Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Blades in the dark


I kickstarted BitD all the way back in 2016, but this is the first time I finally decided to print the rulebook and play it.
Created a cult with two members - a Whisper and a Lurk.

For the first score, I decided that some dock gang stole a box from one of the nobles traveling on a ship, and that cargo contains a book that might be worth a fortune to some of the occult bands.

Battle plan was to direct a flock of ghosts through the warehouse where cargo was kept. This will spook the guards and make them run away. Our boys will then waltz in and take a book without anybody noticing.

The first part of the plan went OK, ghost flock entered the warehouse and scared the guards, but then ghost went rogue and decided to stay inside instead of moving forward.

Time for plan B. Whisper attuned to to ghost field to detect where the ghosts are, but he also found out that some government ghost hunters and policemen are coming, so that our heroes need to hurry and finish the job before they arrive (6 parts clock, 2 ticks).

Lurk surveyed the situation and decided the best way they should move to attract as little of ghost attention as possible.
Team tried to sneak past ghosts, but they failed, and ghost stampede right through our heroes causing some serious psychological damage.
Additionally, that ticked off the 6th part of the clock, so police arrived.

Team made desperate run out, failing the mission. Additionally - the heat was super high, giving them wanted level.
Beaten and wounded, our heroes return to their empty home....

I really enjoyed this one.
But, also I finally understood why I like one shots.
To make it interesting, I really like to keep my characters at the edge of survival and success, on a razor edge, as that is what makes an exciting session for me.
So, after that first session, they are usually too beaten to continue into the next mission, or next mission has to be light to give them chance to recover, and therefore boring. And then I lose interest to continue the campaign.
Therefore, I will be sticking to one shots.

Monday, November 20, 2023

Vaesen: Into the Mithyc North

During the Halloween season, Free League offered Vaesen PDF for free, so I had to grab an opportunity. I purchased the official solo rules and jumped into mythic north....

 My character is called Hal Jansen, and he is a writer.

Hal got a letter informing him that somebody poisoned all drinking water in the village Illustad. 

Attached to the letter was a doll, normal looking, like any girl would carry.

After traveling to Illustad, Hal talked to local bard and was informed that water is like this because people stopped respecting Vaesen. Bard knew nothing about the doll.

Then he went to speak with farmer who discovered the issue. Farmer gave our hero a special coin that was once forged by local blacksmith and thrown into the spring to please the local Vaesen. But since old blacksmith died of old age, his successors are no longer forging such a coins.

Together, they visited the local spring that was poisoned, but Hal could find no further clues. Instead farmer dropped sick on him. Hal tried to cure him but failed and farmer died, while Hal got Exhausted from effort.

With no other idea, Hal visited young blacksmith, son of the old master. He is a talkative fellow, so it was easy for Hal to inspire him into teaching our hero how to forge a mythical coin, even if Hal ended Afraid, as part of his soul was forged into coin. Blacksmith even spill out that someone in town once killed a Vaesen, and burred its body inside now poisoned spring.

But asked about the doll, blacksmith refused to talk, even though he obviously knew its history.
Hal tried to read his body language to learn why, but blacksmith kept calm, until Hal got Angry (pushed roll), when blacksmith also broke and confessed that there is another Vaesen in village - a Nisse connected with Smithy that helps him in forging. If he says too much, Nisse may leave, and the business would be ruined....

Hal then decided to investigate a doll, and he discovered that strange fluid is dripping from it, smelling on sea weeds....

Hal now has a rather good idea what he might be dealing with, but he needs to confirm it. So, he decided to go back to the stream for another investigation round, but this time he will be looking for a small grave.... 

This time, Hal had no issue to find the burial place. He decided not to act alone, but called local priest. Together they dig the shallow grave and found a body of a little girl. While at first remains looked human, remains of swimming nets between her fingers revealed the truth - she was a Sea Child, daughter of blacksmith and a Mermaid.

Priest buried girls remains on holly ground and Hal left her a doll with her. That should keep her spirit in peace, village has enough trouble than to deal with the restless ghost too.
Next night, Hal broke into the smithy, looking for clues. He found out that Blacksmith never knew that he had a daughter form his affair with the mermaid. 

But Hal also found evidence that Nisse from the Smithy knew it. And Nisse was the responsible one for deaths of both girl and the farmer. He acted to protect his blacksmith and their work, but no matter his motives, his course of action was doubtful. 

Hal returned to the river, and threw a coin he forged into the spring. As it contains part of investigators soul, mermaid will be able to read it and learn the truth. Hal decided to let Vaesen solve it between themselves.

Next morning, all waters in village were again clear and drinkable.

But the river started rising, and soon it flooded the area. Blacksmith was hit the most, his shop was completely ruined. He survived, and tried for a year to rebuild his business, but the quality of his work was nowhere near to the one before the flood. Only few people in the village guessed why.

Blacksmith left after the year, and another family took his place. Society took care that newcomers learned how to forge the soul coins. Tradition should be kept, and when you have Vaesens near by, one has to do the best possible to keep them satisfied and at peace.

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

The Zone RPG

For the first solo RPG in 2023 I selected The Zone, game inspired by Stalker and similar fiction, that was successfully kickstarted in 2022. You can try the game for free through web app available here:

I played prototype playtest copy; final version will have better art.


In this session, I used 3 characters.

Ernest Hadingway – writer obsessed with pleasures of flesh

Albert Edinstain – scientist obsessed with being first to reach discovery and

Gilbert Oliver Dumas – politician obsessed with power over other people.

During the session, politician mutated receiving the voice with which he could force into obedience all other members of the expedition.

Writer saw a beautiful naked woman in the window of the mansion, entered the building and the doors closed behind him. He was never seen again.

Scientist mutated into tree man, and finally took root in the back yard of university building in the zone where he will spend eternity gaining knowledge.

And so, politician, as the last survivor, entered the center of the zone and earned the right to ask Zone for fulfilment of one wish.

He asked to rule the world.

The Zone granted him his wish, but he will not role the world he came from.

Gilbert Oliver Dumas found himself in the nothingness. He had no body, there was just his commanding voice floating in void. And so, the creature that used to be a man with initial G.O.D. said: Let there be light….



This was a great session.

I can’t recommend this game enough. It can create really great stories, within one hour session. 5 stars product.

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

The Journey

One of my recent acquisitions was a  journaling game called Journey, by Luke Miller. The game can be purchased here:

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

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

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

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.

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 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!

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

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 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.

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 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.

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

Night fell, and I am ready to explore the Old Castle.
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.

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 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.

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.


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.