I'm back...for how long, we'll see. I had a nice holiday, but RL burnout caught up with me...in a big way. When I have had time, I haven't had much in the way of motivation. So, I did something I rarely do, and took a mental health day. It was glorious and led to something else I rarely do: play an entire solo scenario in one — well — nearly one sitting.
I've also had a chance over the break to enjoy reading and experimenting with Tana Pigeon's new addition, The Location Crafter. I see it's still up at #7 on drivethrurpg even weeks after its launch. That sounds like a good sign. If you haven't checked it out, I highly recommend it. A great way to approach site-exploring (or just location-based scene rpg'ing in general) for the GM as well as the soloist. There's a complete solo rpg engine right in there.
“Sending Goblins To Do Elves’ Dirty Work”
For my little delve, I resurrected an old character one of my friends created for a GM + 1 player game we did (if you don't know my thoughts on reviving old concepts and characters, read my Ghosts of Gaming Past post). This was a youthful time when we had read lots of R.A. Salvatore, as you will see.
Also, for the sake of nostalgia, I used a version of John Harper's World of Dungeons spinoff of the Dungeon World system to give it an old school feel (even though it's very new school). I mixed with things I like from the full version of Dungeon World. This is the character in question:
Kingon of Shadowdale,
half-elf male ranger
HP: 2 (2HD); LEVEL: 1
ATTRIBUTES: Str+1, Dex+2, Con+1, Cha-1
SKILLS: awareness, survival
ABILITIES: pet, wild
EQUIPMENT: leather jerkin, long sword, short sword, long bow, ammunition (2 uses), travel rations (2 uses), water skin (2 uses), flint & steel, coin (0 uses)
WEALTH: Destitute (-1)
BONDS: I owe my life to Shadow.
SHADOW. 2HD, 5hp, claws and fangs. Grants the stealth skill. Black cat-beast from Chult. Stalks prey. Ferocious.
I decided on a mixture of John Fiore's Nine Questions solo engine with some elements of the Location Crafter (although what from the latter, I wasn't yet sure — I ended up using the descriptor and action words as my random idea generator along with occasional Rory's Story Cubes). I also rolled a die to clarify occasional questions with a simple yes/no result. Even results indicated Yes, odds, No; and I sometimes threw in an extra die to simulate higher chances of a yes or no (taking the most or least favorable, respectively). Using the base resolution system of DW, the results are based on attribute modifiers and a roll of 2d6 where 2-6 is a miss (failure and a hard move), 7-9 a partial (success at a cost), 10-11 a hit (you get what want, no questions asked), and 12+ a critical (what you want and then some). You will see some of these results sprinkled throughout the text. WoDu doesn't have the explicit moves of DW, but can be free-formed to fit the flow — or simply applying a Defy Danger resolution to everything.
I also tried this session with nothing but my character sheet in front of me, a pair of dice, and dictating into my iPhone.
Wandering near the woods of Battledale, a half-elf ranger overheard the screams of women. A small hamlet was lit aflame as goblin raiders made a retreat with some loot into the woods. Kingon pursued.
The 9Q’s: Questions 1-3
Q1b. Chase Into the Woods
Focus (PC initiated): pursuit, combat
Kingon swore an oath and trailed after the buggars. Goblins in broad daylight! He pushed himself hard (partial), flying through the foliage so that he scarcely noticed the two goblins hiding around the boles of trees in wait. However (partial), his great cat companion’s throaty growl alerted him. He was able to leap as a rope was pulled tight between the two trees to trip him. That put him off balance — and the goblins were right there on him with axes raised for a killing blow.
A black shadow leapt behind the pair (hit), one goblin going down with a shriek as fur and claws blurred together. The beast raked the life from the goblin. That bought Kingon enough time to recover and draw two blades to meet the second’s onslaught. He owed his life to the jaguar — and not for the first time. He circled with his scared opponent, but the craven thing bolted suddenly, not wishing to face the ranger alone or on even footing.
GM’s Reaction: wildly tranquil
As he turned to follow the remaining goblin, he saw no sign of the others. The brief scuffle had done its job — the others had all completely vanished within the dense foliage of the old forest. Kingon sheathed his blades and drew his bow. He wasn’t about to let this one get away (miss). He let loose, but struck a tree as the goblin evaded him.
Two hoots in the trees let the ranger know he had been duped again — snipers were waiting for him. With a sudden spring (partial), Kingon twisted aside just as a black fletched arrow struck the spot where his head had been a moment earlier. He was behind cover, but had dropped his bow, which was now out of reach and in the direct line of fire.
Back to the tree, he contemplated his next move. Then he spied Shadow lurking beyond. He flicked his eyes upward so the cat could follow. However, the beast was already in action (low partial). The cat stalked up the trunk of the tree within which one sniper lay with deadly quiet. The going was slow enough that the two had time to maneuver to get a better shot at the half-elf.
Kingon was forced to move again as arrows whistled (partial). He dived away, sprawling on all fours as just ahead of him, he heard the brush rustling. Had some of the footmen circled back to reinforce their comrades, or was this some other threat?
However, Shadow was now in position (crit), and tore through the branches, flaying one goblin with a shriek and dropping the other completely surprised archer to the ground. Kingon didn’t waste a moment. With blades back in hand again (miss), he went after the prone goblin. However, the thing dropped its bow and was up with a long knife in its hand faster than Kingon would have believed possible. He deflected one blow, but mostly by dumb luck, the jagged blade sliced open a length of the half-elf’s forearm in a counterstrike.
What’s the source of the sound? delightfully delicate (wild elves)
As the two fought, the foliage shaking reached a crescendo, revealing two or three evilly grinning green fey — wild elves. A central one rode atop a great wild boar. Kingon could hardly comprehend what he saw, but didn’t let up on his offensive (partial), striking down the last goblin.
Laughing, the strange fey beings chanted together. Kingon’s head swam — but pleasantly — and he fell into a deep slumber.
Q2. In the Lair of the Fey Folk
Unusual Event: fortunately scary, vengeance power
Where? in the lair of the fairy folk — a dense mossy green “room"
Kingon dreamt of pleasant laughter and cool turf between his toes. He awoke with the sound of a bubbling brook and found himself on a soft, fragrant mossy bed. He looked around him and found he was dressed in soft linens, his clothes and leather jerkin cleaned and neatly folded nearby. His weapons were nowhere to be seen.
Presently, two elf maidens entered with an urn and basin and told Kingon to refresh himself. When he had done so, he followed the only way out of the natural ‘room’ through a corridor between the woods to an open sward upon which a board was prepared. The impressive warrior Kingon had seen riding the boar sat in a high backed chair at one end. The elf gestured for Kingon to sit, which he did.
“You did well against the goblins yesterday,” the elf lord said.
“You mean a day has passed?” Kingon said with trepidation.
“Yes, but do not worry yourself — those fleeing ones did not get far,” said the lord. “I am Imewar, lord of these beings of the wood. For now, you are our guest. Once you have supped and have the strength to go on, you may leave — however, you are not to follow those goblins again.”
“But, why?” asked Kingon, stupefied.
“They have done misdeeds against my people, and we alone must mete our justice upon them.”
“But they have done misdeeds against the men of the Dales as well — and some have hurt their women, stolen their possessions, and burned their homes. What about them and their lost heirlooms?”
Does the elf lord have them? No
Does he make a promise to return their things? Yes
“You may trust, young one, that we will return their belongings once we have recovered them,” answered Imewar.
“That is poor justice for a people wronged…”
“And so was it when the men of the south first settled about our wood and took much of what was ours from us and made hurts upon our women and cut into our homes,” replied Imewar as though such irony was just deserts. Then, Kingon knew the lord’s eyes regarded him with deep contempt of a half-breed — a reflection of his contempt for mankind.
“Well,” said Kingon after some thought, “at least allow me to join you.”
Is Imewar open to it? No
“I’m afraid it cannot be,” the elf lord said. “Tomorrow, if you are ready, you will be escorted under blindfold back to the outskirts of your man’s world. There you will find your weapons.”
“I am not only of human blood,” insisted Kingon. “By right, I may join by the elvish blood commingled with it. You would deny me my birthright?!” (miss)
The elf lord stood. “I will hear no more of this! You have been paid every kindness and honor in our disposal, for few of the half-blooded folk have ever set foot in Mosshollow! Know that such kindness shall never again be offered. Once you have supped, begone!”
Imewar was not having Kingon interfere or know any more of his mind.
Q3. Too Many Grievances
Shocking Twist: gently lethal, gratify wounds
Focus: betrayal, revelation (amoeba & crown from RSC)
Kingon couldn’t wait to leave the company of the elves. As soon as he was rested, he elected ready to go. In short order, he was dressed (although without his weapon still) and escorted among a group of four elves. They blindfolded the half-elf, disoriented him, and made off.
Where he was, the ranger could not tell. He could, however, gauge the amount of time they were walking — although it would not have been difficult for the elves to backtrack and wind around in order to further confuse his steps.
After several hours into their march, Kingon heard a clamor up ahead. He could very well hear the shrill voices of goblins, and many were crying out as if a battle took place, or some other disaster. Kingon was thrust aside and told to be quiet. The clamor continued, and with it the sound of steel against steel. All the while, two of his elf escorts whispered to one another in their native tongue.
Now, Kingon was partially elf-blooded. That part of him which was elvish was not raised among the tree-folk. However, through his orphanage among many elves and half-elves living in human lands, he picked up a bit of the forest tongue. What he now heard was a bit rustic, but still (hit) he could make out a good deal.
The first commented about how the foolish goblins were too stupid to take the bait. “Imewar’s plan for the goblins to stretch the limits to their ability to survive had better reach its point soon, else they will kill one another rather then raid the communities of men.”
Kingon understood enough to recognize the egregious betrayal. The ranger began to formulate a hasty plan. Hoping his weapons were among the four, he suddenly leapt and hollered, whistling shrilly (miss). He had hoped to stay on his feet longer, but he was tackled to the ground by two of the elves.
“Fool!” the first whispered.
Kingon had only hoped that the goblins fighting nearby would hear the sound and distract the elves. Even more importantly, was that is feline companion, Shadow, was within earshot.
Does Shadow come? Yes
The elves were too preoccupied to notice the black shadow that loomed above them in the trees (hit). Their surprise could not have been more complete. With the savage roar, the cat dropped out of the trees and bore into the group, slashing with sharp claws and bearing it’s fangs.
The half-elf got to his feet and swept the blindfold off his brow. Three of the elves were preoccupied with Shadow, while the fourth turned to restrain him.
Is this the one with Kingon’s weapons? Yes
The elf had a bundle in one arm wrapped in something out of which protruded the hilt of the ranger’s primary sword. Kingon launched his head forward in a butt (miss), however, he misjudged the speed of his opponent. In the blink of an eye, the elf sidestepped, stuck his foot out, and followed Kingon to the ground, putting him into a hold.
Shadow roared a mighty bellow once again (partial), this time scattering his three opponents. However, this time, the goblins heard the sound, some of their rear scouts coming to investigate. Kingon used the opportunity to shake off his attacker (partial), which he did. Up in a flash, the elf darted away into the foliage, but the goblins where nearly upon Kingon and his companion.
The half-elf snatched up his bundle of weapons and quickly sped away at the first direction that promised escape, with the black shadow at his side (partial). Never before had he summoned such speed, moving almost with the grace and lightness of his feline companion.
Kingon managed to escape. Where he was, he could not tell. As he labored for breath, he undid the bundle of weapons, seeking out that all his possessions were there. However, only his weapons were present. He had several other important supplies needed for long-term survival in the woods. These were gone.
But at least he was alive and free — and in possession of some seemingly terrible plan on the part of the elves.
Stay tuned for part 1 and 2...