Witherscape

Chapter 11

Those that lie above and below the fog...

Game Date: February 9, 2011

The next morning, the Chief approached Doctor Guffin and asked him about the information he had extracted from Furtain (see Chapter 9). Although the Doctor had advised the Captain about Jameson’s involvement, he decided to keep this information from the rest of the crew. The Doctor told the Chief about Crag Stonefin’s named alleged involvement with the Usurper’s Circle. The Chief recognized Crag’s name from his and Court’s encounter with the dwarven thugs in the Rock Port Warrens (see Chapter 6). They decided to learn more about Court’s relationship with this dwarf-of-interest, when they noticed Savitar eavesdropping on their conversation. The Chief invited Savitar to join them and brought him up to speed; the trio went to talk to Court who the bridge of The Legacy’ with Captain Goodacre.

Meanwhile, Reboot worked on his gimbal to raise and lower (and conceal) the ballista into the ship’s hull.

On the bridge, the Doctor took the lead and asked Court about his using Crag’s name in the Warrens and how Court knew Crag’s name.

Court said that he knew of Stonefin from word “on the streets” and was just using Crag’s name to scare the thugs and avoid a fight. This, along with the Chief’s knife display, had scared them away. The Doctor did not buy it. Neither did Savitar, who attempted to cast a spell on Court to make him truthful, but it failed and temporarily backfired. The discussion went round and round until the Captain took notice of the conversation.

Goodacre asked what the matter was; the Doctor explained that during his interrogation of Furtain, he had mentioned Crag Stonefin’s name in connection with the Usurper’s Circle.

“I know Crag Stonefin. He is the crime lord in Rock Port. Court, are you associated with him?”
“No,” Court responded without meeting the Captain’s gaze. No one believed the lie.
“Court, I’m not buying it.”
“If you had bought it Captain, I would have told you.”
“Court…” said the Captain, his patience wearing thin.
“I smuggled for him when I worked for Onyx.”
“Wait. How old are you? When did you work of Onyx?” The Captain asked.
“What ship were you on?” asked the Doctor.
The Star Darter,” said Court.
“Court, let me be clear: I do not want you smuggling on this ship, unless it hurts Onyx. If I ever learn that you are helping them, I will personally dump you overboard.” With that, the Captain returned his attention to the horizon.

“Did the first mate mention any other names.” Court asked the Doctor.
This time it was the Doctor’s turn to shift awkwardly. “No,” he said.
The Chief believed him, but he was the only one.

“Who else?” Court pressed.
“That is none of your concern, I have already discussed it with the Captain and he understands my reasons.” The Doctor turned and left the bridge, the Chief and Savitar followed.

After, Court and the Captain were alone on the bridge, the Captain spoke again.
“Court, when we get to Rock Port I want you to arrange a meeting between Crag Stonefin and myself. Where there is confusion there is profit to be made.”
“Yes, Captain.”


The next day The Legacy neared its destination. Reboot and the Chief finished the gimbal; the Doctor was able to concoct a poison with Court’s assistance.

The crew began to to see evidence of orc-sign on a grand scale, all moving toward Portalis. They also saw a mysterious fog that seemed to spread for miles throughout the forest surrounding Portalis. The mist not only covered the forest, it was too thick to navigate visually. Savitar sensed that the fog was a magical defense and immediately notified the Captain. The Captain related that he had felt the ship drag when it contacted the fog and lose residual heat from the skytanium reaction in the engine room. Savitar, the Doctor, and the Chief surmised that the fog was a magical defense used by the elves to protect their homeland from hostile arrows that bypassed the natural defenses of the Portalyn Wood.

The crew got to work. Reboot, with the help of the crew, began mixing a viscous fluid coating for the ship to slow the depletion of the skytanium. Court began plotting their course and the Captain piloted the ship by touch. Savitar maintained the skyatnium core to regulate the fog’s draining qualities. The crew waited.

Court’s navigation was true. At The Legacy burst from a solid wall of fog to see Portalis before them. Some of Reboot’s mixture was misapplied and the arrow pulled to the right, but the Captain was able to bring her in safely. There were few elves to greet them and most appeared sick or exhausted.

“We have the medicine!” Hailed the Doctor from the deck.
“Brought to your port by the Great Captain Goodacre!” Court amended.

The highest ranking diplomat still on his feet was an elf named Salamdin. Learning who they were he asked the Doctor to accompany him immediately to see the King. Reboot insisted on taking the Doctor’s crates to the nearest clinic, but gave the Doctor one vial of medicine to take to the elven palace. Court and the Captain went with him.

At the palace, the Doctor was taken to see the King who had also fallen ill. Salamdin insisted that Mac use the medicine to heal the King, but the Doctor would not hear of it and demanded to be taken to the Princess. Salamdin eventually relented but demanded that the Captain and Court immediately return to the the ship and get more medicine. The did so.

Meanwhile, Reboot and the Chief located one of the many clinics and tried to find someone, anyone, to administer the medicine. Most of the doctors were sick or unavailable.

At the Palace, the Doctor lifted the Princess’ head and administered the vial. She did not awake, but color returned to her face, her pulse became stronger, and she seemed to rest more easily.

On The Legacy, the Captain, Court , and Savitar began discussing the disposition of the four remaining crates…

Comments

Just an observation about the last game, and to put you on notice. In future linked tests that are happening arguably at the same time, e.g., protecting the ship from the fog, navigating, and piloting, I will frown upon helping between the primary actors; in this case, Reboot, Court, and the Captain. While the rest of the characters are running around assisting the primary actors where they can, the primaries are focused on their specific task. This may result in less dice and failure, but a more dramatic scene is created that introduces complications. The ship delivers the medicine to Portalis, but comes to a scraping stop as it crashes in the port!

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May I ask how much play time does this summary represent?

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Hey Tewhill,

Nice to hear from you. I think I speak for the group when I say we appreciate your interest. Questions are always welcome.

Each chapter, or summary, represents one session. We generally meet Wednesday night, 7:30 pm – 10:00 pm. We begin play with a review of each character’s beliefs and recap the previous session. We wrap up around 9:45 by doing Artha awards so we can end by 10. So I guess each session is about 2 hours of play, give or take.

(This game actually was a little slow because we spent a good deal of time discussing other issues like player vs character knowledge and how to handle linked tests. I can elaborate if you are interested.)

Jeff

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Thanks. When I type up the summaries for my game I make an effort to be as brief as possible but they always end up longer than I would have expected. The last three summaries in my game represent 4 to 5 hours of play. When I was reading yours I found myself guessing. I’ll have to say, your group gets an excellent yield of “stuff happening” for a 2 to 3 hour session. You must really keep at it.

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Our group stays pretty focused. The shorter game actually combats player fatigue (which a bunch of grognards need on a worknight). We all understand that our time is limited, and with 6 players the game can devolve quickly if players “turn off” when someone else has the spotlight.

Prior to Witherscape, I had only played a couple of Burning Wheel games at Gen Con. Before we started, I had concerns about running a game as complicated as BW, for so many players, in the short time alloted (which was an almost perfect fit for Savage Worlds). Although, the system has a steep learning curve (which Liam, is helping our group climb), I am finding it to be incredibly malleable in terms of storytelling and keeping characters involved. Game mechanics like Beliefs, Helping Dice, and Linked Tests, make it easier for me as a GM to keep more players invested in more storyline than in other rpg systems I have run: D&D; Savage Worlds (in particular Deadlands Reloaded); Pathfinder. No offense to those systems, they just provide a different experience. A lot of story can be told in a couple of hours with Burning Wheel, more than I initially thought possible.

By the way, I noticed that we share an affinity for the Wild West. In your game, Mancos Valley, you stated that you use some BW mechanics. I have considered using Beliefs in a Savage Worlds game, or giving Bennies (Fate Chips) to players for playing Hinderances to their character’s detriment (like a awarding Artha for a Trait). How do you use the BW rules in your game, and how well do you think the rule sets mesh?

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Hey Tewhill, thanks for the interest!

We’ve been toying with the idea of creating a Podcast of our sessions. Would you be interested in listening to the Podcast for this game sessions and providing us with feedback?

You’d be our first listener.

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I listen to a healthy amount of gaming podcasts and would have no trouble listening to some experiments with the Witherscape game. Feedback would be gratis. Although I would say the actual play recordings are often long and not terribly interesting. One interesting way around that problem is the Durham 3 podcast. It’s the pet project of the designer Jason Morningstar’s game group. Though they don’t record very often they are always interesting. Episodes consist of a ten minute conversation before a game session and then a ten minute wrap up after the session. It has the benefit of sparing the audience of much downtime.
All the rules of the Mancos Valley campaign are Burning Wheel rules, but not all the rules of Burning Wheel are used. Because the setting involves no supernatural or magical elements, Sorcery, Faith and all the fantasy races are absent. I’ve developed a few period life-paths and stats of mid-19th century firearms. Rate of fire and armor penetration change the tactics of Fight! but the rules are untouched. I am not a game designer and have done my best to make only minor adjustments.
Grafting BW type Beliefs onto Savage Worlds Bennie award system sounds like a workable idea. I have played in a Sundered Skies Savage Worlds campaign. It’s decent system and achieves it goals (sometimes too much).

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Tewhill,
Roy, here. I’m the fledgling editor of the podcast. I’m as concerned as you are with Actual Play Podcasts being boring. I take out long pauses and tangent conversations as best I can. I even make us sound SO much better by taking out as many “ums” and ahs" as possible. We have only recorded ONE episode and it’s really not ready for prime time. I learned that microphone placement is VERY important. :)

A few of us are loud talkers (mainly ME) and others aren’t. We also play with our dice too much. After a couple more trial runs… we ought to be ready for our NEXT Burning Wheel campaign.

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Tewhill,

Cool…I still want to play Sunder Skies (the book sits patiently on my shelf), but I have wanted to do a Burning Wheel game longer. That is why our BW game has flying ships (one of my favorite fantasy themes).

Regarding the podcast: actual play is probably not our preference for the very reasons you mentioned, but we are strapped for time and still get a lot of rules discussions in as we learn. In fact, I wish BW had more actual play podcasts, more for the rules discussions. The podgecast, they had a Burning Empires actual play cast that I found informative…

I listened to the Durham 3 a few years ago, and liked it…we may add a short post-mortem round-table podcast – for those who don’t want to listen to Roy playing with his dice. :)

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The podcasters that I have had contact did say that the technical details of recording are sometimes difficult. There a reason some people can make a living producing audio content.

The world of Sundered Skies is a pretty well constructed world and flying tall shops are, indeed, boss. However, I would warn you off the plot point campaign that is inside the source book. It’s a “hurry everything will be destroyed if we don’t act now!” scenario. I don’t know about you but the End of the World bores me to tears. I’d give the PC’s a sky skiff and let them get into trouble on their own.

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That is good advice, thanks. Have you tried any of the modules on the Triple Ace website?

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No, I wasn’t running that show and I’m pretty sure the GM doesn’t have those books.

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