Thursday, September 15, 2022

New Starforged campaign

 Its been a year since my last Starforged campaign, so I decided to start a new one.

This time, it all begins in Agora, artificial moon orbiting Jovian ringed planet of the same name.
Moon was one of the first settlements in the Forge, used as entry point for arriving colonists.

Our hero is called Spinoza, call sign Nerd. He is PhD student at local university for xenoarcheology, working under his mentor Dr. Aristotle.
Spinoza selected for his thesis history of precursors vaults, expecting it to be a safe theoretical subject since his chances of seeing one in life were slim.
But it all changed after an accident including some kids doing illegal space ship races among planet rings.
Hidden between space debris, strange precursor's machine was discovered. It seems to be still operational, as its parts moved relative one to another.

So the government decided to send someone from the university to investigate the thing. And who would be better suited than our hero who studied precursors for so many years...

Travel to the machine passed without issues. Furthermore, vault had a clearly marked docking area for spaceships, as it was inviting people to visit it.
But behind the docking gate our hero was met with impenetrable darkness. As if all power was diverted from less important systems to maintain vaults purpose.
Spinoza fired the light on his suit, knowing that it has limited energy and that light may soon disappear.


Here, I decided to start the 6 segment clock representing power in the battery supplying the light. 

 
Next room was filled with some kind of boxes, and Spinoza had a strange wish to stay in this area longer and study them. Just as if some voices in his head wanted to keep him there forever. As his lamp used more and more power and the clock rushed forward, our hero had to fight urge to stay which seemed to come from the vault itself. Finally, he snapped out of it and managed to continue the journey.
Spinoza finally reached the core of the vault and was able to understand its purpose - vault was some kind of ice storage, a vehicle that carried bodies of dead predecessors to their final resting place.
Are the bodies still in the containers? Who knows. At the moment Spinoza had no resources to find out. It might be a good goal of some future expedition.
At that moment, our hero's main mission was to return to university alive and tell the tale. On a way back, battery finally died, light went out and our hero had to stumble through the darkness of this ancient cemetery for a while, which seriously messed with his mind. But at the end he managed to reach his ship and return home - stressed, but with no permanent consequences.  


Thursday, December 30, 2021

One of my recent acquisitions was a  journaling game called Journey, by Luke Miller. The game can be purchased here: https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/350043/Journey

What can I tell you - this game is goood!

Here is the write-up from one of my plays, where I was exploring the city in Ironsworn setting. My Ironsworn character Otter just crossed the mountains and is moving towards the city, and I wanted to explore the location through the eyes of another traveler before she gets there.

Setting Name: City of Etulf - Ironsworn
Setting Details or Description
One of the very few cities in Ironsworn world, it is what could fit inside the fortress wall and around it. Someone important whose power stretches over mountains lives in the city, but this person is probably not the main official authority there - so most likely there is more secrets in the city than what creates its visible part.

Journey Length: 4 waypoints

WAYPOINT 1
Waypoint Type: Archeological
Waypoint Name: Old Castle
Number of aspects: /

Travel
As I walked in from the wilderness, I noticed 2 fortresses standing. One big to the west and another, smaller and ruined one a little bit east. The old castle intrigued me, so I started moving towards the ruins.

TRAVEL EVENT:
Travel Event Type:
You are being blocked from proceeding to your currently intended Waypoint. Skip to the next Waypoint in your Journey (or draw another), doubling back to your current destination afterward if you wish.

Description of What Happened
Unfortunately, a group of big guys standing there with apparently no reason did not allow me to enter the old castle. They were wearing no insignia to mark they belong to city guards or something. But they insist I will have to go to main gate first and check in. I will try to come back here tonight.


WAYPOINT 2
Waypoint Type: Architectural
Waypoint Name: New Fortress
Number of aspects: 2

Travel
I have left the ruffians behind and continued towards the city itself.

TRAVEL EVENT
Travel Event Type
You either discover or are offered some surprise assistance or shortcut that makes your Travel extremely easy.

Description of What Happened
A passing merchant offered to take me to the gate on his cart. Offer that one does not refuse.

Description of How Event Was Resolved
I offered to pay for a transport with money or service, but the merchant just waved his hand and moved on. As everywhere, so it is here. Some people are mean and some are kind, for no visible reason.

Arrival
This fortress must have been built when the old one become too small to host the city. Its purpose is to keep ruling class safe, but in case of attack also to serve as shelter for townsfolk living in an area surrounding the castle.

ASPECT EXPLORATION
Aspect Type: An especially significant adornment within or on this Waypoint and why it’s of particular significance
Suit Modifier and Meaning: Surprising
Above the fortress entrance hangs the city flag depicting a flute on red and black background. A flute! For an adept of flute magic like me, that is the last symbol I would expect to see. I should investigate this further.

From gallery of saranac


Aspect Type: How the surfaces and textures of this Waypoint feel physically to your form?
Suit Modifier and Meaning: Emotional
As I touch the fortress walls, I can feel that its structure is not random. Music is written on its walls, notes carved in the alphabet of blind musicians. There is magic inserted into these walls, sank into them when this structure was built! I guess that ordinary citizens living here know nothing about it!

WISH YOU WERE HERE
To: Flute Master Ioda
I have just arrived to City of Etulf but I can already feel that this place is submerged in flute magic. Ordinary people will pass by unnoticing, but for us, there is musing captured here, waiting to be released.


WAYPOINT 3
Waypoint Type: Historical
Waypoint Name: Lady Luna’s Garden
Number of aspects: 3

Travel
Walking around the fortress, I noticed a small patch of green at the far corner. Someone is cultivating herbs in this fortress. I started walking towards the green through busy marketplace hearing merchant shouting while promoting their wares.

TRAVEL EVENT
Travel Event Type
Something goes wrong with your mode of travel that must be fixed or worked around before you can continue

Description of What Happened
Suddenly, a fight broke between a merchant and a ruffian. Attacker reminded me of people who blocked my way towards the Old Fortress. I stepped behind one of the market stalls to avoid being involved.

Description of How Event Was Resolved
But other merchants were not being idle, they stepped up to help their friend, and ruffian soon took wind. It seems that these bullies are well known, and not very popular among merchants. Once it all settled, I continued towards the patch of green.

Arrival
There are no market stalls near the garden. It seems that this place is respected by the citizens. Location is marked with the table giving the location a name: Lady Luna’s Garden.

From gallery of saranac


ASPECT EXPLORATION
Aspect Type: Opposition to the remembrance and memorialization of the events that caused this Waypoint to become regarded as historic
Suit Modifier and Meaning: Important
The garden seems small, only a few healing plants and refreshing tea herbs. But as I turned my head from it, I noticed several ruffians. They first walked by the wall, but as they approached the garden they made quick protective sign against magic and circled the green as far as possible trying not to look too suspicious.

Aspect Type: People or powers that protect and maintain this Waypoint from the effects of time and other damage
Suit Modifier and Meaning: Surprising
One of the merchants approached me. “Our Lady Luna was a healer. Lived some hundred years ago. Her father left old fortress and built this one” he told me. Our merchant’s guild keeps this garden in memory of her, and she protects us from sickness.

Aspect Type: Emotional responses that being in or around this Waypoint (and thinking of the events it memorializes) evokes
Suit Modifier and Meaning: Important
Current Lord Etulf comes from the different bloodline, and is not fond of Our Lady Luna, or Merchant’s gild. He seems to have other plans for this town, does not see it as marketplace any more. There is open rivalry between Lord and Merchants, but so far no side has significant advantage, and both are afraid to do anything that would tip the balance.

WISH YOU WERE HERE
To: Flute Master Ioda
There is a small garden in this city. It is not much to look at, but it has huge significant for the city as it is an emblem of merchant guild and their resistance against Lord Etulf and his ruffians. I wish you were here as you would be able to read energies of this place much better than I can.


WAYPOINT 4
Waypoint Type: Archeological
Waypoint Name: Old Castle
Number of aspects: 4

Travel
Night fell, and I am ready to explore the Old Castle.
TRAVEL EVENT
Travel Event Type
Travel conditions change in some significant way that impact your experience

Description of What Happened
Things look different during the night.

Description of How Event Was Resolved
I was prepared to explore ruins by night, as I brought with me small protected lantern able to emit directed light. I hope that people from town will not learn about my night expedition.

Arrival
Ruins look a little frightening in the dark. I lighted the lantern and started walking carefully in order not to trip on some rock.

ASPECT EXPLORATION
Aspect Type: How the people feel about this waypoint?
Suit Modifier and Meaning: Emotional
Merchant’s guild sees this location just like an insignificant monument of the old times, unaware that it is much more. Old Castle seems to hide so many forgotten knowledge merchants do not care about. I feel angry when I think how shortsighted people can be. I also fear what will happen to the area if current Lord Etulf finds the way to re-learn the secrets of this place.

Aspect Type: Stories and legends people tell about waypoint
Suit Modifier and Meaning: Supernatural
Legends tell about old Lord Etulf, father of Lady Luna, who signed a pact with a daemon. During just one night, daemon destroyed the old castle and used its rocks to build the new Fortress. Both places were then filled by dark energies. Lady Luna built her garden and the plants transformed all the dark into light. She then opened doors of a new city for merchants, and area started prospering. But the daemon still sleeps below the old castle walls.

Aspect Type: Especially interesting and distinct features that casual explorer might miss
Suit Modifier and Meaning: Surprising
Music is written on the ruined walls of the Old Castle too. Maybe there is a truth that the New Fortress is made from old Castle materials, and that this music is remnant of some older times.

Aspect Type: The smell and feel of the air
Suit Modifier and Meaning: Surprising
The air is still, and stale here. It is unnaturally quiet, as if air is too heavy to move and carry sound. Playing music would be impossible here.

WISH YOU WERE HERE
To: Flute Master Ioda
Old Castle used to be a place of music, but it is no longer. It would be impossible to play any instrument in it. This place holds many secrets, but it may be better if they stay hidden forever.



REFLECTION

During one of my travels, I visited City of Etulf. It is a strange place torn between two fractions - city nobles wage a constant power struggle against Merchant’s Guild.
And while the very walls of the city are immersed with music, there is strange lack of it on its streets. On some places, like Old Castle, it is even impossible to make any kind of sound.
This city seems to live normal everyday life, but there are dark secrets hidden deep in its root. I pray that they will stay hidden forever.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Secrets of Vibrant Isle - another dissapointment

Secrets of Vibrant Isle is a new solo journaling game designed by Craig Campbell. It is a game I was very hyped about, so I could not wait to start playing it.
Kickstarter previews reminded me very much on TYOV, so I hoped for similar experience.

Unfortunately, after playing one session  (complete 4 weeks dame), I feel I received less than I expected.



First weeks are dedicated to "exploration of the island" which translates to rolling D100 to decide the prompt. Prompts are usually nothing more than call for a skill test on D10. Succeed and you get one thing (usually good), fail and you get another (usually bad). So far there is nothing to push the story forward, and no resource management that could make the tension (resource management is what makes TYOV fun).

Story mode of the game actually starts after rolling doubles for the first time on exploration roll (which, statistically, should always happen somewhere in week 2). But this part of the game consists of only 5 prompts + one of the several possible finale prompts, and unfortunately also has little to offer.

The final challenge is nothing more than 4 skill test rolled in a row, so this game definitely goes to the back shelf. I really hoped for more from this.

Friday, December 10, 2021

Apawthecaria - preview edition

There are two upcoming solo journaling games I am really excited about.
One is Secrets of the Vibrant Isle, and second is Apawthecaria.

As Apawthecaria has a free preview, I decided to check it out.


I did half of the first journey, and then decided to stop, first because I discovered I am using wrong strategy of rushing ahead without preparing, and second because preview is limited to small part of the final content and one should really wait for a finished product.

My opinion at the end is very positive. This will always be an indie game (at the end it only collected some 8000 euro on kickstarter, not enough for serious run, playtesters and proofreaders) so some things will be left for player to houserule, but what designers did with this limited resources seems very impressive if judged by preview files.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Flute for my enemy - Ironsworn adventure part 1

Turtle was a village elder in a village of Summerhome. One day, his son Beaver left for adventure but never returned.

A year later a baby was left in front his grandfather’s house with a note that it is Beaver’s offspring. The baby was strange, with big eyes and skin of the color of dried leaves. Her mother must have been an elf. The baby girl was named Otter.

As kid grew, she also started behaving strangely….She often danced alone under the moon, and spent its days whispering to the crows sitting on top of a few willow tries that grew next to the spring.

Willow Tree Care - Tips For Planting Willow Trees In The Landscape

Otter was also natural with bow and arrow – true to her elven ancestry.

Bonds:

1.       Otter’s grandfather Turtle

2.       Willow trees

3.       Summerhome village

Assets:

1.       Dancer

2.       Archer

3.       Augur

A leader falls

As Turtle grew older, more and more people thought that he should no longer be the village elder. This place should naturally be taken by his son, but as he was not there, other families started pretending to the position.

Otter made an iron vow that she will find her father and come back with him to the village, so that Beaver could take the elder position (background vow, extreme).

Gather information

Other tries to learn whereabouts of her father from family stories. It seems that Beaver wanted to enter the Mouth of the Dead cave – which supposedly contains entrance into the afterlife. Seems that he wanted to bring someone back from dead, but who, and why?

Vow

Otter swears the iron vow that she will seek clues about her father in the Mouth of the Dead.

Secure advantage

Otter searches her father’s remaining possessions to find something that might help in her quest. All she finds is a wood pallet with flute finger positions of some song written on it.

 Transverse Bamboo Flutes

Turtle explains Otter that Beaver played a flute.  The only way for Otter to find Beaver is to find his flute first. But Beaver did not want to be found, so he made an iron vow that he will give his flute to his arch-enemy. No one in the village knows if he managed to fulfill that vow or who could this arch-enemy be.

Undertake a Journey

First part of travel to Mouth of the Dead was uneventful.

Resupply 

Otter stopped to resupply by hunting with her bow. She took a moment to aim at a deer, but then noticed that the animal is standing by some strange rock. Otter missed the dear but went to examine the rock ornate with strange runes. Rock was actually a vessel containing elven supplies. It seems that elves keep hidden supply outposts in the forests for their travelers.

Reach your destination

 The Paleolithic Burials at Qafzeh Cave, Israel

Otter stands in front of Mouth of the Dead cave, ready to enter.

End of part 1.

PART 2
As she entered the cave Otter found herself surrounded by swarm of rats.
(few combat moves later) She found squeaking of hundred of rats around her feet annoying so she endured some stress, but managed to push a big rock at the swarm and scatter them.

Moving on, she reached a very steep descent blocking her way. It is lucky she dad her rope with her (equipment test).

Few cave halls later, Otter has seen the daylight again - there is a second exit from the cave. Is she reaching halls of afterlife?

Near the cave mouth, Otter noticed another elven resupply cache. Being low on supplies, she decided to check it out. But when she opened the cache, the swarm of terrible bugs crawled out of it. She felt so disgusted that she will never try to open elven supply storage again. (miss om re-supply, something is lost, so I let that asset go. Easy come, easy gone).
Exiting the cage, Otter noticed wast forest spreading in the lands before her.Well, this is definitely not an afterlife.
Let see what can we find under the trees.

END OF PART 2. 

Traveling through the forest, Otter’s path was blocked by a huge wolf. She moved carefully towards it, not wanting to fight the beautiful animal.

Wolf was not there for fight or food. What does it need?

(Rebel against power. What power? Coordinate Language) Otter’s mind filled with images of animals forced against their will to work against the community of elves – sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly by small trickeries, misdirection, lies or petty thieving.

Otter swore an Iron Vow that she will free forest animals from this tyrannical service (dangerous).

Otter finally reached elven community and was accepted, but how will she recognize her mother?

Ask crows! Double – a twist! (Depart Balance)

Otter’s mother lived in this community as nature priest. But elven community never approved her relationship with human, so after having her, they left the community together.

Since that moment, elven community lost its stability point. They have no nature priest at the moment, and nature is playing tricks on them.

(Decided against vow here, as it would get too intervened, rather putting it as a milestone on find parents quest – Once Otter’s mother returns, stability will return too).

Otter tried to forge the bond with her mother’s community. But, there is an issue in the village. Some elven kids disappeared, lured by a strange music from a cave north of the community If Otter could bring the kids back…

Otter enters the cave, and deep inside it finds a bandit leader commanding both kids and forest animals with the music from a flute? Is this Otter’s father flute?

Otter enters the fray attacking bandit leader. He reacts by playing a song, hoping to enchant her. But Otter resists, humming in her head the song she learned from father’s writing. Then she ends the fight – Bandit leader is dead.

Was he the one to command the animals? (Fulfill the vow – Miss!)

Otter takes the flute from the body. It is not her father’s handmade instrument, just the common one you can buy on village fairs.

Anyway she uses the instrument to play her father’s tune to the elven children in a cave, freeing them from spell. Bond with village marked.

As she exited the cave, wolf appears again. It tells her that the Bandit leader was just one of several minions, serving one mysterious leader, figure shrouded in darkness…..  Free forest animals vow is now formidable….

 END OF PART 3. 

After dealing with Bandit Leader, Otter visited Haunted Barrow to kill Necromancer, and then entered Maddening Ziggurat to pay a visit to local Chaos Priest. But inside the Ziggurat she found out that her fame was there before her. Priest surrender at the first sight of her (doubles on strong hit - Avoid Wound. Successful Compel

This allowed Otter to fulfill her vow to forest animals. They are now free.

Chaos Priest told her about the strange person who gave him a flute and showed him how to play it. He knows very little about him, except that he is rich and important person in a town lying on the other side of the Northern Mountains.

Otter left the Ziggurat with 0 Spirit (it was truly Maddening) but pressing on. As she walked back towards the elven community, she saw Priest riding full speed North, to warn his boss about Otter's arrival. Stupid fool, he will probably regret he was born once his boss finishes with him.

Otter will do some Sojourn to recover and then move North herself.

But probably not in June. It was fun ride with Ironsworn, but I feel a little tired of solo RPG-ing. What I need now are some heavy euro boardgames to burn by brain in a different way for a while.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Colostle solo RPG - Sesion 1 and review

This is my first adventure in the world of a solo RPG Colostle, recently funded through kickstarter..
From house rules, I used only Oracle (see this link), and I disregarded class rules.


My character started as a 4 exploration / 2 combat adventurer called Otter, looking for knowledge about Rooks - strange stone semi-sentinel automatons that roam the Coloste.

Traveling through the land, Otter finds remains of the strange machinery. It seems to be broken. No part of it moves. Massive electric Rook seems to be guarding machinery. Using some strange form of communication, Rook informs Otter that it will teach him about Rooks if he helps repair the machine.

Solution to the machinery condition lies with a massive ice Rook, buried within a cave in a seaside cliff. Otter should be aware that there are traps…

In order to prepare for the mission, Otter decided to visit the remains of a medium ice Rook he knows about. But there are already 2 scavengers at the Rooks site, and they attack Otter. Combat is quick, and deadly, scavengers are not a match for Otter skill. (2x treasure)

Otter tries to enter Rook shell, but the trap activates, surrounding him in ice. From its trapped position, Otter can see one of Rooks windows, and through it, a small village. The village is not there if you look from outside of Rook. The window of a Rook is too small for human to pass through, but big enough for someone to give some object inside.

Otter tries to combat the ice trap surrounding him but fails, only earning two wounds.
Then, he starts to scream hoping that villagers will hear him and come to his help.
Oracle: will this plan succeed? Yes.
What happens:
One villager reaches through the window and gives Otter an ancient item - some kind of strange torch that once was part of electric Rook. It has only one charge (the item is mostly rubble - 4 spades).
Otter uses the item’s charge to melt the ice trap.
Can Otter establish further communication with the villager? Oracle says no.

Otter then travels towards the sea. On the way there, he meets a strange person wearing a castle symbol on a robe. Upon hearing about Otter’s mission, Castle Guard decides to help and gives him a mace made from rook finger - strange weapon indeed - combat + 1.

Otter arrives at the sea cave and finds a massive Rook buried inside it. He fights Rook’s ice trap and is victorious, even if gaining 2 wounds. This Rook’s portal window is big enough for Otter to pass through, so he moves to the other side.

Our hero finds himself to be in some other cave. This cave is used as a camp by a group of humans, but they are all sound asleep and nobody notices the new arrival.
Among the sleeping people Otter finds a cage with a very small Rookling inside.

Moving quietly not to wake up anybody, Otter takes the cage and returns through Ice Rook. Road back is uneventful and Otter quickly arrives back to where he started.

He took the Rookling out of its cage, and big Rook put it into the machine. Operated by a small robot, machine parts start moving, but no visible output comes out of that.

Satisfied, massive Rook thanks Otter. It further tells him that Castle Guards use items called Ticket Keys to direct exit location of Ice Rook’s window portals, and that they are using them as means of transportation through the Colostle.
Then, Rook gives Otter one such Ticket Key.

END OF SESSION 1.

Review:

THE GOOD
First thing that you see when you get this book is beautiful art.
Another great thing that simply shines in this game is world where it all happens. Game is located within the castle so big, that mountains, rivers, even oceans are located inside its rooms.
The rooms of the castle are roamed by semi intelligent automatons called Rooks. This material for solo RPG is just great.

THE AVERAGE
Mechanics of the game is based on a standard deck of cards. Each turn is divided into two phases - exploration and combat.
In exploration phase player draws cards, finds their meaning in the table, and creates story based on that. It has opportunity to create great story lines but player needs previous solo RPG experience, it is not very beginners friendly.
Number of possible results is rather limited, with 10 red and 10 black cards (suits always represent encounter with Rooks). Also, some card meanings are to concrete (like: you fall into trap, club you avoid it, spades you are captured) so occasionally it is difficult to fit it into current adventure concept.
Combat uses paper/rock/scissors push your luck mechanics that can create interesting outcomes.

THE BAD
Where the game falls are mechanics. They definitely need some important house rulings to actually work.
Classes of the game differ just by number of cards drawn in each phase, and this is something that changes during the game. Classes have no mechanical differences even if they were easy to implement - like one class could be better when fighting Rooks, others could have additional healing or similar.
Lots of things are just for the mood sake when they could have been used mechanically.
Additional minus is the fact that the game never addresses player actions. It never asks player: what do you want to do now? There is also no way to answer player's question - like oracle or random idea generator. Also, there is no way to resolve non aggressive actions other than combat.
For example: my character is locked in ice trap inside the Rook. Previous exploration scene told me that Rook stands in front of small village. I tried to fight the ice trap but I lost. I could fight again, but it would create the death spiral. I want to scream hoping that someone in village would hear me, but I have no option for that. I can just create exploration scene hoping to deduct from that if my idea succeeds or not, but this could turn difficult with the way exploration table is created.

This game had potential, but it was not playtested properly and therefore it was published way before it should have been. With some house ruling it could create interesting stories, but it may be more trouble than it is worth. Maybe it would be easier to use just the setting, and then play another game mechanically to explore its possibilities.

Setting: 9 out of 10 stars
Mechanics: 4 out of 10 stars.
Total mark: 6.5

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Bridges to Nowhere PnP Kickstarter edition

Some time ago, company Doomsday Robots lunched a kickstarter for their new game Bridges to Nowhere.
I pledged for PnP files, and the time finally came when they arrived.

So far, I made only components needed for two player game, in order to play it solo. I went for the more robust build, making tiles on 2mm cardboard base instead of classic cards.
I packed the game into box from Carcassonne expansion. The current components fit nicely, and there is enough space for 3 to 4 players update should I decide to build it.

The game itself uses drafting mechanism, where you draft bridge elements and then try to build them into your bridge in order to maximize points. Points can be earned from bridge segments (Each built in segment brings specified number of victory points by itself. Matching symbols on adjacent tiles  and using specific tiles like monuments and toll stations can significantly boost your point total) or by fulfilling specific contract conditions predefined before each game.

Solo game is well designed, dummy player will always take the best cards and you have to use all your wits to outsmart it. Normal difficulty gives just the right challenge for average player.

Final opinion? Bridges to Nowhere is a nice and thematic drafting and tile laying brain burner that especially plays well with the music of Talking Heads in the background. For me, it is definitely a keeper.