|The first of my four playable characters for The Dark Eye\Das Schwarze Auge\Drakensang RPG. More to come!|
|This one is only a compilation of those nine sets which are available for free. This option has nothing changed and it's just a shortcut for lazybones who don't want to bother themselves with downloading each pack separately (sorry, DA requires a minimal price in points for such compilations as AuroraWienholdSTOCK taught me).|
|I have no idea. I mean, it is wonderful, surprising and uplifting to have people ask "Why just requests and not commissions?", but I'd need to know what is the best option to take them in. I thought about DAZ Gift Cards, because they are easy to use and allow the commissioned person to get the resources easily, almost instantly. What do you think?|
|The winter winds have blown|
the lost child of the mountains,
the one with reversed sword
as well as troubled heart.
To leave one settled path
and step onto another
requires your soul's good balance.
No one returns unchanged.
~ Keeper Annals*
(*regarding Merem and Jurre's "sticky situation")
The view was breathtaking. High, proud mountain ranges were pointing up into the sky. Clearly visible from the rocky outpost the young pale woman chose, the silent sign of gods' presence. It was the place. The place she longed for - silent, solitary and untouched by both humans and her kin. The chilling cold didn't ward her off. The woman, despite her delicate appearance, almost snow white hair flowing around her shoulders like a morning mist and bright blue eyes, was strong. The harsh life hardened her. She hoped to leave the cruel memories of what had happened in her mountain kingdom of Ebeer. Men cannot be trusted. They arrive, melt you inside and leave like a deadly arrow. This would never fade in her memory, no matter how hard she would try.
She intended to live on, but how can one do so if your heart was torn apart? She could not bear this any longer. The chieftain or not, she could neither stay in the Ebeer Mountains or leave for Central Debas. Not after what had happened. A mourning lily, a sign of grief, was properly placed between her head and her right ear. Her best clothes - meant to be a bridal gown, turned out to be fitting for a funeral of a queen - made of dark wool, laid on her her finely. The hair was cut as a sign of grief.
Old Merem was dead.
She could not do otherwise. Her father Rison's life would not last forever. She was meant to rule her people and she would do so no matter how badly he had hurt her. The decision of leaving for the untamed mountain ranges the Southerners called Furaha Ya Moyo wasn't easy, but well-timed. Her father was still strong enough to wait for her, whereas conflicts between humans and Jurre's kin were causing more and more victims. This made her mind: she would travel to the Furaha Ya Moyo, find a proper place to live and lead her tribe there. A new land. A new reality. A new beginning.
And let the fluffy animal she saw there, high up the Furaha Ya Moyo, be her royal sign. The bright, dreamy eyes, shadows cast by long, feminine eyelashes. The llamas enchanted her. So graceful, so agile, so proud... The real virgin rulers of this extreme land. Would they ever become domesticated?
She had all the new life to see so.
So, basically, Merem's got a new kingdom on her own and needs some pets to caress and help her. I set up royal stables for her and managed to domesticate the animals. Would you like to help us and interbreed?
How to do so, one may ask?
It's simple. Write a request for a llama. If you ask kindly and didn't receive one from me before, you'll be given it in no time (no time means once I get your message, so don't fret and wait patiently). You don't have to watch me. You don't have to favourite this journal entry. You don't have to give me one (thought you should do so with Merem and her creator, Gnewi). You don't have to carry on with features, points, cakes or whatever. Just ask kindly.
However, any mean of appreciation of Merem, who is not mine, but Gnewi's, sent to her account are greatly appreciated! Also, check the journal entry regarding featured deviants and give them some attention they truly deserve please. Thanks and fret not if your llama spits on you! It shows it loves you!
PS I made it a donation pool, because not having a PM makes it impossible to install "Custom Box" widget. 77 is just a symbolic number to let you know my llama stables are unlimited and need new blood!
|I have my first series of thematic stocks ready to be used - Ethnique can be checked out here:|
Ethnique - the grand launchHello all!
If you're too lazy to download it all step by step, there is a compilation as well:
Welcome to this den of visualised horror, also known as my DeviantArt account. |
Most of deviants use their galleries to share their works, make profit from their art, provoke, amaze, etc. I am a troubling exception. It may sound weird, writing it just in front of your account. Most of people want the others to rate and comment their hard work. Yet, "what we call normality is only a circle of light around the fireplace", as Terry Pratchett said.
First of all, I'm too busy and lazy to upload my hand-drawn sketches (not to mention I'm not a sadist to lure anybody to look at them). Being a translator, I spend most of my time between ready commissions, works-in-progress and appropriate literature. Anyway, after a day of work, I like to relax by either reading, making custom jewellery (mostly different mokume gane techniques), writing scraps of horror and macabre that are too painful to show the others or drawing. Some time ago, I learned about photomanipulations, mixed media and so on. And then realised that I've done this before. As a translator on an international website, Slavonic Corner's moderator and map designer, I make awards for contests from time to time. Those are wallpapers (the most easy mean of prize to carry around as it's an international website) and avatars. After reading about photomanipulations, I thought that I could try my luck at this. It's quite similar, after all, to what I've done before. I also reasoned that I can make some wallpapers for my friends and myself to use and my DeviantArt account, previously used for aesthetic purposes only, might be useful as an online disc. Therefore, my gallery's fate was sealed.
To be honest, I really honour all real artists - stock providers and their users. I don't think of my works you can find in my gallery as of works of art - of any value. Coming up with a concept and putting other people's stocks together doesn't make the outcome an art. But I enjoy what I do and hope it won't irritate anybody. Anyway, you were warned.
Above all, I would like to thank and congratulate all the people for sharing stock I used, use or will use. You are truly talented!
PS My rules can be found here. Don't ask me about the ridiculous war between my tag line and Stinky. I still lack an avatar. Stinky has only accidentally popped in and rejects any requests to move himself out.
EDIT: Our favourite magician DevPeter persuaded Stinky to move out! And look how wondrously my brand new avatar he gave me (I mean DevPeter, not Stinky) looks!
Stinky made the deal: he resides within devID and my avatar is Stinky-free.
I still think I got a bargain.
Just think ho gorgeous the new avatar is!!!
I'm not sure I should trust Stinky - it's Stinky after all - but I cannot resist the opportunity to wear this little miracle, at least for a time!
<= READ THE RULES BEFORE USING ANYTHING
<= HOW TO HELP THE OTHERS AND EARN FOR YOURSELF
<= FEATURE FAIR - SEE THE AWESOME DEVIANTS
• One free set of basic armour common to the setting.
• One free weapon that best represents the character’s concept, attributes and skills. This weapon should effectively represent what the character has been trained to use.
• One free adventuring kit to perform the most rudimentary actions within their setting or provide the most basic survival needs. Example: In a fantasy setting, this would include a water skin, bed roll, rope and flint. In a modern investigative setting, this would include a cell phone with camera, gloves, fingerprinting kit and maybe tweezers for picking up delicate items.
• $200 to spend on additional gear or save for in-game use.”
I was positively amazed by the vast number of proposed stats for many mundane items. A lot is aimed at modern world settings, so you can have cameras, cellphones, guns and what-not without the need to bother the GM with creating them for you. They are all detailed in the book. For my one night introductory adventure for a system I made myself based off the world of Thief, I created my own set of gear to equip the PCs with. As they are all thieves, more or less, just of different paths of life and specialties, I decided to give them the following for free, but heavily restrict the money they’d otherwise invest to their liking (that $200 from the quote above):
- a blackjack,
- a dagger,
- a short bow,
- a small quiver with 6 broadhead arrows and 4 water arrows,
- a full set of lockpicks,
- a never-filling pouch fashioned after the main (anti)hero – you know, if Garrett can place dozens of paintings that are measured in metres inside a small bag and still have a basically unlimited amount of space to stuff various loot ranging from coins through jewellery and precious stones, ending on porcelain vases a small child could easily hide in and not complain, limiting the PCs just felt wrong .
I am going to show you a short overview of those five PCs and the whole adventure after some time, but first: a heads-up on what I really praise “Entropy” for: just like TDE and Wolsung, it is tailored to HELP the PCs, not cripple them. Read and memorise the rule of thumb for throws: “whenever you’re forced to round numbers due to the game’s mechanics, always round in favour of the character. If the character would benefit from rounding up, then round up. If the character would benefit from rounding down, then round down”. Bravo! It’s so easy, yet so often – too often – missed by many otherwise nice systems. Always look for the players, I say.
“Every time the GM calls for a dice roll, players use a combination of their character’s Attributes and Skills. Choose an applicable attribute and skill. Using the die type for the chosen traits, roll both dice and add their values together. The total is then compared to the target number and must meet or exceed it”. Easy, right? Simple mechanics are good, because you adapt them to the story, not the other way around. Moreover, “Entropy” advises the GM not to call for rolls during mundane situations. If the character wants to ride a horse and he or she has riding skill, agree without a test. Call for one if there is a battle raging, thus the horse is scared. This is a stressful situation, something is at stake, so a test is justified. Don’t roll the dice all the time. Instead, limit their use. Make the players describe and act out their actions (my rule of thumb: third person mode for describing actions – “Nira is announcing the arrival of the newcomers” – and first person mode for speaking, which I insist on using frequently – “Welcome to our house, strangers!”). There are two basic variations of rolls (of course if you need a different type, come up with it and implement it):
- opposed rolls for conflict, say, lying to your mother-in-law: the lying PC is the aggressor, the mother-in-law is the defender. Whoever rolls a higher number wins, ties go to the defender (as he or she is an obstacle to be passed, obviously);
- unopposed rolls for non-conflict situations: usually, they carry the target number – or obstacle if it is easier for you to grasp, it surely is for me – of 9. It is up to GM to declare what happens if the PC meets and EXCEEDS the target number. It can be a speed-up of an action, for instance a lock you’d be opening for a minute when you roll 9 can be opened in 30 seconds if you roll 11 and such. What I really like is that the GM is free to set those flavours on his or her own without telling the players and thus having to keep a track of the rules that are created to assist that.
What is interesting is critical failure or success. A critical failure is when all dice come up with 1. You don’t only fail your action, but do that truly miserably, say instead of throwing a rock at your enemy, you hit your own feet, smashing your toes to jelly. A critical success is at least twice the target number. Here the GM states what kind of little miracle has just happened. Moreover, you get one hero point to be spent immediately, apart from other bonuses you may earn. Neat!
Other things I’d like to highlight regarding character creation are qualities. They are more or less traits adapted from Burning Wheel and aid fleshing out the characters. While you are fully entitled to describe your PC beyond them, if you want to gain hero points to modify rolls, for example, think about those five qualities you choose when making your PC. According to the book, “(…) qualities are role-playing hooks or character qualities and flaws for gaining additional hero points. When a character is able to apply one of their qualities, he role-plays how that quality is used and gains 1 hero point to be used immediately. Only one quality can be used at a time, but each one can be used multiple times throughout the course of a game session if it applies to the situation. The GM is the final arbiter if the quality feasibly applies to the situation.
• Each character chooses 5 qualities which define role-playing aspects about their character or special abilities they exhibit. They may or may not completely follow the character concept. Qualities are explained further in this chapter.
• Qualities can be positive, negative, or neutral in design, but should somehow be usable in-game.
• Neutral qualities can be applied positively or negatively given different situations.
• Using positive qualities provides Hero Points that must be spent immediately.
• Using negative qualities provides Hero Points that can be spent later.
• When using a neutral quality, the GM must assess if the character is being aided by the quality or hindered. If he’s being aided, the use of that quality is considered positive. If he’s being hindered, the use of that quality is considered negative.”
…so… If you want to make some points to be used immediately, try to come up with a positive quality. If you prefer to save them, use negative ones. If I was to suggest something, I’d go for a safe route and make a PC with two positive, two negative and a single neutral quality to be reasonably prepared for various scenarios.
If we are so close to hero points, let’s mention them briefly. Each PC starts the game with three of them; those three points refresh with each session, though they can’t carry over the sessions. You can gain only one point immediately through a use of one of your qualities, but as long as you have some extra hero points, you are free to spend any amount you desire. The rule is simple: one action, one quality, one hero point to be spent because of it. What can a single hero point do? Well, amazingly much:
- add a +2 modifier or D6 to a skill roll,
- add a +2 modifier or D4 to damage,
- increase your initiative (a secondary attribute) by +D6,
- reroll a failed skill roll,
- add +2D6 of feet to a run action,
- automatically succeed on one combat maneuver (you don’t need an opposed roll here),
- ignore all wound penalties for one combat round,
- make an unarmed attack inflict lethal damage,
- roll vitality and reduce the incoming damage by half the amount rolled,
- increase a skill type die by one step for one combat round,
- increase an attribute by one step to a maximum of D12 for one combat action,
- change a small piece of the story in favour of your PC.
Isn’t it pretty cool? Much better than Artha in Burning Wheel if I was to say something.
Let’s get back to your PC-in-creation. What differentiates “Entropy” from most of systems is the lack of professions, classes and so on. However, the manual is equipped with the following descriptions of some professions to consider when creating PCs:
“Cleric: Clerics are pillars of many religions and religious organizations. They are the hardworking individuals that serve the priests and typically tend to the daily lives of the religion’s followers. Suggested Skills: Awareness, Healing, Knowledge, Performing
Commander: Commanders are leaders within many types of military organizations. They give orders to subordinates and are responsible for the overall tactics those subordinates take. Suggested Skills: Awareness, Diplomacy, Firearms, Networking, Tracking
Diplomat: Diplomats are the political figures for governments and federally funded organizations. They are particularly skilled at speaking to audiences and Knowledge, Language, Networking, Streetwise
Engineer: Engineers are designers of incredible gadgets that can either be usable by the general populace or specialized for sensitive applications. They know the ins and outs of their particular field of knowledge and are always called upon to
determine what’s gone wrong with that technology. Suggested Skills: Investigation, Knowledge, Repair, Science Skills
Hunter: Hunters are experts with weapons and tracking prey. They can spot a target from amazing distances and know just the right direction to follow when searching for that target. Suggested Skills: Awareness, Firearms, Melee, Ranged, Tracking
Investigator: Investigators are incredible when it comes to finding and decipher clues. They always know the right questions to ask and seem to have an instinct for knowing when someone is lying. Suggested Skills: Awareness, Interrogation, Investigation, Networking, Streetwise
Marine: Marines are specially trained warriors within a military organization. They are often called upon for delicate missions and are frequently placed in dangerous situations. Suggested Skills: Athletics, Awareness, Boating, Firearms, Melee, Stealth, Survival, Tracking
Merchant: Merchants are experts and buying, selling, negotiating, and identifying goods and services. They know a great bargain when they see one and could probably sell anything to anyone, even if they don’t need it. Suggested Skills: Awareness, Crafting, Deception, Diplomacy, Gambling, Networking, Streetwise
Pilot: Expert pilots can practically fly an air craft with their eyes closed. They fully understand the cockpit and know the ins and outs of how their air craft function. Flying is simply second nature to them. Suggested Skills: Awareness, Piloting, Repair, Tracking
Scout: Scouts are often well ahead of the rest of the group, watching out for danger, blazing a new trail, or following a target. They work hard to remain out of sight while spotting everything they can. Suggested Skills: Awareness, Herding, Ranged, Stealth, Survival, Tracking
Sorcerer: Sorcerers are masters of the magical arts. They can create extraordinary feats with ease and awe even the greatest warriors with their supernatural talents. Suggested Skills: Arcana, Performing, Resist, Streetwise
Thief: Thieves sneak in behind their targets to hit and run without being seen. They are masters at stealth tactics and survive by being quicker than their opponent. Suggested Skills: Acrobatics, Awareness, Deception, Gambling, Lock Picking, Melee, Stealth, Streetwise”
This should get your creative juices flowing. I won’t tell you about the combat system. It is too complicated to be explained in a review, just read through the parts. What I want to stress out is the galore of nice tips given for forming a party. This starts with a simple, but outrageously often ignored question: why are those guys together? Then there are hints of adjusting the difficulty level, the overall style and atmosphere, even the encounters to form a pleasant roleplaying experience for veterans and newbies alike. I want to share a brief overview of my one night adventure for five players.
First of all, the setting is entirely mine. It loosely follows the rules of “Entropy”, but focuses on rogue characters. Why? Because Lingering Among Shadows (work abbreviation LAS) is set in the world of Thief, with PCs playing minor to slightly above the average thieves, fences, possibly ex-guards, failed Hammerite acolytes or exiled Pagan shamans. My roleplaying group consists of five people here. Because LAS will nearly always give the PCs combat disadvantage (because as a thief, you are always weaker than a small group of guards, no matter how stupid they are – heck, this is the flavour!), I need to prepare an adventure seed that minimises combat opportunities as much as possible. Due to that, I can’t let the players choose the PCs totally on their own (we couldn’t play with a party of warriors, for instance). Instead, I make brief character sheets and let them add their finishing touches – mainly to the appearance, storyline and additional, non-combat skills. This way, we came up with a party of five thieves of different paths of life. I gave them D6 awareness, networking and streetwise plus D8 stealth, acrobatics, melee weapons: blackjack, dagger, ranged weapons: short bow, pickpocketing and lockpicking for free, which they could improve further or buy other skills.
First, we’ve got Moira. First a student at the Hand Brotherhood studying to become a mage, quickly dropped out for her kleptomaniacal instincts (a drawback from her urchin background). She only knows a few basic spells which basically sum up to: fireballs of the pathetic size of an apple and a healing spell of her own invention (created to resist the effects of hungovers…). Still, her knowledge of the Brotherhood proves useful. Also, elementals don’t pose so big a threat in her vicinity.
Then, there is Hattori. He used to be a minor trader from Cyric (a city loosely resembling Shanghai). As a seventeen years old, he sailed to the City for trade in order to prove his worth to his uncaring uncle, a local crime lord (to Hattori’s advance, Masahidaj disguised himself before his nephew as a wealthy and influential merchant), but ended up robbed blind and beaten to unconsciousness. With no ship or any funds to sustain himself, not very knowledgeable regarding the City, he became a thief. His great archery skills acquired in Cyric helped him a lot and continue to keep him out of trouble. Hattori was first helped by Hadrian, a thief from the Docks, who is a failed Hammerite acolyte. Born to a tailor’s family, he was sent to Saint Edgar’s Cathedral when he was four or so, but when the Hag started to wreak havoc, his family was killed, mistakenly taken as Gamall’s minions by the Hammerites. Obviously enough, this left him seriously traumatised and he ran away. He still retains his contacts with Inspector Drept though.
Artass fills in the role of the erudite of the party. He used to work as a scribe in Wieldstrom Museum until he found out Curator Muriel Milton buys some of the paintings from a fence named Dahlia. Sure enough, when he mentioned that to Mrs Milton, he found himself jobless before he could spell “indignation of the incumbent”. He tried to find another employer, but the curator burnt all his possible contacts with her money and influence. Artass, after sobering up, realised that more than often, it is not you who chooses not the most legal occupations – these occupations choose you. After all, it is much easier to find profitable offers if you are aware of the value of what your objective is and, spending a fair share of his life as first a student and then a scribe dealing with all kinds of artworks, he’s the right man to turn to when a figurine or that little portrait can’t be acquired normally. Artass is regarded as a kind of an antics connoisseur and often tags along with Hadrian and Hattori during museum crawls of sorts. There is one very inconvenient feature of his: he suffers from arachnophobia, a memento of his long working hours spent in the most cramped attics and cellars of Wieldstrom, where he had to cope with many specimens of spiders. When encountering one, he enters a panic frenzy, demanding the creepy crawly to be killed, trembling and whining or a mix of the above.
Lastly, we’ve got Flavia. She claims to be the bastard daughter of Denise Fulton, a noblewoman who posed for Francis Orbetti’s “The Taciturn Lady” and the famous painter himself. She is the most extrovert of the party and shares her time between thievery, being a con artist and, without greater successes, selling one-penny novels in Stonemarket. These three occupations blend almost seamlessly with each other, gaining her allies and enemies alike. She’s on very friendly terms with Marla Madison and Black Market Bertha from Stonemarket Proper as well as with Carmen Cantata (she often fetches them her books). On another hand, her contacts in Auldale were burnt the minute she tried to lure Henry, the local artworks and metals-dealing fence, into becoming her artistic agent. She thinks Dahlia is a poser and a snob, thus rarely engages in jobs near the Docks and enjoys mocking Hadrian for working with her just as much as she chatters with Moira on the latest gossips heard from the ladies from Stonemarket Proper. Being very talkative and expressive, Flavia tends to act as a personal speaker of the group, though her inclinations towards investigating everyone’s romantic life doesn’t gain her friends and the rest has to keep her out of trouble due to that trait of hers.
The adventure I prepared was “How to Train Your Burrick” (a seed available for free for personal use here). The seed is here if you prefer clear text:
Ramirez, the local crime lord, is a man of little reason and many contrasts. While he’s perfectly fine with “persuading” people to join his stables, apart from gold, he has one obsession: burricks. Tunnels below his mansion are full of them. Having heard of your escapades, he chose you to fulfil his lifetime dream: to actually tame one. You better please him: the only man to mess up with him, rob him blind and escape in a single piece is a living legend and he won’t help you anyway. Pagan warriors are rumoured to prove their worth by riding burricks after feeding them a special potion. Can you find out the recipe? Rosie the trollop claims to know one of their hideouts – deep in the sewers of South Quarter... and while it sounds fishy, it’s the only spoor so far. Will you satisfy Ramirez or end up as mincemeat?
So far as the story is concerned. The PCs meet the Downwinders’ Guild members when wandering around Stonemarket and are non-violently, but still, forced to come to a meeting before Ramirez himself. He makes them an offer not to be refused: as they are perceived as quite good and promising in the underworld, they either join the guild (thus a lion’s share of their loot will go to the wardens and Ramirez) or can remain more independent provided they fulfil his dream and tame his burricks. Then they are thrown out of his quarters and given one week to achieve the objective.
The first thing the party members do is scurrying off straight to “Burrick Without Blend-A-Med”, a cramped, ramshackle tavern of the most ill repute, to sober up (it’s around 21:00 now). Then they start gathering news about burricks. They don’t find anything apart from a tale told by Benny, a famous and beloved guard and devoted drunkard. Between one hiccup and another, he tells them that Pagan warriors are rumoured to have a ritual concerning the animals: they prove their worth by trying to mount them and ride around a hillock west of the City. In order to do that, they need to make the burricks drink a special potion that somehow makes them quiet enough to tame for a while. Then he falls asleep and nobody manages to wake him.
Without much success so far, the group intends to leave, but they bump into Rosie the trollop (a key NPC). She admits she (over)heard the conversation and exclaims she knows one of the Pagan hideouts. She offers to take the group near that place… for a fair price. Then she goes back to her apartment in the Docks.
Now the party is divided: the boys agree to pay, Moira is angered by the frivolous behaviour of Rosie, whereas Flavia thinks the best way is to offer her some relax and settles on making Artass compliment her as he’s the most suave of the guys (this is a good example of the “hopeless romantic” quality, which affects her negatively as you’ll soon see, so she earns a hero point to be spent later). Not surprisingly, Artass objects (colourfully calling her a freak). They make an opposed roll and fortunately for the ex-scribe, his number is higher than hers. The idea is dropped and they go to Stonemarket Proper to sell some trinkets they still didn’t manage to clean away to Black Market Bertha in order to get some cash to pay Rosie.
After a quick conversation with Bertha, with some coins in their pockets and newly-gained knowledge that Rosie rents a small room in “Bloody Ears Tavern”, a shady property owned by Blind Billy, they leave Stonemarket and, succeeding a group roll, move undisturbed through the City to the Docks. However, they encounter some thugs from the Downwinders’ Guild, who suspect they try to cross the Fae River and flee. They are acting aggressively, but after being persuaded by Hattori (who manages to overcome his resentment towards Downwinders – luckily, he’s not recognised) they are here to meet the contact, they follow the party upstairs to the apartment. Rosie is there and Moira somehow bribes her into taking “The Shadow Children”, a one-penny novel Flavia wrote instead of the money. The woman is authentically pleased (she can barely read, but the letters are REALLY BIG to make the book appear “fuller”) and states the Pagans seem to hide in the sewers of South Quarter.
It is 22:00 – a proper hour to engage in the shady job. They leave the Docks and, still escorted by the Downwinders, reach the engineering shack. The thugs run away when a larger patrol approaches and Hadrian cracks the lock, so they can move inside. There is one guard here, but Hattori manages to knock him out with his blackjack. Artass and Moira find the plans of the sewers and the mechanism to open the cover. Rosie exclaims she’s too scared to go inside, so they have to descend on their own. Without any other options, they do and land in the stinking sewers. They start slowly moving west and, after fifteen minutes or so, reach a dilapidated cellar.
A cellar full of venomous yellowish spiders (a total of twelve of them), who aren’t happy to see the uninvited guests. Artass, due to his “arachnophobia” quality, enters a panic frenzy and goes berserk (gaining a hero point too). He slashes his way through the first two, taking them surprised, and the rest retaliates. The rest of the party has no other choice but to help him. Hattori executes his “eye of a marksman” quality, thus gaining a hero point to be spent immediately, which he does – and somehow (don’t ask me how: As Johnn Four says, “I prefer to call for a roll only when it's important or when I need to stall to think. Fewer rolls means more storytelling and sleeker game experience because GM and players are doing more narrating and can get into a flow”) manages to get an amazing double success, letting him use one arrow to make a shish kebab out of three spiders at once. Hadrian and the girls back them up really well, so after a minute or two, it is over. The group has time to look around the cellar and they discover a small hole filled with coins, which they happily snatch.
After the encounter with spiders, the party returns to the main canal and continue west until Hadrian notices some Pagan markings. They decide to follow them, hoping to reach the lair undiscovered. It is dark and humid there – the Pagans plant shrubs, flowers and even trees everywhere they live. There are small, one or two person patrols each one hundred metres, but they succeed their stealth rolls, thus managing to sneak past them. The path meanders through sleeping quarters and ends in a hexagonal room mainly filled up with soil making up a hillock – which seems to lead out of the sewers and up (there is faint moonlight and a smell of fresh air). The guys decide it won’t go anywhere and that they can search the quarters for some clues and/or loot. The quarters don’t contain anything of great value: some food, a few broadhead arrows and a couple of silver nuggets. However, there is a short parchment from Dyan, the current leader of the faction, addressed to her second-in-command, Larkspur, regarding some ritual. It states the initiation of the coming-of-age warriors is taking place tomorrow night and because of that, all shamans are requested to come to the gathering place in order to prepare the potions. Moira suggests the gathering place may not be located underground, so they quietly leave the quarters and head up the hillock.
The group emerges out of the sewers in a place that seemingly used to be a moat. The hillock made of soil they crawled onto must have been carried to its current location by the Pagans to create a way to cross the moat, which now is just a bit of marshes. There are some willows growing nearby and our heroes can hear some chilling chatters ahead of them. As it is around 23:00 and as they don’t know how much it’ll take to find something useful before the sun rises again, the group decides to sneak into the grove. They cross the moat and, having made a successful group roll for stealth, they enter the woods. After a couple of minutes of evading will’o’wisps that could expose their location, the PCs reach a small clearing with a maypole in the middle of it, seemingly the gathering place. Artass mentions the lack of any people suggests the preparations haven’t begun yet, but ought to soon, thus they better hurry up. There’s a well-hidden track to the west of it leading to a cave, whose entrance is decorated with carved masks, feathers and bones on poles, which they decide to follow.
The entrance is very low and they have to basically crawl inside – the corridor is like four metres long. There is some candlelight that lets the party examine their surroundings – they start luckily by finding a set of five figurines: one is a depiction of the Trickster with Viktoria sitting on his hooves, the rest symbolise the four elements. They must be valuable, according to Artass, so they snatch them. Then Moira exclaims that, based off what she learned in the Brotherhood, this must be the place where the shamans prepare for the ritual: there is a rock with herbs, branches and bones lying on its top, some shelves full of stone bowls and carved bottles, a small candle placed in a clay pot and a piece of bark with some feeble writing on it. Hattori examines the bark closely: there are two recipes – one for the warriors’ drink and one for the potion fed to the burricks. Meanwhile, Flavia exclaims she found a bottle of Bearhugger (an extraordinarily strong beer). Nobody really cares about that, because they’re too busy deciphering the recipes. Just when the party manages to tell one ingredient from another and find out happily all of them are present on the stony bench…
They realise they have company.
From the corridor, a Pagan woman emerges. She’s clad in typical shaman garments comprised of rags, animal hide and plants. She wears a necklace made of bones, stones and wooden beads, but the biggest surprise is that she carries a wand that reaches up to her elbow and has a skull on its end. It certainly is Dyan, for nobody else is entitled to use this symbol of power. In other words, the party is screwed.
She spots them just before Flavia steps into action, using her hero point acquired for playing out her “hopeless romantic” quality to get out of trouble by interfering with the probable outcome of the rendezvous with Dyan, say, being burnt to ashes before being resurrected in order to be tortured some more and sacrificed or something similar (remember, a hero point can “change a small piece of the story in favour of your PC”). She steps into my shoes of the GM for a short while and says that, just when the shaman is about to scream or cast a spell to incapacitate the intruders, she raises up and hits the ceiling with her head (mind you Flavia executes the hook I left by mentioning the corridor is very low and you need to crawl through it), rendering herself unconscious. In other words, our con-artist has just saved the day – or night, to be precise.
Hadrian and Hattori help each other carry the woman deeper to the shadows near the bench to hide her, the girls grab the ingredients and the recipes, whereas Artass has a sadistic, but smart idea to conceal their involvement in the missing of the stuff and the general mess the Pagans are going to encounter in the cave. He suggests spilling Bearhugger onto Dyan and leaving the empty bottle in her hand, pretending she got drunk with it. His friends agree and turn the nefarious plan into reality, putting the candle out, spilling the contents of the bottles and grinding some herbs they won’t need for the potions into shreds. Now the scene really looks like having experienced a drunken frenzy. The party rolls a successful group test for stealth and departures without any additional complications.
As we’re running short of time and I don’t want to waste such an excellent climax (I follow the eastern storytelling tradition when it comes to giving out tension), I decide to take the party straight to Ramirez with a short stop at Stonemarket Proper to hide the loot they acquired. Marla and Bertha agree to buy the trinkets and keep the money for a short while before they hopefully return from the Downwinders’ Guild. Besides, it’s midnight and the crime lord’s lair is thriving. They are led to the caverns his burricks created under the buildings and are given some time to prepare the potions. I cut it short by a group roll Moira and Artass make together – and barely, but still, they meet the obstacle (they only manage to carry out this activity, because I round up to their advance as the manual and all the Universe advise me to). The drinks are ready, the boss is pleased and gives them one year per head – a total of five years! – of freedom of operating. Then the group is shown the doors and our relieved thieves can share their happiness. The session is over.
However, I wouldn’t be myself if I hadn’t included a left hook. Ramirez is very neurotic: he doesn’t believe anyone but himself and his pets, so he sends each of the wardens and other henchmen home to be left alone with the burricks in order to try out the potions. He goes to the cellar where he keeps his gold in and proceeds to drink the elixirs with the animals. However, as Moira and Artass nearly failed their test, while they manage to prepare the fluids correctly, they mistakenly label the bottles. And so, Ramirez takes what the burricks ought to have drunk and they gulp down the potion meant to augment the Pagan warriors’ courage, libido and so on. Their master is seriously weakened and out of his mind – a state similar to taking drugs – while the burricks are raging with newly-found power. And they try to dominate Ramirez. Surrounded by a whole herd, he succumbs to them and after several hours of humiliating activities, he eventually passes away due to being gassed, cramped into the floor and then partially chewed by the pets. This doesn’t affect the PCs though, because the rest of the wardens are too busy organising the funeral (Ramirez’s remains are eventually buried in <a wytiwyg="1" href="”" http:="" thief.wikia.com="" wiki="" fort_ironwood#trivia"="">the catacombs of Fort Ironwood</a> with a memorable epitaph “LOVED HIS BURRICKS” – some time after the funeral, unknown individual has written an addition: “to his taffing bloody death”) and struggling for domination to link their mission with his death. The players really like the fact I managed to connect the session to the bigger picture and I’m glad they enjoyed it.
I think you will really like the system, but I can't force you into trying it out. hopefully what I wrote will be sufficient to do that . I’m going to end this humble review with a wise quote from the manual every GM should stick to, even if you aren’t convinced by my revelations to get “Entropy”:
“The game is designed to offer a multitude of opportunities without being hampered by options. This is why skills can be combined with any attribute to create a possible action and qualities have no restraints, other than feasibility. As long as that character concept fits in your setting, let the player roll with it and see how the character progresses throughout the adventure or campaign. Having fun should always be the highest priority of any role-playing game and this can be achieved through flexibility and imagination. This includes the core mechanics; if something doesn’t quite fit in your adventure or campaign, change it so that it does! The rules are a guideline, not the solution to every complication imaginable.”
Arlesienne - your personal madman