Sunday, 31 July 2016

CSR Dark Sun Play Report # 2 - Dangerous Mystery Items (P1)

  • Play report 
  • Second session - Part 1 of 2
  • Rules: Cypher System
  • Setting: Dark Sun - Burnt World of Athas 
  • Number of players: 3 

This is the continuation of our Dark Sun campaign. The first session, "Mekillots and Marauders", was described in previous posts.

I was going to outline the prep work for this session before posting the play report, but I decided that it would spoil the surprise.

     Morning dawns in Balic. This is the city where Gator earned his freedom after years of fighting in the colosseum. It is a rich, beautiful city, known for both its gardens and its trade. The king/dictator, Andropinis, controls the matters he cares about with an iron fist. All other matters he leaves to a Democratically-elected council.

     The adventurers spent the night at the King's Pig Inn. They awake to a hot day, not uncommon in these parts.

     Nameless did not sleep well. He had crazy dreams all night about warring armies, fires, battling giants, and death. He does not remember ever having had dreams like these before. The images were vivid and persistent, repeating themselves many times throughout the night.

     When Nameless arrives in the common room, Goron is speaking with Amalia. He is negotiate with her to use kitchen that evening to prepare a meal  with the blood spice he obtained. Intrigued by the possibility of trying blood spice for the first time, Amalia agrees, on the condition that she and two guests of her choosing get to partake in the meal.
     Goron returns to his room and carefully pours half of one of the bags of blood spice into a new, smaller bag. Then he measures out the spice he will need for tonight's meal into a smaller bag, and places that back in the locker. He picks up the three bags and heads back to the common room.
     The half giant places one and a half bags of blood spice on the table in front of Gator and Nameless. "I'm going to use half a bag to trade for the ingredients that I will need for my meal tonight. The rest is yours."
     The half giant then returns to Amalia to get information about the best vendors from which to purchase ingredients. She gives him names and directions, all of whom do business on the other side of town.

     The three head out from the inn together. They leave their weapons and armour behind, as is the custom. Gator keeps the token of the Veiled Alliance deep in one of his pockets. Nameless leaves the wooden box in the inn. They take their ceramic pieces with them and, as a group, they head toward the guild precinct. They intend to find a safe house where they can deposit their earnings. Gator knows one that has decent rates on the holdings. He has used the same one for years to store his earnings from the arena.

     As they distance themselves from the inn, Nameless begins to feel better, as though he is finally managing to shake off last night's nightmares.

    They soon arrive at the IronWorks Repository. They are greeted by the owner, Rufus, who is a scraggly man with a mustache. He greets Gator warmly, but avoid further pleasantries. He informs the two potential new customers that he charges 2 ceramic pieces per month for a standard storage unit (lock box).
     Gator deposits 250 pieces, keeping 30 on his person.
     Nameless does the same.
     Goron deposits 230 piece, keeping 50.

     With their money safely stored, the group proceeds to the market. Gator intends to sell the blood spice while Goron hunts down his dinner ingredients. The two part parts as they enter the marketplace Nameless follows Gator, but peers at the crowd about them. He hopes to run into Tarez again - he is curious why the merchant would draw them into the Veiled Alliance.

     Gator heads to the shop of a shady elf trader he knows. Iggy (the level 2 shop-keep) is crafty and he will take full advantage of any weakness you betray, but he will also trade in just about anything.
     Iggy remembers Gator, and is quite interested in the blood spice. The two quickly begin to haggle over the price. Gator strikes an okay deal. Iggy agrees to take the one and a half bags for 100 ceramic pieces and two cyphers.
     (Note: Cyphers are randomly selected form a pack of cards and their level is rolled).
     The first cypher is a little glass pendant with feather inside of it. Iggy informs him that the thing is supposed to protect the wearer when he is high above the earth. Nameless glances at the item and identifies it as a device that lessens the impact of falling (Level 5 gravity dampener).
     The second cypher is a crystal ball set into a metallic-looking base. A faint light swirls within the crystal. Iggy states that his sources assure him that it is magical. Nameless looks at the item and shrugs. "It's magical, all right, but who knows what it does."
     Gator decide that both cyphers are more valuable than the ones he is currently carrying (both of which manipulate metal, which is exceedingly rare in this world). He places the new cyphers in his bag. He pulls his old ones out and places them on the counter. "Here. These are useless to me."

     Normally, Nameless would be more interested in a mysterious magical artifact. But just before Iggy produced the crystal ball, Nameless glimpsed Tarez walk by the window of the store. The merchant was walking slowly, turning this way and that, as if looking for someone. He was followed by several men who could only be described as "goons", including a half-giant.

     Not far away, Goron is negotiating with a root vendor for the final ingredients he needed. He had obtained everything he wanted with ease, as most vendors were anxious to trade for the spice. Now, he is completely focused on picking out the best tubers from the lot.

     Nameless emerges from Iggy's shop into street. He quickly spots Tarez and his followers. At the same moment, Tarez freezes and points to something further down the street. Looking in the direction he pointed,  fifty paces away, Goron towers over the crowd. The merchant beckons his gang and heads toward half-giant.
     "You there! There he is!"
     Goron turns around when he hears the shouting. Spotting Tarez, he smiles and calls, "Hello, friend."
     "Don't "friend" me! I know you took it! Give it back!"
     Goron looks down at the sack in his hand. "What? The tubers?"
     "No. My little wooden box. It was in my wagon. I know the elves didn't get it."
     Goron stares at the man blankly. He honestly does not know what Tarez is talking about.
     "I do not remember any little boxes. You had many big boxes. And some jars. And sacks…"

     Nameless moves close enough to overhear the exchange, but stays out of sight. Tarez continues to accuse Goron of theft, but the half-giant just stares back at the merchant in confusion.
     Exasperated, Tarez tries a new tactic. "Where are your friends?"
     Goron looks around. His height allows him to scan the crowd with ease. He can see Gator and Nameless approaching from across the marketplace. 
     "Nearby." Then he adds, "They will be here soon."
     Tarez looks around wildly. He spots the Mul warrior in the crowd. He points and yells, "There!" And he and the goons hurry toward Gator.
     Goron shakes his head at the merchant's antics and then tags along behind the small mob.

     Due to his long legs, Tarez's half-giant gets to Gator first. He glares down menacingly and growls, "Stop."
     Gator calmly looks about him for someone else who could have angered the half-giant, and then points to himself and asks, "Me?"
     Gator and Nameless wait patiently until the others approach.
     Tarez stomps in close to the two men and yells the same questions and accusations he previously fired at Goron. He is surprisingly energetic for a man who took a spear through the shoulder yesterday. As he gets close, Gator can see the blood stain on his jacket that indicates that the man is currently bleeding through his bandages.
     Gator bluntly states that he did not see the box Tarez is searching for. Nameless, who knows the exact whereabouts of the item in question, bluffs. "Frankly, I don't know what it is you are talking about."
     After more than an hour of questioning, accusations, swearing, and threats, Tarez finally clams down and accepts the possibility that these men did not take his belongings. He withdraws a bit, thinking and muttering to himself. Then he declares, "It must have fallen out of the wagon and got covered in the sand in the skirmish. Come on, boys! Back to the desert!"
     The whole group turns and hurries off the way they came. Goron calls after them, "What's in the box you're looking for? Something so small cannot be worth so much trouble."
     Tarez half turns to look at the half-giant over his shoulder and snorts. He storms off without properly answering Goron's question.

     Gator leans in close to Nameless and whispers, "What the hell was that all about?"
     Nameless stares at Tarez's retreating back and replies, "Tell you later.""
     (Chris: "Now I'm really curious about what is in this box.")
     (Matt: "Why didn't you open it earlier?")
     (Chris: "Forgot I had it.")

To be continued...


Sunday, 24 July 2016

CSR Dark Sun Play Report # 1 - Prep Work

  • Planning of the first session
  • Rules: Cypher System
  • Setting: Dark Sun - Burnt World of Athas 
  • Number of players: 3 

Now that we've told you what happened during the Mekillot and Marauders session, I'd like to tell you a bit about the work that went into preparing it.

Clay daydreams a lot about upcoming gaming sessions: possible plot hooks, NPCs, fight scenarios, challenges, and complications. He almost always has an overarching goal or opponent, which the players have agreed to work toward. But he usually has surprisingly little prepared when we sit down to play. 

At first, I thought this practice would hinder the plot or the flow of the game. But it can be quite advantageous, especially when running a session for creative and unpredictable players.

By "creative and unpredictable players" I do not mean those people who refuse to follow plot hooks. But, rather, such incidents as:

  • One of the party members drinks heavily (purely narrative) for an entire scene, and then fails his roll to climb the ladder to the next scene.
  • The brawler decides to eat the wild mushrooms in the middle of the fight.
  • When facing off against a super-powered convict during a prison-break, the tactician decides to recruit the enemy to their team - he rolls a success.
  • The elf decides, on a whim, to pickpocket a random person in a crowd. He fails horribly, then proceeds to make the situation much worse, and ends up fleeing the city.
  • The magic compass points into a dark, dangerous wood. The party decides to take the main road that skirts around the woods, and turn in when the compass indicates they've passed their destination. The destination turns out to be on the other side of the woods. The journey took two extra days, but they avoided all the fights and traps.

So, going into the Mekillots and Marauders session, Clay had prepared the following:

  • To introduce Chris and Matt to the Cypher system - specifically, the battle system.
Plot Points:
  • Party finished job of escorting goods to Celik. Returning to Balic to find next job.
  • Goron smells blood spice.
  • Encounter stampeding mekillot.
  • Encounter Elvin marauders attacking merchant wagon.
  • Tarez - merchant (spices) - Lv 3
  • Elvin marauders - Lv 1
  • Mekillot
Resources / Bookmarks:
  • Description of region - Estuary of the Forked Tongue / Road of Legions
  • Description of Balic
  • Description of Mekillot
  • Map - Road of Legions
  • Map - City of Balic 
  • Cypher Deck
Available Items:
  • Random cypher - elf marauder
  • Black wooden box - outside merchant's wagon (part of that overarching goal I mentioned earlier)

That's about it. The session lasted about two hours.

When we started the battle scene, Clay threw coloured glass beads onto the coffee table to give us a rough idea of where everyone was and how many elves each player was facing. He changed his mind about how many marauders there were after the first round of combat - enough to be challenging, but few enough that the battle would not drag on forever.

Sometimes he has a lot more planned - extensive notes, even. But many sessions start like this.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

CSR Dark Sun Play Report # 1 - Mekillots and Marauders (P2)


I'm Clay's other half. 
I'm the one who takes notes on his campaigns, puts his books back on the shelf so they don't get damaged, and prompts (occasionally nags) him to get his ideas down on paper.

I noticed he hasn't posted in a while, so I asked him to add me as an author. Perhaps I can inspire him to write again with a few play reports.

Continuing where he left off...

     Goron pulls a small runestone out of his belt pack. He holds it up for the elves to see.

     "You shouldn't have attacked him. Now I'm angry. I'm going to call my friend from the elemental plane to teach you a lesson." He hold the rune up in the air. "Come forth, fire elemental! Heed my words and burn my enemies!"

Mental Imager
Level 4 (handheld)
When activated, the user can project a single moving image into the cypher. The scene can be up to one minute long, but it has no sound. It lasts forever if put in a globe, and it goes into memory if phased into an eye.

      (Note: Upon review, we think we used this cypher incorrectly. The scene should have been inside the globe, not projected into the air.)

     The runestone glows and a swirl of flame emerges from it. The flame rises into the sky and grows into a large mass, with twists and writhes. It forms into a huge fire elemental, suspended above Goron's head. It glares at the elves before it as it materializes.

     The two elves closest to the illusion panic and run.

     The two elves closest to Nameless are too distracted to notice the noiseless image behind them. They attack Nameless, rushing at him with swords. The wizard manages to use his whip to disarm the first attacker. As the second is attacking, he catches a glimpse of the fire elemental out of his eye, and stumbles a little, resulting in a sloppy attack that is easily defended.

     The elf that just spotted the fire elemental considers fleeing. Before it decides, Gator attacks. He swings his axe and severs its head cleanly from its body.

     The last elf turns to flee.

     Nameless faces the elf in front of him - the one he recently disarmed. He crackles with energy as he strikes the elf with his whip. The elf convulses and flails in a cartoony manner and smoke begins to poor out of its ears. There is a prolonged electric "Buzzt!" noise.

     (Side note: Chris rolls a 20).

     The battle is over. Three elf marauders escape into the distance. Two lay dead.

     Goron walks around to the other side of the wagon and nudges the merchant's prone form.

     "Hey. You alive?"

     (Chris: "If you're not, can we have your stuff?")

     The man groans and then slowly, and with great difficulty, sits up. He stares at the javelin that is still sticking out of his shoulder. After a moment, he tries to pull the javelin out with no success.

     Gator walks over and asks, "You need some help with that?"

     The man nods. Gator gets a good grip on the javelin and the merchant braces himself. With a sharp pull, the javelin is removed.

     There is an awkward moment as no one really knows to do next. The merchant goes about treating his own wound.

     (Matt: "No one has any healing? Great.")

     Once bandaged, the merchant introduces himself as Tarez. He explains that he was on his way back to Balic, delivering a cargo of spice to the city. He figures that all his cargo is still salvageable, but he is distressed by the logistics of getting it back to the city without his pack animal.

     Gator inquires "What is the retrieval of your pack animal worth to you?"

     Tarez stares at Gator suspiciously for a few seconds and then he answers, "I don't know ...perhaps double the reward for saving my caravan."

     Gator asks Goron if he'd kindly go retrieve the mekillot. The half giant lumbers away, humming off-key.

     (Ngaire: "He hasn't told us what the reward is yet. Double of what?")

     (Clay: "Does he seem the sort to try to cheat you?")

     Tarez begins to gather his scattered goods up from the ground and reload them into the wagon. He stops occasionally to assess the condition of an item or container.

     At one point, when Tarez is inside the wagon securing a carton or jars, Nameless spots something laying on the ground near him. On closer inspection, it is a black wooden box about the size of a book. He glances at the wagon to confirm that the merchant is out of sight, and then picks up the box and stashes it in the pocket of his coat.

     In the meantime, Gator checks bodies of the dead elf marauders. They carry the spears and daggers they fought with, which aren't worth much. But one of the elves has a cypher in its pouch. It is an old, worn contraction that appears to be designed to be worn on the wrist. The device is covered in runic inscription and contains one oddly shaped dart.

     Gator passes the device to Nameless for him to look at. He spends a moment reading the runes and inspects the dart. He hands it back to Gator and declares that it is an enchanted projectile meant to penetrate metal objects (Level 2 magnetic attack drill).

      Gator huffs, "Not very useful, then." But he stows it in his bag anyway.

     A few minutes pass, and Goron returns with the mekillot. He ties the creature off to the wagon and turns to Tarez with a wide-toothed smile. The merchant reaches into the wagon and pulls out two large sacks and hands them to Goron.

     "As promised, your reward. Blood spice. I doubt I have to tell you, but it's quite rare and valuable in these parts. Worth the dangers of transporting such long distances."

      Goron cracks open one of the bags and sniffs the contents. He sighs contentedly and then carefully places the bags into his larger carrying sack, double-checking that the bags are securely closed.

     The half-giant points at the broken wagon. "Even with the mekillot, you're going to have a hard time pulling a wagon with a broken axle and a missing wheel."

     Tarez grimaces. "I will think of something."

     "Would you like some help?"

     (Clay: "There is very little wood around, but you may be able to find a smallish tree with some time. What kind of repair or handyman skills do you have?")

     (Ngaire: "Oh. I was just intending to lift things, hold things, and hammer things for the guy. I wasn't planning on thinking here.")

     (Goron gets +1 experience).

     As Goron and the merchant are jury-rigging the wheel back onto the axle, Gator points out that some of the elf marauders escaped and they may return with reinforcements.  He offer to escort the wagon back to Balic ...for a small fee - 50 ceramic piece each, paid upon arrival in the city.

     Tarek agrees.

     The journey takes twice as long as it would have without the wagon. The group arrives at Balic just as dusk is falling and just before the gate closes. Goron is carrying one of the wagon's wheel hubs, as wheel fell off some time ago. The wheel was haphazardly thrown on top of the wagon.

     (Clay gives us a summary of Balic: its political system, its exports, the weather, etc.).

From the Dark Sun Wiki (

     As the wagon pulls into the stables, inside the city, Goron sets down the wagon. It groans, a few boards crack and splinter, and the whole things leans to one side. One of its doors falls off and lands on the ground with a thud.

     Gator turns to Tarez and declares that they have fulfilled their half of the contact. Tarez produces a coin purse and counts out the ceramic pieces. He says that he is quite grateful for their service. He would take them out for a drink, but he must fetch his comrades to unload the cargo before night falls.

     After handing Gator the money, Tarez edges in close to the Mul warrior. He presses a wooden coin into Gator's hand. The coin has an eye craved into its surface, which is not the normal design in these parts. "If you present this to my friends in the Merchant District, they will help you when you need it."

     Tarez  takes a step back and says more loudly, "If you are looking for an inn, I suggest heading to the Merchant's District. I have several friends who deal in spice, vegetables, and food in those parts. They speak highly of the King's Pig. But don't try the hummus (an ongoing joke in our campaigns)." He then hurries away to give orders to some of the stable hands.

     Gator hands the coin to Nameless. He takes a quick glance at it and hands it back to Gator. "You might want to keep that out of sight."

     Nameless recognized the coin as a political symbol. It is the sign of the Veiled Alliance, which is a rebel group that plots to overthrow dictators. Considering the political state in Balic, it would be very troublesome if the Templars were to see the coin.

      Although this is Gator's hometown, he has not been free long enough to have secured any residence. With no better plan, the group decides to head toward the King's Pig. They ask directions from one of the stable hands. Apparently, it's easy to find.

     On the way, Goron sniffs at the entrance to many doors they pass. He does not intend to stay at the inn if the cooking is sub-par.

     The city is huge and after a decent walk they finally arrive at the inn. It's made entirely of stone, perhaps granite, and is noticeably nicer and cleaner than the buildings that surround it.

     Upon entering (Goron has to duck through the door, but he makes it), they are quickly greeted by the innkeeper - a chubby woman who introduces herself as Amalia. She takes one look at the half giant and informed them that her inn is one of the few in the city outfitted for folk of his stature. The main room has ceiling that are high enough that he should be able to stand (but watch the joists and the fixtures). There's a table and a bench that'll accommodate him for meals. And there's a room off the stables that may not look like much, but at least the cot is big enough for him to lay proper. She then turns to Gator and Nameless and adds "And, of course, we can accommodate you gentlefolk as well."

     (Clay: "Do you want to negotiate the price?")

     (Matt "I don't really have any skills for that.")

     (Chris: "Me, either")

     (Clay: "Well, you happen to have a half giant on your party who is very good at positive social interactions.")

     (Ngaire: "I look at Amalia and state "I like food.".")

     (Clay: "Roll for it.")

     The half giant beams at the inn keeper and loudly declares "I like food!"

     Amalia stares at Goron for a few seconds and then chuckles. "I imagine you do. Listen, I'd be willing to offer you lot a good discount, if you are planning to stay a week or more and are willing to pay in advance. For the half-giant's quarters and a two bed room, including secure storage locker and two meals a day, I'll charge you 20 ceramic pieces each."

     This is a sizable discount. The party readily agrees and pays the innkeeper. They head to their rooms to settle in. They lock up their valuables in the in the provided storage locker, eat a hearty (if quaint) meal, and turn in for a good night's rest.

    (End of session).