Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The North is Burning - Session Two


What was meant to be a full evening  of gaming was cut short by a sudden but inevitable plumbing disaster.  The water was mopped up but the game came to a crashing halt.  We still managed to get quite a bit accomplished.

The Game:

Grimnar, Toril, and Ulu travel overland toward the ancient city of Tikerak.  They are riding ice sleds, pulled swiftly over the frozen ground by a pack of sturdy tundra goats.  The trip is long and supplies run low, so Grimnar attempts to forage for some food.  Ulu helps, but they are unable to find enough food to sustain them and so must divert to a nearby village.  Grimnar had wished to travel quickly and unseen, but the rumble in their bellies spoiled that plan.

As they approach the village, the goats begin to act nervous and have to be forced to continue.  Grimnar finally brings them to a halt when he spots a body in the snow, torn apart and partially eaten.  The tracks around the body confirm his deepest fears.  The animal-things must have found the village.  It turned out to be far worse.

Bodies, human and animal, lie strewn about the village.  The bodies, like the one they had already seen, were torn apart and devoured.  The animals were worse.  They had transformed into twisted mockeries of themselves:  a goat with two heads and claws like an eagle, a dog with spider eyes and legs.  Luckily, the creatures were barely able to function, unlike the four man-beasts that still lurked about the village, tearing at the flesh of the bodies all around them.  Grimnar draws the Father, but realizes the futility of a fight with four of the foul things, so he and Toril flee the village.  They had come in on foot, having told Ulu to stay clear and meet them at a certain copse of woods on the horizon should anything happen, which turned out to be an excellent plan.  Grimnar and Toril race across the plain toward the woods, slipping and sliding on the frozen turf.  The creatures move with speed and an almost supernatural sure-footedness and they easily win a speed test against the slower duo, catching them well short of their goal.  Grimnar and Toril turn to fight, intent on striking quickly to slow the creatures and then escaping to the woods.  A bloody versus test ensues, with Grimnar winning, but suffering a superficial wound.  Toril suffers a light wound as one of the creatures gores her, but they manage to escape to the woods and lose their pursuers.  When they are reasonably safe, Grimnar takes the time to apply a bit of field dressing to Toril's wound.  The creatures look and smell nasty, so he doesn't want to see her wound fester.

Some time later, Grimnar and Toril meet back up with Ulu.  They think to continue on to Tikerak and somehow find food on the way, but change their plans when they came across the tracks of a large group moving away from the village.  They follow the tracks and find half a dozen refuges from the village, having escaped both the transformation and the creature's attacks.  They agree to follow Grimnar to Tikerak and, hopefully, safety, but the plan to forage along the way now seems impossible with such a large group.

 Grimnar and Ulu scout the area and find a deep ice crevasse.  With a little help from the villagers they rig a trap.

With the trap in place, Grimnar and Toril sneak back toward the village.  Three of the animal-creatures are there, once again devouring the frozen flesh of the fallen.  Toril puts an arrow through the leg of the fastest among them and the chase is on!  This time, father and daughter have enough of a head start and are able to stay ahead of the creatures, though it's close.  They lead them toward the crevasse and leap over.  The villagers, hidden nearby, cheer as the three monsters crash through the rigged cover and plunge into the crevasse.  The fall doesn't kill them but they are trapped in the crevasse, screaming in rage and pain.  Grimnar leaves no loose ends, so he and the villagers hurl stones and boulders down atop the creatures until they are dead.  The group is able to safely return to the village and secure enough supplies to see them to Tikerak.  In their gratitude, the villagers give Grimnar a handful of precious stones, a bronze dagger, and a new bow.  While in the village, Grimnar notices the tents are all pushed over outward from a central point, like an explosion went off in the village center.  The villagers confirm that was the source of a wave of black energy that triggered the transformations.  They know nothing else about it.

The trip to the ancient city is long but uneventful.  The city itself, when they arrive, is breathtaking.  The area around the city is warm, 30 or so degrees warmer than the surrounding land.  The scent of sulfur from the hot springs around the city fills the air.  Fruit trees even grow in small groves around the ancient buildings.

A small village, partially constructed by loose stones pried from the buildings of the ancient city, has sprung up at the city's edge.  Well over a hundred of Ulu's people live here year round and huge fields are being made ready for the arrival of all the other tribes for the Great Meet in a few months.

Grimnar's band is met by armed sentinels guarding the pathways to the city, but when they identify themselves, they are allowed to enter the village and are given accommodations and food.  Grimnar asks to speak to the Great Seer but is told that she will see him in the morning.  No amount of arguing will allow him to speak with her sooner.  With no other recourse, Grimnar, Toril, and Ulu settle in to eat and rest in the hut provided.  Grimnar had noticed Toril's longing gazes upon the Father during their travels, so he spins a yarn about the burden of the sword and the great hardships he's had to endure to keep it safe.  He succeeds in a persuasion roll and manages to buy himself some time before she makes her move for the blade.  At least he hopes he has.

The next morning, Grimnar and his party are ushered before a council of the People, led by the Great Seer.  Grimnar shares his tale and the council whispers urgently amongst themselves.  They ask to see the Father and ask Grimnar if he knows what he bears.  Grimnar answers that the Father is his responsibility and his burden, which seems to satisfy the council.  They tell him that the Father was constructed by the "People Before" to destroy the spirit Tarshish.  The "People Before", they tell him, are the same people who built the ancient city by which their village stands.  A young, brash hunter argues that Grimnar should enter the city and slay a spirit that lives within.  The elders argue against such brash action, claiming that by killing the spirit they may destroy the city.  Grimnar agrees to kill the spirit if it means helping to eventually destroy Tarshish and, in turn, destroy the Father.  The elders gasp in shock that Grimnar would agree to such a dangerous and rash action, but the younger council members clap their hands and shout encouragement.  Grimnar is not sure what he has agreed to do, but he has a bad feeling about it....

Thus ends Session Two


The Father of Swords is dangerous. It is a beacon for evil and greed and I must remain vigilant against those who would use it for their own ends.

I will seek out the spirit of Tikerak and destroy it, even if it means the destruction of the city.

I will track down and destroy the Great Spirit, Tarshish, so that I can be rid of the burden of the Father of Swords.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The North is Burning - Session One


Background and game creation:

Brandon and I have been emailing back and forth for a few weeks trying to hammer out the details of our game world.  We both agreed that we wanted a more sword and sorcery, grimdark type of setting.  We both love the works of Joe Abercrombie as well, so we decided to pretty much rip him off.

The result is a world set up pretty much like his.  In the north, which we call the Freelands, we have a loose alliance of barbarian tribes with an Anglo-Saxon/Viking feel.  The region is known for its warriors and groups of mercenary companies, or "named men".  My character, Grimnar Voss, hails from this region and is a retired mercenary leader.  His group of named men is called Grimnar's Knot.  The Knot also includes his daughter, Toril, and someone who may or may not be his son, Kal Konnig.  Many years ago Grimnar left the Knot, leaving it in the hands of Kal, which angered Toril.  She thought she should lead the Knot after Grimnar's retirement, so she rage-quit the group as well.

Grimnar tried to retire, but came to realize that trouble would never let him rest.  He bears "The Father of Swords" which seems to be a beacon for trouble.  He fled ever north, trying to retire in peace and hide the sword from those who would have it.  He ended up in Hvalurvik, a tiny trading post far, far to the north, on the border of the great tundra, which is home to the Reindeer People.  Grimnar arrived in Hvalurvik just before the long winter, which makes passage by land or ship near impossible to Hvalurvik, so he felt himself safe.  For a year, the length of the great winter, Grimnar has dwelt in peace among the Reindeer People in Hvalurvik.

The Game:

The game begins as the long winter finally breaks.  The ice is beginning to melt which will allow for the arrival of Union ships to the trading village of Hvalurvik.  They will trade the luxuries of the South, like steel, cloth, spices, and spirits.  The Reindeer people will soon converge on Hvalurvik from all across the tundra, bringing whale oil, ivory, seal hides, scrimshaw, and all the bounties of the tundra.  It is a very busy and lucrative time for Hvalurvik and Grimnar is right in the middle of preparations, working side by side with the residents.  He finally is beginning to feel like he fits in, like he's found a home.

Grimnar is awakened one spring morning by a scream from down in the village.  Though it is spring, there is still ice and snow on the ground and the air is frigid.  Grimnar wraps himself in his goat-hair coat and straps the Father securely to his back and goes down into the village to investigate.

He finds that a man has been savagely mauled and left on the muddy ground in the village square.  His guts are torn out and he has been partially eaten.  Everyone fears a man-killing bear, but it's too early in the season yet for the bears to be active.  The immediate area reveals no tracks, so Grimnar searches the outskirts of the village.  He succeeds on a tracking roll (the only roll he'll make for the majority of the game, sadly) and finds a large print left clearly in the icy mud.  It's not a bear, that's for sure.  It looks more like a man's bare footprint, but far too large to be a normal man.  When Grimnar shows the print to the village elder and hunters, they immediately begin to whisper in fear about the Yeti, an old myth of the Reindeer People.

This situation  hits on Grimnar's belief about protecting the village and his instinct to never leave a loose end, so he gathers a group of hunters, armed with whale spears, and begins to track the Yeti.  A few hours outside the village, while travelling through some dense woods, the group is ambushed.  Grimnar fails an observation roll, so is caught off guard.  A successful steel test, however, lets him act quickly as javelins fly from the brush and cuts down some of the hunters.  Javelins?  This was a situation that Grimnar hadn't even considered.  He crashes through the brush to confront a hunter...from his own village!  Grimnar and the hunter attempt to gut each other with their spears, but the contest ends in a tie.  Grimnar drops his spear and moves in to grapple the hunter.  He fails his roll miserably and trips at the hunter's feet, allowing the hunter to scoop up a rock and bash Grimnar's head, knocking him unconscious.  Don't I feel stupid.

Grimnar awakens some hours later in a meadow, the moon is high and bright above him.  He is tied securely and staked to the ground.  He panics and begins to desperately thrash against the ropes when he realizes that the Father is nowhere near him.  After so many years bearing the sword he has developed a psychic connection with the mysterious blade and can feel its presence.  Grimnar fails a power roll, of course, and only partially frees himself when he sees a monstrous figure emerge from the woods.  It's a vaguely man-shaped creature with the arms and head of a great, white bear.  Its snout is smeared with blood and it charges across the meadow to attack Grimnar.  Grimnar fails a steel test and hesitates for 3 actions.
Things look dire for Grimnar, shocked into inaction by the horror of the bear-thing and still partially tied down, so Brandon offers me a hard bargain.  I can attempt to fight off the bear-thing and surely die, or I can activate one of my relationships, which will act like a successful circles test.  This only seems like a hard bargain because I really don't want to bring my relationships into the game this early, but what choice do I have?  I agree to have Grimnar's daughter, Toril, show up and save his bacon.
 So, here's how it played out:  Toril steps from the woods and fires several arrows at the charging bear-thing.  She doesn't hurt it, but surprises it enough to cause it to turn tail and flee back into the woods.  She frees Grimnar from his bonds and he thanks her for her intervention, though he is very surprised and a bit suspicious to see her.  The passage from the South to Hvalurvik is still closed off from ice, so it would have been very difficult for her to get here.  She winks and shrugs and tells Grimnar that they can talk about it later, but for now he should be grateful that she was able find him when she did.  Grimnar thanks her again and they hustle back to the site of the ambush.  The Father is, of course, not there.  The bodies of the hunters are still there, however, except for one.  One hunter in his original party remains unaccounted for.  Grimnar begins to smell a rat so he and Toril return to the village to confront the missing hunter.  They find him at his house, as if nothing happened.  Grimnar can sense the Father, so knows that the bastard has it.  The hunter pulls a knife, but Grimnar grabs his wrist and breaks it, causing him to drop the knife.  A failed intimidation check results in the hunter spitting in Grimnar's face, telling him that he has no idea what he's stumbled into and that it will only get worse for him.  He tells Grimnar that he might as well kill him because he will say no more.  Grimnar takes his advice and breaks the fellow's neck.  Only then does Grimnar realize that the hunter's wife and child are cowering in the corner of the room, watching.  Grimnar attempts to intimidate the wife, but fails again and the wife tells him nothing.  Grimnar threatens the child, but the wife realizes its a bluff and does not budge.  Grimnar and Toril toss the hut and find the Father hidden under a floorboard, but nothing else.  Frustrated, Grimnar stomps to the village square and shouts to wake the village.  Though it's late, the village wakes and gathers.  Grimnar sees several hunters who participated in the ambush and calls them out, accusing them of treachery.  They turn the table on Grimnar and accuse him of turning on the hunting party and butchering them.  Grimnar attempts to circle up some help from among the villagers, someone to have his back and support his argument.  He fails and finds his friends among the crowd refusing to even meet his eyes.  Without support, Grimnar fails an oratory roll and is cast out from the village.  In a fit of anger, he clears out his hut and then burns it down.  He built it with his own hands, he will not let anyone else have it!

Grimnar and Toril head for a cave that he knows about a few hours outside the village.  It's one that hunters use as shelter against the cold nights and he knows it is lightly stocked with supplies and already has a firepit and a store of wood.  Grimnar also fears that anyone in the village will know exactly where he is going and follow him there to finish him off.  He and Toril begin to prepare some traps at the cave mouth, but neither have any experience in this regard and so fail miserably.  As a result, Grimnar is surprised as the bear-thing charges out of the woods and attacks again.  This time a successful steel test allows Grimnar to meet the thing head-on, the Father flashing in the moonlight.

We enter Fight!, the first time for me.  I'm not exactly sure what I'm doing, so I sort of script blindly.  I envision the fight in my mind and script based on that.  One of my moves is Feint, which Brandon tells me is a very dangerous move, but as it turns out he had scripted a move that allows Feint to be very effective.  I win the fight and gut the bear-thing.  Blind luck prevails!

Grimnar gives up on his idea to build traps and so he and Toril set a large fire in the cave and move out into the woods to observe the cave mouth.  The ploy works as Grimnar observes six hunters sneak up on the cave.  Two hang back as four enter the cave, armed with spears.  Grimnar and Toril circle around behind the two stragglers and attempt to cut them down with their bows.  Toril strikes true and kills her target, but Grimnar misses.  The hunter flees into the cave, alerting his companions.  Grimnar attempts to bluff the group by telling them they are surrounded by the Knot, a group of named men and the best archers in the north.  It works and the group of hunters in the cave surrenders and comes out without their spears.  Toril puts an arrow into the cliff wall just above one of the hunter's heads to further convince them and Grimnar moves up to search them.  One of the hunters, however, pulls out a small, black globe and begins to chant something in a tortured language.  Grimnar attempts to cut the man's hand off with the Father, but misses.  The hunter completes his chant and a wave of blackness emerges from the globe.
Grimnar jumps back and is unaffected, but all the hunters fall to the ground and begin to thrash and scream.  Grimnar watches in horror as they begin to transform into animal-things!  He calls to Toril to help him and attempts to kill as many of them as he can before they complete their transformation.  He manages to kill all but one.  A creature with the head of an elk arises and attacks.
 We attempt Fight! again, but this time Grimnar's luck doesn't hold and the creature grabs him and bears him to the ground, choking the life out of him.  Toril stabs desperately at the creature and eventually gets it to release its grip on Grimnar.  Together they drive it away into the woods.  Grimnar thanks Toril for saving his life...yet again, and they attempt to track the creature.  No luck, however, as a failed tracking roll allows the creature to escape.

At this point, Grimnar realizes that they must flee the area.  Whatever is going on in the village is more than he can handle.  He and Toril flee north into the Tundra.  Grimnar successfully circles up a woman by the name of Ulu in one of the roving Reindeer people tribes that he has dealt with in the past.
 He knows that Ulu's tribe will be close because soon they will be heading toward Hvalurvik, so he and Toril travel by snow-shoe over the tundra to find Ulu's tribe.  They arrive after several days of hard travel and find refuge with Ulu's tribe.  They share their tale with the village shaman, who tells them that the black orbs are remnants of the evil spirit, Tarshish, who was supposedly banished from the land in the distant past.  These stones, they learn, can corrupt the heart and spirit of the weak-willed and cause them to do the spirit's bidding.  The shaman does not know how to combat the spirit, but does know that the great Seer in the ancient city of Tikerak can possibly share more information.  Tikerak is an ancient city where the tribes of Reindeer people meet each year to bring all the tribes together.  While the Meet is still several months away, the Seer lives in Tikerak year-round.

Grimnar is able to convince Ulu to take them to Tikerak, but has to trade his Great Bow to the tribe for the use of several sleds, pulled by the furry goats that are common among the tribes.

Together they set out on the long, overland trip to Tikerak....

Thus ends Session One.


The Father of Swords is dangerous.  It is a beacon for evil and greed and I must remain vigilant against those who would use it for their own ends.

I will find the Seer and gather information regarding the evil spirit, Tarshish.

I will see my companions safely to Tikerak and protect them from any harm.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

To Burn Again....

Campaign Set-up:

The North is Burning

"In the village of Hvalurvik, far to the north of civilization, an evil stirs. People have been disappearing, strange marks have been found on homes, whispers of dark rituals performed in the foreboding forest at night, rumors of food running low or going rotten too quickly. And all of this as winter slowly comes to an end.

An augury of doom has been prophesied by a holy soothsayer, telling of a approaching tide of evil, brought to the north by a foreign hand, of a savage dark god who seeks to bring ruin to the cold northern coast.

Some say the village is cursed, that it is an omen of evil come to shore. Some blame the Greymantle, while others call for his aid."

Grimnar Voss, The Greymantle, Retired warrior and soldier.

Grimnar,  called The Greymantle,  came to Hvalurvik to retire, that is known, but he also came to hide.  Heavy is the burden of his sword, called by men the "Father of Swords".  It has always been a beacon of evil and greed, but to discard it would allow it to fall into the wrong hands.  No, Grimnar must protect the sword and hide it away from those who would use it for their own ends.  Hvalurvik is the end of the world, a place where no sane man would sink his roots.  He had come here to disappear, but found the people in need of his guidance and protection.  Reluctantly he agreed to train their tiny militia, a handful of old men and boys desperate to protect their families from the ravages of the untamed tundra.  Grimnar allowed himself to be known, and that was his greatest mistake....

1) The Father of Swords is dangerous!  It is a beacon for evil and greed and I must remain vigilant against those who would use it for their own ends.
2)  The people of Hvalurvik deserve my protection from whatever evil plagues the village.  I will begin by investigating the strange occurrences.
3)  Kal Konnig is an old friend, but I don't trust him.  I won't let him pull me back into the "hard life".  I'm retired!
1)  Always keep the Father of Swords within easy reach.
2)  Always treat people as potential friends until they prove otherwise.
3)  Never leave "loose ends".  That's a quick trip back to the mud!


Toril "Greyspawn" Grimnsdottir - Daughter of Grimnar Voss and one time member of Grimnar's Knot.  She will do anything to possess The Father of Swords...even if it means killing her own father.

Kal "Red Worm" Konnig - One time Second in Grimnar's Knot, a band of Named Men led by the Greymantle. Kal assumed leadership of the group after Grimnar's retirement.  A brilliant but easily distracted warrior with a wicked sense of humor and a cruel streak a mile wide.  Some say he is Grimnar's son, but both men vehemently deny it.  Still, the rumors persist.  Why else would Grimnar tolerate him for so many years?

This game of Burning Wheel will be played sporadically over Roll20 with one player and one GM.  This is our first experience trying to play anything over the internet, so that should be interesting.  I'm very much looking forward to playing more Burning Wheel and this particular set-up, inspired strongly by the works of Joe Abercrombie (duh) really has my interest.  The campaign will also be inspired by such authors as H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and Edgar Rice Burroughs.  

Let it burn....