Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Myth Campaign: October 4, 166 Sword Age

Myth, The Shield Age: A dramatic synopsis of the tabletop RPG campaign I'm currently leading my friends through. It's a variation on GURPS, built up from and inspired by the excellent computer game Myth. In it, the player characters begin as a selection of relatively ordinary folk in an unremarkable town. Their adventures grow, the dangers swarm, and the PCs? They pretty much just have to deal with it without serious power progression. It's gritty, it's deadly, it's fantasy with a political and social edge and an emotional timbre: it's Myth: The Shield Age.

I've recently been watching a number of videos on YouTube depicting other people's role-playing game sessions, and it's really gotten my Game-Master juices flowing, so to speak. Wil Wheaton's Tabletop has chronicled two very fun RPG sessions in the past: the Dragon Age RPG was a fun and more traditional hack-and-slash adventure that got me to nerd-out to Sam Witwer's gaming style; Fiasco was a sublimely dramatic RPG without so much mechanics and direct violence, building a tableau of tragedy and drama and then setting it all on fire. Both are a lot of fun, and could merit detailed posts on their own (or more, if you know me). I've also been watching a series of recordings of a group that livestreams games using Skype and Roll20 to play an RPG set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. Called "Rollplay: Dark Heresy", that group's fun antics almost lured me back into the grimdark dumb setting before a horrific boondoggle scared me right the heck off of the Games Workshop website (filmatleven on that).

But as much as these games have inspired me, they also leave me cold as a role-player and GM. Dark Heresy is based on the Inquisitor system which was my first love in the role-playing genre, but they add a rigid class system to it that makes me want to vomit in terror. The Rollplay group is fun, but also irreverent and obtuse towards the story in that power-gamey self-conscious way. I'm a thespy, snobby GM I guess, because as fun as it is to watch I know I would hate that in a campaign I was leading. Similarly, the Dragon Age episodes of Tabletop were a really entertaining watch, but the contrived elements of the class system is a turn-off to my gaming tastes. Fiasco is dramatically around my sweet-spot in terms of harrowing player characters without violence or fakey game progression being necessary, but it doesn't touch upon combat or traditional adventuring the way I would like.

What does? GURPS Myth, baby. Or at least the way I play GURPS Myth, it does. I'm actually in the process of returning to this campaign after more than a year off--I think we've played one game of it since my family and I moved to our current place. This synopsis is going to be focused on a fast summary of the story rather than highlighting the GURPS mechanics in action, though if any questions about the nitty-gritty come up, I'd be happy to answer them either in comments or future posts as appropriate.

Note that I'll be pretty careful to track dates, seasons, and holidays in my campaign. The passage of time is an important element of the game. Not only do I use time spent training in lieu of traditional game experience, but I try to keep world events on an independent timeline from player action--whether they dawdle or hasten towards their goals is up to them, but the forces of evil act out their own plans at the same time.

Also please keep in mind that I tend to run more R-rated or at least hard PG-13 games. You won't get too much bad language--at least not much bad contemporary language--but there is some more mature subject matter in the run of the plot. And I tend to cut loose with my descriptions of violence.

The twelfth of November,
One hundred sixty-sixth year of the Sword Age.

Here taken to script is the account of Alrid Hock, founding elder of Misty Downs, warrior of the The Legion. Tiernan Seithkarl, the Magistrate of Misty Downs for these past two years, has bid me record the dire goings of our village this past moon.

Misty Downs is a small village of perhaps three score families in Umbra, the region immediately east of Tharsis, the great billowing mountain at the center of the Cloudspine. The Cath Bruig village is honorably distinguished in The Realm as furthest north and west in the region. To the north just past Lake Ywrmasr lies The Barrier, filled with Myrkridia and soil now damned for one hundred and sixty-five years. Founded a generation ago, Thom Etteryn, Ostler Farris, myself, and two other brothers in The Legion were awarded these lands for our years of service in Alric's Legion, fighting in the First Myrkridian Campaign.

Having sheathed our swords, the five of us farmed the land and beat back the wolves and catamounts of the region. We have broken the earth and planted crops in the shadow of the last war, and as our families joined us we made the cursed soil fertile and built two generations in the fog dripping down from Tharsis.

But every good Bruig knows that peace is fleeting, and the wolf waits for its prey to slumber. For Misty Downs, it began on the fourth eve of October. I awoke from the harvest mind to a cry raised in the center of the Downs. I stirred my house and summoned the rest of the council to join all in the village square, before the Flooded Downs tavern where we always held town meetings.

"Giselbert Craw is gen missin'," the village crier reported. Giselbert was Laanor Craw's sister, daughter of Donovan Craw. Her father and brother stood by, eyes red and torches in hand. She was but a dozen and one years old.

Thom, Ostler, and I seized upon the townsfolk there assembled to get their witness. She had disappeared from the pastureland along with her father's small herd of fourteen cattle. The last of our assembly to have seen her was a Gowerna from the east named Danlyra. She was known to me already, as any Bruig Elder worth his teeth would meet any horsemaster entering his village. We quickly put the test to her. She had not touched Giselbert nor shared many words with her but to take directions to our village tavern as she rode in on her fine Gowerna riding mare. That was least two hours and spare before the crier rose the alarum amongst the town, but Danlyra saw nought else.

We mustered the men of the village to find Giselbert Craw. By this time, much of the entire village had put themselves under our cause, and so we parceled the men to range afield for her, while the women and children stayed close to home to keep fires lit for her swift return. Danlyra stayed at the tavern, tending to her horse and distracting my grandson Baith with her lilting words and strange expressions. Were her clothes less refined I'd have called the whore her true name, but she had the bearing of one beyond my station and all were pressed to find Giselbert.

By Wyrd's sight, we had a Heron Guard tending our Temple of Wyrdras for that season. We called him Ten Green Gem Vine, a name strange to those who never served with the Heron Guard in The Legion. He was young, even measured by my short span, but he quickly divided us and led our group into the dark. Tall and strong as all his blessed brothers are, he donned the glittering armor and twin fangs of his station and sallied into the hills.

The young Heron Guard selected a falconer from our village to lead the search, a huntress named Vera Wealwa. With her bird and bow, Vera led the men of the village to sign of young Giselbert. They found only a bloody patch of ground where someone had split ope one of the Craw farm's cattle and strewn its entrails about the field, knotting the gibs together here and there. The search parties ranged in small groups from there, forced together by darkness, fog, and wolf as the night deepened.

Vera led the Heron Guard, following a trail of what she scryed to be a single cattle into the scrub to the west of our village. Joining him was Keagan Na Anyon, our village blacksmith. Soot-browed and meade-bearded, he could swing his fists like many men swing hammers, and were he less fond of drink and brawling he'd have left Misty Downs years ago. Indentured to our last smith as a boy, Keagan clung to Misty Downs, though, and he was blustering to find Giselbert at the first cries from Laanor Craw.

Also joining their number was a wandering vagabond of perhaps thirty years. Named Crow, he carried himself unlike any beggar I've met in my two score and ten years. He held a stout quarterstaff, bound at the haft with leather strips, the mark of a staff used to striking more than leaning. A gourd hung from his belt, but his eyes were clear and acute. I saw him for a soldier even in the midst of the tavern, but on that night I thought to say nothing.

The four moved through the dark for hours, scrabbling up slopes and gutters torn by Tharsis' great eruption two ages ago. While many of our hardiest villagers turned back in exhaustion, Ten Green Gem Vine urged them forward, making every clue Vera found into a certain promise of Giselbert's well-being and proximity. Then they were suddenly set upon. Stones in the darkness whistled to crack against the Heron Guard and torch-wielding blacksmith, breaking the redheaded smith's nose and tumbling him. Drawing his twin swords, the Emperor's Twin Fangs, Ten Green Gem Vine charged into the stygian hills and let his blades find the guts of a bandit with a sling while Vera's arrows hobbled another as he fled into the night.

Two more highwaymen witnessed the slaughter and the armor of a Heron Guard and retreated into a cave nearby. As Keagan drew his sword and caught stride with the Heron, the group strode into the cave to find a nest of eight men waiting for them. Keagan, Ten Green Gem Vine, and Crow waded into the fight. Crow's staff broke bones and whistled teeth, but a spear threaded his ribs and he fell even as his cohorts' blades cut into the rest of them. The Emperor's Fangs gutted a man and twisted the leg off another, leaving the man screaming and bathing in a pool of his own blood. Keagan's sword threw a bandit down to ruin as well. While Ten Green Gem Vine tended to Crow's wound, Vera saw three more bandits returning to the cave, the one she'd earlier hobbled among them. Arrows answered stones, and the bandits tumbled into darkness and screams.

Inside the cave, three of the villains had the strength left to scream and beg for their lives, but the party ignored them. Keagan followed the path of the cave deeper to find signs of an encampment of sorts. A fire and spit, bedrolls for a dozen men, and a gutted cattle close at hand. And a heavy foreign curtain draw across a smaller tunnel to create a room. With the Heron Guard stepping beside Keagan, the curtain was cast aside, and they found Giselbert.
Major events since Soulblighter's defeat, about fifty years ago:

-Muirthemne and The Realm of the Cath Bruig are slowly being restored.

-Emperor Alric orders the Myrkridian Campaigns, periodic assaults on The Barrier to try to weed out the Myrkridia infesting the ruins of the last age.

-The Province in the west establishes its own king, beneath Emperor Alric.

The Barrier
The Barrier is a wild area, cursed by the gods. It fills the land north and west of Muirthemne, and is in turn teeming with beasts and foul creatures, the greatest of whom are the Myrkridia. A scorching desert filled with ruins nearly two centuries silent, every farmer knows that The Barrier’s soil radiates heat both night and day and will not permit seed to take root.

The Barrier is the scorched remnant of the heart of the Cath Bruig Empire. When Balor sacked Muirthemne in the last year of the Wolf Age, the winds carried the sorcerous blaze across the rest of The Realm, hastening the death of the towns in that region as their crops withered and fell even before the Dark laid proper siege to their walls. After Soulblighter’s defeat, the hordes of leaderless Myrkridia he let loose upon the world swarmed to The Barrier, drawn to the sites of massive carnage. As Alric and his Circle of Mages have begun pushing back the curse of The Barrier, he has also installed a dozen forts along the edge of the wastes, each supporting a company or more of the Legion’s soldiers, helping to keep the monsters within at bay.

Misty Downs
Misty Downs is one of the smallest and most remote villages of the Umbrage region, consisting of perhaps a hundred families. The nearest settlement is a Legion border fort, nicknamed Foggy Bottom, about a day’s travel to the northeast. Misty Downs benefits from frequent rains and mountain streams rolling down from the Cloudspine, and so most of the farmers in the area have a goodly number of cattle. The area is named for its hilly area that frequently clots over with fog banks.

The small, remote village of Misty Downs has roughly four hundred residents, most of whom rely on wheat and cattle farming. A day’s travel to the northeast is the Legion fort Cwmasr, nicknamed Foggy Bottom. Fog rolls into the hills around Misty Downs with regularity, especially in their wet autumns. Few travelers make their way into Misty Downs, due to the fact that it is so far from the roads and passes of the south. The nearest town is more than a day’s journey to the southeast, as is the Emperor’s Highway. The village, like many others in The Realm, was founded about forty years ago by retiring soldiers of the Legion. A few years ago, the veteran elders sold their holdings to an affluent noble named Tiernan.

Council of Misty Downs: elders Alrid Hock, Thom Etteryn, and Ostler Farris; Magistrate Tiernan Seithkarl; Seeress Nara Pugh.

This initial session was meant to turn the typical fantasy RPG on its head. Instead of everyone meeting inside a tavern before their call to adventure, the characters were scattered about the village as they experienced the village's building panic in their own ways. Then they were called to the tavern and asked to meet. Also, the concept of the men of the village meeting and pushing the female player characters out of the tavern to do so was a fun way of helping to establish that this would be a socially grounded medieval setting.

Danlyra, Gowerna noblewoman

Ten Green Gem Vine, Heron Guard

Vera Wealwa the falconer

Keagan Na Anyon, Blacksmith

Crow, Wandering Adventurer

Cliffhanger, that's right! If you guys enjoy this, I'll post more. This first entry roughly summarizes the action of our first night's gaming session, but since this one involved so much exposition too I think future Shield Age articles will cover more than one session at a time.

No comments:

Post a Comment