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Unbridled Blade: Chapter 3 - Scions Scatter and Scorn
We have finished Chapter 3 of the Unbridled Blade campaign called "Scions Scatter and Scorn". The session logs can be found here:

Session 3.1: http://grandexperiment.livejournal.com/274358.html
Session 3.2: http://grandexperiment.livejournal.com/275115.html
Session 3.3: http://grandexperiment.livejournal.com/275884.html
Session 3.4: http://grandexperiment.livejournal.com/276699.html
Session 3.5: http://grandexperiment.livejournal.com/276828.html
Session 3.6: http://grandexperiment.livejournal.com/277268.html
Session 3.7: http://grandexperiment.livejournal.com/277854.html

Achindra: 54?
Baram: 66
Phaedra: 73
Stelaro: 78?

Chapter 1 - Gods Eye Open: http://grandexperiment.livejournal.com/261425.html
Chapter 2 - Edge of the Endless Ice: http://grandexperiment.livejournal.com/271383.html

Up next is Chapter 4 called "City Atop the Mire".

Unbridled Blade: Session 3.7
Session 3.7: Stelaro awoke in front of Cleon on the deck of the Tharshi flagship, the Celestial Queen. His crew were in chains and in the distance Mythurio and Didrick sailed his ship away. Besides hostile Tharshi guards, Stelaro saw a Sheban ambassador called Adan, who had a familial resemblance to Bahadur. In a desperate gamble, Adan freed Stelaro who then slew Cleon and took control of the ship. Pursued by the Tharshi fleet, he sailed back into Targrim's harbour and managed to bait the dragon Fume into attacking his pursuers. At the city walls, the sieging Tharhsi forces were being destroyed by the approaching Great Darkness. Tali suggested Phaedra summon Nihoddgr to stop the Great Darkness. The wraith of Phaedra's mother, Xanthe, confirmed it was possible. She also said that the Jormugand Society were seeking from her the secret of the island which the Salimatum Sarrim guarded above all else and that Daniel was the target of Efraim's curse, not Achindra. Adan discovered the fate of Bahadur and vowed to take vengeance on the PCs for allowing his cousin to die so. Stelaro decided to let the city fall, gather the Tharshi fleet and sail to Tartessos, bringing a warning of the true enemy. Phaedra came up with the plan to allow refugees from the city travel with Dazan and Rosa, via the portal, back to Zaless. As the PCs left and gathered their armada, the city fell behind them.

Unbridled Blade: Chapter Five Title
With Chapter Three - "Scions Scatter and Scorn" - finishing this week, we are moving into Chapter Four - "City Atop the Mire" in a fortnight. This chapter should bring all kinds of urban intrigue goodness. It is heavily inspired by Kull's "Shadow Kingdom" and Conan's "Rogues in the House".

The next chapter, Chapter Five, is likely to be called "Dead Man's Deadlock". I plan to use the supplement Monster Island pretty heavily for the setting, as I have for some time now. The narrative is mostly inspired by a story in Savage Sword of Conan called "Treasure of Tranicos". In it, three groups of pirates, that want nothing more than kill each other, are forced to work together to get what they want. The really cool thing is that without any real planning on my part, the other two pirate crews have emerged from play adding a whole level of history to the interactions.

Unbridled Blade: Session 3.6
Session 3.6: Achindra was awakened above the city in a dreamlike state by the spectre of Xanthe and Daniel. She informed him that Efraim's curse was directed at Daniel not him. She also warned him that Tali was in danger from the ill alliances she had made. Both Daniel and Xanthe were expelled by Dazan Drune who was still looking desperately for his daughter Rosa. Phaedra met with Nenjaksis which asked her if she held her mother's secrets. He advised her to met with Hatlimpoco to unlock that knowledge. Hatlimpoco was a displaced god that had possessed Bahadur, revelling in what he called the desecration of the beloved of the Salimatum Sarrim. Phaedra discovered that the god sought the location of an island at the centre of the Slough, a secret her mother was meant to hold. She then saw Stelaro's ship glide out of the harbour straight into the blockade. Elsewhere, Baram went to guard to Rosa. As he confessed to his promise to Dezirinda to kill her, Tali was dragged in front of the walls of the city to force him to keep his word. Baram was unable to choose a course of action, so Rosa sacrificed herself. Just then Leviathan appeared at the head of the Tharshi forces, seizing Tali and forcing Baram into a second duel, which Baram barely won. Achindra assisted by turning himself into a baby wyrm, unwittingly luring Fume, Dazan's full grown wyrm, to the city with his cries. As the PCs gathered inside the walls they could see Dazan pulling the city apart looking for his daughter, and hear the Tharshi cries of surprise as the Great Darkness finally descended on them.

[Atlantis: The Second Age] The Long Game
I am coming into the final two sessions of chapter 3 of my Atlantis campaign. That will take it over 20 sessions, which is my self defined threshold for a long campaign. I remain happy with the campaign and my sustained enthusiasm for it - the later being the key to an RPG campaign of any length IMO.

The campaign really feels like its built on the long game. This is something that I have never really experienced before as most of my campaigns have been between 6 to 20 sessions. I had almost been convinced that the concept was not appropriate for RPGing, and that focus should instead be on adding as much bang for your buck each session as possible.

Given I do very little forward prep for the campaign, and 95% of the campaign background comes from PC backgrounds, I have been letting character subplot and major plot developments happen at a natural pace. I don't finalise the details until necessary, though I remain consistent with all past decisions. This allows the campaign to accommodate the PCs actions whilst giving a sense that there is a coherent mass of plot developing away in the background.

By design, chapters 1 and 2 didn't really delve too deeply into these areas. Instead, it provided an immediate threat/adventure which forged the group and its path. However, chapters 3 and 4 have seen the spotlight turn on a single PC's background and issues, allowing us to fully explore that PC. My hope is that going forward, each PC will get a similar treatment. Admittedly, that may require another 2 or 3 years of play :) Not that the pace of the sessions is glacial. Far from it. But these developments take time alongside all of the other things that make up the campaign. Also, the natural pacing tends to really pay off when those developments occur.

In any case, I can easily see the campaign lasting the requisite length of time, and still have potential to be extended once we get through that. So, the long game seems worth the gamble.

Unbridled Blade: Session 3.5
Session 3.5: The PCs found themselves floating above the city of Targrim, looking out from the top of Dazan's tower. They were able to climb down to the city's walls and met Rosa, Dazan's daughter. Rosa held many in the city in a powerful enthrallment, and many seemed convinced that this power also held the besieging Tharshesh forces at bay. She asked Baram to act as her bodyguard when she walked the walls the next morning and, lovestruck, he agreed. Baram then took the opportunity to celebrate his recent victories, only to find himself in bed with Dezirinda, a member of the Triumverate. She revealed herself as an ally of the Great Darkness and promised to return his sister in exchange for him killing Rosa. Phaedra travelled to the People's Plaza and saw that Bahadur had somehow survived the attack at sea. He was now crazed and enraging Targrim's populace by spouting devotion to the city's brutal god, Hatlimpoco. Stelaro reunited with his crew, with assistance from Mihaelo, another member of the Triumverate. At the end of the night, the three gathered to decide what needed to be done the next morning.

Unbridled Blade: Session 3.4
Session 3.4: The dark walkers proved openly hostile toward Achindra after he had used magic, but the PCs convinced them to take them to Dazan Drune using a secret tunnel. The PCs discovered that the rats they had seen earlier were sentient and also servants of the mad wizard. The rats seemed less hostile toward their master than the dark walkers, and explained that the sorcerer's melancholy was brought about by the leaving of his daughter, Rosa, who was also the Pale Lady that the PCs had heard haunting the walls of Targrim. As the PCs were led to Dazan, the dark walkers tried to kill Achindra by setting a chimera on him. After the chimera was defeated, the PCs ventured into the tower and confronted Dazan Drune, only to find him a sad, lonely old man. As they convinced Dazan to take them all to Targrim, Leviathan attacked, professing his undying love for Rosa. The PCs defeated Leviathan and his body fell from the top of the tower as mist rolled in from all around.

Shadows of the Demon Lord
Another KS, another $1. :) Seriously, KS continues to provide great RPG by great RPG, even when viewed by a discerning eye. The latest offering that has caught my attention is "Shadow of the Demon Lord" by Rob Schwalb - http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/432417423/shadow-of-the-demon-lord.

Over the last few year, the RPGs that I have been interested in seem to fall in two camps:
1. "Traditional style" RPGs that are great for campaign play; and
2. "Indie style" RPGs that are great for one-off or short term play.

There have been very little "Traditional style" RPGs that are for one-shot or short term play. Which is a shame as many of my best one-shot games at Kapcon and the like have be in a traditional style. Generally, the only way to make it work is to hack the system to bits. In fact, most "traditional style" RPGs that are for one-shot or short term play try and achieve this by making the rules as simple as possible, which I find to be unsatisfactory.

Shadow of the Demon Lord is a traditional style RPG that is great for one-off or short term play. Rob Schwalb is an RPG designer that I highly respect. His work on D&D5e, WFRP2e, Star Wars Saga and Song of Ice of Fire shows a high awareness of works well at the table and not just on the page, and he avoids mechanics that don't work well due to overlap, being unnecessary or undercooked, or being just plain kooky.

Shadow of the Demon Lord clearly launches itself off of the back of D&D5e, which exhibits amazing yet subtle mechanical design with a fun system that retains and even celebrates a traditional style RPG. The other RPG that features strongly is a personal favourite of mine, being WFRP 2e. This RPG features in a number of ways, especially the setting which is dark and horrifying. In particular:
1. the PCs start off as 0-level PCs, potentially with details randomly generated, thrust into a world of horror and adventure;
2. the PCs advance through "paths" which seem like a combination of D&D class and WFRP careers;
3. magic is bound into paths, including a variety of black magic; and
4. the PCs can suffer insanity and corruption.

Though WFRP2e and D&D5e by themselves aren't too bad for use in a one-shot play (and I have run both), Shadow of the Demon Lord takes things much further, with a fast playing and easy to understand set of rules. There are ideas from other RPGs that feature, such as using dice for modifiers from FFG's WFRP3e and Star Wars RPGs. I love this as a GM as it abstracts out the numbers and reduces the amount of information exchange required.

To further help support one-shot or short term play, Rob Schwalb expects to support the RPG with loads of "mini" adventures, each spanning only 3 or 4 pages. The KS alone is looking at producing some 20-30 such from an amazing pool of RPG writers. These can be run in one session or strung together into 11 sessions to complete a level 0 to level 10 campaign. These sound like they will be a lot like Dungeon World's Starters, but without all the player directed questions and new terminology.

Finally, amidst the darkness and excellent mechanics, Rob Schwalb has ensured that there is an excellent humorous tone underlying a lot of it. The kind of humour that RPGers will bring to the table regardless of what the RPG tries to achieve. The setting, madness, corruption and magic system are simply delightful and filled with subtle bits of awesome that make me smile with glee.

Hopefully, the final product proves all the above to be true and I will finally have a traditional RPG that is purpose built to be run at the likes of Kapcon and other cons.

Ryuutama - Actual Play Report
I ran Ryuutama for the first time over the weekend for Sam, Ayla, and Sophie. We created PCs. This was a lengthier process than anything we have done before but I think it really helps set up the tone of the game.

Sophie was keen on having animals, so she created a merchant. She was sad when she found out that she didn't start with more than one animal, but this passed when she was told that she could trade in goods to make a profit to buy more animals. It became a driving force for her in the game as she peddled in sleeping bags until she could afford a dog.

Ayla really blew me away. She is coming on in leaps and bounds. Not only did she embellish her healer character with things like her father's compass being her favourite item, but also during the game when she enthusiastic helped create details of the town that the PCs were travelling to, including its name of Goochi-Googi.

Surprisingly, both girls chose Technical type PCs (using their mind and skills to overcome problems) over Martial type and Magic type, when even Mum couldn't resist the lure of Magic :)

I really enjoyed making my Ryuujin PC as the GM, taking the blue dragon that allowed the PC to be present as a mascot (a big white fluffy dog) and also reward the PCs for selflessly helping others. It felt like I was a part of the party as well as a GM.

We managed to play through half the scenario, establishing the problem and deciding on how to tackle it. The best part of the game though was just the everyday actions of travelling and camping. Getting a good night sleep, good food and being prepared were the focus for much of the game and the PCs were rewarded as a result.

We will play the second half next weekend, but I am already impressed at how different from most fantasy games it feels, whilst also feeling natural. Its a well designed RPG that really knows itself.

Unbridled Blade: Session 3.3
Session 3.3: The PCs did not trust Leviathan nor his quest to slay Dazan Drune. However, they distrusted Dazan Drune more. That night, one of the sailors was attacked by strange dark dwellers and dragged into a cave. Baram found that the sailor had been changed such that he was allergic to light. In the morning, Stelaro dealt with a mutiny by sending the five most mutinous sailors to look for Leviathan's boat, hoping they would die on the island. The PCs then went into the cave and travelled deep under the island. They entered a cave system in which the dark dwellers lived. The dark dwellers proved to be shipwrecked sailors, made allergic to light by Dazan forcing them to be his slaves. They had recently rebelled from Dazan and sought refuge in the caves. The PCs also found a baby dragon's egg, which the dark dwellers had stolen from Dazan Drune.

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