AP: Negotiating with a Dragon

So, when we last left our group, they were about to negotiate with Æglæckír.

This is because her partner, Monwír, is more than 200 years overdue to die, and should have passed into the realm of Halja, Queen of the Dead.

We spend rather a long time (out of character) making sure that we’re happy with the approach and stakes involved, before we launch into it.

  • Party: 13 Disposition
  • Æglæckír:15 Disposition
    No fixed Hit Points, but this falls under her Outwitting / Hoarding Nature, so I rolled Nature (12 dice) and added it to her Nature (12). I rolled terribly, getting only 3 successes.

Osric uses his instinct to (successfully!) cast the Invocation Execration (LMM p44), reducing the Æglæckír’s dice pool by -2D.

Æglæckír still gets to roll 10 dice, but it sure beat her rolling 12 dice!

For his part, Osric’s Immortal Burden is, once again, way over his Urðr. It’s a bit of a joke at our table that Osric without vast quantities of Burden doesn’t feel right, and he spends “a lot” of time glowing / with eyes of fire / etc. etc.

Still, what’s a GM to do for Stigmata in this circumstance?

I elect to go with something like"eyes blinded", but specify that he is actually seeing what people / denizens look like in the spirit world / in their “true form” (leaning into his Between Two Worlds Trait).

So, that’s cool: he cannot see the terribly deep air shaft at his feet, but he can REALLY see the full majesty of what Æglæckír / Æglæckír’s soul looks like.

As for the Negotiation Conflict itself, the dice rolls and scripts are tight, but they manage to outscript my Feint at the beginning of one of the later rounds, and there’s a mutual swipe in Volley 2 of that round that ends the conflict: a win for the party, with only a minor compromise for Æglæckír (up until that final action, they had taken no Disposition damage).

The dialogue was great, with Bricks using their Merrymaking to offer a wake for Monwír, and some excellent lines from Osric and others about how it’d be best to be on Good Terms with the Jotunn of Death, given that eternity is a very long time.

Final agreement:

  • the dragons have until nightfall, when Monwír will die / cross over (the compromise!).
  • the 200 “excess years” that Monwír lived will be taken from Æglæckír by Halja, shortening Æglæckír’s lifespan.
  • the party will hold the (pre-)wake / wake.

Had they beaten Æglæckír without compromise, she will likely have escalated to (immediate) violence, so this worked out very well for them.

Æglæckír departs to be with Monwír and explain what will happen.

However, Æglæckír’s resolve is on a knife edge, and, should she slip, she will destroy Holtburg (Osric’s home town), and rampage onwards.

Osric takes a moment to speak with Halja, once Æglæckír has left. He, quite rightly, is worried about what happens afterwards, and if Æglæckír goes on a rampage. Halja listens carefully and assures him that, should that happen, he will have the weapons to kill a dragon.

With that, the party notes that they cannot “do an Æglæckír” and just fly down the air shaft, and will need to find a different way to get there.

Retracing their steps, they head down to the crypt, hoping to take the boat onwards.

But first, as they want more of the apples from the Tree of Yðunn, they need to take a token from the (now sanctified and laid-to-rest) body of Hreithmarr.

I mean, they laid Hreithmarr to rest, but they did not realise what they would need. Still, careful work by all of them means that they are able to take a token from the body without desecrating the burial.

Additionally, they also find a secret passage through, leading them to a hidden space where they find an old (magical!) dwarven shield… and peepholes that let them look upon the tree, as well as the dragons and their hoard…

Here endeth the session!

The next part follows momentarily…


This invocation seems to change the stakes of the conflict. How do you execrate someone you’re negotiating with?

My instance of Aeglaekir would have torched them for casting that spell on her.

If they had won without compromise, why would that have justified an escalation? That sounds more like a major compromise.

Having won the conflict, was this the minor compromise? That her resolve to maintain the negotiated outcome was at risk of being overturned?

And, what part of that, “resolve is on a knife edge,” did they have any control over? Did they have any clarity about how to strengthen her resolve and struggle against having her rampage through the land? That seems like a bit unfair precarity after having held a conflict and compromise. As though at any unpredictable moment the winning outcome would be sullied by something untestable.

In a “best interests” discussion, I definitely agree. As the party were acting as agents of Helja in a negotiation over stolen life, a ritual denouncement feels to me like it fitted.

This for me was the flipside of having a contentious enough negotiation that ritual denouncement works: if the approach is to be calming, then victory includes acceptance; but going with “you’ve already done wrong; your only option is to hope you don’t make it worse” means ArgyKiller’s “barely contained apocalypse” trait is still in play, so she might go wonky about having been forced into a deal if too much advantage is taken.

I didn’t take it as “she might just do it without warning”; I took it as “if you try something that might annoy her and fail, be aware she could explode into irrational fury”. So, a clear warning that a future test could go horribly rather than a subversion of an existing test.

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A fair call! I didn’t necessarily think of it at the time.

I’m glad it fitted in @DaveHiggins 's head, and that’s a good way of thinking about the approach.

With regards to the stakes and consequences, I obviously had “Escalate to Violence” from Burning Wheel running through my mind, where you can lose a Social conflict, and choose to trash your reputation and good word to Just Kill Them All Now.

Definitely a mistake on my part to blur those together, @kendesign.

But to @DaveHiggins’s point, it was also about finding a way to have the sort of fun stakes:

  • Do the group have “standing” to negotiate for what they’re trying?
  • Would Æglæckír accept?
  • And if she would accept, what is the scope of this?

With regards to this the group is somewhat bound by Halja on one side (her Belief: “Let no one take the merest grain that belongs to me.”) and Æglæckír’s driving goal to keep Monwír alive.

They are mutuallly exclusive, but it was a very fun place to play in, and hence why we found a potential way to make it work, whilst keeping the risks big enough.

As they won, Æglæckír is submitting, but she doesn’t like it. She is grieving and close to fury, in much the same way that someone who has lost an argument might have agreed to the terms, but rails against them.

Beating Æglæckír in 1 negotiation does not “tame” her. And whilst her attitude was shifted by the conflict, it does not change who she is at a fundamental level, which is a dangerous denizen with centuries of experience.

I have tried to be open and clear to the players about the risks surrounding the dragon(s), and when things they are doing might brush up against their fragile peace.

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