Making Roric’s War

Our Bluecoats Investigative game (playlist here) had two more cases left. Roric’s War and The Last Case.

I knew I wanted Roric’s War to be a gang war across all criminal factions of Doskvol, threatening to spill over across all factions if things get out of control. Roric’s death was the start of the Lampblack/Red Sashes war and I wanted to escalate that situation.

Looking over the criminal factions and putting them into two sides of a city-wide war was really easy. The Hive on one side and the Unseen on the other; the rest just fell into place. Yes, Roric was the fuse but the real situation was two powerful criminal enterprises that were ready to find out who ruled the Dusk.

This is what my little map looked like at the start.

The Roric War 1 (1).png

The Hive was low on magic, so I had them courting Lord Scurlock.

The Foghounds and the Lost were clearly the weak at the edge of these criminal herds, so the wars started with each side trying to destroy them.

I kept the Lampblacks and Red Sashes as neutral because they had just finished a costly war and I reckoned that both sides would aggressively recruit them later. Ulf Ironborn and the Grinders were neutral because neither side wanted the political liability of the most marginalized people in the city (for now) but that would change was the war took its toll and boots on the ground became more of a priority.

The powers-that-be don’t care if the scoundrels murder one another in the streets but when a bomb goes off in Gaddoc Station, that is what got the Lord Governor to write up an Imperial Mandate and get them into the mix.

Looking back, a bomb site isn’t a great place for an investigator but it worked out alright. I might’ve started with a straight up murder getting the law involved but maybe not. It worked out fine. This could be me over-thinking it.

Other than the bomb, there were plenty of leads because everyone was involved. They went to the Silver Nails, the gang they had the closest relationship with. Their mandate was a bit vague; they were charged with ending the war. That means there is no real crime to solve.

Looking back, I might’ve had the Lord Governor be more aggressive with suggesting incarceration as a primary tool to end this mess. The Doskvol version of drugs on the table from The Wire. “I want criminal leaders in manacles,” he might say, putting pressure on the team to not only end the war but put crime lords in Ironhook. I don’t think that the Lord Governor’s suggestion is a good idea; I think it would’ve put inexperienced people in charge of gangs and led to more reckless acts of violence.

As it was, Stras and Lauren were smart and used diplomacy to eradicate the Unseen’s forces, causing them to have to sue for peace. They got the Dimmer Sisters to switch sides, finding out that they didn’t take the Hive up on their offer because they didn’t want to answer to Scurlock, whom they knew was being courted and so they got Scurlock to sit this out and seek out revenge against the Circle of Flame, who tried to light him on fire with the Hand of Kotar. They got the Wraiths off the board by getting them safe passage and a safe place to live in Imperial City.

One war-related fire broke out, burning one of the Six Towers, leaving it a burned out husk, like a burned bone shard on the Doskvol skyline. Is there any game of Blades in the Dark where one of the Six Towers isn’t decimated?

This is what the map looked like at the end.

The Roric War 1.png

The Foghounds and the Lost are upside down; that was how I noted that they had been destroyed.

During downtime, I picked factions for a clock and rolled those dice. If two factions were working together, I’d have the larger faction roll their dice and the smaller faction offer a helping die. This provided action and movement as both sides moved towards concrete goals. I did this privately, narrating only what the players would have heard about.

At one point a fire broke out as the Hive was courting Lord Scurlock, so I decided that it was the Circle of Flame using the Hand of Kotar to mess up that diplomatic meet-up in an abandoned tower. At another point they visited the Hive Galleon and saw a Dimmer Sister floating above a building in the Ghost Field, taking notes on the coming’s and going’s of the ship so they could burn it into the harbor later.

The cool thing about this mess is it gets everything into play and on the board. It dumps the toy chest on the floor, so to speak. The Hand of Kotar, the Hive, Lord Scurlock, the Crows all hit the table because of Roric’s War.

The next game we’ll go over the fallout after a cataclysmic clash with the demon hiding among the Circle and Flame’s leadership and we’ll see if the investigators can push to continue the case in order to gather evidence on The Hive.

In investigative games I want a few things set from the start:

The Crime Scene

I want to know what happened and why.

I might learn more later as details emerge. There might be people involved who I had never anticipated, not because the players are adding bits of narrative details but because I didn’t think of everything; there are white spaces on the map where new things can come to light.

That said, I want to know who dunnit, why and how.

This takes us to…

Leads

The players should have somewhere to go.

If the leads dry up, that is okay because…

Motion

The forces at work are in motion, either covering up the crime or going after their own goals.

That said, failure is okay. I don’t mind a case where the evidence dries up and the leads go cold. There are parts of earlier cases that were unsolved due to bad rolls; that is fine and I don’t mind a case being unsolved. Something might come up later and the cold case grows hot again.

The Planar Surveyors of the Spire Rail Company

 

I like the idea of the surveyors being Godbound characters. They have fun tools for outside-the-box problem solving.

I might swap out Artifice for Engineering from the Lexicon.


The Necropolis Architect

Artifice, Liche, Cities

A hired liche who was brought in not only for his ability to build but also to represent the dead and undead stakeholders.


The Rail-God

Earth, Alacrity, Journeying

A young deity tailor-made for this rail line. One day they will look over travelers and goods going over these rails but for now they oversee the path they take.


The Gunslinger

Bow (Gun), Alacrity, Murder

A hired demi-god of the gun, brought in to see to the safety of the survey team.

NOTE: I went with Murder from Lexicon of the Throne rather than Protection because it felt grittier.


Spawn of Tiamat and Bahamut

Dragon, Fire, Sorcery

Dragon investors wanted to make sure their hoards were well spent, so they sent this child of dragon deities to watch over the endeavor.


Dwarven Maker

Artificer, Earth, Endurance

The Dwarven Princes would like to profit from their goods sent all over the planes, and so they pledged their Maker-Deity


I’ve got a method for creating imbalances in the Outlands but I feel like this will need more.

I might do 1d4-1 cities in each map. I’ve got a way to create a fast relationship map among those cities.


History happened on this map, roll 1d6 and a 1d8

1 – Battle of Armies

  1. Devils vs. Demons
  2. Tiefling Empire vs. Dragonborn Federation
  3. Elves vs. Dwarves
  4. Elves and/or Dwarves vs. Orcs
  5. Dragons vs. Giants
  6. Wizards vs. Warlocks
  7. Githyanki vs. Githzarai,
  8. Primordials vs. First Gods

2 – Birth

  1. Deity
  2. Elemental Lord
  3. Beast Lord
  4. Mortal Hero
  5. Beast (your favorite monster)
  6. Idea
  7. Artifact
  8. Player character

3 – Death

  1. Devil
  2. Elemental Lord
  3. Beast Lord
  4. Mortal Hero
  5. Holy Martyr
  6. Deity
  7. Angel
  8. Someone a player-character killed.

4 – Sign of Collapse

  1. Illithid Empire
  2. The Ancient Giants
  3. Primordials
  4. Dragonlords
  5. Liche Undead Empire
  6. Hobgoblin Empire
  7. Dinosaur Pantheon
  8. Fey folk from long ago

5 – Mythic Clash

  1. Gith vs. Illithid
  2. Corellon vs. Gruumsh
  3. Bahamut vs. Tiamat
  4. Correllon vs. Lloth
  5. Raven Queen vs. Vecna
  6. Vecna vs. Kaz
  7. Sun vs. Sea
  8. Night vs. Day

6 – Odds and Ends

  1. Bottomless pit that leads to hell
  2. Howling gate into the Far Realms
  3. Sword the size of a skyscraper buried in a mountain
  4. Ghosts re-enacting an ancient, petty battle
  5. Wizard’s Tower, reputation as a god-killer
  6. Crashed Spelljammer capital ship
  7. Pilgrims, following a holy path
  8. Site where a player-character did something epic and it is remembered here.

Review: Superman Volume 1. The Unity Saga: Phantom Earth

Bendis does a good job juggling the cosmic Silver Age vibe (THE ENTIRE EARTH IS TELEPORTED TO THE PHANTOM ZONE) and a down to earth family vibe (Clark talking to his son about responsibility and anger, his relationship with Batman, etc.). I liked Superman thinking about his code against killing when faced with a genocidal alien who claims to have destroyed Krypton and General Zod.

Superman vol 1

The art by Ivan Reis feels like a cross between Dan Jurgens and Bryan Hitch, which is to say it is pretty amazing.

It was a fun start. I’m intrigued to see the rest of the run. Well worth picking up at your local library or local comics shop.

Rock on, Tompkins County Library for having a splendid graphic novel selection.

Preparing for the Battle of Askira

The Battle of Askira

Used Wonderdraft to make a simple hex map for an upcoming battle in our Stars Without Number game. I’m thinking each hex is around a mile.

Sure the Samaihayan Orthodoxy Loyalists have numbers, automatic weapons and an anti-personnel mech but our scrappy freelancers have a railgun, 4 space marine assault suits and a dream (and more if the local sheriff lets them borrow her hover bike).

This week I’ll make a mech using the SWN’s rules. I’ll post up the post-battle map with arrows and stuff that we’ll draw as we go on Google Jamboard.

After the first session of Godbound

The Holy Party has returned. The Monsterists believe that they return because of the pull of the Tarrasque, that the monsters they battle offer as many lessons and as much wisdom as the heroes. The Messianics believe the Holy Party is here to save this broken world and return it to its former glory. Thronists believe it is the place, generating reincarnations of the heroes who came here before.

Chev the Wanderer used his deep understanding of Beasts and Earth to give his comrades a feast when they returned to the First Tavern. And so we give thanks and prayers to Chev the Wanderer when we feast friends who return from a long journey or sickness for the bounty at our table.

Niwin’s torch was lit from the sun itself and relit the Sun’s Daughter’s Dawnblade, returning her to grace. The Order of Niwin now light candles during the Throne Keep’s darkest hours so that folk can find their way. Praying at these lights can offer grace to the downtrodden.

Qnan put the Serpent of Truth on the Devil that was squatting in the Wizard’s Tower. Now farmers around Throne are tattooing snakes on oathbreakers to remind them not to break faith.

When villagers need aid all over the Thronelands, they often put up a rainbow streamer, in honor of Krogan the King-Thief’s illicitly procured magical airship, The Prismatic Spray.

Folk all over the Thronelands and beyond pay respects to Borrell the Wizard when they sign contracts. They shake hands once at dusk and then return a day later to sign the contract and go over the written word one more time.


Played Godbound this past weekend and just wanted to think a bit about what I did and what I would do moving forward.

While folks were finishing up their characters and ordering food, I jotted down a few random encounter tables:

2 – Baalzebul out hunting a unicorn

3 – Manticore

4 – Vampire

5 – Owlbear

6 – Bandits, the Merry Band

7 – Dwarven Mercenaries

8 – Throne Knights

9 – Elf Hunting Party

10 – Griffon pride

11 – Mind Flayer

12 – Githyanki Dragon-riders

 

But they one of the players had a skyship and so I wrote another one for the sky, thinking back, I could’ve just written sky alternates on the land table:

2 – Storm Giant Castle

3 – Elf Griffon-riders

4 – Feral Griffon pride

5 – Roc

6 – Roll twice, those things are fighting

7 – Pegasi herds

8 – Lightning Elementals

9 – Skyship Galleon (3/6 Pirate, 4/5 Merchant)

10 – Manticore

11 – Wyvern

12 – Githyanki Dragon-riders

 

looking at page 134-135 of Godbound, I went home and wrote up factions, things mentioned during the game that I’d bring in if we continued playing.

Heart

City-state ruled by Grazz’t and his demonic forces

Power 3 / d10

Problems:

  • Rival demon cities 3
  • Uppity Paladin Rebels 1
  • Demon War 1

Tomb

City-state necropolis ruled by Orcus and his demonic forces

Power 3  / Action Die d10

Problems:

  • Rival demon cities 3
  • Raven Queen Rebels 1
  • Demon War 1

Frost

City state on a mountain-top ruled by Kostchtchie and his demonic forces

Power 2  / Action Die d8

Problems:

  • Rival demon cities 3
  • Dwarven Rebels 1
  • Demon War 1

Torchbearers

Holy order of servants

Power 2  / Action Die d8

Problems:

  • Infiltrated by devil-worshippers 3

Githyanki Landing Team

Scouting Squadron from the Lich-Queen in the olde capital’s ruins

Power  2 / Action Die d8

Problems:

  • Githzarai Monks 2
  • Illithid 1

Beast Cults

Apocalyptic zealots who worship the Tarrasque, the Void Dragon and other world-ending beasts

Power 1 / Action Die d6

Problems:

  • Hunted by all decent folk in Throne 2

Bard’s Pass Lorekeepers

Old adventurous bards, librarians and storytellers who keep records of the Holy Party’s adventures

Power  1 / Action Die d6

Problems:

  • Throne has forgotten them 1

Holy Town of Hero’s Wake

The holy town where the Holy Party’s First Tavern still stands

Power 1  / Action Die d6

Problems:

  • Bandits 1
  • Throne has forgotten them 1

Elves of the Twilight Realms

Nigh-immortal faeries whose twilit realms straddle the uncreated night and the astral sea

Power  4 / Action Die d12

Problems:

  • Realm under siege by the Spider Queen 4
  • Divided internally between those who want to fight and those who want to fade into the Western Lands 1

Merry Band

Holy bandits who worship Chev the Wanderer

Power 1 / Action Die d6

Problems:

  • Hunted by knights 2

Wizard’s Holiest Scribes

Record keepers and archivists of Throne

Power 2 / Action Die d8

Problems:

  • Books lost during devil infiltration 1
  • Lost touch with populace during Wizard’s absence 1

The first game was fun. They wheeled and dealed with devils to turn the Tarrasque towards the demon city-states and found their lost paladin (the only pre-gen not chosen) on a castle on a dark spot on the sun.

Now I’d want to level everyone up and see where folks want to spend Dominion and Influence, see how they want to change the world, who they want to treat with and how the factions shift around in the meantime. I might even make the faction turn something I do in front of everyone, rather than lonely fun they hear about later.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Godbound Adventure: The Holy Party

It is a tale as old as polyhedrals – a group of delvers goes into a series of monster-haunted pits, gathers riches and turn their ambitions and expertise to the real world.

You know where it goes from here. They take over, become heads of guilds and temples and kingdoms and eventually, why not, they break into heaven and become gods.

Only after the machinery of Heaven becomes damaged do they wake up to the desperate prayers from their shrines in the one-tavern-village where it all started because the Tarrasque has awoken and only this pantheon of demi-gods, The Barbarian God, the Ranger God, the Thief God, the Paladin God, the Wizard God and the Patron Saint of Torchbearers and Hirelings, can stop it.

A Godlike adventure.

Holy Party Character Sheets

The Holy Party Facts Words Powers

NOTE: The Facts on the character sheets are just vague ideas about the characters and not well written Facts. I have in the second PDF questions for the players to answer so that they will have useable Facts and will be able to add a touch of their own spice to the character. Thank you, Matt Weber.

EDIT: I’m going to update the characters based on playing the game last night. Updates will be up on the week of 6/8.

Need a map?

Sure, whipped this up on Wonderdraft:

Holy Party Map.png

Stats from whichever Monster Manual I have close at hand.

Random Table Rolls in Stars Without Number

Last night I knew the players were going to arrive at the Archive Planet. Once it was the home of the Preceptor Archive, the data sent from Olde Earth to this system to support humanity. Recently, this planet fell to Tech Level 2. It was a steam age level of tech. This was all made from rolling up the system years ago. I wrote up what those system tags meant in a google doc.

I went to page 246 in Stars Without Number Revised and rolled a d4, d6, d8, d10, d12 and d20 as the players were getting online and I was chatting with my friend.

What is the conflict About? | Money, extortion, payment due, debts

General Venue of the Event | Next to or in a public park

Why are the PC’s involved? | Participant offers reward for help

What’s the Nature of the Event? | Fires or building collapses are happening

What Antagonists are involved? | A local bully and their thugs

Relevant Urban Features | Unrelated activists are protesting here

I had no idea what all of this meant. I had words written in my notebook:

IMG_20190603_112706

They landed on this moon, knowing what was written in the Sector Hades Zeta Guide:

The Archive City, The Hades Zeta Library, H.Z.L.

Atmo: Breathable

Temp: Warm

Biosphere: Miscible

Population: 10K

TL:  2

About: Eriphyle is a moon circling a gas giant named Polyxena, from which the system takes its name. Eriphyle shows clear signs of having been terra-formed and is covered in cryptic ruins, showing strong evidence that an alien species was in the sector before human settlement. The outpost is governed by an administration that proudly traces its lineage back to the Preceptor Archive created to track data and offer information access since the first days of human space exploration.

Eriphyle’s knockdown from TL3 to TL2 is a source of fierce shame, as data has become corrupted and lost as information infrastructure broke down and computer networks collapsed. Some archivists still hold out hope that when the archive regains its technological glory, coordinates of Olde Earth will be among the pieces of data uncovered.

Everyone knows that the Guevaran Hegemony is out there and that they have a Preceptor Archive that claims a more pure line to Olde Earth.

The players saw a fire in the distance and when the two soldiers arrived on the scene they saw protestors organizing a protest in a park against the latest Archivist Congress budget cuts. Hegemony loyalists want the rival archive to come and lift the planet out of the steam age. The Samihayan Orthodoxy Loyalists were gunning the protestors down.

The players took action. Witt’s Gudradim Cannibal Hunter killed the shooters, noting that they were being led by Hegemonic Intelligence Agents. They got the wounded to a nearby hospital, which was literally a building plugged into a free merchant ship that belonged to some retired military personnel from a tech level 4 world.

I’m fascinated with the way the tables generate something, that something collides headlong into the system generation and all of that collides with the players (GM included) and their characters and all of their motivations. Somewhere in there an adventure happens.