I’ve delayed posting up the AP for this session, as @DaveHiggins was unable to make this session, and the rest of us all decided that we wanted to be able to see his face when we did the recap of this one.
I’d like to start by commending Oddbjorn’s player, who gave the recap, and made it feel like he was going full Skald, with just the perfect tone and rhythm. I think it took 5+ minutes, but we were all hooked. The not-as-poetic version is written up here.
Osric’s player summarised what Osric had done during the last session (Scholars, p25 “Meanwhile: Missing a Session”).
As he put it, Osric’s plan had been to head back to talk to the troll, and patch things up. But, as the player put it, Osric probably just wandered around the forest, not seeing the troll.
Whilst this seems like a fun aside, the impacts were much greater than that.
And now, gentle reader, read on, to our tale of a troll, a cult, a dragon… and the mortal peril in which we find ourselves!
The players had strategised, and decided that clearing Oddbjorn’s 1 Condition (Exhausted) with the Prologue, rather than one of the 3 Bricks was carrying (Angry, Exhausted and Injured).
This was for a variety of reasons, not least that Oddbjorn’s Health dropped from 4 to 2 last session, making recovery difficult.
As is becoming an accidental traditional for our game, when someone’s off, it’s obviously their character who has what the party needs.
In this case, Tösk is the only one of them with any Checks.
So, what’s a party to do? Well, what they really need to do is earn a handful of Checks and make camp, so that Bricks’ Conditions can be cleared.
Critically, they are also low on light. A beautiful Twist from the last Town Phase meant that (unbeknownst to the group) they had bought rubbish oil. This ends up lasting 2 Turns rather than 4 in their lantern, and has provoked much chagrin.
So, easy enough, right? Scavenge some oil, earn some checks and camp.
Then, they need to actually, you know, crack on with the adventure.
What could possibly go wrong?
Radulf, Odbjorn’s apprentice, remains Sick and Injured, so they decide to leave him with the rest of their stuff at the camp they established, whilst they head off.
They build up their dice, pull in bits and pieces, and bring Truffles the pig with them.
Now, normally, pigs can only help you scavenge for food, but this pig has been around a while, and, given they’ve got some (rubbish) oil to act as a scent, why not let Truffles help?
So, scavenge for oil in the forest near town (Ob 3 - Dungeoneers p172, Tools 2, Near Town 0, Unusual Item 1), and they’re on map (+1D), with a pig (+1D).
They decide to earn a Check and… fail.
I don’t really want to drop more Conditions on them, as I’d actually love to get some adventuring done. So… Twist.
Truffles the Pig rushes into an abandoned / overgrown woodsman’s hut, squealing happily about the barrel of oil he’s found.
Before the party can get there, the troll that they chased off in a previous session lumbers from between the trees, blocking their approach to the hut, and, unaware of their presence, making pleased comments to himself about eating their porcine buddy.
Well, this will not do. Especially as Osric has assured them that they have a negotiated arrangement with the troll.
Oddbjorn steps clearly out into the open and calls on the troll, and the agreement between them.
The sun is still in the sky, barely, but our oblivious Skald calmly explains to the troll that this is their pig, and he’s not to touch it.
Meanwhile, Bricks decides it’s time to rescue Truffles (and the oil!), so they quietly sneak around the troll.
Bricks rolls Scout (with their level 4 Guide ability, Soft Step - Scavenger’s Supplement p22) vs. Troll’s Nature (halved, as outside of the Troll’s Descriptors), with help from Oddbjorn’s Orator, and Osric’s Hunter… and succeeds, bundling the pig out of the back window of the hut, and grabbing up the oil.
Meanwhile, the trolls is becoming less perplexed and more angry at Oddbjorn’s admonitions, and talk of an agreement, one that the troll was not involved in.
Still, Skalds are edible, and the sun is just about to set…
There’s some quick table chat about what they want to do, but they’re clear: flee from the troll. They don’t want to fight it nor drive it off (which they did previously). I think Tösk’s admonitions from a previous session are still ringing in their ears!
So, I look at the Troll Haunt, and there’s no Disposition/Hit Points for a Flee conflict, but it clearly falls within the troll’s Skulking Nature, so I roll its Nature of 8, and add the result to its Nature. I net a terrible 2 successes, meaning that the Troll begins the Conflict with 10 Disposition.
The players put a brave face on it, and make their roll… ending up with 10 themselves.
Bricks remains Injured and Exhausted (and is carrying the salvaged oil!), but the last vestiges of daylight had given them +1D, so 10 Disposition is extremely good.
Osric uses his Instinct to Execrate the troll, making it lose 2 dice.
I script Attack, Manoeuvre, Feint, intending to tag them hard and then build for a devastating hit in the third volley.
However, they correctly predict their opponent.
They Manoeuvre against my Attack, Attack against my Manoeuvre, and (if I recall) Feint vs. my Feint.
For the opening volley, the troll only thinks he’s after Oddbjorn, so shouts from Bricks and then Osric spin him around (+1D surprise), and we’re rushing through the wood as the sun sets, chased by a troll.
Osric uses his rope and grapnel to trip up the troll, whilst Bricks uses theirs to swiftly hook onto a tree, a scramble down a drop in the forest (losing it in the process).
At the beginning of the second round, I’m on about 2 or 3 Disposition, and theirs is untouched.
They manage to Feint against my Defend… and they’re away and free!
They did not lose a single point of Disposition. Masterfully done.
An exhilarating Flee conflict, especially with a wounded party member!
It’s also a reminder to us all that knowing a Denizen’s strengths and weaknesses is key - a Drive Off vs. 6 could have been easier than a Flee vs. 8+ rolled Nature. But the group is very happy with their choices: they don’t hate the troll, and don’t want to fight it / kill it.
So, they can make camp now, right?
Well… Bricks decides that they won’t leave their rope and grapnel behind (and the others won’t let them do this alone, so assist).
They decide to sneakily double back to recover it, from the forest in which the angry troll is searching for them all.
Fortunately, this is a more successful attempt, and they are soon back, with their rope in hand!
Later in camp, Osric is thoughtful: “You know, in hindsight, I think that I imagined that meeting with the troll earlier…”
Gallows Humour, right there!
Camp is more successful, as they find some healing herbs, allowing Oddbjorn to heal Bricks (Healer instinct) and set to work patching up Bricks’ other Conditions, mapping what they’ve got, and repairing/making a new Tomb Shield (thanks Osric).
The next day, Condition-free, it’s time to start back on the actual adventure!
Do they go deep down to the boat at the underground river, or head upwards to what they believe to be an air vent?
Up it is, allowing them to enjoy Actual Daylight, and not need to use their precious last few torches or lantern oil.
As they climb the winding stairs, a scattering of rocks and pebbles crash down towards them. Bricks quickly raises their shield overhead, and Osric does the same, locking his shield to theirs.
With Bricks the Halfling further up the stairs than Osric the Human, their “shield roof” is effective, and also shelters Oddbjorn.
They quickly work out that this is not accidental rockfall, but the actions of a group of people further up.
Oddbjorn deduces that these are likely the dragon cultists he heard about sessions ago, when looking into the groups around here (background research for the win!).
He calls up to them, and convinces them to, at least, let the three of them up to talk.
When they get there, it’s clear that we’re not in a straight-up Conflict: this isn’t a Convince / Convince Crowd, as what they want is to talk to the cultist, and pass through here, and the cultists Do Not Want That.
Instead, I ask them for them approach: Oddbjorn “public speaking” to the assembled cultists, whilst Osric lies and Bricks talks bright-eyed about opening up paths and ways.
I settle for a simple roll against a set Ob. Let’s see… a dragon cult leader would be like a priest, and under Beasts with Two Legs, a Priest has Will 5 (Scholar p208). So, the Ob’s 5.
Still, Oddbjorn steps up, help is offered, Persona is spent… and they hit the Ob!
They refer the the great dragon Æglæckír by a variety of names (The Wisest, She Who Holds Death at Bay, the Red Sun, The Ruby Tears, the Blood Rain), and speak of her with reverence. Not for them to call directly upon her, nor seek to bind her to their will. No, she is a god to them, a Power mighty and deep.
Some of them were in Regin when she destroyed the town, and saw first-hand how her fiery breath rendered people into their Fylgja as they were consumed by flame. They speak of her garnet-scales, her might, the care for her mate Monwír, who lies dying, of the Tree of Yðunn, and how she feeds her love apples to keep death at bay.
I will note that, to the cultists, Monwír is a bit of an afterthought, which the players enjoy. It’s got a very “Æglæckír! The Red Sun! She Who Holds Death at Bay! She is a god!.. oh, and there’s Monwír, I guess” vibe.
With pride, the cultists take them to the air shaft, where, far far below, toy-sized, they can see the Tree of Yðunn and the two dragons curled around it.
Bricks, with help from the others (and the rope they recovered) gets dangled some distance down the air shaft, to see what they can learn of Æglæckír.
They learnt something before, when they saw Æglæckír flying over the ruins of Regin, and know that her Nature is 12. Still, they need to know more about her.
Dice pools being what they are, they lean into the likely failure and use a Trait against themselves.
Predictably, the roll fails, and Æglæckír unwinds from the tree, and is swiftly airborne, rushing upwards towards them!
The cultists flee (“retreat to a safe and reverential distance”), whilst our 3 adventurers stand their ground.
Oddbjorn calls out a greeting to Æglæckír, referring to her by some of her titles, calming her enough for her to listen, and converse.
Æglæckír is huge, imposing, a terrifying force.
There’s a brief back and forth, where they explain that they are here seeking apples for Osric, Bricks and Radulf, and Æglæckír concedes that a trade may be possible.
I explain to the players that they get 1 question, that she will answer truthfully (and perhaps unwisely), for they have addressed her correctly.
In return, she will ask them a question too, which, given how they have addressed her, they do not have answer truthfully (and perhaps unwisely).
More questions will require more supplication, or doing things that will help her (I’ll post up the rules for this over here).
They ask how they can get apples from her with her permission.
She tells them that vengeance against / proof of the death of Hreithmarr and Andvarri would grant them an apple for each brother thus dealt with. Additionally, saving Monwír will also net them an apple.
The characters, and players, are getting that particular feeling now: Æglæckír seeks to keep her love from death’s domain… and they are sworn to the Queen of the Dead, Halja.
The Goal of their Lith Band is opposed to this:
“Halja’s Reward to those who seek it.
Halja’s Wrath to those who evade it.”
Now, it’s Æglæckír’s turn to ask a question: how can Monwír be saved?
Osric takes a breath.
“There are forces more powerful even than you… and we can put in you contact with them,”
“… for one apple.”
Well, Æglæckír will totally go for that!
The group use their regalia to call on Halja, for her to manifest, so that they can Negotiate with a red dragon.
Good play, by the group! Æglæckír’s Precedence is 6, and Halja’s is 7.
It’s not often that you can go into a Negotiation Conflict with a dragon, where you have the upper hand (Precedence-wise, at least)!