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 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.
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.
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.
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.