Thursday, October 24, 2013

Earthdawn: And We End with More Death

Earthdawn was meant to be an "intermezzo" between Promethean stories, and it wasn't meant to last this long. That isn't to say we played a lot of sessions, because we didn't; we just missed several weeks between one thing and another. But last Monday we played our final session.

My thoughts on the game: It's crunchy as hell. By that I mean that the game is really system-heavy. That isn't to say the setting isn't compelling, because it is - I get the feeling that the players liked the races, liked the world, and liked doing a dungeon delve. But the system is hard to wrap your brain around if you're used to more story-focused games, which this group, for the most part, is. I think that the damage/death system is really unforgiving is something else they aren't used to. Rather, they're not used to it in a traditional RPG, because the RPG that we play that's more traditional is WoD, and it's hard to kill characters in WoD.

I think that if we were going to do a similar game, I'd either port Earthdawn into Fate Core, or I'd run Dungeon World (I haven't actually read it yet, but I hear great things and I like the *World system, obviously). The magic system was a bit confusing, for one, and I think that my group benefits from having a system that's a bit more on the narrative side.

With that said, it was a fun time, and +Michelle in particular was happy to get to play it.

So! Last time the characters found their way into the library of the Root Kaer. There, they took some time to heal. The obsidman librarian showed them a spring that helped them heal faster (and got them high as kites), and then they split off and performed their respective Karma rituals (since we'd just figured out how Karma works, maybe. Seriously, the rules aren't especially well organized).

From there, they asked the librarian about the dancer. He didn't know anything about her specifically, but Oolo asked about a bow (since she was an archer in life). The librarian showed them stories about a bow, carved as the Root Kaer was being sealed and dropped into the Kaer as the Horrors closed in on the bow-maker. That seemed promising. The characters also asked about the cave-in and the river, and learned where the archer had made her final stand. Drea, since she had grown up down here, knew that the stories said that the archer had sent the other people off and stayed behind to hold off the Horrors. The librarian showed them a tunnel that led to the riverbed.

There was nothing in the riverbed, of course; the cave-in had blocked up the river. They started searching, and found arrows punched into the rock - this was where she had fought off the Horrors. Kurita did a little ballistics analysis and figured out where the archer had been standing when she'd loosed her arrows, and Oolo walked down the riverbed, and found runes in the walls. These told the sad story of the archer.

She'd fought off the Horrors, but been trapped by the cave-in. Lonely and still beset by waves of monsters, she kept walking, kept fighting, and when she had a lull carved her woes on the rock. By the end, she was lost to despair, and her final carving read, "I would give anything to hear a voice not my own."

The characters found a cave with a tiny entrance - it had once been bigger, but the rocks had shifted. Cain was still small enough to wiggle in, and he found the archer's bones, and her bow still in her hands.

And at that moment, the song began.

The spectral dancer advanced down the hallway, beckoning the characters to dance. Kurita fired, using True Shot, and the arrow stuck, but it wasn't enough. Oolo jumped forward and swung his axe, and the dancer beckoned. He ignored her and attacked again - and she responded in kind.

Oolo turned around, his flesh turning to loose, wrinkled paper and his beard going shock-white. He fell dead, and the characters backed up, horrified...but there was nowhere to go.

Cain dragged the bow out so that Kurita could grab it. Rosanna stepped forward and joined the dance.

Now dancing, Rosanna could see the archer's mind, slightly. But the magic was slowly damaging the elf, so she tried to reach her, tried to take her grief. And finally, she managed it.

She saw the last few moments of the dancer's life, when she was still Shaberra, the elf archer. She saw the Horrors closing in, and her desire not to be so alone. And Shaberra stopped, and Kurita fired an arrow.

The arrow struck, and Shaberra started to bleed. "I'm sorry," she whispered, "and thank you." And then she faded away.

The characters picked up Oolo and carried him back to the library, and the obsidiman carried him the rest of the way, back to the survivors' cave. They climbed the slide (carving steps into it), and emerged into the sun, out of the Root Kaer. And they laid Oolo rest in a cairn of stones, his axe across his chest.