Saturday, May 10, 2014

One-Shot: Ganakagok - The Sacrifice of Grandfather Whale

So, last night I ran Ganakagok with +Michelle Lyons-McFarland+John Mathys+Cheyenne Rae Grimes, Dylan, and Morgan.

Now, I've run this game before. I greatly enjoy it. However, something I've decided is that next time I run it, we're not going to try to do a one-shot. It works as a one-shot, but it takes a long time if you do the world-building aspect right (which is a lot of fun), and then you wind up rushing the game to finish the myth. Next time, I'll figure on four sessions: One for chargen, one for Night to Twilight, Twilight to Dawn, Dawn to Morning.

(If you don't know what I'm talking about, read up here. The game is awesome and well worth the purchase price.)

So, last night, we started building our world. For the world, we draw the Ancient of Storms and the 7 of Storms. We decided that the Nitu are a whaling people, but they're in the middle of a famine. It's been storming on the coastline for decades, and there have been no whales. They've made do finding the occasional seal to club, but beyond that, nothing. But now, there's a gigantic whale out there in the surf, and the famine might be coming to an end. The players added the whale to the map, as well as the Chief's Longhouse.

The cards for the Nitu were the Man of Stars and Ancient of Stars. Here, we decided this famine is generational. It's been going on for longer than the characters have been alive, and the knowledge of how to hunt whales is fading from the culture.

Now, characters!


  • Michelle played Inuk, the determined spear-keeper. She is grandaughter of the chieftain and the last born of the Whale Clan (which spurred the discussions of clans, which I'll pick up in a minute). There's a great big ceremonial harpoon that hasn't been used in years, and which is considered property of the Nitu in general. She claimed it, gaining her a reputation for covetousness. Her truth-vision came from a dream of the Shining Ones and the spear striking the ground and erupting in hot blood, leading to plenty and awesomeness (her change-hope). She is afraid (change-fear) that the storms will return during the hunt and swallow the Nitu. 
  • Morgan played BarckDor, the lone keeper of the hunt. He, too, is the last of his clan (the Bear Clan), but because he banished them. He lives up on the mountain, and wears a mystical vestment of the bear, which protects him from harm. He rescued Felkirk after his tragic hunting accident (see below), but refuses to take a protege. He finds hope (change-hope) in the notion of childbirth, and we decide that there hasn't been a new baby born in years. He is afraid that violence will come to the Nitu (change-fear). 
  • Dylan played Felkirk, the worrisome warrior. Felkirk's grandfather died at sea while hunting, and Felkirk floated back to the Cliffs of Sorrow on his shield (whereupon BarckDor rescued him, but that isn't common knowledge). He carries the giant whale-bone club and shield from his grandfather, and while on a vision quest saw light and felt not cold. He hopes that the Nitu are ready to act when action is required, and that they don't argue and hesitate. He fears that the warmth he saw will melt the ice, and there will be nothing underneath it. 
  • John played Dotik, the swift scout. Dotik is one of the Fox Clan, but refuses to take a protege because of the terrible secret he learned. He fell into a cave and discovered a kind of Rosetta stone that taught him that the cannibal ghouls, the monsters stalking the wastes, are actually the Forgotten Ones, the civilization that came before the Nitu. He doesn't want that knowledge passed on, and in fact fears (change-fear) that the elders of the Nitu will follow in their footsteps. He is the one who saw the whale (truth-vision), and so knows (well, believes) that plenty is coming. 
  • Cheyenne played Utta, the gentle priestess. The youngest of the Owl Clan, her mentor sacrificed himself to the cannibal ghouls to keep them at bay. She believes in the whale, but she believes that the whale must be protected and preserved, that it is a sign that is going to lead the Nitu to prosperity. She is afraid (change-fear) that the whale's death will doom the Nitu. She is also pregnant, the first woman to conceive in years. 
From all that, the players added stuff to the map and the Nitu village. They added Grandfather Whale as a character (and I added a Hate from the whale to the village, while Utta Loves the whale). We fleshed out the Clans a bit more - they're not based on family, but on vocation. Whales are hunters, Foxes are scouts, Owls are priests, and Bears are warriors and knowledge-keepers. But the Whale clan is all but depopulated, and BarckDor banished his clan out of pride. There are also clanless folks, who haven't been initiated into clans, but three of the four clans don't have the interest or the numbers to adopt them. (Families are matrilineal, because sex is a means to keep warm, so women rarely know the identity of a baby's father, and it's not considered important. That makes Felkirk's situation somewhat of an anomaly.) 

The players add features to the map, like the ice-henge, seat of the Owl Clan, that acts as an astrological marker, the mountain where BarckDor lives, the hunting grounds of the ghouls, the ancient mines where the Forgotten Ones dug for copper, and the coastline and ocean. 

And then it's time for the scenes! 

Utta's Scene: Utta, the gentle priestess, goes to the sick-hut to consult with Orlik, the midwife. Well, she's a "midwife" insofar as she's seen a birth, but it was a long time ago. Utta doesn't tell her she's pregnant, not right off, but Orlik figures it out from Utta's symptoms and exclaimed it, and the news quickly spreads around the village. This is generally seen as great news, but Utta feels uneasy. 

Felkirk's Scene: Felkirk, returning from a patrol, sees the commotion and goes to find Utta after someone excitedly tells him the news. He shoves his way to her and scatters the admirers, and they go for a walk together, and wind up meeting Dotik, who mentions that he saw the whale. Utta is overjoyed and asks to be taken to where he saw it, so they head for the coastline. They hear what they think is whale-song, but it is in fact a cannibal ghoul trying to lure them. Felkirk attacks, and fights off the ghouls with Dotik's help. They fall back to the village, where the village raises alarms and shores up their defenses against the ghouls.

Inuk's Scene: Inuk, the determined spear-keeper, finds Dotik, and asks him to take a small hunting party and head out with her to hunt whales. She hopeful that they can bring back food for the village. They decide to get Felkirk and Maruk (the keen navigator). Maruk doubts his own prowess, but agrees. Felkirk suggests they find BarckDor, since he is the keeper of the knowledge of the hunt anyway. BarckDor is, supposedly, on his way down the mountain (because of the commotion from the ghoul attack, presumably). In the end, Dotik races up the mountain to meet him, and BarckDor reveals that two boats isn't enough - he puts together a slightly larger hunting party, and the group gets on the boats and goes hunting. 

Dotik's Scene: Dotik and Felkirk are in the scout boat, looking ahead. They find a pod of whales, and rejoice at their good fortune, but then an immense one, Grandfather Whale, swims under them and toward the hunters just as the storms rage again. They eventually turn and signal the hunters, and Inuk strikes with the ceremonial harpoon. On land, Utta watches the great whale breach, stabbed with multiple spears, and the hunters bring it back amidst plenty. 


At this point, it's Twilight. Utta takes the Owl Clan and leaves, disgusted at the Nitu for killing the whale. They walk off as the stars begin to fade. 


BarckDor's Scene: BarckDor is showing the hunters how to flense blubber from the carcass. He confronts Felkirk, finally, about the death of Felkirk's grandfather and how he rescued Felkirk from the ocean. The flensing knife, adorned with copper, starts to glow. BarckDor drops it, and it melts the ice. Felkirk, afraid (remember his change-fear) raises his club, someone shoves BarckDor, and Felkirk strikes. Because of his vestment, BarckDor is unharmed, but he is driven away from the village, and the Bear Clan are now considered no better than cannibal ghouls.

Utta's Scene: Utta takes the Owl Clan to the ice-henge and they all sit in prayer, and then she has them rise up and go back to the village. She wants the Nitu to know that they're all going to die, because they killed Grandfather Whale. There's nothing to be done, as the stars fade and the eastern sky through the Great Crevasse grows pale, but she wants them to know. They take their weapons and march on the Nitu village. BarckDor, walking in disgrace back to his mountain, finds himself between the village and the owls, and the Nita rouse their defenses to repel what appear (from their backlit silhouettes) to be cannibal ghouls. But Dotik runs forward, and meets Utta, and explains to her that Grandfather Whale sacrificed himself so that the Nitu could survive - it was a benediction, not murder (this is not remotely born out by the fact that Grandfather Whale hated the Nitu, but that's OK, when someone's dead you can ascribe whatever motives you want to them). Utta accepts this, and the Owls rejoin the Nitu. 

At this point, we'd jumped past Dawn straight into morning, so we did some final fates. Ganakagok melted, the ice reduced to slush in the morning light, and it faded away entirely (you know I don't think I've ever seen the land have a good ending?). The Nitu people loaded up their possessions into the boats and took to the sea, thankful for Grandfather Whale's sacrifice and looking to a new life. 

Dotik's people, the Fox Clan, becomes the Dolphin Clan, swift and clever scouts on the water. 

BarckDor reconciles with Felkirk and gives him the Bear vestment...and dies of the many injuries the vestment prevented (but he dies happy, having finally overcome his pride and passing along his mantle). 

Felkirk goes on to protect the Nitu from threats great and small, finally assuming his true role as a Bear. 

Inuk takes over for her grandfather as the head of the Whale Clan.

And Utta has her baby, happy and healthy.