Sunday, December 30, 2018

Actual Play: Fall of Magic

Last night we played Fall of Magic. I'd played it once before at Metatopia, though we didn't get to finish that game before it was time to head home. This is part one of two (probably), so here we go!

What you need to know about Fall of Magic, though, is that the setup is always the same; a group of people is following/accompanying the Magus on a journey as magic dies. The game is played with a scroll (you can see a bunch of pictures here); every character has a token that represents them, and you move along the map as the journey continues. There's a lot to it, so I'll do my best to remember all the details I can, but I wasn't taking notes.

Magic is dying, and the Magus is dying with it. We travel to the realm of Umbra where magic was born...

Ravenhall

We start in Ravenhall, home of the Magus. At the bridge, we see River, the Ranger of Mistwood, washing her face in the water. She's killed a grouse, and now goes to deliver it to nearby folks who might need food. She's known in Mistwood, and here, as a provider for those that need help.

At the menagerie, we find Piccolo, the Crab-Singer of Istallia. Piccolo looks about at the animals, musing that the last time they saw real magic, it was a baby phoenix, barely able to open its eyes. Now magic is dying, the magical creatures are fading - but are they dying, or are no new ones being born? Where is that phoenix now? Did it live out its life and rise again from its ashes, or did it fade and cool? Piccolo doesn't know.

In the rose garden, we find Kabu, the Giant of Mistwood. Kabu is too big to enter Ravenhall; he'd bump his head and break things. Kabu is grey-skinned, but his nose is red as the roses, and his eyes are brown as the branches. Kabu doesn't understand much about people - he's used to feeling small amongst the huge trees of Mistwood, but here in Ravenhall he's the biggest thing around. He still feels small, somehow, and he sleeps here in the garden.

At the scrying pool, Harp, a Raven of Ravenhall, reflects. Like all Ravens, she wears a black cloak and acts as a messenger and errand-runner for the Magus, and now she's expected to accompany him...where? She isn't sure, and he won't tell her. She notes that magical creatures are growing smaller, as the magic they contain fades.

Piccolo wanders to rose gardens and bumps into Kabu (literally). Kabu tells them that he intends to follow the Magus, but isn't sure why - it's like geese flying north or south, they just do it. Piccolo doesn't quite understand that, but decides they like this giant, and resolve to tag along.

Oak Hills

The party arrives in the Oak Hills. Summer is ending and the days are long, but getting shorter. The Magus is tired; they're old and frail, and they instruct the party to make camp. 

River begins to do so, clearing away an area for the Magus' tent. Harp helps and, perhaps, feels a moment of discomfort that she isn't setting up the Magus' area, but in the end thanks River for her help. 

Piccolo sits around the fire with the others and offers to tell stories. The group shares stories until the fire dies, and everyone drifts off to sleep.

In the morning, Kabu stands on an eastern hill, hands outstretched, as the sun rises. The sunlight turns his skin from grey to gold, and he absorbs the light to nourish himself for a day. He turns (scattering the birds that have rested on his immense arms) and walks back to the group, noting that his skin is already changing back - the light isn't nourishing him like it used to. 

The party presses on, heading sound to Barley Town. 

Barley Town

The party arrives in Barley Town, and the Barley Lord fixes the them up with accommodations for their stay. Piccolo goes to the Inn of the Axe & Fiddle, and trades a song with the musician playing there - the musician teaches Piccolo a traditional song of the area, and Piccolo teaches the musician and song of Istallia and the sea, thanking spirits for their generosity. 

Harp goes to Oak Island, her home. Her cousin married a year ago today, and, as it tradition here, the one-year anniversary is a reenactment of the wedding. But where the actual wedding is a solemn, nearly silent affair, the reenactment is a raucous party with elaborate dress, music, and dancing. Harp reflects that this is normal, this beautiful, joyous ritual, and if magic dies, at least this remains.

Kabu sleeps near Swine Hill (he's too big to enter the town proper), and dreams of battle - two opposing forces met on this hill and stabbed each other until the hill was stained red. Kabu wakes, distressed, and digs into the hill, unearthing a skeleton clad in armor. He wipes the dirt from it, trying to identify which side the man fought on, but he can't.

River goes to the old abbey, and lights a candle. She remembers her sister and her companions, and she remembers that they died because she fell asleep on watch. She vows that she won't fail her new companions the same way.

Piccolo goes out to a farm, owned by a woman named Mathilda. Mathilda talks with Piccolo and learns that they're traveling with the Magus, and gives her a leather pouch. In it are four objects: a silver pendant with an insignia Piccolo doesn't recognize, a vial of purple-red liquid, a ball of twine, and a turnip. Mathilda tells Piccolo that they'll know when this stuff will be useful. Piccolo is amused, but grateful.

Harp goes to the farmer's market and stocks up on foods and provisions for the journey ahead, although she doesn't know where they're going from here. 

Kabu takes the corpse and goes to the abbey, remembering someone say that one could go to this building to ask questions. He asks the Abbott about the dream, and the abbott says that Swine Hill was the site of a battle long ago. Kabu doesn't understand "battle," though, so the abbott explains it as best he can - Kabu only really understands violence in the context of animals eating each other, and he's a little appalled to learn that all those people killed each other but none of them were eaten. The abbott says that he doesn't really understand battles and war, either, and Kabu leaves, troubled. 

The party reconvenes and, at the Magus' direction, heads north, into Mistwood.

Mistwood

Mistwood is home to both River and Kabu. The party slows, though - a strange fog rises up around the woods. The party makes camp, and Piccolo follows the trail of the Rangers, watching as the mist rises up around them.

Harp helps make camp, and tends to the Magus. The Magus isn't well. They're old and losing some of the alertness they were known for. Harp talks with River about it, and River offers to go out and find herbs to make a poultice to help the Magus recover a bit. 

Kabu, meanwhile, walks through the woods, and comes to a copse of trees that are shorter than the rest of the forest - perhaps an area where a forest fire razed the old trees, and new ones are growing. In the mist, though, the trees look like soldiers, and the dew makes the leaves look like metal. Kabu panics and runs back to the camp, whispering "no battle" to himself. 

River goes out foraging, looking for the herbs, but she is beset by foxes. One of the little bastards grabs the herb she was going for and runs off. River tracks it to a river, but doesn't want to kill the fox if she doesn't have to. She baits a trap, and waits.

Hall of the Woods

The party has moved on. The Magus has their poultice, but they're not always good about applying it. The group has moved north to the Hall of the Woods, where the Gray Rangers receive them. The Magus is giving a place by the fire next to the leader of the Rangers, and the two of them talk quietly about whatever leaders talk about.

Harp, meanwhile, goes out into the woods and finds a stone circle. In, a group of Rangers surround a stag, and then draw their daggers and kill it. The blood seeps into the group, and Harp feels a jolt of magic - magic taken from life. She's glad, in a way, to feel magic again, but she doesn't want to do magic this way.

Kabu walks through the woods and finds a silvery lake. Two Rangers stand in the shallows, arms outstretched in much the same way that Kabu stands in the morning to drink in the light. He copies them, and drinks in moonlight - his skin goes silver, and his teeth become sharper. Moonlight, he muses, tastes strange. 

River finds an altar in the forest, a stump that's been whittled down into the shrine. She feels her desire to protect these people, the Magus included, rekindled, and resolves to guide them. She does, however, think that when this is over, she might return here to the Hall and join her fellow Rangers.

Piccolo stays at the hall, watching the Magus and the Rangers talking. They consider their role as a keeper of old traditions (a Crab-Singer), and how these Rangers are changing their own traditions as magic dies. 

The Magus recovers, and the group moves on east to the Spirit River.

Spirit River

The party arrives at the river, and the Magus is stronger, but just as tight-lipped about their journey as ever. The mist from the woods seems to have followed them, bathing the river in fog.

Kabu drifts on the river. He doesn't get the chance to swim often; few bodies of water are big enough. Giants live a long time, and he doesn't remember his parents much, but he does remember them saying that they used to live underground, under the mountains, and what they used to eat. Kabu shudders, and sips the silvery watery, marveling at the sensation of taste. 

River sits in starlight, thinking again about the death of her sister and her companions. It was wolves, huge wolves that came upon them at night and killed them, while she slept at her post. Never again. 

Piccolo, too, has regrets by starlight, but I don't remember them, sadly (told ya, I didn't take notes). 

Harp goes walking in the tall grass; no one really approaches the ferry over the river from this direction except the Rangers, and they don't leave tracks. She finds blood and animal prints, and one of the Rangers' knives. Apparently the sacrifice-for-magic thing happens out here, too. 

The party goes to move on, and the Magus states that they'll go north to Istallia, but the road is blocked by huge trees. No one remembers a windstorm or anything, but the way is blocked, so they need to go south, to the Mouth of the Deep, and travel through the caverns.

The Mouth of the Deep

The party takes its wagons into the dark, and the Magus casts a spell that makes all of the metal - the bridles on the horses, the weapons the people carry, and even Kabu's teeth - glow bright enough to see. 

River travels the Deep Way, scouting out their progress and trying to find a safe way through the tunnels.

Piccolo find a cavern, a cavern with marble veins in the walls and a high domed ceiling, and a floor far too flat to have occurred naturally. Something made this cavern, and there are noises in the dark.

Harp walks with Piccolo down a hallway off the cavern, and finds tiny alcoves. Piccolo's pendant glows brighter, and the two of them shudder as they notice claw marks on the walls. Piccolo leaves the pendant behind, hoping to appease the unseen Cave Dwellers.

It doesn't work, though. The Cave Dwellers appear, bear-sized humanoid creatures with furry pelts and upturned snouts. Kabu hears the ruckus and emerges into the caverns, picking up a Cave Dweller and speaking to it in its odd language. The Cave Dwellers want meat, and don't much care what it comes from, and so they allow the people to pass unharmed, but the horses don't make it through.

The party does find the passage, though, and emerges at the Hanging City.

The Hanging City

The Hanging City is in the top of a huge, ovoid cavern. The Magus and their company take the hospitality of the Rag-Draggers, the strange, hunched-over people who dwell here. 

Piccolo visits the vertical gardens, and sees a field of flowers that rustle like the waves of the ocean. They're reminded of their home in Istallia, and they take a flower, unable to control the temptation. 

Harp notes how things enter this city - there's a river fed by a waterfall, and refuse from above winds up washing into nets and then being hoisted up into the city. In Ravenhall, this kind of thing would all be done by magic, but magic doesn't seem to be a part of life for the Rag-Draggers. 

Kabu, for his part, gets a job for their stay in the Hanging City. The Kettle Bottom - the deep lake at the bottom of the cavern - is overlaid with nets to catch the aforementioned refuse. Normally people under social censure row out in boats to kill living things caught in the nets and untangle valuable stuff, but Kabu can just walk. He doesn't mind killing, he decides - this isn't battle, because the things he kills are getting put to use. He does wind up smelling awful after doing this job, though.

River visits the Hanging Commons, learning how to fit in amongst these people who live so far away from forests. They don't use magic and they don't live off the land, not the same way, but they're still people and they benefit from River's skill with ropes, at least.

The party rests. Soon they'll need to move on...