Thursday, September 30, 2021

Ironsworn: Wolf and Cat, Log 10

  This is the 10th log of my Ironsworn solitaire campaign about Oddi Ice-Chosen. Character background and start of the narrative can be found at: Wolf and Cat, Log 1

Session length varies wildly. Some are multi-hour sessions in open evenings, others are 20-minute diversions over a lunch-break. 

Cast of Characters:

  • Oddi Ice-Chosen, my main PC. Abducted by a Firstborn sorceress as a child, only recently returning to the world of men, motivated by a terrible prophetic vision. Wears an enchanted wolf-skin. Storyweaver and occasional ritual spellcaster.
  • Sammutisel: Oddi's pet Cave Lion. 150 pounds, 4-inch fangs. 
  • Kasju Frystgrotta: The Firstborn sorceress that abducted Oddi and taught him magic.
  • Grassa Bitterloss: Oddi's mother. Recently reunited after 12 years.
  • Emelyn Firetop: Blacksmith. Survivor of the destruction of Oddi's hometown. 
  • Tern: Emelyn's younger brother. Werebear.
  • Myrgun Bitterblad: Oddi's sister. Currently missing in the Shatterwood.
  • Rygar Bitterblad: Oddi and Myrgun's recently deceased father. Grassa's ex-husband.

Session Log 10: (8/4/2021)

Oddi moves on from the bodies. He takes it on faith that Myrgun is not in the two graves. Even if she is, that would mean that people she led into this place continued on without her, so he would now have a responsibility to see them to safety if he can. Eitherway, he has to keep going.

Delve the Depths: Wits - Miss!

Oddi walks deeper into the Shatterwood. Bones litter the forest floor and skulls rest upon the old shattered trees. It's disturbing, and makes him think of the graves he decided not to touch. If there's any chance Myrgun is in there, maybe he should dig them up. Is it worse to disturb the rest of the recently slain, or to leave them in this horrid place. Oddi thinks back to what stories he knew of the Shatterwood before Kasju pulled him out of the lake and away to the north. As he walks, the Shatterwood grows denser around him, the trail harder to follow, choked with brambles and bones. He remembers that he and his sister weren't supposed to play in or near the Shatterwood, because there were tales of baleful ghost lights and...

That sound on the wind. Did someone just cry for help? He cocks his head and listens harder. A cry for sure, but defiant. The voice somehow familiar. Myrgun? There it is again, and she's not calling for help, she's shouting in anger. She must be battling the Broken. Oddi leaves the trail, and rushes through the underbrush in search of his sister. A sinister shadow procedes him, but he cannot see it clearly for the Gloom.

Reveal a Danger - 28 - "Denizen restores what was lost".   Denizen - 66 - Common - Gloom

Site Feature - 56 - Overgrown Path
This is my first-ever Scene Challenge. It's Dangerous, so roughly that means I'm hoping to get 5 Strong Hits before 4 Misses, using only Secure An Advantage and Face Danger.

Face Danger - Edge - Weak Hit - Progress + a minor complication

Oddi smashes through the brambles, soon losing sight of the trail. Sammutisel follows, it's ears folded back. It does not hear the illusory cries, but the great cat has a bad feeling about this.

Myrgun is barely visible in the thicket. She's shorter than Oddi had imagined. She swings their father's black blade about, cleaving brambles. Some answering force strikes back, and she parries desperately. He can't see much, but the ferocity and speed of the assault is alarming. Myrgun gives ground, falling away. He cannot see what is attacking her.  "Myrgun! Help is on the way! It's your brother, Oddi! Hold out till I'm beside you, then we'll fight back to back!"

Secure an Advantage - Edge - Weak Hit, and it's a "1", so only +1 momentum and my Wolf Pelt loses its charge!

Seeking to reach her faster, Oddi scrambles atop on of the half-trees. He sees her parries, and while he still can't tell who she fights, he sees that they wield a staff. A heavy wooden rod swings at her head, but she barely parries in time. Father's sword rattles in her hand, and flies beyond her grasp. Oddi leaps from the half-tree in the direction where her sword, his father's sword, was knocked. He clears the thorniest bramble patch, rolls, grabs the ebony blade, and springs to his feet. As soon as he clutches the Bitterblade, his pelt howls as the wolf spirit returns to the moon.

He spins around, looking for assailants. All he finds in Myrgun. She's so young, barely changed in 10 years and 2. "Have they fled? I have father's sword..."

"No!" she shouts defiantly, waving and pointing a tree branch at him. "You don't get father's sword! It's mine. I'm Myrgun Bitterblad! I'm carrying the family name, and the family sword, and I'll be defender of Forgotten Despair! Everything is mine, Oddi!"

Secure an Advantage - Heart - Miss! - Countdown goes to 2. Oddi loses 1 spirit, and learns a bitter truth

Anger flares up, and he feels his face flush. "That's not fair!" escapes his lips. He waves the sword at her like she does the branch at him. He shakes his head hard, to clear it. "Yes! Of course, I promised mother..."

"Fair doesn't matter, Oddi Lake-Chosen! It's already been decided. Dad says he knew it before we were born. It doesn't matter that you're a boy. It doesn't help that you're first. Dad promised. His first born child goes to the Thing in the Lake. You're just a sacrifice! I'm the family future!"

He waves what used to be a sword, but now it's a branch in his hand. "Wait -- what? No, I'm a, I'm the first born..." water wells up in the corner of his eye. "They wouldn't do that! You're lying!" He charges at her, swinging his stick wildly like a unskilled child imagining himself a swordsman.

Face Danger - Iron - Strong Hit! (Didn't expect that)

Their sticks crash and crack together. Oddi is two years older, and Myrgun hasn't yet had the growth spurt that often makes girls taller than boys for a few awkward years. He leverages his greater size with experience beyond his 9 years. The branches smash together again and again, and Myrgun stumbles to one knee trying to block his frantic powerful swings.

"Quit lying! Take it back! You're a liar, Myrgun! Mom and dad wouldn't sacrifice me! They love me!" His sister's stick snaps in half, bark and old lichen flying away in chips. "They loved me! Mom could never move on from what happened!" Myrgun is defenseless, cowering now with her arms up to protect her face. Oddi winds up for a massive two-handed swing.  "She felt so awful when they gave me to the thing beneath the lake!"

Secure An Advantage - Wits - Strong Hit! +2 momentum

He squeezes his eyes shut, and doesn't take the swing. Something's not right, here. Think, Oddi. You're not 9 any more. He looks about for signs of what devilry is afoot. Myrgun is nowhere. Sammutisel is watching from behind a tree trunk. He blinks and she's back, cowering.

"I'm sorry. Here, this sword is yours." He hunkers down on the ground near his sister, and grabs one of the hands she's sheltering behind. "I promised Grassa that I'd give the sword to you." He puts the stick in his sister's tiny hand, and it becomes their father's sword again.

Face Danger - Heart - Burns Momentum for a Strong Hit

"Stand up. I didn't mean to hurt you. I was just scared. What you said, it sounded like you really meant that. Did Dad really tell you that they are going to sacrifice me?"

She sniffles a few times. "On the spring moon." Her little eyes are bloodshot. "That's the cost of the sword. The Bitterblade will make him the greatest warrior in both Worlds, and he will lead the expedition to reclaim the Old World. He'll be king, and only for the small cost of his firstborn child. Rygar jumped at the chance."

Face Danger - Wits - Weak Hit - Progress, but also the third Countdown box

It stabs deep, because on some level he knows it's true. Oddi's legs go out, and he tumbles forward onto his knees. He can't stop shivering, and his wet clothes stick to his tiny body. A new linen shirt, his mother had just embroidered the cuffs and collar with fancy runes his child mind had not yet learned. His adult eyes see them now, and know them to be the signs of a gift to the gods. Could this be real? Did his parents truly give him to some monster beneath Bitter Lake? Trade him for a sword and a kingdom?

No, his father was never king. He looks around the empty shatterwood, only brambles and dead branches, and a flock of crows circling above. Come for some delicious eyeballs of a raving madman who thinks he's a child. Oddi covers his dripping face, covers the eyes that can never unsee.

The Gloom, circling as a murder,  feeds on his anguish, and tries to tease out more half-known truths and painful intuitions. This little one was meant for the lake, but somehow it survived. Could the Gloom and the Thing Beneath The Lake now come to some agreement? Surely, the Lake Monster must want to reclaim the sacrifice that was offered by Forgotten Despair.

Oddi tries to come to terms with what he's learned, and figure out what could be causing these visions. He thinks back on monsters from his childhood stories.

Face Danger - Wits - Weak Hit +Progress, + Countdown Complete,

The Glooms of the Deep Wilds.  This would fit with tales he had heard of such creatures. A sinister shadow roaming near graves and places where men go to die, feeding off their pain and misery. Oddi wracks his brain trying to remember how to break free of a Gloom's influence.

Beside him, 7-year-old Myrgun raises her night-black stick-sword in two hands above her head, like an executioner. "Father wanted you dead!"

Progress Roll - Strong Hit -

He recalled that a Gloom could fool you with illusions, but they always started somewhere potent and real. If couldn't feed you just any image, it had to be something you'd feared, or suspected, that which your conscious mind strives to deny. He remembered the tale of Harald the Helpful. In that saga, a Gloom trying to feed on the misery of a Prince's life in exile, brought to light a treachery near 30 years old. Instead of driving Jorgun Kin-Foe into despair, what it revealed lead to an injustice being redressed, and two estranged siblings finally finding peace. This could be a Gloom feeding these thoughts to me, Oddi realized. If so, I must be like Prince Harald the Helpful, and his brother Jorgun Kin-Foe.

Myrgun now stood above him, a warrior-woman of 9 and 10, ready to swing the ebon iron of the Bitterblade across his neck. Beside her stood Rygar and Grassa Bitterblad with blood on their hands.

"It's not your fault, Myrgun. You were a child. Grassa will have some explaining to do, but Myrgun you are blameless. The true fault was our father, and his ambition."

Reach a Milestone - I mark off 1 box of my "Save my family from the Bloodsick Warrior" Formidable Vow, and the first tick of my "Prophecy: I will place the mighty ruler on their pillar" Epic Vow.

I also fill in the undefined Background Bond that I had not filled in during Character Creation. Oddi has a previously unknown Bond to The Thing Beneath The Lake, whatever that is. This is probably not a healthy bond.

As the vision vanished, and the Gloom-cloud dissipated, Sammutisel skulked forward to make sure Oddi was okay. Oddi gives the loyal lion a vigorous scritch behind the ear. "You know who else isn't to blame for this mess, old friend?"

His relationship with Kasju Frystgrotta has always been fraught with complication and mixed emotion. Though his world view lacks an understanding of the phenomena we call Stockholm Syndrome, he could never be sure to what extent his feelings for her were genuine, and to what extent they were the function of some enchantment or glamour Kasju may have placed upon him. For most of his life the Firstborn Witch was his only friend that wasn't a Cave Lion. She was his instructor, his confidant, his guru, his role-model, his mistress and his master. She was also the cold-blooded bitch who'd taken him from his family, and made him her slave for 2 years and 10. When Emelyn expressed an interest in him, Oddi began to dream of what it would be to truly escape Kasju's influence. Now, he has to re-evaluate everything he knows about her. This cast all her actions in a new light... but it also raised so many more questions. What had she saved him from? What god or creature was he nearly sacrificed to? And why did she never tell him the truth about his parents? Surely the she-elf must have known that truth of their treachery would only strengthen the bond he had formed with his lone familial surrogate.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Ironsworn: Wolf and Cat, Log 9

 This is the 9th log of my Ironsworn solitaire campaign about Oddi Ice-Chosen. Character background and start of the narrative can be found at: Wolf and Cat, Log 1

Session length varies wildly. Some are multi-hour sessions in open evenings, others are 20-minute diversions over a lunch-break. 

Cast of Characters:

  • Oddi Ice-Chosen, my main PC. Abducted by a Firstborn sorceress as a child, only recently returning to the world of men, motivated by a terrible prophetic vision. Wears an enchanted wolf-skin. Storyweaver and occasional ritual spellcaster.
  • Sammutisel: Oddi's pet Cave Lion. 150 pounds, 4-inch fangs. 
  • Kasju Frystgrotta: The Firstborn sorceress that abducted Oddi and taught him magic.
  • Emelyn Firetop: Blacksmith. Survivor of the destruction of Oddi's hometown. 
  • Tern: Emelyn's younger brother. Werebear.
  • Myrgun Bitterblad: Oddi's sister. Currently missing in the Shatterwood.
  • Fluugs the Tree-Troll: A mythical creature who, legend says, cursed the Shatterwood
  • The Twisty Man: a malevolent entity that was manipulating young Tern.

 Log of Session 9: (8/3/2021)

As Oddi is heading towards the Shatterwood, he wishes that he had asked Tern what he did with Oddi's satchel. Oddi'd dropped it so that his food might distract the bear, but, assuming he didn't just eat the entire bag, it'd be nice to have access to the medines, maps, etc there. It's worth a quick search in the part of the Loneliwood where Tern had been chasing him.

Secure an Advantage:  Strong Hit, make another move at +1.

Resupply at +1: Strong Hit. Supply back up to 5.

I decide that though he found his bag, and most his equipment is still there (though some of it obviously messed with) one thing that's missing is the map to the Frozen Cave of Zhan. Oddi can probably get back easily enough, but this hand-drawn route map might prove problematic later, if it ended up in the hands of the twisty man or Fluugs the tree-troll. We'll just leave that dangling as potential follow-up for later. I do decide to roll a Goal for whoever may have ended up with it...

Ask The Oracle - Character Goal:  Cure an ill

So maybe that means that Tern's got it. But it could also be Twisty or Fluugs trying to overcome something, or some beneficial spirit or other actor Tern didn't mention who is trying to help him.  Or - and this is cool - maybe Tern has the map, but give it to Emelyn, and she decides to achieve 2 goals at once. Heal her brother, and confront Kasju. That's got potential.

I'm at Health 4, Spirit 4, Supply 5. Enough to go adventuring.

Discover a Site: The Shatterwood is a Dangerous Ravaged Tanglewood.

Oddi prowls through the Shatterwood. The trees are broken, jagged, and mostly swordbelt-height. For every live tree rising tall and dotted with new green or blossoms, there are three old ones, splintered and dead for decades. The miniature half-trees are wringed with a dark red stain around their roots. Brambles and itching weeds grow among the wreckage, but never atop the shattered wood or the red soil. The dead old corpse-trees bear Fluugs' curse, the seven damnable syllables Fluugs the tree-troll uttered when Sursa Trade-Star forsook him.

Sammutisel curls his nose and sticks out his tongue at the scent of the corrupted soil. He skulks between the dead trees and marks many of them, but quickly runs dry.

Delve the Depths: Wits: I roll 4, 4, and 4. So that's either a complication w/ reveal a Danger, or I can burn Momentum to both Mark Progress and Find an Opportunity. Momentum spent.

Feature: ill-fated victims

We come upon the signs of a struggle. The bodies of several have Broken left to rot. There's also two fresh graves. Could they have been two of the men that rode out with Myrgun Bitterblad? Or is my sister herself in one of those graves?

Gather Information: Wits (+1 from Find An Opportunity)   Weak Hit, +2 momentum (1 via Opportunity)

A rocky bluff rises out from the shatterwood, the near side is a cliff 8 to 15 feet high, the back side is a slope. The signs of the fight are clear. A pack of Broken waited quietly in defillade, bellies pressed against the slope until Myrgun's party passed the cliff. Then they sprung up, and leapt into ambush from above. So the Broken aren't the thoughtless madmen I'd been told they are. They have tactics, and patience. You wouldn't guess it from the looks of them. Teeth filed to points, hair dyed and spiked with blood, skin painted pierced and scarred. Oddi looks closely at the bodies. Among the painted, tattooed and scarred sigils, there's a common recurring theme. One symbol that shows up again and again, some sort of tower surrounded in water. The waves around it are fierce, giving the impression that the structure was either sinking into the water, being swamped by a sudden flood, or maybe rising up out of the water suddenly. It strikes him as clearly the most important icon of their belief system. He wonders for a moment that they probably have phenomenal stories about it, and then reminds himself these are the same foe that slew his father. Their stories will die with them.

Oddi contemplates digging up the two graves to make sure Myrgun isn't in them, but doesn't want to disrespect the dead, or prevent them reaching their rewards. Someone cared enough to bury them, but left the Broken for the bugs and the birds.


Sunday, September 19, 2021

5 Parsecs: Patron vs Rival vs Quest Analysis

 This is about Patron Missions in Five Parsecs From Home (3rd Edition). Because of a conversation I was having recently in the 5 Parsec Discord, I did a little bit of analysis to figure out just how much better a Patron Mission is than a Rival Fight, and then followed that up with a comparison to Quest Missions. 

Basically, you want to be doing Patron missions every chance you can.

The Patron gives you Danger Pay, which you get even if you fail the Mission. Danger pay ranges from "+1 credit" up to "+3 credits and roll twice, picking the higher die when rolling for mission pay".  Every once in a while, a failed Patron Mission will actually pay better than a successful Rival Fight. It's not common, but it is a possibility.

The Patron job also has an 80% of having a notable sight, while the Rival Fight only has a 60% chance. The distribution of notable sights that convert directly to cash goes up as well,  36.6% for the Patron Mission vs just 23.3% for the Rival Fight. 

The Patron job is also eligible for the bonus of "count a roll of 1 or 2 as a 3" in the Get Paid section, and the Rival fight isn't.  While the overall increase there is small, it's noteworthy in that it's eliminating the worst results, and effectively establishing a minimum payment, much as how Danger Pay does.

Basically, a successful Rival fight averages 3.883 credits, and a successful Patron mission averages 6.2632 credits. While that is less than +2.4 credits difference, it is roughly a 61% increase in your revenue for the turn. Over time that adds up. Also, consider that the minimum payment on a Rival Fight is 0 if you Lose and 1 if you Win, whereas the minimum payment on a Patron Mission is 1 if you lose, and 3 if you Win. So it's just a safer bet all around. 

Keep in mind that your Upkeep on your Crew is probably ~1 or 2 credits, and your Interest / Upkeep on your ship is probably another ~1 or 2 credits. So a Rival Fight, especially early in the campaign when you still owe a lot on your ship, may only be roughly break-even for the Turn even if you Succeed. A Patron Mission will really only be break-even on a Failure, and should almost always turn a profit on a Win.

Moreover, that 6.26 credits estimate is intentionally ignoring anything that gives other tangible-but-not-quite-cash boosts, such as anything you can get from a Benefits roll if you get lucky enough to qualify for Patron Benefits on that Mission. Patron Benefits might be an extra roll on the Trade Table, or an extra Loot, or "Health Insurance" that provides two free Turns of Recovery for KO'd characters. That Health Insurance essentially has a value of 8 credits, so it alone is worth more than the maximum payout for a Rival Fight.

Patron Missions are also superior to the payout on any Quest Mission short of the final Mission of a given Quest (which gets bonus Loot which is hard to assign a strict value to). Because it's possible for various random charts (Trade Table, Battlefield Finds, etc) to give you Quest Rumors, it's actually most beneficial/strategic to ignore your Quests for several Turns until you've picked up so many Rumors that the Quest will automatically only last two Missions. Quests don't expire, so there's really no drawback to letting them "mature" before focusing on them. 

Quests have two main benefits, both of which only pay-out on the final Mission of the Quest Chain. That final step in a Quest gets you about +1.77 more credits than an Opportunity Mission would, but here's the catch: Danger Pay is roughly +1.6 more credits than an Opportunity Mission. So while that final Quest payout works out to only about +0.17 more credits than a Patron Mission, the need to spend at least 2 Missions on the Quest chain makes the overall Quest chain income actually slightly less than just doing only Patron Missions in that same number of Turns.

The other pay-out on Quests is that they give you extra Loot rolls, which are hard to compare and contrast directly. The random nature of Loot rolls, and the weird way 5 Parsecs handles shopping, does mean that sometimes a Quest will give you something that you've never had access to in any of your previous Turns. That is excellent when it happens, but it's far from guaranteed, and again your best bet is to hold off until you've gathered enough rumors so that you can complete the entire Quest in just 2 Missions. The final Mission gives you 3 Loot, and any normal Patron / Opportunity / Quest Mission gives 1 Loot for a Win. So if the Quest chain is properly managed so that it only takes 2 Turns, then you're getting 4 Loot overall, basically double normal. As soon as you add a 3rd Turn chasing the steps of the Quest, you're not only scoring less than double-Loot, you're also losing money overall.

 Of course, all this number-crunching and bean-counting may be missing the most important observation of them all: The point of Five Parsecs may not be to "win" the campaign. I mean, sure you don't want to just fail Turn after Turn and watch your crew die off one-by-one, but ultimately if your goal is just amass a bunch of credits, that's probably pretty dry and boring. Pursuing nothing but Patron Missions can be fun, but eventually you may want to try out other types of battles. A Rival Fight where you're defending your ship may not pay much in Credits, but it does have a certain amount of visceral fun and excitement. 

Once you've played enough Patron Jobs to pay off your ship loan, you may actually want to take on sub-optimal Missions just to get the maximum play variety out of the game. There are certain scenarios that don't ever show up in Patron Jobs, so you may want to play an Opportunity Mission, Quest Mission, or Rival Fight just to experience everything Five Parsecs has to offer. (On the other hand, quite a few of these other Mission scenarios say "if you drive off the enemy, you can <insert mission objective here> at your leisure, so if your playstyle is aggressive, or your PC Crew have strong ranged attacks, all these scenarios may end up being very close to the default experience.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Ironsworn: Wolf and Cat, Log 8

 This is the 8th log of my Ironsworn solitaire campaign about Oddi Ice-Chosen. Character background and start of the narrative can be found at: Wolf and Cat, Log 1

Session length varies wildly. Some are multi-hour sessions in open evenings, others are 20-minute diversions over a lunch-break. 

Cast of Characters:

  • Oddi Ice-Chosen, my main PC. Abducted by a Firstborn sorceress as a child, only recently returning to the world of men, motivated by a terrible prophetic vision. Wears an enchanted wolf-skin. Storyweaver and occasional ritual spellcaster.
  • Sammutisel: Oddi's pet Cave Lion. 150 pounds, 4-inch fangs. 
  • Kasju Frystgrotta: The Firstborn sorceress that abducted Oddi and taught him magic.
  • Grassa Bitterloss: Oddi's mother. Recently reunited after 12 years.
  • Emelyn Firetop: Blacksmith. Survivor of the destruction of Oddi's hometown. 
  • Tern: Emelyn's younger brother. Werebear.
  • Myrgun Bitterblad: Oddi's sister. Currently missing in the Shatterwood.
  • Rygar Bitterblad: Oddi and Myrgun's recently deceased father. Grassa's ex-husband.

Log 8 (Date: 8/1/2021.)

Reminders: Don't forget my wolf-pelt is charged, so +1 on Edge. I've gotten really lucky so far, never rolling a "1" on Edge.  

I've also adjusted the character sheet again, trying to make it better match my ideas of who Oddi is, and not leave him incapable of doing the sorts of heroics I'd like the game to be about. I built him really poorly at first, with stats spread all over the place, and his best stats not at all synced with the Assets I'd taken at character generation, or the likely Moves he's going to rely on in conflicts. 

Stats had initially been: Edge 2, Heart 1, Iron 3, Shadow 1,  Wits 2. Mostly because didn't yet understand how anything works in the game.

Then in Session 3 I changed it to Edge 2, Heart 1, Iron 2, Shadow 1, Wits 3, because I figured out that Iron isn't Constitution, it's more like both Strength and Melee To-Hit. This array better represented my head-canon of the character, but unfortunately made him useless in a fight. Wits only helps in fights when you use it to Enter The Fray, but I'd chosen and Asset that gives me a bonus if you use Edge to Enter The Fray. Also, his Heart 1 was crippling his ability to use his Storyweaver Asset. This stat-line had worse than zero synergy with my Assets.

So now I'm changing it to  Edge 3, Heart 2, Iron 1, Shadow 1, Wits 2. This will hurt his spellcasting a bit, but I can only do that at Camp, anyway. The change will require me to seek out situations where I can roll Edge in a fight, but overall I'll battle better if I work at narrating combats carefully, and I think it might be fun to roleplay/describe the maneuvering this will require. Most importantly, I will no longer be rolling Heart 1 on all my fun Storyweaver attempts. I'm a lot less likely to get run out of town, or kicked off the caravan, again. Having two low a "charisma" to Sojourn is really punishing.

Back to the story:

Oddi picks up the collar, a piece of worked hide, with runes burnt into it. It is clearly sized for a child, and would strangle an adult who tried to fasten it around their neck. But it thrums with dark magic, that no child should be able to make. Oddi interrupts their tearful reunion with some pressing questions. "You have a hexen-collar. Where did you get this magic?"

As he asks, Sammutisel stalks and paces, thinking it can slice the small boy before he becomes a bear again. Oddi has to tell his cat to behave to behave.

"Tell us where you learned this? Did you make it yourself?"

Gather Information - Wits - Weak - On a weak hit, the information complicates your quest or introduces a new danger. Envision what you discover (Ask the Oracle if unsure), and take +1 momentum.
Tern tells him that it was given to him by "the twisty man". Oddi barrages him with questions, trying to learn what that means. Apparently "the twisty man" has been showing up in Tern's dreams for years, whenever he gets sick. Tern says he's disfigured and monstrous, "like me", but can't seem to provide details. The twisty man promised to make Tern stronger, and healthier. He gave Tern this collar, and said it would make him stronger. It does, but when he's wearing it, he can't think straight, and he can't remember how to take it off. A few minutes ago, when looking at Oddi, Tern was filled with bloody rage, and he doesn't know why.

Oddi is of course troubled by this, and reflects on the very tales he was telling just recently of Zhan the Twisted, and how his blood transformed Proud Hoarfrost into a bear. "Why did the 'twisty man' give you this? Was there any other part of the deal?"

Tern says "I had to promise him."

"Promise him what?"

"That I would use it to kill someone."

Emelyn's eyes are filled with panic. "What? Tern, why would you say that? You don't want to kill anyone!"

Tern: "I know. I don't want to. It just, it just hurts so much, all the time. I can hardly breathe, and it hurts if I run, or try to play with the other kids. When I'm a bear, it's all better. I'm tall and strong, and don't feel any pain. Plus, it's not like I killed her, anyway. I tried, twice, but she was too strong."

Grassa hears this, and grabs him. Oddi has to pull his mother's hands off the child. "Myrgun!" she says, her voice cracking. "Twice last winter, Myrgun was attacked by a bear, barely escaped with her life. After the second time, she and Rygar organized a hunting party, and searched the Loneliwood and even the Shatterwood for it, but never found its den. You tried to kill my daughter!  Why are you trying to kill my daughter?"

Tern says, he doesn't really know, but the twisty man wants her dead. He made Tern vow on the village pillar to slay all the children of Rygar Bitterblad, and then he'll never be sick again.

There's an uncomfortable silence, and the three adults share horrified looks. Tern doesn't seem to know that Oddi is Myrgun's brother. He's a child, who has been manipulated by some sort of spirit or firstborn. The future will be hard for him. The best thing he could do right now is forsake his vow, but in this culture that's not really the lesson you want a child to learn. Damned either way.

Test Your Bond - Strong Hit - +1 Spirit

For a heartbeat, Emelyn is terrified that Oddi might take up arms against Tern... but the thought never crossed my mind. Instead, I kneel down before the boy, and look him in his eyes. "You have been sorely used by this twisty monster. It is cruel and unfair. I promise you, Tern, I will find a way to free you from this burden you bear, to free you from your curse and collar. You will have a bright future, safe from the meddling of demons. Be strong. Do not kill anyone. Killing will only strengthen the trap the twisty man has set for you. You are not a monster. Just hold out a few days longer, while I work to solve this."

Then he stands and looks at Emelyn. "Tern needs a community, to help him be strong. I am kicked out of Sword Hope, but you didn't have to come with me.  Go back to the town, and do what you can to give him a normal life. My sister is in danger, the family sword captured, and Forgotten Despair has yet to be avenged. When these immediate dangers have been answered, I will seek out a way to break this spell on him. The answer may be in the  Frozen Cave of Zhan, as Kasju knows many secrets of the Firstborn."

Emelyn smiles, but does not voice her hope that such a trip might involve two days of apprenticeship, to solve other problems they share. Nor does Oddi voice his fear that he may have to bring Tern to Kasju to save him.

"Take these," she says, unbuckling the strap of scabbards that holds her throwing knives. Oddi gives her a quizzical look, and starts to shake his head. "Listen to me, Oddi Ice-Chosen. I've seen you fight. You are fast, and skilled, and your are strong. But you are not so strong as the Broken men." He begins to protest, but she puts a hand to his mouth. "No one is. They have the rage of madness. You're going in to danger, and I can't go with you because Tern needs me.  Don't let them get their hands on you. You're good with these at a distance. Sink them deep in the madmen before they reach you. Kill them beyond arms length whenever you can, and don't try to wrestle people who are bigger than you. Your cunning is stronger than their rage. Pick your fights. There's no shame in running when the odds are against you. Come back to me in one piece." She moves her hand, and kisses him hard. Human lips are so much warmer and softer than those of Kasju.
"I will keep the collar for now," Oddi says before they part, "so that he's not tempted to use it again."

Then Emelyn picks up her brother and carries him towards Sword Hope.

"You should go with them," I say to Grassa. "Your arm is still in that sling."

Compel - Heart - Weak Hit, +1 momentum, asks a favor in return.

"Lose my son a second time? I'd rather not. Besides, you are bleeding. That little boy hurt my little boy."

I give her a very stern look. "I should have let you fight 'that little boy' again, mother. Then you'd have both arms in slings."

"You talk to your mother like that? Let me tend your wounds before I go. And I'll need you to do something for me, too."

I nod.

"Things aren't good between your sister and I. She, Myrgun, I, well..." She rummages through the sack of supplies she'd swiped from the Healer's house for bandaging cloths. "Rygar said I was too focused on the one we'd lost. Myrgun took his side. I don't know how she'll respond to you riding in to save her. Maybe she'll be happy to see you, like I am. If so, you could put in a good word on my behalf." She emerges with

"Of course I will. You didn't have to ask."

"Oh, that's not the ask. You mentioned the Bitterblade. It was your father's sword, and you're right to want it back in the family. But it's not yours."

I scowl at her. "Nonsense."

"He raised her. Myrgun. While I obsessed over you, dreamt of your return, he focused on the child that was still with us. He raised your sister as he would have you, taught her everything he learned in the war. She's a shield-maiden and a mistress of the blade. The best in the village, better than any in Sword Hope, better even than your father, Rygar was always so proud to say. Now she's headed into the Shatterwood, with a 2 day head-start on you. It might be she needs saving, or you'll fight side-by-side as equals, or might be she'll save you. Regardless, that sword has been promised to her. Rygar said it many times, vowed it in Iron even before he and I divorced. If you try to take it from her, she will hate you, more than she hates me. Please, I lost everything but you, and I'm too old to have more children. I can't have you and your sister at each other's throats."

"If you're so estranged, she might not even-"

"Promise me." Silence. "Promise."


"Swear it, on one of those knives that beautiful blacksmith just gave you."

I did so. When I was done:

"She's obviously smitten with you, that Emelyn. She's got good hips, by the way, labor will be easy for her, she can give you a family of your own. She's skilled as well, a good earner. You like her, right?"


Heal - Strong Opportunity!  (This was a heck of a lucky roll. All three dice rolled 1's, so despite my action total being just a "2" I actually score big.) +2 Health, and I'm going to allow and an immediate Make Camp roll without it costing me a night, to represent the bonus.

Make Camp - Strong Hit - +1 Health and +1 Spirit.  I'm on a streak!

Oddi sees them safely to within sight of Sword Hope, and then he doubles-back toward the Shatterwood.

Monday, September 13, 2021

A Horse Of Another Timbre, Log 18.

  The following is the campaign log for the 18th session of my current Amber Diceless RPG campaign, entitled A Horse Of Another Timbre. One of my players keeps a log of the scenes, and another maintains a quote list.  As usual, I have combined them with a few extra notes of my own after the fact.  I post them here several months after, which allows me to add in a few little clarifications without worrying too much about spoiling future plotlines for my players.

You can also Start from Session #1 or check out the index of my Amber articles.

The PCs are:

  •     Dalziel, son of Prince Bleys of Amber. A scientist.
  •     Maarit, daughter of Princess Sand. An orphan with a magic pendulum.
  •     Medore, nonbinary orphan of Princess Dierdre .
  •     Spinturnix, (aka Nix), son of Prince Julian. Grew up in Forest Arden.
  •     David Weyreth is a retired officer from the militaries of Amber.
  •     Abn Haram, the human-shaped son of Lady Nykae of Chaos, and the long-dead Prince Osric of Amber.  

Most of the NPCs are from the novels, such as Rolf, who is canonically a guard in the dungeons of Castle Amber. (You may have noticed that the guard's name is quite similar to my own, Rolfe.) Rolf works with another canonical dungeon guard, Roger (whose name is the same as that of the Amber novel's author, Roger Zelazny.) Every time those two show up, the game gets really meta.

Some NPCs are unique to this campaign, such as Bellantine, an "Acquisitions Specialist" from a world named "Oberon's Loupe". Belle was created by a player in his answer to an Amber "Character Quiz" question... but it's slowly become clear that there's more going on beneath the surface here than what was laid out by that player in that Quiz answer. As it turns out, if you name your Archive/Library world "Oberon's Loupe", the GM may just decide that Oberon himself had a hand in the creation of everything there.


Campaign log: 26 April 2021, turn by turn

Into the Randomverse

Scene 1a: Medore returns from Tir-na Nog'th with Corwin

Corwin takes Medore down to the dungeon and demands four lanterns and the keys to the Western Tunnels. When the guards (including Rolf and Roger) refuse, the guards let him know that the King has forbidden it (and taken precautions). Corwin, like Tom Petty, won't back down. He demands the lanterns and then heads on his way anyhow.

GM's self-referential sidebar: Random put 6 guards at the top of the stairs, including Roger and Rolf, with instructions.

Corwin rounds the corner and says "Gentlemen, we'll need 4 lanterns, and the key ring for western tunnels."

Rolf says: "We can't do that sir. His Majesty the King told us to let none pass, especially not Prince Corwin. He told us that if Corwin looks like he's going to resort to violence, we should pre-empt it by telling him these 3 facts... I took notes:

1) He, His Majesty the King, took the key to Corwin's old cell, so it's not worth the effort. He said you'd understand the meaning and significance of that. I assume that's why you wanted the western tunnel ring.

2) Once the process has begun, the Cards will be temporarily deactivated as a defense mechanism to prevent anyone interfering with the limnal efforts, so that too is a dead end.  -- Now, in regards to this, I didn't think at the time to ask if he meant Limnal which would mean his efforts have something to do with lakes or reservoirs, which seems unlikely given there's none nearby, or if he meant the homophone Limnal which would mean his efforts involve drawing or are like an illustration in some way, or the near-homophone Lim-i-nal which relates to thresholds or boundaries. He was in a hurry so a verbal contraction is possible, and he had already told us that you'd understand the meaning of fact 1.  Plus he was visibly angry at the time, and fact 3 was rather attention grabbing, so I missed the opportunity to request a clarification on fact 2...

Roger interrupts: "Narrative and pacing, Rolf. Prince Corwin wants the story, not your world-building minutia."

3) Sorry, I go a little overboard sometimes. Fact 3 then: His Majesty the King asks you to respect his wishes. It's his life to risk, and he feels he owes the universe this attempt. He refused to elaborate on in what way or towards what end his life was being endangered. I, we, tried, and he said he didn't have time to explain, but in about an hour we should ask someone who'd been outside. Have you been outside?

Medore asks what the plan is. Corwin reveals that the plan is to stop Random from killing himself, traveling by the shortcut in the dungeons. Medore mentions Dworkin's Cave, and this spooks Corwin, who now has to puzzle out whether or not this entire situation is some clever scheme that Medore has hatched. Medore invokes his mother Deirdre to suggest he should help. Corwin demands the truth of how Medore knew about Dworkin's cave. Medore reveals some but not all of what he knows. Medore has to try and persuade Corwin to let him come along to meet Dworkin, offers all the information he knew. Corwin is intrigued by these details, and invites Medore to stay.

Next is the door. Medore tries a spell that doesn't work. Magic seems to be "off." They finally break the door down and find a prison cell (Corwin's old cell?), but the path out doesn't work. Corwin seems sad, leads Medore back toward the staircase, sadly. Corwin mopes. Medore shames Corwin and eventually they go back down the stairs. They go back into a dank back part of the dungeon, where Corwin traces an ancient illustration on a wall, asks for Medore's guarantee that he won't kill Random, then disappears.  Medore follows into a rainy terror world with a huge storm.

GM's Clarification: In case it was missed, the first room Corwin led Medore to was intentionally not the right place. Corwin was for a time, really on guard against Medore. Medore had let it slip that they knew about Primal Pattern Land, which raised the possibility that Medore was trying to trick Corwin into helping her gain access to that place, at a time when Random would be very vulnerable. Wary about that, Corwin tried to give Medore the false impression that this secret passage into the Primal Pattern had been destroyed. Only after Medore called him on his bullshit, did Corwin cave in and take Medore to the real place. I wasn't sure from the text above if that was understood.

Scene 2a: Abn Haram complains about a beautiful place

He asks the Oberon's Loupe supervisor for a card catalogue, but they don't have one. He waits for Bellantine to return, and the pages return to him regularly. Abn Haram sends the pages off on wild goose chases, and they keep returning with the books he is asking for.

Scene 3a: Nix and Fiona go Into the Woods

Fiona pays attention to the message in the clouds, so does Nix. Fiona says she wants to leave so Nix and Fiona go through a "rainbow smear" (and a sense of freefall)  Fiona grabs Nix's arm and pulls him through a card to Nix's favorite reading nook on Oberon's Loupe.  She gives him the card. Nix recalls the end of the Black Road War as having something similar to Random's message.

Scene 2b/3b: Abn Haram and Nix meet

Nix goes looking for pages, meets up with [Bellentine]. Belle tells Nix that there is a secret collection (the FOAMBARITE? FAUXMBERITE?) of books that was commissioned by Oberon long ago. The books from this collection are sequestered in the vault, which is administered by Armistaud delaCroix St.Ambrose, another collector. Someone has been trying to find out a lot about the family.

Belle leads Nix to Abn Haram. Nix and Haram exchange pleasantries and talk about Haram's purpose, which is to visit the library to learn about IF I WERE KING by Random and about David from military history. Nix starts to lead Abn Haram to the part of the library where Amber Royal books would be, when they stop by the Acquisitions room, which Nix tells Haram he cannot visit, but Alsalock whispers to Haram that the books he wants are in there.

SScene 2c/3c: Random's voice appears in the sky and a storm starts.

Nix sets Haram up in a suite of rooms, sets up Jobber in the stables, and they agree to meet for breakfast to look over the books just added to the collection. Abn Haram heads back to his suite, where he tries to conjure a book and finds the magic shaky, then gets up to other misdeeds. Nix meets a sobbing page, who thinks the king is dead. Nix heads off for dinner with Fiona.

Scene 4a: David, Maarit, and Dalziel, oh my!

The three are stuck in the castle, with the storm raging outside. They discuss going through the magic door in the wall. ... Maarit leads them to the door behind the tapestry (in the Turquoise Dining Room), which Dalziel opens but there's just a wall behind the door. Maarit opens the door and finds a raging hurricane blasting on the other side of the door.

Dalziel tries to use his pattern lens to center his perspective and look down at the pattern from the rocks outside Dworkin's cave. The center of the pattern is anchored to the ground, but the rest of the pattern is whipping around, shifting about. The storm is passing through the rock of the cave, as if superimposed over the cave.

David felt a sense of someone watching him while Maarit was doing her magic stuff. He detects that Medore and Corwin are coming through the storm. Dalziel tries to use his tarot for Medore, finds the Tarot cards unresponsive. Dalziel powers through to make a connection.

Scene 1b: Medore and Corwin get wet

Medore and Corwin struggle through the fierce storm, from room to room and door to door. Medore realizes that they're being watched for a bit. Corwin draws his sword and the filligree on the blade separates and dances around. Medore senses the watcher return, calls out "who's there?" and hears a growl.

As Corwin steps away to prepare for combat, Medore feels a magical power, like the pattern. Corwin exerts himself and leads them through the storm, then they find themselves face to face with the many-eyed dragon, Blinky.  Corwin's sword calms down, then the storm does too.

They find themselves face to face with Random. Medore secretly tries to make a connection with their mother's card, planning to use their compact to show mom what's going on with Corwin and Random. As Medore tries to call their mother, they receive a call instead. Medore pulls Dalziel through the card.

GM's clarification: Nope. Corwin shouts "Random" repeatedly, but he's just trying to find him. Random is not at the Pattern.

Scene 2d: Abn Haram violates the trust imbued in him by the earnest library guardians

Abn Haram goes to the door of the acquisitions room, sneaking to avoid being spotted. Two library denizens are eluded, distracted by an argument about Random's message in the sky. Haram opens the door and befuddles the person in that room. He searches the room for a secret passage or hidden door. He finds a bookshelf door, which pops open, the latch breaking in the process.

Haram makes his way down the secret stairway, carefully. There are two doors. The first is a heavy door protected by runes and sigils, embued with magic (but currently weakened). Abn Haram tries to use conjuring to "heal" the heavy door and remove the sigils, but gets hit with a "live wire" of magical protection, which was also weakened by the wonky magic of the world.

Through the unprotected door, Haram finds a massive trove of books, like the Warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Abn Haram finds a deck of Tarot cards hidden behind a shelf and takes it. He leaves and checks behind the other door where he finds just a blank wall.

Scene 3d: Nix and Fiona have a nice meal

Nix and Fiona have dinner and talk about the strange things going on. Fiona offers warnings that all people have hidden faces, she says sometimes you might think you know someone, only to find that they are something else entirely underneath. This can happen even with your closest confidants, or someone with whom you shared a womb, or it can happen with someone you barely know because they spent their days far away playing with their boats. They worry about what's going on with Julian. They decide that when the universe is finished being rewritten, they can do some spells to try and find him, though pushing too hard on a card can be bad too. She talks cryptically about two times when this has happened. The GM says this is important.

On the topic of using cards during the storm, she says not only is it dangerous because the cards might "detune", but also that "the universe is full of cages and cells and pentacles, and you never know what might come out if you rattle the bars too hard."

Fiona and Nix detect a shift in magic that is worrying. They discuss how the pages are misinterpreting the message Random left in the sky, especially Derin duPont St.Peter and Nix tells the pages to keep an eye out for anything strange. They decide to try and find the hidden archive being collected by the collectors. Fiona detects it in a sub-basement lower than she'd ever gone in the library.

Nix has a squad of guards meet at the circulation desk and takes her to the blueprints room to find the archive on those plans.

Scene 1c/4b: Medore and Dalziel join Corwin on the field with the pattern

The pattern is changing or changed a bit. Dalz and Medore follow Corwin to the outside as he shouts for Random. Dalziel goes up to get a view of the Pattern from his favorite ridge. There's clearly nothing on the Pattern, not the Jewel of Judgment, and certainly not the body of a dead King. Medore tries to quietly call Deirdre, but there's no answer.  Corwin is not happy to see Dalziel here, but Dalz claims to be working as the King's Minister of Science, so they don't come to blows. Corwin tries Random's card, but no answer. He tries Vialle's card, also no answer. Dalziel says that's what he was afraid of. "What, you think something's happened to both of them?" No, Dalziel thinks Vialle has been turned into a unicorn. Corwin says it's nonsense. He starts telling them that he no longer trusts Tir-na Nog'th because of something he saw up there, but Medore cuts him off with a lie about how painful it all is, the implication being that the unicorn may have died on the Pattern.

The Pattern here looks a little different than they'd seen it last. Medore thinks maybe it's a different shape then when she walked it in Tir-na Nog'th. Dalziel thinks its the right shape but the wrong color by just a shade or two. Corwin says it looks the way it did in his youth. (But any player who has read the books knows Corwin was not here in his youth.) They make a few conjectures about what Random did.

Corwin says "this was a terrible storm, like when Dad did this... but when I made my own, it was all cherry blossoms and old memories, not a storm. Why is this different, and what did Random do?" Dalziel asks Corwin for more info. He says he has his own universe, and can walk to it, but it's uncomfortable crossing the boundary. He says that ever since he made that, this Universe keeps trying to reject him. When he's in the land of his birth, there's a constant pressure as if reality were trying to push him away, and he has to fight against it at all times.

Dalziel mentions Rebma is gone, and Corwin needs to see this with his own eyes. But he's not willing to leave them alone here with the Primal Pattern. Dalz and Medore HATE this, but he makes them leave with him by way of the trump to the Muster Field in Amber.

In the field, Corwin notices a particular statue is missing. It's a commemoration of the Xandria campaign (see Old Wars). So it could be Random editing things out to remove some of Amber's imperialism, or it could be Random waving a rude finger at Caine who ascended to the Admiralty in that war. Dalziel makes a legit complaint about Amber's many genocides, and it hits a nerve. Corwin looks like he's about to punch him, so Dalz shuts up and backs off.

They walk, and after a bit Corwin says "no, you're right, I am a monster. I fought against Hitler but with in other wars alongside others who were just as were awful." He then paraphrases Robert E Lee, which neither PC has the context to decode in-character. Mopey Corwin suggests the universe is right to push him away, and maybe he should leave. "I should go tend to my own garden, rather than file endless complaints about other people's horticultural skills." Dalz and Medore tell him to stop being so melodramatic.

They walk across town, down to the beach.  Medore slips off to releive herself in the woods, but actually calls Deirdre instead, and actually gets her this time. Medore conveys what's happened, including that Corwin lied. Deirdre is suspicious and asks if it's possible Corwin intentionally failed to get to Random in time. Medore's assessment is that Corwin was just being too paranoid and that wasted time, but that Corwin was legitimately trying to help/save/dissuade Random.

As they approach the double falls where the Faiella-Bionin used to be, Dalziel turns on the Pattern Lens.

Scene 4c/5a: David and Maarit explore The Grand Stair and The Cave

A custodian mops up the turquoise dining room. Maarit goes to change clothes again. David spies on Jinna the Scullion, who is clearly trying to stay near the dining nook to keep an eye on the goings on. Is she just curious, or is she someone's agent? It's unclear. Maarit returns, David intimidates Jinna into leaving, Maarit opens the door.  It's less foggy to her eyes now, but inpenetrable to David's. Maarit guides David by the hand into The Grand Stair. The steps are wet, there's no handrails, it would be very easy for them to murder eachother with just a little shove.

David asks about the fog. "Can you see through it because you're an Amberite?"  

Maarit says "Maybe, but it could just be because I've been here before."

David asks "Is this how Amberites walk between shadow worlds?"

Maarit says "No." but doesn't elaborate.

Her pendant guides her to the platform with the four colorful doors, which no longer has the wine rack, table, chairs, or bloodstain. Good storm, that.

They enter the Oddly-Colored Castle, noting how it's similar to, but painfully incongruous with, the dungeons of Amber. The Pendant knows the way to the cave, which is good because Maarit couldn't find it on her own, this place is just too disorienting.

In the cave, the lanterns are out, and all is damp, but there's some light at the far end. Maarit can tell she's probably missed the door to the apartments stumbling about in the dark. At the cave mouth, a huge dragon with many eyes stands in the way, growling. Blinky, we meet again...

Scene 2e: Abn Haram's exit

Abn Haram leaves up the stairs with his set of abandoned forgotten cards. He contemplates trying to fix the secret door latch with conjuration, but it will take over 5 minutes so he decides against it. In the acquisitions room, the man he befuddled with entropy is crawling around on the floor looking for something. Abn Haram exits, and starts walking away casually. His plan is to stash the card deck he got, then go to the Amber History section that Nix had told him about, and be there loudly and prominently to cover his activities. 

The Quotes Of Chaos:

His majesty said not to let anyone through, especially Prince Corwin. -Guard Rolfe

Fact Three? - Medore

 “She definitely would do it if you asked her to.” Medore

That doesn’t sound like the mad my mother described to me. - Corwyn

“You're on my awkward." - Fiona

“Where did you get that” -Nyx  (about a card of a place in Nyx’s home)

“Who’s to say?” -Fiona

“In my family, secrets are like hugs.” -Nyx

Abn Haram: (to 'Nix) "I've picked up, in my travels, a somewhat violent madman, and it might be best if he were kept away from your staff."

We of chaos are made of sterner stuff. -Abn Haram

“The man we get back might not be the man he was before this ordeal…

… you have such lovely books here.” -Fiona

“The universe is full of cages, and cells, and pentacles. You never know what might break free if you rattle the bars hard enough.” - Fiona

Rolfe: "What have I told you about narrative and pacing, Rolf?!"

"I literally had to run the length of the Universe last time." - Corwin

"It would be so much better if no one from our family ever came here again." (5 minutes later) The whole family shows up    

Hey! I'm his majesty’s science advisor, I am allowed to look for this stuff - Dalziel

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Ironsworn: Wolf and Cat, Log 7

 This is the 7th log of my Ironsworn solitaire campaign about Oddi Ice-Chosen. Character background and start of the narrative can be found at: Wolf and Cat, Log 1

Session length varies wildly. Some are multi-hour sessions in open evenings, others are 20-minute diversions over a lunch-break. 

Cast of Characters:

  • Oddi Ice-Chosen, my main PC. Abducted by a Firstborn sorceress as a child, only recently returning to the world of men, motivated by a terrible prophetic vision. Wears an enchanted wolf-skin. Storyweaver and occasional ritual spellcaster.
  • Sammutisel: Oddi's pet Cave Lion. 150 pounds, 4-inch fangs. 
  • Kasju Frystgrotta: The Firstborn sorceress that abducted Oddi and taught him magic.
  • Grassa Bitterloss: Oddi's mother. Recently reunited after 12 years.
  • Emelyn Firetop: Blacksmith. Survivor of the destruction of Oddi's hometown. 
  • Tern: Emelyn's younger brother. Currently missing, and in werebear form.

Log 7 (Date: 8/1/2021.)

Reminders: Don't forget my wolf-pelt is charged, so +1 on Edge. I've gotten really lucky so far, never rolling a "1" on Edge.  They're partly healed, so at first light the characters will probably all head into the Loneliwood in search of Tern. We're pretty close to completion of this Vow.

At first light, we break camp. Not that there's much to break, with Emelyn and Grassa's homes destroyed by raiders, and Oddi's pack having been stolen by Tern. We camped on the beach, so we pour water and sand on the fire, secure our few belongings, and head into the Loneliwood.

As we walk, Oddi tells tales of the Loneliwood, and the ancient beings who once dwelled there. Much of the tale is of Sursa Trade-Star, a Firstborn who traveled the world in the early days. Sursa fancied shiny objects, and loved to barter and haggle. In the days when there was just one forest on the shore of the Lake was not yet Bitter, Sursa would come here as a regular part of her circuit, a pattern as dependable as the seasons. Here she would trade with Fluugs the tree-troll, who shared her love of shiny things. Sursa and Fluugs would meet once a year, and spend a few nights haggling over river-rocks and polished heartwood sculptures. As few elves and none of the men of that age would trust a troll, in most years Sursa's visit was Fluugs only conversation. Fluggs fell further and further in love with Sursa, and they became lovers.

Sursa's travels, however, caused her to find ever-greater treasures, polished gems, worked metal instruments and adornments, navigational sunstones and spyglasses, bones of rock mummified before the earth was cooled, etc. So over time, she traded for fewer of Fluugs treasures, and stayed ever fewer nights to trade. As elven hearts are famously fickle, Fluugs feared that a day would come where Sursa would not love him any more, or would just decide that the treasures of this land are not worth Sursa Trade-Star's time.

So Fluugs learned powerful sorcery, and called down a light of the heavens, a star itself, that Fluugs might gather this star, and polish it, and trade it to Sursa that she would know how special he was. Fluugs was, however, not a great sorceror. Raw power he had, but little finesse nor control. The star he pulled from the sky descended upon the Woods too fast and too firey. Half the woods exploded and shattered under its explosive weight. Fluugs was devastated, but did not want this to be for naught. He gathered up the sky-iron he had summoned, and set about polishing it. When Sursa came, she too was devastated at the shattered wreckage. "My poor Fluugs, what destroyed half your home?" "I did, Sursa. I sacrificed half of what I am, to bring you this that I tore from the heavens! Look upon what I have done for you, how I have proven my singular devotion, and love me forever!" But Sursa could not. All she could see was the wreckage of the Shatterwood, and the hole in the sky where a star once hung. She stayed one final night, made a few half-hearted trades with barely a haggle worth mentioning, and was never seen in these parts again.

Compel w/ Story Weaver +1 for Bond:  Miss.     Pay the Price: Unintended effect

Emelyn seems troubled by the story, she seems to get something out of it other than what Oddi was trying to convey. She now thinks very poorly of Firstborn like Sursa Trade-Star and Kasju Frystgrotta. She and Oddi have their first argument. "The forest in your tale, is the bond between us. You're willing to sacrifice it, at the command of a Firstborn whose heart is so fickle she literally only wants you for two more days! You tell this parable, but you don't know the obvious meaning of it to me?"  They argue for a bit, until Grassa suggests maybe Oddi and Sammutisel should go off alone for a while and catch us some lunch.

Resupply - Strong Hit +2 supply

While he's out there, hunting rabbits in the Loneliwood underbrush, Oddi is himself being hunted. Tern is back, having heard Emelyn's voice raised in anger. The bear again opens by throwing a big log. Tern is still a kid at heart, and is very pleased of the strength his bearform gives him.

Face Danger - Wits - Miss

Oddi is too caught up in thinking about the argument they just had, he doesn't hear Tern until it's too late.

Endure Harm - Miss - upped to Weak Hit by burning Momentum

Oddi rolls with the blow, gets back on his feet.  He calls out Emelyn's name, hoping that she'll come to calm down her brother.

Secure Advantage - Wits - Weak +1mo

She hears him, but is too far away. Oddi runs in the direction where he left Grassa and Emelyn, weaving between trees to make it harder for the large bear to follow. Tern rampages at him, knocking aside trees as it goes. Sammutisel chases behind them, ready to attack the bear's haunches if given permission by Oddi.

Face Danger - Edge - Strong Hit

Emelyn is up ahead, running toward them. When she's no longer obscured by trees, two things happen. One, she pauses, her eyes wide, as she truly understands what her brother has become.  Two, Oddi turns around and shouts at the rampaging werebear. "Here is your sister! I have seen her safely from the village, and tended her wounds. I promised on the village pillar that I would reunite your family."

Fulfill your vow - Progress - Strong Hit

The bear plows into the clearing, trying to cancel it's incredible momentum. Oddi stands fast before it, but collision seem guaranteed. At the last moment, Sammutisel pounces and pushes Oddi aside, out of the path. The decelerating bear fumbles like an awkward child, tumbling throught the space where Oddi just was. It falls on its snout in front of Emelyn and cries out in Tern's voice. She puts her arms around the crumpled bear, now awash in tears and quickly becoming human again. While they hug, she gingerly unfastens the collar from around the boys throat, and drops it on the ground.

(I mark 1 XP for a supposedly just "Troublesome" Vow.  I probably made that all way harder on myself than I needed to. )

Oddi picks up the collar, a piece of worked hide, with runes burnt into it. It is clearly sized for a child, would strangle an adult who tried to wear it. But it thrums with dark magic, that no child should be able to make. Oddi interrupts their tearful reunion with some pressing questions. "You have a hexen-collar. Where did you get this magic?"

As he asks, Sammutisel stalks and paces, thinking it can slice the small boy before he becomes a bear again. Oddi has to tell his cat to behave.

"Tell us where you learned this? Did you make it yourself?"

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Ironsworn: Wolf and Cat, Log 6

    This is the 6th log of my Ironsworn solitaire campaign about Oddi Ice-Chosen. Character background and start of the narrative can be found at: Wolf and Cat, Log 1

Session length varies wildly. Some are multi-hour sessions in open evenings, others are 20-minute diversions over a lunch-break. 

Cast of Characters:

  • Oddi Ice-Chosen, my main PC. Abducted by a Firstborn sorceress as a child, only recently returning to the world of men, motivated by a terrible prophetic vision. Wears an enchanted wolf-skin. Storyweaver and occassional spellcaster.
  • Sammutisel: Oddi's pet Cave Lion. 150 pounds, 4-inch fangs. 
  • Kasju Frystgrotta: The Firstborn (elf) sorceress that abducted Oddi and taught him magic.
  • Emelyn Firetop: Blacksmith. Survivor of the destruction of Oddi's hometown. 
  • Grassa Bitterloss: Oddi's mother.
  • Tern: Emelyn's younger brother. Currently missing.
  • Feris Left-Tusk: Leader of the Broken who torched the village.

Log 6 (Date: 7/30/2021.)

Memo to self: Don't forget my wolf-pelt is charged, so +1 on Edge.

Oddi Ice-Chosen and his Cave Lion Companion Sammutisel head into the Loneliwood as that's where Grassa Bitterloss last saw Tern (brother of Emelyn Firetop). Grassa said that Tern had run off, and she tried to follow and fetch him to safety, but there was a bear that attacked them. Grassa wounded the bear, but couldn't defeat it, and was badly hurt herself, so she withdrew to Sword Hope for healing. Now it falls on Oddi to find and save the boy. He starts stalking through the Loneliwood, looking for signs of a struggle or passage.

Gather Information - Tracking and Searching - Weak Hit - New danger, and +1 moment

He finds a trail, and blood. Not just Grassa's, either. There's signs that some of the other people from Forgotten Despair tried to flee into the Loneliwood to escape The Shatterwood Broken, but at least some of them were pursued, and killed or captured. The lucky ones are probably the dead. Broken do not treat captives humanely. There are also 2 Broken corpses in the woods as well. All the bodies have been disturbed by scavengers.

The new danger could just mean there's still Broken about, but it's been two days so that seems unlikely. Maybe there's something special about the bear?

Ask the Oracle "What is the Bear's special ability?"  - The bear has "Vocalization". It just growling or roaring is kind of obvious. That's just normal for a bear, right. What if it's voice is like a man's, which it uses to lure in human prey? It may have once been human! Oddi has never heard Tern's voice before, so I don't realize this is even an option. Perhaps the bear calls out that it's caught under a log, and attempts to lures me in.

Face Danger - Wits: Do I fall for the Lure? - Strong Hit - +1 Momentum, I'm not falling for it.

Oddi realizes that there's something unnatural afoot. He senses magic, not unlike his own Binding Rituals. Stronger, older, but not entirely unfamiliar. He signals for Sammutisel to sneak around while Oddi himself moves toward the sound as a distraction.  "Are you Tern? I'm friends with Emelyn. Do you need help?"

An Ash Bear is a Formidable Foe. My previous Dangerous fight was plenty challenging, this could wreck me if I roll poorly.

Enter the Fray with Cave Lion Companion - Edge - Miss!

The bear is too clever for Sammutisel to creep up on. As my Cave Lion goes in for the strike, the Bear hurls the log in my direction and brings its arm around to smash Sammutisel.  (I didn't roll a 1, so my Pelt is still in effect, and more importantly Sammutisel doesn't necessarily take the hit. I was doing that wrong in the other fight. Companions aren't quite as squishy as I feared.)

The log flies at me. I was prepared to fight a bear, even a talking bear, but one that uses fallen trees as weapons is unexpected.

Endure Harm - Weak Hit - Health goes to 3.

Getting back to my feet, I see the bear and my cat dancing about and trading missed blows, neither yet sure enough of the other to risk trying to pin the other.It's attention mostly on Sammutisel, I risk a wild lunge with my axe.

Clash - Iron - Strong Hit,  +1 harm (3 total), regain the Inititiative

The blade slices through shaggy fur and hide. Now we've got it between us.

I circle about, trying to keep my axe on one side of the bear, and my cat on the other. We hunt as a team.

Secure an Advantage - Wits - Weak, +1 momentum

I feint, and Sammutisel strikes. I see a glint of something at the creature's chest, but we're moving to fast to tell what it is. Maybe my mother left a dagger buried in its ribs.

Strike with Cave Lion - Strong Hit - +1 Harm (3 total), +2 Momentum

My cat leaps across the bears back, and our claws come away covered in crimson. The bear chases after him, providing an opening for my own strike.

Strike - Miss, burn Momentum for a weak hit - 2 Harm, lose initiative.

The bear is fast, and ferocious. As soon as my axe bites it, it lashes out at me. I backpedal quickly enough to avoid being ripped open by claws, but it locks eyes on me and storms forward. It shakes the earth with an unnatural bellow that begins as growl and ends as a curse.

Face Danger - Heart - Miss!

Endure Stress - Heart - Weak Hit - I suffer 3 stress, but press on.

The words it curses me with are old and powerful, but poorly shaped. If Kasju was here, she'd be offering a cold critique of the beast's delivery.

It rushes me then, all jaws and paws and ferocity.

Clash - Iron - Weak Hit - Inflict 2 harm, but then pay the price

It's too fast and large for me to get entirely out of the way, but at least get my axeblade in the way to make sure the pain is mutual. My axe fouls its attempt to bite my face off, and wounds it grievously in the process, but both paws rake me and my chest feels afire.

Endure Harm - Miss!  I've filled the bears progress bar, but I'm also Wounded.  If i can land a Strong hit, I can finish this.

As it is pressed so close to me for a moment, I grope for whatever that shiny object was buried in the fur of its chest.

Secure Advantage - Wits - Weak Hit - +1 Momentum

Not sure exactly what I've grasped, I pull hard as I try to slip out from under the rampaging beasts blows.

Face Danger - Edge - Miss!   -  I can't really afford to take more Harm, so I roll on the "Pay The Price" Oracle. A 79: "A Surprising Development Complicates Your Quest". Oh, boy!

The clasp on his hexen-collar comes loose for a moment, and the bear transforms briefly back in to a small red-haired boy I can only conclude is Tern! His frail blood-soaked hand darts to the clasp, and the mighty paw of a bear closes it.

Emelyn's brother is werebear! She said he was always sickly, troubled, quiet and withdrawn, somewhat foolish, spent time in the Loneliwood. This region has always been the realm of Firstborn and stranger creatures. Perhaps Tern struck a deal with some eldritch entity. No wonder Grassa's story was so scattered and confused, such a transformation right in front of her would have been terrifying. Had Tern killed those Broken whose bodies I'd passed? I and the boy I came here to rescue were just about to murder each-other!

Seeing a small boy for a moment, Sammutisel rushes back into the fray, but I order him off. This is no longer a fight I want to win. I can't bring Tern's dead body back to Emelyn, his blood on my hands. The only sensible option is flee before one of us slays the other.

Face Danger - Edge - Weak Hit -  You succeed but face a cost. I choose -1 supply.

I turn and run, a trail of blood dripping behind me. Tern the Bear chases after me, and sinks his teeth deep... into my satchel. I pop the buckle free, and leave my bag for him to ravage. All my food and medicine, my map of the route to the Frozen Cave of Zhan, everything I own but the clothes on my back, my axe and knife, my cat and my life, are left behind to be devoured by the ursanthrope Tern.

Sammutisel follows me, though I have to call him repeatedly in the first half-mile. He really wanted to go back and solve the problem the violent way.

By the time we make it to Sword Hope, I'm feeling weak and bleary from blood-loss. Covered head to tow in blood, I stumble into the house of the healer where Grassa and Emelyn are recovering. Both gasp in horror at the sight of me, but I manage to tell them "Tern is alive and safe" before I collapse.

Sojourn - Heart +1 for Bond to Emelyn and Grassa -  COMPLICATION!  A matched miss!

Bloodied and exhausted as I am, I sleep for most of a day. Grassa and Emelyn are by my side, and try to ask me what happened, where Tern is, etc. I don't remember answering them, but in my fog I mumble something about werebears and evil magic. The local healer becomes alarmed. They think that I may have brought the evil, that I may be an agent of calamity, not the being who is trying to fix things. The healer refuses to treat my wounds any further, and kicks me out of the town of Sword Hope.

I'm fit enough to walk, but Emelyn and Grassa are going with me anyway. I'm a bit nervous about this: Emelyn and I are both limping, and Grassa's arm is in a sling. As we hobble out of town, we see that the men who rode off with Mygrun still haven't returned, and the cowards left behind in Sword Hope are building a wall around their community.

The four of us (Emelyn, Grassa, Sammutisel and myself) make camp on the beach of Bitter Lake, at the edge of the Loneliwood. The first order of business is getting some food. I fish the way that Kasju Frystgrotta taught me, though it terrifies my mother to see me walking in to the water that once nearly took my life. That was the spring following the worst winter in memory. Today the water is still quite cold, but it does not threaten to seal me in a tomb of ice. In fact, the brisk submersion wakes me up and makes me feel alive.

Resupply - Wits - Strong Hit +2 Supply.

(Technically, per the rules I can't resupply because when I hit 0 supply I should have gained the Unprepared Debility, and the only way to get rid of that is to Sojourn at a town. So I would now have to Undertake a Journey at Health +0, Supply +0, Spirit +1, Wounded and Unprepared, so as to envision a new Town, then successfully Sojourn. That's probably a death spiral. When I chose -1 Supply in the last round with Tern, I didn't realize Unprepared would auto-trigger. When I chose to interpret the complication as they kick me out of Sword Hope, I didn't realize I was Unprepared and thus couldn't Resupply and thus couldn't Make Camp. I only discovered all of this when I opened up the fancy Roll20 character sheet to turn off my Wounded, and noticed that the Unprepared condition directly below it had turned-on automatically.  Rather than roll back several paragraphs, I'm just going to rule the Complication kicked me out of town but waived the Unprepared. Maybe mom packed a sandwich or some healing herbs or something. I think I can cut myself some slack here, since the whole situation was caused when I voluntarily added a level-3 Formidable foe to my only level-1 Troublesome vow. This will be the hardest-earned 1 XP ever.)

Heal - Iron, because I'm the target - Weak Hit -  Clear wounded, take +2 Health, then -1 Supply.

Make Camp - Despite a Supply of only 1, I manage to roll a Strong Hit. I choose Recuperate and Relax. +1 Health, +1 Spirit.

Now, the hard part: Explaining the Tern situation to Emelyn Firetop. I'm going to lean in to my Storyweaver to make it work. I tell her tales of mischievous Changelings, of the Keth-rites of the Varou, and of Firstborn sorcerers who delight in teaching mankind truths so powerful that it breaks us.

I tell her of Proud Hoarfrost, a great white bear who once was a King in the Time Before. He was so full of pride in his Kingdom, that he insisted even the Gods must bow in his court should they deign to walk the earth. Zhan the Twisted heard this on the autumn wind, and headed there immediately, expressly for the purpose of refusing to bend.  Hoarfrost became offended, and they began to wrestle. The match went on for months, and winter set in. Hoarfrost broke Zhan's bones and twisted his limbs in knots, but Zhan refused to show the king respect or acknowledge death. His rage uncontrolled, Proud Hoarfrost bit the God he'd Twisted, and as he tasted the godling's blood, he was transformed forever into a massive white bear. The knots he had tied had bound the seasons in their place, and that's how the Shattered Wastes became the Kingdom of eternal winter. Trying to break free of the knots he'd tied, Proud Hoarfrost plucked the second moon from the sky, and shattered it upon the Winter, but all it broke was his own kingdom.

The tale is entertaining. Neither Emelyn nor Grassa have heard of Proud Hoarfrost before. So Oddi shares more facts. Proud Hoarfrost is real.  In the Frozen Cave of Zhan were Oddi lived these 2 years and 10, there is a passage to the Shattered Wastes.  The cave where I lived 10 years and 2 was the hidden route that Zhan would use to infiltrate Hoarfrost's realm.  Proud Hoarfrost hunted those caverns for a hundred hundred years, trying to find Zhan to get his vengeance, but Kasju Frystgrotta drove Proud Hoarfrost out of that cave, and took it for herself. I've seen it, Kasju took me to retrace Zhan's steps. Beneath the perpetual snow in the great northern wastes there are ancient cities and long-dead forests. Upon first seeing these old ruins, they had immediately reminded Oddi of the Shatterwood hear near Bitter Lake. Perhaps this visual similarity is meaningful. Perhaps Zhan the Twisted is involved in what happened to Tern as well. The Ice Chose Oddi, perhaps the Bear chose Tern.  To know for certain, we will have to head into the Loneliwood, and try to talk with your brother. This situation is most likely not Tern's fault, but he may not want to give it up, either. We will need to keep an eye open for signs of Firstborn or Gods working their magic on your brother. That sort of power isn't given lightly, nor is it easy to surrender once you have it. They may have strings and hooks in him.

Secure an Advantage w/ Story Weaver: Opportunity: A Strong Matched Hit! - Well, my crazy story is clearly true then. Neat!

The story greatly impresses both women. Mother is proud of her son. Emelyn is happy to have someone so knowledgeable and brave working to save her brother.

Emelyn is also that much more smitten with Oddi. Serious feelings are brewing, and it's obvious to everyone. Grassa turns in early, to give "you kids" some time alone. They take their conversation to where the edge of the beach meets the edge of the woods, and talk all night while throwing knives and axes at an old stump.  Eventually, while handing off a throwing blade, their hands touch and they share a moment.

Compel - Heart - Weak Hit - +1 momentum, possible exchange of favors

Oddi and Emelyn acknowledge the feelings developing between them, but Emelyn wants to be in a relationship with Oddi, not just a hook-up. Oddi explains that Kasju still owns him for two days, because of him leaving before the contract was up. Two days that could come without warning, and may not be consecutive or consensual. He can't promise monogamy, given the control Kasju could exert on him. For now, that's a non-starter. They end their game of knives and axes, and go to sleep on opposite sides of the campfire.

Advance a Threat - 91 - All this time spent healing and talking means that Feris Left-Tusk has had a chance to enact his evil plans a bit. His Menace goes from 1 to 3. Yikes!

Next Session: They're partly healed, so at first light the characters will probably all head into the Loneliwood in search of Tern. We're pretty close to completion of this Vow.

Friday, September 10, 2021

17th Chapter of A Horse Of Another Timbre

 The following is the campaign log for the 17th session of my current Amber Diceless RPG campaign, entitled A Horse Of Another Timbre. One of my players keeps a log of the scenes, and another maintains a quote list.  As usual, I have combined them with a few extra notes of my own after the fact.  I post them here several months after, which allows me to add in a few little clarifications without worrying too much about spoiling future plotlines for my players.

You can also Start from Session #1 or check out the index of my Amber articles.

The PCs are:

  •     Dalziel, son of Prince Bleys of Amber. A scientist.
  •     Maarit, daughter of Princess Sand. An orphan with a magic pendulum.
  •     Medore, nonbinary orphan of Princess Dierdre .
  •     Spinturnix, (aka Nix), son of Prince Julian. Grew up in Forest Arden.
  •     David Weyreth is a retired officer from the militaries of Amber.
  •     Abn Haram, the human-shaped son of Lady Nykae of Chaos, and the long-dead Prince Osric of Amber.  

Most of the NPCs this session are from the novels, such as King Random and his mean older brother Benedict. 

Some NPCs are unique to the campaign, such as:

  • Bellantine is an "Acquisition's Specialist" from a Library/Archive world called "Oberon's Loupe". She was first introduced to the campaign by a player's answer to a character quiz.
  • Clem is a mediocre messenger and terrible spy working for King Martin of Rebma.


 Campaign log: 12 April 2021

I have a note in the log suggesting that it's possible three scenes happened before anyone started taking notes.

Scene 1a: Abn Haram in Oberon's Loupe

Abn Haram and Bellantine chat a bit. He's looking for specific books, and won't say what they are. She offers to help, but only if he answers questions. He deflects, saying he's trying to get in touch with his mother. Belle seems to think someone here can handle that, so she goes to arrange it.

Abn Haram tells Steward to keep looking for the thing they came here to find. He himself will go looking elsewhere in the Library for something else. It's all tantalizingly vague.

Scene 2a: David and the Royal Disagreement

David followed Random from a distance. Random goes to top of the stairs to the dungeon, leaves most of his guards there. Random heads back to Royal chambers, where 2 guards wait outside.

Down the hall, two soldiers get in an argument, then a duel. This is a distraction meant to divert the King's guards away from their door, or at least provide audio cover so the guards don't notice what's happening inside the Royal Chambers. David gets one of the guards to go inside and check on the King. He doesn't finish closing the door, which is itself suspicious.

David sees a guard inside the chambers, his arm is extended in the air and he has his hands up and is surrendering. David discovers the guard standing with a blade pressed against his throat. Benedict is holding the sword in one hand AND THE KING BY THE THROAT in the other hand.

Benedict says “the King is reconsidering ‘cutting me out of the loop.’ “ Benedict’s arm is pink like a sunburn, and has little red dots (cherry angiomas) all over it – and there’s a dagger on the ground. David hopes King Random is being wise in his decision.

Benedict knocks the guard out with the flat of his sword, and then lets King Random down, saying “Never forget, Your Majesty, you serve at the whim of your family.”

Benedict instructs David to tie up the guard, wants David to be distracted too. Benedict’s accomplices in the hallway are keeping the guard distracted.  

Benedict and Random argue about Random’s failure to “solve the problem,” which Random did not do quickly enough for Benedict’s liking. Benedict demands that Random take him to “the real Amber” so they can fix things. Random uses his gem to freeze Benedict a microsecond before Benedict skewers him.

Random rants about how much he hates Benedict and then says he should kill Benedict. He contemplates exiling Benedict from the realm, but acknowledges that he needs him, then mentions that he’ll always fear being murdered in his sleep.

Random frees David and the guard and the three leave the room together. The third guard is out there and the two distractors are gone. Random suggests the men leave, and says they should stay away from the water, and get somewhere safe as quick as they can.

David offers to escort Random, proceeds with him a way. When they get to the end of Random’s hold on Benedict, they sprint away and separate.  David turns and goes back toward the King’s quarters. As he does, one of the runners from the front gate finds David and tells him that there’s a Rebman named Clem by the front gate, claims to be a friend of David’s.

David goes to see him and finds that he IS a “Rebman,” who appears soft.  David shakes hands, and Clem, 19yo, pretends to recognize David.  Maarit is waiting by the gate where Clem met David. Clem and David step off to the side, where he informs David that they haven’t met. He produces a scroll, which David handles delicately. The scroll, “David is Summoned,” ‘commands’ David to go to Rebma. David releases “Clem” to “go talk to his order.”


Scene 3a: Maarit dodges Clem and joins David

After being released by David, Clem heads off to the restaurant Maarit mentioned to him where he will sit alone.

As David makes his way back into the castle, Maarit walks into step with David and says hello. Maarit asks about the letter David just got, and David mentions that he knows she’s important.

They talk about the fact that Rebma is closed/locked.


Scene 4a: Nix and the Dark Forest

Nix hangs a couple spells on Strigiformes, finding the magic flowing a bit easier – “continuous additional change.”

Reaches out to Fiona, steps through the card and finds himself in Arden at Amaranthe’s Cottage. They’re a good distance back. The local birds seem spooked.

Fiona says Julian was “protective” and Nix suggests it might have been “shame.”

She says the wier drew the lines of energy to this place, but now it’s an afterglow. They chat for a minute, then Nix leads Fiona up the path to the cabin, giving the security calls but receiving no reply. As Nix approaches, there is a sweet scent in the air, the desert that Amaranthe made when he was young.

Nix finds a plate of his favorite dessert prepared in the house. They discuss the idea that it’s a trap. The food isn’t imbued with magic. The house is overrun with saplings and overgrown plants.

They go out back to the Dovecote, where Nix finds the yard overgrown. The dovecote is there, but the oak tree where Nix’s treehouse was is gone, the dirt where the tree was is disturbed. Fiona tests the space, the grave. Fiona points to five different directions, like energy ruts or a furrow. The scope and sense of power comes together and focuses on the grave space.

There might be signs and sigils around – Nix notices a little tiny wicker wolf sculpture and points it out to Fiona. She steps up to the grave and reaches up, imagines Julian’s blood on the tree. Fiona suggests that they dig up the grave.  Nix retrieves a shovel and starts digging up the grave; the soil is infused with blood.  He finds a wooden skull, pulls it out, and feels it out with psyche. It is a person’s skull and there’s a person clinging to it.

Nix reaches out to it psychically and the roots on the skull start moving. Collects one of the little totems/statues and takes a sample of the soil for testing/sanguimancy later.

He visits the Dovecote and finds a couple feral doves still living there. Amberanthe’s grave is open and there’s blood there. He collects some silver steak knives from the cabin and then he and Fiona leave through the gate in the wall and head deeper into the forest.


Scene 5a: Medore and the journey to  Tir-na Nog'th.

Medore continues in the sky with Corwin(?), where a scrawny blonde kid stumbles into/through Corwin. His lip is broken and the kid looks like he'd been beaten up. Then Corwin gets into a scrap with a variety of fantasy creatures in horrifying array. Corwin wins the day, but it's brutal and the monsters get chopped to pieces.

Someone claps when Corwin wins the fight. Corwin says ... "Dad?' and squares off angrily.

Corwin is not happy to see Ganalon, who asks to let bygones be bygones. After a bit of conversation, Corwin attempts to sucker-punch Ganalon, but it's a GHOST. Ganalon's ghost claims the whole thing was set up for Corwin to view. It's a play.

Medore talks a little and Ganelon's ghost heckled them back. They hear thunder coming through the sky. There's a drumroll which rumbles loudly up and follows behind the thunder. (Nix and Fiona hear the drumroll on the thunder too).

Corwin reaches for Medore and very nearly misses the grab. Corwin comes through and the clouds are still rumbling in the sky, with the drumroll still rolling.

King Random's face appears in the sky and cautions or warns people in Amber about what's going on. Random indicates that he can close the control gaps that have been opened. He's worried that he'll be erased from history after he does his work, so he goes on a promotional tirade:

    micro loans to impoverished communities.
    he created pensions of a hefty and helpful nature.

Random plans to "decouple" the chain of destiny between Amber and Rebma, giving them independent destinies. Random declares that if he dies, Prince Martin is the first heir, and Benedict is the next heir.

Random reassures the whole realm and then disappears, turning back into a cloud.

GM's addendum re: Random's Head In The Clouds. Based on my notes, this is pretty close to the speech that Random sent the universe:

0. Drumroll, please.... like a literal drumroll, booming from the heavens...

1: "Your attention please. This is an Amber Alert. Do not be alarmed by the giant floating head in the clouds. This is your King. I don't plan to do this sort of thing very often, it may only be this one time, but if seemed like if I was ever going to break out the Amber Alert system, today is the day. As you may already know, Amber has been attacked on multiple fronts. A member of my extended family has tweaked with the laws of Physics, taking advantage of metaphysical modulations that had been put in place in an effort to level the playing field. This has put Amber itself, and all her inhabitants and allies, in danger. The bay boiled, and I know that's scary, but trust me, it won't happen again. I can shut off the magic, restore from back-up, and lock them out of the control room. They will not get to push that button, so don't worry about what you gonna do without your ass." *chuckles* "That's a Sun Ra reference, and while it went right over most of your heads, statistically, trust me, there's at least one audience out there with whom I am just killing it.

2: The safety of the people and the realm, your safety, are my only concerns. There is a chance fixing things may cost me my life. When Dad did something similar a decade ago, it erased him from reality. I'm not particularly worried about that. I've had a good run, and it would be a hell of a way to go. Honestly, instead of my own neck, I'm a lot more worried about my legacy being wiped away and whoever follows in my footsteps not realizing what I was trying to do. So I'm putting it out there for everyone to know the point of it all. For 10 years now, the crown has been authorizing micro-loans both at home and abroad, especially to disadvantaged communities within the Golden Circle, and to immigrant minorities within Amber itself.

3: If you're a soldier in Amber's mighty armies, or a sailor in any of our fleets, you've probably heard rumors about the various compensation packages that were given out to in the past few months to some of your comrades who lost limbs in the Great War, or the stipends paid to the surviving families of those who didn't come back from the Long March. These were kind of inconsistently applied at first, because we didn't have a good bureaucracy in place to track who lived and who died. It is my intent that these payments reach all the survivors, and because we are a long-lived people, I have ordered they be be continued for 100 years after death or dismemberment in the line of duty, and I have now signed that into law. Your sacrifices will be remembered and your families taken care of.

4: Speaking of bureaucracy, I know a few of the Merchant and Noble Houses of Amber have been displeased with trade policies lately. The point of those recent changes was basically to improve the standing of all the people of Amber, from the dockworkers who bring in our many imports, to the entertainers who work in our pubs and concert halls, to the... well, everybody, really.  But it's also important we protect our staunchest allies in the Golden Circle.

5: Most notably, Rebma, which lies just a few miles away and is our closest reflection. You've probably heard tales of how events in Rebma often parallel events in Amber, with certain people or places therein corresponding to people or places in our own city.  We often hear it as going one-way, what starts in Amber is reflected in Rebma. I don't want to alarm anyone, but the time I spent in Rebma a few years back taught me that this one-sided version isn't accurate. It goes both ways. Yes, this means that if I don't do something to stop it, the recent upheaval in Rebma will manifest in Amber, and that bloody chaos we've seen thus far might not be the end of it. This is profoundly worrying, and grossly unfair to the people of both cities.

6: As I am about to fix other things that have gone wrong cosmologically, I will take this unique opportunity to fix that as well. It is my hope that by decoupling this reflexive property, I will break the chain of destruction and chaos, and empower both worlds to seek their own independent destinies. No longer will one world fear what happens in the other. This will also mean that any outside forces who may have recently sabotaged Rebma as a move to weaken Amber will fail in their sinister efforts. You have nothing to fear, I've got your back. Daddy Random's gonna fix this shit.

7: As I said, there is a chance that this action will cost my life, as it cost that of my father before me. Unlike my father, I will NOT be leaving the throne without a clear and unambiguous heir. Neither will I hang my legacy upon the whims of a mysterious creature no matter how sacred she may be. So, if I die, the Throne of Amber will pass to my son, Prince-Heir Martin. If he is unable to take the throne, it will pass to the eldest of my brothers, Prince-Royal Benedict. For the benefit of any rebel siblings I add, if anything were to happen to Martin, Benedict would be certain to avenge him. He confirmed that for me today.

8: Not to dwell on all this doom and gloom, but, in the event that this kills me, my beloved wife, Queen Vialle, says she will retire to Texorami. For the record, my wife could totally handle the job of running the place herself without me, and she'd be damn good at it. However, she's a stickler for the letter of the law, and as she points out, the letter of the law says the throne passes to the eldest son of the King. So that's Martin, and defaulting back to Benedict if... well, I already said that part.  I should wrap this up.

9: I thank you all for your loyalty and perseverance in these trying times. The danger is almost past. The storm will arrive in under an hour. You'll want to shutter your windows and get somewhere safe from flooding, as it's probably gonna be a real thrasher. Random out."

Scene 6a: Dalziel Into The Storm

Dalziel puts together a flotilla of airships, and starts out for Amber. This big storm blows in, and he can't seem to shake it, no matter how much he tries to hellride away from them. Then Random's head appears in the storm, and gives the same message Medore and Nix saw. Dalziel decides he needs to get directly to Amber, so he pulls out the card of the Muster Field.

Passing through the card takes 20 seconds, and instead of ending up in the field, he's just in this wet stormy grey place. He tries to follow memory path towards the castle, but his memories aren't lining up with the terrain. He spots some sort of barrier that's providing some blockage from the rain, and it turns out it's a door that won't open. He nearly falls off a ledge in the greyness, like maybe he's somehow in The Grand Stair now? He gets out a penlight to try to get a better look at things, and rainbow auras instead of a light stream pours out. He shines the rainbows on the door, and suddenly he's in the Muster Field and the storm isn't quite as bad as it was before, either. No sign of a door anywhere.

Scene 2/3/6b: Dalziel, Maarit, and David talk

Dalziel gets to the castle. He runs into Maarit and David, who it turns out, had also heard a drumroll in the sky during their walk in a courtyard, and looked up to see Random's message. They go to the kitchen, get some butcher's string for Maarit to tie to her Pendulum, and so David can make soup. They talk at length about the state of affairs. David wants to get invited to "the REAL Amber", but can't quite get it to happen. There's some discussion of whether Dalziel's dad is Bleys or Droppa MaPantz.

The Rebma Situation: Suddenly, Maarit remembers she left Medore's army on the shore, and there's a terrible storm! She runs out into the storm (which isn't as bad as it had been), and crosses town. Once she's outside city limits, the storm is much worse again. Trees breaking. Waves smashing in deep up the shore. Ice cold rain stabbing like needles. She rushes down the road, and figures out she's actually passed by where the army should be, and where the Faiella-Bionin, without seeing either of them. She gets out her pendant, and asks it to find them. Thunder. The stone pulses once, then suddenly a hose of water rains down from the heavens targeted directly at it. Thunder. The stone stops glowing. Thunder. Glass breaking. Silk tearing. Thunder. The rain lets up. The pendant does nothing. Instead of a storm, she hears a waterfall.

Maarit backtracks the beach to where the Faiella-Bionin's lights should be visible. Instead, there's a bottomless black void the width of the stairs, and two waterfalls cascading into it. Llewella is going to be pissed. Is this what Random meant when he said he'd decouple Amber from Rebma?

Maarit returns to the castle, where Dalziel and David are mostly geeking out about Engineering topics, with a side of metaphysics and conspiracy theory. 

The Quotes Of Chaos

If I get caught breaking into his chambers I’ll be killed, and I don’t want that. -Jeremy

NOTE TO SELF: When hiding from Bleys, go to a shadow where Wine cannot be made. - Jeremy

"I promise not to pick any locks ... today." -- Abn Haram

“Nothing personal, but the best thing I could do for my reign right now would be to end you on the spot.” - Random to Benedict, before stupidly not doing that.

“We are both going to run down that hallway and at the end we are going to go separate directions. -Random @ David

“Just to rule things out, does it strike you as unusual that your mother’s skull would be made of wood?” -Fiona

Corwyn "What do you have?"
Kaylin (as Oberon): "Syphilis"

"Apparently, fire is always an option." -- Mariit

Dal: Are you saying that Benedict was pressuring Random?
David: Yes sir, with his fist!

"Some of my best friends are heretics" - Dalz

David: Who is your father, then sir?
Dalz: He hosted the party the other night in lieu of the king.
David: Oh, Droppa MaPantz!
Dalz: If only he were! I would trumpet my lineage to all who would listen.

Maarit: Yeah, I was on fire.
Dalziel: That sucks! But what happened to your hair?
Maarit: I. Was. On. Fire.

Maarit: Do you have any string?
Andrew: Dal produces a spool of monofilament, probably enough to wrap around the solar system a few times, but as he turns it around in his hands, it crumbles to dust in Amber's physics.
Dalziel: "Errr... no. I guess not."
Rolfe: [pulls tented fingers away from his grin:] Okay, that's Canon now.