likes to negotiate.
  • The Elucidar Republic will never understand magic
  • The Elucidar Republicwant the Zemmies to forsake their traditions.
  • The Zemmies cannot get in the way of the Elucidarian profit margin
  • Give the Elucidar Republic what they want or they will take what they need.

I’ll discuss what I like about Dog Eat Dog in another post.