Jessica Hammer on the road from Deities & Demi-Gods to Nobilis, Community and Co-GMing

I knew this interview with Jessica Hammer would be amazing because I e-mailed her asking about what topics to discuss and her first response blew me away.

As a girl growing up in a religious community with strict gender roles, my childhood memories of gaming don’t involve much play. I used to lie on my bed on long Saturday afternoons, with the golden late-afternoon light pouring through the windows, reading Deities & Demigods and the Dragonlance setting books and Desert of Desolation, fantasizing about what I might do if I could get beyond the daily constraints of my life.

That said, I can see a direct through-line from that experience to what I love so much about Nobilis. For me, Nobilis is all about remaking the mundane into the mythic. It’s about applying wild logic and precise insight to the world we know, because everything in Nobilis is a way to talk about what we believe about reality. It has the same dreamy, imaginative sensibility as those long afternoons did. And, of course, the deities and demigods are baked right in.

I love the idea of starting on Deities and Demigods and transitioning into Nobilis if we get there.

I broke my toe in fourth grade. While I was in a cast, my mother loaded me up with Bulfinch’s Mythology and Robert Graves and some book about Egyptian myths that I can’t recall. In school, we spent half the school day studying the Bible or practicing Hebrew. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” I read, and delved into the tenth-century commentaries just like the big kids. At home, I started to understand what “other gods” meant. These weren’t just grand adventure stories. They were something people had, sometime, somewhere, truly believed. They’d told and retold these stories, developing new layers of meaning each time, using them to organize and define their lives. They’d done the same thing I was doing in school – and, hard as I found it to imagine, they believed just as deeply as I did.

This was the same year I actually got to play Dungeons & Dragons. A boy from down the street invited me to his gaming birthday party, which involved us making high-level characters and  defending our keep against wave after wave of ridiculous monsters. I went home with his copy of Deities & Demigods and the gaming bug; I kept them both. I had never heard of Nehwon or of Elric, of Aztec mythology or of the Chinese pantheon. I’d sneak downstairs late at night to look gods up in the encyclopedia, never sure which ones would prove to be real. Law and chaos, fire and rain and love and war – people everywhere seemed concerned with the same things. Even the gods of fictional lands spoke to me.

What I spent the most time imagining, though, was how to kill a god. Which one would I prefer to fight? What level would my character have to be? Laid out as they were, with stats and powers, they seemed both immense and painfully limited. They weren’t the all-seeing God who kept me locked in long skirts, the God who demanded I never sing in public, the God the boys thanked for not being born a woman. No. These gods could die, and in my fantasies I killed them over and over again.

Did you ever play that game where you killed gods?

No, I never did. That’s because fourth grade was also the last year I played D&D. When we all came back to school the next fall, the boys decided I couldn’t game with them anymore. I wouldn’t have a chance to play again for a decade. By the time I had another group to play with, I wasn’t interested in killing gods anymore.

What stuck with me was the way gods expressed human concerns, how they told a story of what life was about, how their very existence structured the everyday. I think that’s why Nobilis speaks to me so deeply. Nobles made that understanding concrete and literal, and connected it to modernity. It gives me a metaphorical way to talk about what the world is like, and a way to imagine what it could be.

I shouldn’t be speaking in the singular here, though. For all that I have a deeply personal connection to Nobilis, my relationship with the game is deeply entwined with my relationship with my community. My husband and I have developed a creative partnership around the game over the course of half a dozen LARPs and multiple tabletop games. Our entire gaming group builds out the shared world we originated with new characters, concepts, and stories. At this point, I don’t think there’s anyone who knows everything that’s happened in the world we’ve made; we just keep expanding its fictional boundaries.

We’ve all influenced the way our group plays, but one of the things that’s most important to me is how we create a new Familia, a group of Nobles who are all mystically related. For us, a Familia is an argument. It makes a case for a way to categorize and organize reality – and the great conflicts between Familias are actually conflicts between different ways of seeing and valuing reality. For example, the very first Familia our group ever created was built around the concept of “that which is beautiful because it is impermanent, and cannot survive without changing.” The Powers of Wind, Dawn, Fame, Memory, Inspiration, and Decay were at once living, breathing characters with their own personalities and foibles, and personified symbols whose actions embodied ideas about how we handle impermanence, beauty, and change in our culture.

That’s how we make myths at our table.

Your story reminds me of something. I was living with a practicing Orthodox Jew (I’m a non-practicing Jew). I was showing him around the small town where I had spent my undergrad years and everywhere we went were people I knew from tabletop RPG and LARP gaming. After leaving a bar where the bartender had gamed with me for years he said, “That is a very interesting community you have created for yourself.” Was that disapproval in his voice or was that just my guilt? Eh, doesn’t matter.

Either way, he had a point. I never found my sense of community in the temple and I did make it for myself in the act of creating myths with friends.

Did you find community in that manner through gaming?

I’d actually say the opposite: growing up Orthodox showed me the kind of community I wanted to create with games. It also prepared me to exist in a culture that was quite ready to treat me as a second-class citizen. (“Go make me a sandwich” isn’t all that different from what I learned in yeshiva!) Finally, it showed me that just as I could build an authentic Jewish practice that didn’t rely on gendered oppression, I could also create my own communities around games.

The community I grew up in was close-knit, loving, and connected. People would drop in and out of each other’s houses; they’d celebrate joys together and help each other through tough times. My father ran a Talmud class; every Saturday afternoon, his friends would come over to eat cake, argue about current events, and study together. My mother made sure that we had positive social relationships with community members of all ages, from “aunts” and “uncles” down to caring for young children. Together, my parents helped found our community synagogue, which ran out of our basement for almost a year.

There were great, specific lessons for gaming communities in particular. For example, I’ve been specifically inspired by the practice of observing Shabbat. Shabbat is holy, dedicated time. It’s not an accident that my memories of community are often linked to Shabbat. As a result, I’ve always made a point of setting aside time that’s dedicated to growing my gaming community and deepening our relationships with one another.

Even what I think of as “good gaming community” is conditioned by my upbringing. To me, community means deep, loving, mutually committed relationships around shared practices and values. I know some people like con gaming, but it doesn’t interest me. I want to be an intimate part of people’s lives through gaming, and vice versa. The friends from my gaming group helped me mourn my father’s death, organize my wedding, and deal with serious health issues. We’ve found each other jobs, helped each other move, lived in each other’s apartments, held each other’s hands through heartbreak and through joy.

They’re among the most important people in my life, and I love making things with them. Our community values include creativity, not just kindness – we always want to be creating something new! It’s such a joy to invent communally with people you love, trust, and admire.

I could probably write a book about what I learned about building community from growing up Orthodox – and from leaving the Orthodox world. Maybe I will someday!

Could you talk about that transition between the little girl with a broken toe and a copy of Deities and Demi-Gods to the adult participating in a community through Nobilis-driven myth-creation?

The short answer is that I learned to build communities the way that I did because I didn’t feel that I had any other choice. I wasn’t at home in the Orthodox life I was supposed to have, but the lives I saw in the modern world didn’t make sense to me either. I wanted a sense of rich connection, depth, meaning, shared practice, and shared values – and I also wanted to live my own life. If I wanted both those things, I’d have to figure out how to integrate them for myself.

The same’s true for role-playing games, though in a much less painful way. I wasn’t happy with the games I had the chance to play in, so I decided I’d have to run (and design!) my own.

A couple of the critical milestones along the way:

– Learning to co-GM with my partner, Chris. We wanted to be able to run games in a way that reflected our creative and intellectual partnership. That slowly led us away from heavy prep to a much more improvisational style of play. Eventually we realized that these techniques meant that our players could contribute just as much as we could. While we wouldn’t describe the games we run as GM-less, since we do a lot of coordination and editing, what started as a shared creative endeavor now includes everybody who comes to our table.

– Moving to New York. Our friends like to mock us for interviewing them before they became a part of our lives, but it’s actually kind of true. Chris and I didn’t know anyone when we came to New York, so we advertised online for people to join our gaming group. We were shocked when we were deluged with responses! We winnowed by email, then met people for coffee, and invited the most wonderful people we encountered to become a regular part of our lives. I still feel lucky every day about who we found.

– Hosting our first seder. Until my late twenties, I’d been going home for Passover every year. Finally, Chris and I decided it was time to host our own, and we invited our dearest friends to join us. Working slowly through the prescribed text, we asked challenging questions, analyzed concepts, and shared stories about our lives. We tried to approach it with a sort of radical vulnerability, a willingness to bring our whole selves to the seder table. It was a revelation. That first seder became a model for me in how to engage in Jewish practice, how to connect with a community, and how to relate to stories.

Co-GM with your partner! That is amazing.

How do you split the GM’s responsibilities between the two of you?
Do you take groups into different areas when folks split up or does one take the lead and the other takes peripheral NPC’s and scenery?

I’d love to hear more about that.

How Chris and I co-GM has evolved over time. We built a lot of our techniques during play, but we mined other sources where we could. For example, we spent two years studying and performing improv together, which gave us a shared set of skills to draw on. It was also really helpful to get feedback from our group after every game session, so we could practice in a focused way and iterate as quickly as possible.

The way we divide responsibilities shifts from session to session, because that’s what it means for us to play responsively. There are a few constants, though. For example, each of us will choose a theme or plot element for which we take primary responsibility. For example, “The prince of Rugen has been excommunicated.” Or “Several characters have children – let’s have that be a thing.” It’s our job to look for opportunities to introduce that theme or plot element, which might mean incorporating it into NPCs lives, framing scenes around it, or suggesting to players how their own interests might connect to it. We share responsibility for finding ways those plot elements overlap. For example, the prince’s excommunication might mean a character can’t have their child baptized. Each time the other person introduces something relating to their chosen element, we see if we can build on it to incorporate ours.

We absolutely take advantage of there being two of us when we split the group. Whoever has fewer players takes them into the other room and we run in parallel for a while. We’ve occasionally done some fun things with that, like having one group shout “BOOM!” as loudly as they could when they triggered an explosion, and making the other group react without knowing what was going on. When the groups come back together, our improvisational style means it’s easy to react to whatever they were up to. It’s one benefit of building story structures, not plans.

The best thing about co-GMing, though, is that I know someone’s got my back. If I’m having an off day, Chris can take the lead, and vice versa. Our players can step up, too! We all trust each other to help create good play. It’s one of the benefits of building a community of players over more than a decade, and of consciously working to improve our skills together.

What techniques do you recommend for a duo looking to co-GM for the first time (let’s assume they have GMed before)?

There are a lot of techniques that a pair of potential co-GMs could use, but I’ll choose three things you can start with: one general technique, one prep technique, and one table technique.

Before you start to play, you should get to know each other’s strengths, weaknesses, and preferences. If you’ve played with your potential partner, that’s a good start, but you’ll want to take some time to explicitly discuss your impressions so that you know you’re on the same page. For example, I’m great at creating problems for the players, but I sometimes want to keep creating new problems when it would be more fun for everyone to let things resolve. Chris, on the other hand, is great at creating closure, so I know that I should trust his judgment on that front.

Another way to do the same thing is to read books or watch movies together, then discuss them. The goal of the conversation should be to get a sense of what your partner finds satisfying, dramatic, interesting, and fun. You can also use the things you’re reading or watching to practice your shared storytelling skills. “What would have happened if …” is a great game to play with them, because you can get a sense of how they might respond to things the players do – doubly so if the two of you take turns inventing possibilities.

When it comes to prep, your goal should be to establish a loose shared structure within which you can improvise. One good technique is to define what the opening scene will be, and to each choose a threat or issue that you will be responsible for weaving into the session. For example, “We’ll start with the characters being summoned to Lord Entropy’s court to receive custody of a prisoner. I’ll be in charge of the prisoner causing trouble for them from inside their Chancel, and you’ll be in charge of their enemies within the court using this against them. Let’s take five minutes to brainstorm about possible issues we can each raise if the players aren’t taking the initiative.” Note that I really mean five minutes – overpreparation is the kiss of death for co-GMs.

It’s also useful to have a goal for the session, such as “By the end of the session, they’ll have to take a politically or magically meaningful stance about how to treat their prisoner.” You have to be careful with goals, though, because it’s easy to treat your goals as more important than what the players are contributing. The best session goals are open-ended, so that you can use them to give shape and context to player choices rather than to reject those choices. I think of the session goal as an interpretive frame to help the players see what they are doing with a given narrative situation, so that they can make conscious play decisions about it and so that everyone stays on the same page for the duration of the session.

Finally, at the table, there’s a very simple technique that will wildly change how you co-GM: hand signals. You’ll want a signal that means “Pass me the lead,” a signal that means, “Take the lead from me,” a signal that means, “I’m contributing something quick, I’m jumping in for one second but keep going,” and a signal that means, “Hold back, let the players go.” These hand signals will let you quietly manage the creative flow between you two without constantly having meta-conversations about who gets to do what. Your players may even joke about how you two seem to be telepathic!

Knowing your partner, prepping a loose structure, and using hand signals will get you a long way!

Thank you, Jessica for being patient with this process and offering so many fascinating ideas all at once.

Bloody Thumbs on the Scales of Law and Chaos #DCCRPG

From last night’s game, Doom of the Savage Kings

Groat was a slave, once considered an elf’s property. Now he’s a katana-wielding cleric, worshipping the Chaos Titan.

Hugo was a rutabaga farmer and now he’s a wizard under the Patronage of the 4 Maidens; Hugo is of Lawful alignment.

And sometimes a slave turned Chaos Titan Cleric and a rutabaga farmer turned Lawfully aligned wizard find themselves in a crypt, fighting side by side against tomb ghouls with nasty ghoul snakes in their guts. Life is funny that way.

Law-and-Chaos-Michael-Moorcock-Wendy-Pini

An image commemorating my childhood memory of Moorcockian cosmic battles between Law and Chaos.

Hugo got clawed by one of the ghouls and managed to avoid the snake’s bite before it burrowed back into the ghoul’s guts, waiting for someone else to touch the corpse. Groat healed him, against the Chaos Titan’s orthodox traditions.

Eric mentioned something about divine disfavor and read the rule, something about between 1 to 10 points of divine disfavor..blah blah blah. I figure I’ll roll 1d4 for each level of the Lawful entity healed with the Chaos Titan’s power unless they take the Devil’s Bargain offered.

But first, time stops, all of time except for Groat and the snake in the ghoul’s guts.

The Ghoul Snake talks and I know that they can’t talk but in these moments between time, carved off of creation by the power of a Chaos Titan and a Chaos Titan’s prophet, they sometimes make words when it suits them.

“Ghoul snakes are a creation of one of the Chaos Titan’s children. Your deity wants you to take me into your bag and put me into the Jarl’s Great House so that I might bite him. If you do not do this, you will earn the disapproval of your deity.”

Groat took the snake into his bag where it curled up in a neat little ball, hoping to bite the Jarl (whom the entire party hates) later.

It occurs to me that it is moments like this that can put an adventurer’s bloody thumb on the cosmic scales of Law and Chaos.

Friday, Assemble! Reading, Planning & Writing

Reading: I’m reading and digging Kraken by Wendy Williams but left that at home for a beloved book pirate. She brought home Mort by Terry Pratchett and I read the first 30 or so pages on the commute but clever-funny fantasy just isn’t my cuppa tea.

Planning: Doom of the Savage Kings and my first weekend at home in a long while. Tidying up and cooking for the week, I think.

Writing: I wrote a short story called The Long Sip, inspired by a conversation with some friends during my birthday weekend where I told them about a funny thing that happened when I was a kid. I have to transcribe it from my notebook, get it on the screen and clean it up.

And you?

Random Encounter Tables: Big Shire

Big Shire is made up of 11 farthings, spread out along the pleasant, fertile, rolling grasslands next to the Govus River. Each Farthing has its own Shirriff and Mayor, both are elected for life or until public outcry demands that they step down.

The only element of Big Shire that is jarring against its pastoral, quaint beauty are the crow’s cages that are outside of every shirriff’s cottage and at incoming roads, major crossroads and town squares. Usually a deputy will be nearby, smoking a pipe and hucking rocks with a sling at bottles set up on a nearby fence-post. Their riding mastiffs will be watching from nearby, perhaps sipping water from a nearby pond or stream. They will both be watching newcomers carefully, friendly but cautious.

Visiting adventurers cannot walk about armed. In order to apply for a Mayoral Writ necessary for permission to carry a weapon larger than a dagger, one has to have lived in Big Shire for ten years or more. However, you can hire a local to walk with you and they might, if given proper incentive, say that your weapons are in fact their weapons and you are doing a public service by carrying the heavy things around for them.

Those caught with weapons without a writ or friendly local will be charged with inciting a riot (1d4 weeks in a crow’s cage, reserved for folks looking for trouble, or anyone who gives excessive resistance or lip to the arresting shirriff and deputies) or inciting adventure (1d6 days in a crow’s cage, can be suspended with a year’s exile or a 50GP fine if the visitor just didn’t know better).

Riot!

Fighting the law in this town is a brutal proposition. Once the hue and cry goes out, the shirriffs will begin closing in with their deputies. Big Shire is spread out over a great distance but once word goes the local law comes hard.

First 1d10 rounds = Local Fathing’s Law Patrol (Farthing’s Law Patrol = Shirriff and 3d4 deputies on riding mastiffs with slings and short swords).

Second 3d6 rounds = 1d4 Farthing’s Law Patrol.

If the fight continues or if a local is killed the stakes go up. The neighboring Shirriffs begin deputizing folks. All remaining Farthings bring a Riot Squad. 1 Shirriff + 3d4 deputies + 5d8 auxiliary deputies.

If things look really bad or someone casts a spell they will Call in the Wizard (said with the same gravity as, “Release the Kraken.”). 1 Wizard of 1d20 levels.

But that won’t happen, right?

Enjoy some pipe weed. Relax. Welome to Big Shire.

Crow Cage’s Inhabitants

1-6: Halfling thief
7: Wizard troublemaker (1-3 human, 4 elf, 5 dwarf, 6 halfling)
8: Ranger (1-3 elf, 4-5 human, 6 half-elf)
9: Dwarven adventurer
10: Tiefling Warlock/Dragonborn Fighter
11: Kobold/Goblin
12: SPECIAL

Special

1: Lycanthrope
2: Angel
3: Devil
4: Githyanki
5: Quaggoth
6: Orc
7: Drow
8: Gome
9: Elven Marine
10: Cultist
11: Kenku Assassin
12: Hobgoblin Soldier

As you enter Big Shire there signs along the road that read, “You must register your weapons and any suspected arcane relics with the law. No instigating adventure nor any trouble-making will be tolerated in Gourd Farthing. – Shirriff Cordelia Timmins”

Around the Big Shire Encounter Table

1 – Halfling Sheriff on patrol with 1d3 deputies and 1d6 watchdogs.
2 – Halfling burglars coming back from a job.
1d6 halflings, 1d4-1 dwarves
3 – Mercenaries heading to 3 Giants Dam
4 – 1d4 Wizards on sabbatical, high on weed (rolll 1d20)
1-10, lvl 1d4, 11-15, lvl 1-8, 16-19 lvl 1d12, 20 lvl 1d20
5 – 1d8 Human Bandits (on the run from a sheriff’s posse)
6 – 1d8 Orc Raiders
7 – Ululan Messenger
8 – Vault Caravan – 2d6 wagons, 1d4 guards for every wagon
9 – Roll on the the High Fell table
10 – Roll on the Corvuston table

Wake up, Magic Items. Wake up. #DCCRPG

In Frozen in Time, a PC found a katana dating from the Eternal Shogunate of the Lich Shogun. It was listed as +1.

Inspired by the katana dating from the Eternal Shogunate of the Lich Shogun, here are rules for awakening swords.

When items sit in a ruin for a long time, especially when they are removed from their original context they fade and shrivel in power. To restore the item’s puissance they have to be awakened, usually through a short ritual that connects the item with its original purpose.

How to wake up an item can be discovered via a Cleric’s Detect Magic spell of 16 or higher or a DC 20 INT skill roll (+1d if you have a relevant library at hand).


Katana of the Eternal Shogunate of the Lich Shogun

I have to keep this secret because it is in game. Sorry.

Awaken

REDACTED

Powers

Once the sword is awakened, it will REDACTED


Silver Sword of the Lich-Queen

These bastard swords are made from a metal that no one on the Prime Material Plane can recognize, having been forged in dragon-fire, crafted from the bones of a dead god.

Awaken

To awaken the blade from its dormant state, the wielder must deal the killing blow to either a Githzarai or an Illithid.

Powers

Once it is awakened the blade will glow a ghostly silver. It will allow the wielder to cut extra-planar’s ties to target’s home plane, stranding them on the plane where the sword took their hit points down to less than half. Silver Swords of the Lich Queen do double damage and +1d to-hit against any manacles, chains or other devices used to tether any creature against their will. If the blade is gently laid in a pool of water, it will point to the nearest gate to the astral plane, Illithid or Githzarai, as per the wielder’s request.

Once the blade is awakened, Githyanki will seek out it (3d30 months for the first Githyanki Silver Retrieval Platoon to hone in on the blade’s whereabouts.) likely killing the wielder and anyone who dares defend the foul thief.

All Hail the Victorious Dead: Waking Playing Characters

Inspired by this post:

(PC funerals are an underutilized thing, I believe.)

I agree! Some ideas on adding some mechanical punch and oomph to waking an adventurer in a few games.

D&D

When a character is waked, every character who shared a memory can take an inspiration if they change either their Ideal or Bond to reflect how knowing their dead comrade changed them.

Dungeon World

When you wake a dead player character and have recovered the body, all of the characters talk about a memory they have of the character. If they have the body and can put it to rest as per appropriate custom, the dead character will show up in the future. The player allows one character to have access to one of the dead character’s moves, showing how the ghost returns for one shining moment to defend an old friend.

Dungeon Crawl Classics

When reavers, cut-purses, heathen-slayers and warlocks lose one of their band to death and chaos, it is often an orgy of alcohol, drugs and other vices that blur their pain, allowing them to put it out of their minds that next time it could be them. Every character should give a remembrance, be it somber and respectful or loud and heretical. If the body is recovered and can be put to rest via the character’s religion (as understood by the other characters) any extra XP the character had is spread among the party in any way the player pleases. If the body was not recovered, the wake goes on just the same but in the end, the extra XP is lost to chaos. 1 Luck for every character level the deceased character had at the time of death is distributed among the party, as decided by the dead character’s player.

Lamentations of the Flame Princess

When you wake a dead character in Lamentations of the Flame Princess, the uncaring universe offers the silence of the void that will eventually swallow you all. Was anyone covered in their gore when they died? If so, they can see the restless, silent dead who quietly watch the party, waiting for another to fall and join them in the quietlands whenever they reach 3 hit points or less. Now is a good time to hire an accountant, invest wisely and stop adventuring.

Apocalypse World

When you wake a dead character in Apocalypse World, the body with all the gear is sitting between you all.

Roll + Hot (+1 if you provided any grub or hooch for the wake or ever had sex with the deceased back when they were alive) when you want to lay claim to a piece of gear off of the body.

On a 10+ you take that piece of gear. There might be some grumbling but for now, it is yours and no one is saying shit about it.

On a 7-9 you take that piece of gear but someone has a problem with it. You’re going to have to offer them something or force them to back the fuck down.

On a miss, the wake erupts into screaming and bullshit and violence. Maybe this will be a two-for-one wake.

Crowdsourced Creative Effort: Magic Sword Auction

In which I ask folks on G+ to creatively contribute. Thank you to everyone who contributed.

A group of adventurers are starting to feel like bad-asses after having hauled a powerful magic sword out of a faraway ruin. Now they want to sell it.

There’s no such thing as magic shops – magic just doesn’t work that way. They decide to auction the magic item off to the highest bidder. Word spreads as they hunker down in a big, comfortable city, hosted by a metropolitan inn whose ambitious innkeeper thinks the business from the auction could pull her place out of debt.

Who shows up to bid?

  1. A black-silk clad manservant, with carefully braided hair, and lacquered nails, bearing ancient coins for payment.
  2. A brattish high-class child, no more than seven, entourage in tow, who exclaims that they must have that.
  3. A bitter, down on their luck mercenary who claims to be the heir to the original wielder of the sword.
  4. The original owner of the sword, dead for centuries, awakened when the blade was removed.
  5. An inconspicuous halfling dressed in the plain clothes of a city laborer, perhaps a fetch.
  6. A dour dwarf, who claims to be the son of the smith who originally forged the sword, and further that the original owner never paid and therefore the sword should be returned to his family.
  7. A lanky, out-of-shape young man, with the pale skin and soft hands of the wealthy, dressed in very practical, sturdy, and visibly brand-new adventuring clothes. He’s trying to gear up for his first delve!
  8. A gray-haired woman of 50 or more, unbent despite her age. Careful observation reveals she wears well-made leather and chain beneath her woolen garments. She carries no coin.
  9. The agent of a powerful, but mysterious and wealthy, collector, who offers 40% of the item’s value and secretly plans to take the item by force if it cannot be bought…
  10. A representative from the city’s public enchantment bureau, which uses magical objects to power the city’s wards and estimates that this weapon will satisfy their needs for upwards of a year. In uniform, meaning they are wearing a tight-fitting outfit that magically conceals their gender and identity, and a featureless obsidian mask that forms a mouth temporarily only when it’s needed to shape words.
  11. A furniture-maker, a sturdily built woman in her middle age, with callused hands and heavy shoes. It’s well known that the Iron Emperor has required certain upgrades for his terrible Throne of Blades.
  12. A man in battered armor and worn clothing. He is in his middle years pushing towards fifty perhaps. The symbol of his company is torn and filthy so it is impossible to tell who he once served. He has the bearing of a soldier and already bears a sword that in contrast to his armor and clothing is clean and well maintained. He looks upon the auction with sadness in his face. If you ask him why he is here he will say “It was her sword. She may be lost forever, but I’d pay anything to have this one thing that she held almost as dear as me.”
  13. A boringly dressed, middle aged man. Unremarkable and he does nothing to bring attention to himself. He only stands out because of all of the outlandish people already here and it isn’t long before a new arrival has attracted your attention and you’ve already forgotten about him.
  14. A group of pacifist priests of the Sun, in yellow robes and carrying chests and chests of tithe-coin. Their sect practices a transformative magic that makes weapons of war into beautiful mechanical creatures that tirelessly tend their hopyards and barley fields.
  15. A regular human noble who appears to have more than enough money to pay for it several times over. He hopes to purchase the sword as though purchasing legitimacy as a warrior. Secretly he is wearing a nearly impenetrable glamer, and is, in fact, not from this world,. Instead, it is simply taking on the shape of a human, a form that bears little resemblance to its true self. The sword is actually a key for dimensional travel.
  16. A glassy collection of bubbles and threads, something like a floating Portuguese man-o-war. A magical ring tangled in its fore-tentacles allows it to speak.
  17. A cult who want to trick the party into completing a ritual to free the demon they believe is within.
  18. A well-dressed young woman: the second, disinherited daughter of the local lord. Her feud with her elder sibling is the stuff of recent gossip, as is her new entourage of mercenaries.
    (a spy follows her)
  19. A priestess and priest in the red robes of the goddess of War.
  20. A group of slavers in silk and powdered wigs with plenty of silver, gold and gems made off of the blood and misery of others.
  21. A bald man with tattoos etched into his deeply tanned skin. They shimmer silver in the sunlight and are recognizable as runes of binding to those with the right knowledge.  He wears a white robe that is stained with the constant trickle of blood from his eyes. His voice is not his own.
  22. A man, maybe in his late twenties, driving a farmer’s wagon. He’s got a military cap, so he is probably a recent war veteran. He does not look wealthy, but he’s willing to give all he’s got.
  23. A person who was once a magical sword. That is a long story. It wants to buy the sword and turn it into a companion.
  24. A regular drinker at the inn, sitting at his usual table in the back corner. This is his inn, dammit. Has been for years. A whole lot of fuss about a magic sword isn’t going to force him out of his drinking spot. (But with enough liquid courage he might join in on the bidding, show these interloping newcomers up at their own game. Not that his purse could back his increasingly loud mouth…)
  25. A suit of fine plate armor, empty of resident, but ready to bid with hand gestures.
  26. The Ambassador. A long, thin man, wearing an exquisite, exceedingly purple and gold toga. His eyes are below his cheekbones and his mouth on his forehead. Extremely refined, his breath smells just a little like sulfur. He’ll gladly pay in years of life.
  27. Wizard’s Guild delegates, willing to pay a smaller fee to study the sword but also there as serious bidders.
  28. A youngish woman, in beat-up leather and chain armour. She looks a bit like death warmed over, but there’s a quiet fury in her eyes. She claims to have been part of the original adventuring party, and to have been the one who actually found and freed the sword, only to be left for dead by her fellow party members after a partial tunnel collapse. Turns out she wasn’t dead, after all. At least, not entirely. It’s unclear whether she’s come for the sword, or vengeance. Maybe both.
  29. A veteran paladin devoted to fighting demons and their ilk. A holy vision revealed to him that this sword would be a powerful weapon against his eternal foes. He has the monetary backing of his cult, but would prefer to persuade the current owners into donating it to his worthy cause.
  30. One of seven competing embodiments of Death.