Sunday, August 9, 2015

Dragons, but no Dungeons


Day 9: Favorite Media You Wish Was an RPG: Licensed games are tricky. There are a lot more of them than you'd like; for a while it seemed like everything got a tie-in, often with WEG or Masterbook. But it wasn't until relatively recently that designers seemed to consider how the mechanics of a game might reflect the intent of the property, and when that happened, we got Smallville and its relationship maps, Leverage and its flashback mechanics, and Marvel Heroic and its Doom Pool. Good stuff.

But what hasn't been made into an RPG that I'd like to see? The easy answer is Neverwhere, but frankly that would easy, if a lot of fun (and I think would could do it with *World pretty easily).

But how about Saw?

No, hear me out. Give it a flashback mechanic, so you can play people who have already survived their traps. Make the horror about what they've seen, not what they're experiencing. Or maybe put them in a Saw II situation where there's a group of them, and each has a personal trap, but then maybe the strategy is figuring out how someone else can manage your trap.

It'd be dark and uncomfortable as shit, but y'know, maybe it would be fun.

Anyway, with that done, I also have a game report to write up: We played Epyllion yesterday! Epyllion is +Marissa Kelly's game about playing baby dragons, in the Apocalypse World system, and bearing witness to the returning Darkness. It's pretty awesome.

Our characters:

  • Veris, the Seer: A green dragon who values Curiosity, Veris belongs to House Semscale. 
  • Azrael, the Crafter: She belongs to House Kebros. She's black and blue, and values Bravery. 
  • Nova, the Warrior: Dark violet and red, Nova belongs to House Tessith. 
  • Freja, the Nature Adept: Nova's sister, Freja is purple and green, and also belongs to House Tessith. 
I had everyone add a feature to the map of Dragonia, and then asked some questions about it. Veris' player said that he was afraid of the Ashen Swamps because his friend Zircon had flown out over them one day and never returned. That sounded like a fun thing to explore. 

So, today, the elder dragons sent this clutch of drakes out to a settlement on the shores of the Great River (which eventually drops into the ocean at White Falls, which is the site of the Feast of Dragon's Breath, by the way). This settlement has been experiencing trouble - lack of food and other abnormalities. Before they leave, Veris uses haunting visions to see what awaits, and sees Zircon's last flight from her perspective - she flies into the swamp, chokes from the dust in the air, lands, and is pulled down into the muck.

The drakes fly south a ways, and arrive in the village to see that river diverts into a dragon-made lake, which the locals use to fish. So far, so good. 

They circle the village and see the edge of the swamp. Freja speaks with a swamp rat and tries to convince it to help, but it tries to get her to follow it into the swamp. Freja wisely refuses and flies up, as more rats try to surround her.

The drakes head into the settlement and talk to a local dragon, who tells them the leader of the village, Zandyl, is out hunting. They fly out to find him, and see him and two other dragons hunting wildebeest. They swoop in and grab one each (and Zandyl has the drakes grab one likewise), and they head back to the village. 

Zandyl tells them that the rock-root that they usually eat (a crisp, filling tuber that dragons can easily "harvest" with their claws) have come up squishy and rotted, so they've been fishing and hunting to make up for it, but they don't want to overfish the lake. The drakes ask if there are any other settlements nearby, and Zandyl says there's one in the Blue Forest, a few hours' flight northwest, and that the lakeside settlement trades with them, but he hasn't seen anyone from there recently. This seems a decent lead (and it gets them away from the swamp, which Veris appreciates), so they take wing. 

They find the village in the Blue Forest, but they can see something is wrong. The treetops are barren in places, like some of the trees are blighted. They land and see that the trees have carvings indicating that the locals were House Rothscar, and they can see walkways and handholds to allow dragons to live in the treetops (Nova, being large and stocky, clings to trunks). 

Freja uses scent of a place and finds Darkness in the center of the village. The ground is covered in leaves and light debris, but no one wants to land there. They poke at it, and it's squishy, like quicksand. Veris, meanwhile, examines the walkways, and finds some of them broken and brittle - the ones near the center. Freja examines the ground and discovers it's not solid at all.

Freja calls upon the liberty moon for purification magic and, in a theme that would continue, rolls really well. The magic causes the ground to send up a geyser of dust, but then it solidifies. Azrael examines the ash that got kicked up, and realizes it's not ash, it's bone dust, and it's carrying Dark magic. Freja talks to a squirrel, who tells her that the ground swallowed up the dragons that were here before. Horrified, the characters figure they need to look into the swamp or find out if there are any other afflicted areas. 

The drakes decide to sleep here and head back to the village in the morning to report what they've found. Freja keeps a lookout, and her friend the squirrel comes to find her. He reports a tree that that vibrating and humming, as though full of something moving. Figuring it worked once, Freja calls on the liberty moon again and purifies the tree. It cracks in half and the dust blows away, but underneath she can see a tunnel. 

The others wake, and see the tunnel. They can hear rushing water. It's big enough to admit them, and Nova is interested to see what's below, so she acts despite danger and pushes her way in. She falls into an underground river and is swept along, and the others follow, but she comes to a fork in the tunnel. She goes left, but the others, unable to tell which way she went, go right. 

Nova gets dumped into a chasm, big enough to deploy her wings. She swoops low, but then something lurches up from below - it's a dragon, but skeletal! Creeped out, Nova talks to it, and it tells her it can smell Veris on her. It also makes it clear that it intends to collect her bones, and she realizes that the creature has multiple arms. She makes a battle plan and prepares to fight. 

Nova battles the Darkness, twice, and both times she trades Harm with the skeletal dragon. Realizing that it will kill her if she lets it (and having marked two Shadow Points; Anger, at which she loudly curses Veris, and Self-Doubt, at which she slams into it without thinking), she decides to flee. She calls upon the liberty moon to escape, and flies down through a tunnel, smashing the walls with her tail on the way so the monster can't follow her. 

Meanwhile, the others shoot out the underground river into the above-ground river, and into the lake. They break the surface and fly into the village to talk to Zandyl, but he doesn't want to hear about a whole village disappearing. Freja tries to stand up to an elder dragon and fails, and Zandyl storms off. Veris tries to call upon the storm moon to cause the ground to erupt like it did in the village, but he loses control of the magic and Zandyl falls into the a whole. Zandyl bursts out of the ground, grabs Veris, and flies up, summoning up a storm ("figures, the one moon he's still got left"). Azrael flies up and tries to stand up to Zandyl, but he throws lightning at her and she backs off (she missed). Veris finally finds his courage and stands up to Zandyl, telling him that something terrible really is happening and they can stop it. 

Nova appears about this time, wounded and bleeding. Freja calls upon the spirit moon to heal her, and she talks to Zandyl about the coming Darkness, which of course doesn't go over well. She stands up to an elder dragon, and impresses him - he gives her his old armor, which just about fits (Nova is stocky). 

The drakes come up with a pretty straightforward plan; they're going to go back down the tunnel and confront the skeletal dragon, whom Veris assumes is the remains of Zircon. They decide that Freja and Nova will distract her, while Azrael and Veris work magic to purify her. Azrael helps Nova work magic; she calls upon the stone moon to grant them a blessing. Nova leads them against the Darkness, and off they go!

They fly down into the tunnels, and the skeletal dragon attacks, now with more bones worked into her jaw for a bigger bite! Freja tries to help Nova, but misses and gets slammed against the wall. Nova acts despite danger to save Freja, but ends up having to choose who to protect; Azrael and Veris get lashed with the undead dragon's tail. Azrael helps Veris with his magic, and Veris calls upon the liberty moon to put his friend to rest. 

The ground bursts open, exposing the skeletal dragon to the moonlight. It flies up, then falls apart, bones raining back into the earth. The swamp begins to recede, and the land is cleansed again. 

The drakes, bloodied but victorious, head for the village. They talk about heading home to Flat Rock Mountain, but then they realize that the Feast of the Dragon's Breath is only a few short days weeks away. If they head south, they'll get there early and get a good camping spot! 

To be continued.