So, as I posted earlier my current every other Friday game is trying for something a bit more experimental than our usual table top sessions. We've decided to try doing a campaign that runs and feels like a fantasy novel, complete with a main character who is The Hero while everyone else plays the supporting main cast for him on his journey. Last night we had the first session of this game, and by all accounts it went a better than expected. A real plus for me, as I'm absolutely dreadful at beginnings.
For system, we've modified the Roll and Keep system designed by John Wick for AEG. It's featured in Legend of Five Rings and 7 Seas. For this game we've modified it as presented in Legend of Five Rings 3rd Ed, with some rules taken from 3rd Ed revised. I honestly love this system, and for games where you want dangerous combat, and an ability for players to show just how skilled they are, I don't think I've seen better. At least yet, I am trying to design one. For now though, this is my "Go to" system when asked to run something random.
Before the session can be explained though, first we have...The Cast!
Liam Callahan - a 16 year old human farm boy who constantly has his head in the clouds (you guessed it. The Hero!). Liam hails from the "Road's End Villages" the far North Western section of the Kingdom of Cerimea, not that anyone particularly remembers that.
Ilian Holhan - An 18 year old apprentice mage Seraphim who has come down to the surface (accompanied by his mentor and master) to further his studies on the weather as well as several other studies for his magical pursuits.. The Seraphim are a race of winged scholars and magi who live high above the clouds.
Abar Dan Rab Beynonn - An 18 year old Azrian Sword Dancer. The Azrian are a tribe of humans that live in cities in the forests (think Sherwood from Robin Hood Prince of Thieves), they are some of the premiere sword fighters in the land, using a style that emphasizes grace and finesse over power.
Darcy Stanton - A Half-Elf Rogue who has been staying with Rab (Abar) among the Azrian for the last few years. She is as close as a sister to Rab, and helps him on the various jobs he undertakes for the Azrian. Despite her time with the Azrian though, Darcy prefers to fight with her knives rather than use a sword.
Genru Crabshall - A Dwarven caravan guard from the Dwarf's War Caste. Genru hails from the famed floating cities of the Dwarves, though it has been years since he has seen home. Assigned to a guard a caravan heading to the northern provinces of Cerimea.
Also, some basic things to know about the world.
Unlike traditional High Fantasy worlds, in Greymoore the Elves and Dwarves had moved from their traditional Tolkien homes. The Elves live up in the mountains, hiding away from humans for the most part and the unnatural aging effect life among humans can have on them.
The Dwarves for their part have moved to the oceans, living on technological and magical marvels known as the Floating Cities. They are a powerful trading force in Greymoore having a near monopoly on sea trade, as well as extensive land caravan routes. These caravan routes are how the Dwarves keep a presence in Greymoore. Moving about and trading with everyone and anyone who has the coin.
The Seraphim, as said are a race of winged scholars and magi. Their homes are the Flying Cities high up in the clouds. Made with similar enchantments that make the dwarven floating cities. It's unknown as to who taught whom the enchantments for such a thing, though of all the races the Dwarves have the most contact with the Seraphim, meaning to say that they have some on a semi-regular basis.
The Azrian as said are a warrior people of Sword Dancers. They live in the forests of the various human kingdoms, allowed to stay in the forests in return for the jobs they do for the kingdom. The Azrian also work in a mercenary style manner, taking jobs for cash. They do however screen their clients, after all while they may be skilled fighters it would do no good to turn the kingdoms they live in against them. They may be able to take out three or more fighters to every one of theirs they lost, but that doesn't mean a King's army couldn't still crush them easily.
That out of the way. The Session!
The game began near the end of summer and beginning of fall, the time went the peasantry in most areas of the world start to look to the harvest, and the nobles start to hold their year end tournaments. The Azrian usually make an appearance at these tournaments, using the prize money won to help their villages, though despite his eligibility to go Abar Dan Rab Beynonn (known as Rab) had opted not to go. Leaving him available in the village when a commission for a job came in. The job was simple, meet two travelers a few days off of the northern road to Baern and escort them wherever they needed to go. Joining Rab on this mission is his close friend Darcy Stanton, the two being nearly inseparable since meeting a few years back. Mission in hand, and items packed (a challenge in and of itself for Rab), the two headed off to meet their clients.
Elsewhere, in one of the Seraphim's flying cities, the apprentice mage Ilian is looking over a book collecting decades of research on meteorology when his Mentor and Master (who remained unnamed sadly) came in to tell him they were headed to the surface. The reason for their trip? A message to be delivered to the King of Cerimea, as well as to give Ilian a chance to study the weather from a different vantage point. Packing more gear than two brittle boned winged creatures should be able to carry, they tossed their bags over the edge of the city (trusting the enchantments on the bags to protect them) and flew down to get them. The first night was quite the event for young Ilian, not trusting the camp fire to not reach out and eat his wings all the while his Mentor suffered from bad dreams.
Further south the dwarven guard Genru Crabshall (pronounced Crabshaw) was protecting a caravan heading to the northern part of Cerimea. The Caravan Master had heard that human merchants make a killing on their twice a year trips up to a place known as "Road's End". A place so cut off from the world that even cheap junk from the cities went for good rates, and the goods brought back also fetched a fair price. Sadly, for Guard Crabshall this means a long march of boring nothingness as they head further north than most sane folk ever wan to go.
In the Road's End Villages themselves, specifically in Red Gate Village(so named for the Red Torii style gate near the village entrance) Liam Callahan is having a dream. In the dream he is the fabled Elven hero Daragar, and he is leading an army to victory over the forces of darkness. That is until an arrow, the wood a black color from disease and rot hits him through the eye killing him instantly, and leaving Liam awake in his bed in a cold sweat. Remembering that it's the day everyone heads for the Harvest festival (harvest happening earlier in Road's End, as the winter comes earlier and stays later), and fearing he's been left behind a mad dash ensues leaving him outside, dressed, and his parents laughing. The trip to the week long festival grounds is uneventful, aside from one thing. Liam is asked to escort his mother out past the city of Baern so she can see to her own sick mother. They'll head out after the festival, when they're already further south than they'd ever be otherwise.
Back with Rab and Darcy, they're nearing where they are to meet their clients when at night they hear panicked screaming. Moving to investigate they find a young boy wearing a heavy cloak over a strange growth on his back (Ilian, the wings were hidden) shaking an older man similarly attired. Three 6'6 humanoid figures entering the clearing from the other side, one of which is notching another arrow to his bow, his previous handiwork visible in the older Seraphim's throat. The fight goes quickly as the two 6'6 figures (half ogres) without a bow charge and are intercepted by Rab. Rab scores a vicious hit on the first, one that would drop most men but the Half Ogre, eyes fully black with rage, doesn't even seem to notice. The archer is dealt with swiftly, as Darcy materializes seemingly out of nowhere and slits its throat. Ilian, terrified at the fighting panics and fires a quarrel towards the deceased archer, missing his target and Darcy by a fair margin. Working together Rab and Darcy make short work of the remaining two figures before trying to calm the panicking Ilian. A job made harder when his nearly dead mentor grabs his ankle and whispers "The boy in the mirror, importa...watch out..." before dying. A funeral arranged for, and the discovery that Ilian and his mentor were to be their clients, Rab, Darcy, and Ilian join up and head out to deliver the message to the king. Planning on stopping at Baern, the closest city, to get supplies for the journey.
For Liam and his mother however, things are not going quite so smooth. Cutting through the woods on a short cut to Baern, they stop in a clearing for some lunch. The clearing turns into an ambush, Liam's mother diving out of the way as arrows fill where she was just standing. She calls for Liam to run, but he is reluctant to leave her behind, though finally does start running the third time when of all things she swears. A mad flight through the forest, branches scratching at his face and tugging at his arms and legs, coming to a sudden end as he bursts through the tree line near the road, only to see a dwarf swinging a battle axe for his head. A trip and stumble, along with the dwarf's own reflexes, put him just under the blade, tumbling into a caravan wagon. The axe blade catching the goblin that was just about to pounce on him.
Genru, the dwarf in question, having just fended off one ambush of the caravan with his brother dwarves, is surprised indeed when the next rustling from the brush is a human child fleeing the damnable beasts. The kid's arrival heralds the beginning of the real ambush, as stone giants hit the back wagon of the caravan. Genru does the right thing, throwing the human kid into the wagon before getting back to work at defending the caravan. Quickly finding out there are simply too many enemies for him to be able to do more than just focus on protecting one wagon. Getting it moving, he tries to get the wagon he protects out of the area, only to be felled by a barrage of goblin arrows just moments before the wagon falls off the side of the road. The last thing he hears a panicked "This is just a dream!" cut off from the human child in a pained scream as he too is shot.
The carnage of the dwarven caravan massacre is found by Rab, Darcy, and Ilian on their way to Baern. Strangely though, only the dwarf bodies are left behind for the crows. All bodies of whoever attacked them, and all weapons aside from those arrows or other implements stuck in bodies removed as well. Searching the caravan for survivors they find two, a dwarf (Genru) and a human (Liam). Taking the two survivors to a safe place off the road, the wounds are treated while Ilian performs a short (for magic that'd be 5 hours) ritual to cleanse their bodies of any lingering poisons, as well as mend their wounds back together. Collected as five, they go over what happened to the caravan. Liam mentions his mother, whom Darcy goes to see if she can find any trace of, while Genru bemoans the loss of his axe. When Darcy returns she has the axe, and news that while Liam's mother is alive, she can't find her right now.
A day is spent gathering what supplies remain of the caravan, as well as gathering the body for a mass funeral pyre. They take what food they can, and all the money is collected and entrusted to Genru as the last surviving member of the caravan. Saying a good bye to his fallen brothers, the group of five travelers heads off together to Baern. Rab, Darcy, and Ilian on their mission, Liam in the hopes his mother went their to look for him, and Genru to send word back home and find out what he should do.
In Baern, Darcy (In disguise as a man named Darren) leads the group to a tavern she's used before, the Randy Stag ran by a man named Horus and his wife Marta (innkeeper's wives always need to be named something like Marta, you ever notice that?). Acquiring two rooms for the five of them while Genru goes to send a message back home. That night while Rab and Darcy teach Liam and Ilian about playing cards, and how it's about playing the person across from you not the cards in your hand, a man jostles their table and knocks Liam to the ground. A glass falls off and breaks, with that unmistakable noise glass makes breaking. Looking over, Ilian can see Liam's reflection clearly in a glass half full of ale in another patron's hand. "The boy in the mirror" Liam says softly, and the session came to an end.