Author Topic: SCUP: Steadfast  (Read 497 times)

Cramulus

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SCUP: Steadfast
« on: April 26, 2020, 01:55:14 pm »
This thread discusses the tabletop RPG "The Sword, the Crown, and the Unspeakable Power" (see this thread for an overall description). I'm stupidly running two simultaneous groups. This thread is for one of them.

This group group (larp friends) created a wild setting too, which we call Steadfast.

As a funny little symmetry, the first group created a setting where the essential antagonist was necromancers. The second group created a setting where the essential antagonist is life mages.

Here's the myth:

IN THE BEGINNING…
It was a golden age of prosperity and knowledge. An age of machines and energy. An age of comfort and hubris. One of the technologies developed in this time is the art of Lifeshaping, creating new life. Among other things, Lifeshapers were able to let a parent select traits for their child.

THEN…
In the Lifeshaper’s quest to master the art of creation, a new power emerged in the land. The Lifeshapers created the Verdant, a fungal intelligence which could solve many of humanity’s problems. The Verdant cured disease and extended life spans. After a long time, these entities were used to shape a human monoculture. Reliant on these creatures, humanity became beholden to them. The Verdant spread across the globe, changing all life it touched to fit its alien purposes.

THIS RESULTED IN…
But eventually, the Verdant came to understand its role not just as the protectors of humanity, but the whole planet. When they decided this, they recognized humans not as the favorite children of the planet, but as parasites, depleting the natural resources and upsetting the existing balance. Ultimately, the Verdant determined that the world is only in equilibrium when the human population is below a certain level. And then the blight of humanity began. The world crumbled, as if nature turned against us.

AND BECAUSE OF THIS…
An age of desolation began. Plagues and monsters bit at humanity from all sides. Avalanches, tornadoes, tsunamis, hurricanes, plagues, wildfires, plagues--humanity sees all of this as the will of the Verdant.  The Verdant’s presence is everywhere, in the air, and in the water. It desires humanity to return to its animal lifestyle, and it is willing to grant power and information to those that deal with it, in order to gain influence and advance its long-term plans. Many humans are considered infected by the ‘Phage’, which is perhaps a fungal infection that influences behavior, or perhaps it is just sympathy with the Verdant’s cause. Some affected by the phage begin to break down physically, being slowly and painfully reduced to base nutrients.  There was decay and desolation, the once beautiful landscape blighted. The skylines of the ancient cities now lay in ruin. 

UNTIL…
Humans needed to keep their footprint small, to use only simple tech, in order to not upset what the Verdant considered the proper balance. People joined together.  People began to gather in new villages, outside of the now desolate cities. But it was not an age of peace. With a population-limit in place, and no way to tell how close we are to triggering the Verdant’s next plague, humans became proactive about keeping their populations low. War and predation was the law again. Feudalism replaced the old ways of democracy and republic.

AND NOW…
We must live our lives with constant vigilance. Some people learned how to contact the still functional satellites which still circle the planet, gaining access to the information and technology of ancient times. Calling themselves the First Born, they have become advisors and researchers, secretly using forbidden technology, while withholding and keeping it secret, lest it become widespread. And the Verdant still has agents within human settlements, keeping tabs on them. Both the Firstborn and the Lifeshapers have access to resources that common people consider magic. But both must conceal the origin of their power.

Now insular and isolated, the human settlements only contact each other for war and politics. There are annual moots, festivals where settlements send contingents in order to discuss regional issues and trade populations.

The Verdant threat is ever-present. If the Verdant believes the population has grown too high, or that humans are using technology now considered forbidden, they will lash out against humanity again. And we stand little chance.

Our story begins in the city of Steadfast...





SO BASICALLY, the factions are:

-The Guild - Commoners. Scavengers and scrappers who recover old-world technology and resources from the Ruin Heart, an ancient destroyed city. The PC representing this group is Feather, the Black Hood.

-The Court - Nobles. A collective of people with power and money. Nobles, business owners, etc. They attend the monarch, Hesperia (a PC).

-The First Born are sage/advisor types. They basically have secret tech that allows them to access the ancient-world's Internet... so their secret power is wikipedia. But this tech is forbidden, so they have to pretend they get their knowledge from magical divinations or something. The PC from this group is Valtus, the Bloodletter. He's basically one of the only real doctors in the whole city, and as such, is personally connected to many of the powerful people.

-The Orchid Circle - a new religion which is trying to preach balance with nature, but really, submission to the Verdant. Basically, these guys are ecofascists. And they are controlled by the Verdant - their leaders are all people who have been mentally influenced by the Verdant (think: Cordyceps). They also peddle drugs which make people comfortable with the world-as-it-is. The PC from this group is Will the Speaker, (class: the beloved) a cult leader who has arrived in town and quickly accumulated 15-20 converts.


I'm omitting a lot of details because this post could go on forever, but that's the gist of it!

I think the plot for this one involves the character from the Guild scavenging relics from the Ruin Heart, but what he brings back could destabilize Steadfast. The Orchid Circle and the Firstborn are directly at-odds. In a way, the commoner guild has the most power, because they have a monopoly on access to the Ruin Heart... but can they maintain it? It's dangerous to go alone, but if you bring people with you, they will figure out the route...


Here's a "custom move" I'm writing so that players can take the initiative to get controversial shit from the ruin heart:

Quote
If you know the way to the ruin heart, and undertake a perilous journey to get there, roll + Steady. If other people join you on the journey, or have a way of influencing it indirectly, they have the option of making Help/Interfere moves before you roll.

If you roll a 10+, pick 2 from the list
If you roll a 7-9, Pick 1 from the list
If you roll a 6 or lower-, your mission was a disaster, you were routed by monsters (Everyone in the group takes 3 Harm and rolls a "Taking Harm" move)

The list:
-You recovered contraband technology
-You recovered medicine
-You recovered valuable resources
-You avoid a confrontation with the guardians of the Ruin Heart


While creating characters, we also generate relationships, and those are super interesting...

For example, Hesperia has a little sister named Vega, who is the heiress to the throne. Vega has the phage, so she's dying a slow and painful death, but is being kept alive by one of the other characters -- Valtus the Bloodletter (A firstborn).

Here are the social relationships we established:




« Last Edit: May 09, 2020, 02:01:17 pm by Cramulus »

Cramulus

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Re: Steadfast
« Reply #1 on: May 09, 2020, 01:43:00 pm »
Ran for the Steadfast group last night.

  • We open with a shot of the castle. Hesperia the Evenstar is holding court. The court is filled with merchant lords, nobles, and well-to-do people. Hesperia's sister, Vega, lays infirm behind many veils, attended by Valtus, the royal physician. Vega's health has taken a turn for the worse, and Valtus knows that he needs new medicine to continue treatment. Feather, a key player in the anarchist-scavenger union, is also present.
  • Hesperia's courtiers, who are rich and indulgent, curious about the luxuries in their city, mention that they are interested in sampling these strange intoxicants that have been going around the city. Hesperia has heard that they are peddled by a man named Will. Hesperia has met Will, and asks Valtus to go retreive him.

  • Valtus sends his lackeys (two medical assistants), who invite Will to the palace. Will arrives at the palace with a potted plant from his greenhouse, and his most trusted cultist (Maria). Will does a harmless-old-man-stoner willie-nelson voice, but that's actually a cover to make people think he's harmless. In truth, these drugs have a sinister purpose.. while high, the Verdant can sense your thoughts and align them with its goals.
  • Before Valtus enters the court, he is cornered by Feather. Feather threatens him - don't peddle your drugs here. Valtus drifts by, pointing out his royal invite. There is a clash between these characters, they are beginning to hate each other. Feather attempts to study Valtus, but fucks up the roll, so I gain a point that I can spend later to have an NPC have heard rumors that Feather is untrustworthy.
  • Will the Cult Leader gives Valtus the Court Physician his potted plant (which looks like a green orchid), but beseeches him not to kill it. Valtus knows that he'll need to kill the plant to do a full analysis, but Valtus says that you need to keep it alive so that it flowers -- without the flowers, there's nothing to study.

  • Valtus takes the plant back to his laboratory. Idly, he begins to talk to it. The Verdant talks back. The sinister eco-fascist force whispers -- Show me the Evenstar and I will grant you power beyond your wildest fantasy. (The Evenstar is the sattelite that Valtus can tap into for knowledge). Valtus is highly disturbed, but still chooses not to kill the plant.

  • That night, Feather snuck into Will's cult compound. With the cultists in a drug-induced haze, he has little problem slipping into the greenhouse and setting it on fire.
  • Will is awoken by Maria. "The greenhouse is on fire!" Will rushes out to see it engulfed in flame, an evil smoke rising up into the sky. The greenhouse is ringed by wailing cultists, some are hopelessly addicted to the drugs that are burning inside. Valtus has an oppotunity to rush into the flames and save some of the supply, but he declines. He falls to his knees in tears. Feather watches, smiling, from a nearby rooftop.

  • The next morning, Valtus appears in court way too early, with 5 of his cultists in tow. Feather is there, leaning against a column, looking like the cat that ate the canary. Once Hesperia arrives in court, they hear this news... Valtus blames the fire on the Burners, the raiders who live outside the city gates. Action must be taken! Hesperia is not so much concerned with what Valtus wants, but with what the nobles want. Hesperia does a Study a Situation gauge their mood. They are mostly interested in the drugs. They want the greenhouse rebuilt. And (here's where I spend the point I held earlier, when Feather fucked up a roll) they think Feather is behind it.
  • Hesperia decides that Feather's Guild is behind it, and charges them with rebuilding Valtus' greenhouse. Feather is escorted to the greenhouse, and does some very light, half-assed labor with some incompetent hirelings. Feather and Valtus have a long conversation, building up the tension between them.

  • Will, now certain that Feather's scavenger guild is behind the arson, uses his magical power to make the forest more dangerous. The Guild scavengers currently in the forest will die. Feather will receive this news at the beginning of the next session.

  • Finally, before credits roll, the royal physician Valtus is treating Hesperia's sister Vega... In the past weeks, he's begun to perceive Vega's attraction to him. He realizes how dangerous this is, but what an opportunity it could be.
« Last Edit: May 09, 2020, 02:09:25 pm by Cramulus »

Cramulus

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Re: Steadfast
« Reply #2 on: May 09, 2020, 01:46:34 pm »
Hey, could a mod please give me a thread split? I want to move the original post about STEADFAST, and the post above this one, to its own thread. (that way, each campaign has its own diary thread)

Cain

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Re: Steadfast
« Reply #3 on: May 09, 2020, 01:56:57 pm »
All good on the title/split posts now?

Cramulus

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Re: Steadfast
« Reply #4 on: May 09, 2020, 01:59:43 pm »
Yes, thank you!

Cain

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Re: SCUP: Steadfast
« Reply #5 on: May 09, 2020, 02:20:17 pm »
 :mittens:

Cramulus

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Re: SCUP: Steadfast
« Reply #6 on: May 09, 2020, 03:05:55 pm »
Everybody had a great time, and the session was full of surprises.

Like, after the fire, Valtus the Bloodletter is now in possession of the only drug-orchid in the city... merchant lords are offering him sacks of cash for it. He suspects it's evil, but he hasn't figured out exactly what's up with it yet. But he also seems tempted by its whispers. Who knew that the Firstborn, who as a faction are directly opposed to the orchid circle, may be seduced by them?

The cost for Will using the Unspeakable Power, so far, is that the Verdant has given him a task.. He needs to let the Court sample the drug. Somehow. If he doesn't do it by the end of next session, there may be problems. But his supply is gone, he'll need to find more, or get his plant back from Valtus.

This group is all veteran roleplayers with experience running PvP larps, so they have a really good sense of how to drive drama, make themselves vulnerable, play to the scene. It's awesome. I am really able to sit back and listen, they are making the story very efficiently all by themselves.

One example is that Valtus decided that he needed an experimental subject to continue his research on the Phage disease affecting the heir to the throne (Vega). I didn't tell him that, but he decided that's how it works (and this is A-OK). Haggling with Will, the cult-leader eventually decided to let Valtus borrow one of the cultists, even knowing that the cultist may die. (Valtus has a "move" which lets him permanently increase his Arcane stat if a patient dies while in his care... so I think Valtus WANTS to vivisect the cultist he'll be receiving).

It really does feel like game of thrones at times - so much intrigue, secrets being traded, complex character relationships that are quickly put to the test... It flexes different muscles than any other tabletop game I've played. It's kinda like what Vampire should feel like (but in my experience, rarely does).

Cramulus

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Re: SCUP: Steadfast
« Reply #7 on: May 16, 2020, 02:48:17 pm »
Episode Premise:

  • The City of Steadfast is fulfilling an obligation. Periodically, it needs to assign its military and some citizens to a road detail, making sure the path is clear for delegations headed to the Festival City. Consequently, the city is only lightly defended at the moment.
  • Valtus, the royal physician, treats Vega (the heir to the throne), who is afflicted by the Phage... during his treatment, he observes her having numerous meeting with her knight, Sir Carlyle, and the merchant lord Gluster Fraust. Gluster was only recently given access, by Vega, to the royal court.
  • Feather, the Guildsmember, has been waiting for their buddies to return from the forest... but in the last episode, Will magically influenced the forest to be more hostile towards the Guild... those guild mates do not return. Feather is approached by a merchant named Gluster Fraust.. Fraust was expecting a delivery of supplies from the Guild, but it's late. Does Feather still think it's on the way? If not... Fraust would like to begin a trade-relationship with Feather. Trade with me exclusively, and I'll make it worth your while. Feather agrees & signs a contract.
  • Will the Beloved brings his cult out to the farm to have a ceremony. They are contacted by the Verdant, the Unspeakable Power of Steadfast. The Verdant (whom Will recognizes, but the cultists believe that it is the voice of the planet itself) grants Will and his followers the temporary ability to taint an object with the phage. The unspeakable power commands them to do this.


Gameplay

  • Valtus, the royal physician, heads towards the palace... on his way through the market, he notices that there are a bunch of dubious remedies now for sale. Advertised as a prophylactic, a way to prevent the phage, Valtus (one of the only people in the city with any actual medical training) recognizes them as little more than snake-oil. He investigates where these are coming from, and find that a merchant lord is behind it - a man named Gluster Fraust.
  • Will, cult leader, tries to meet with Valtus. On the way through the market, he notices these weird remedies on sale, the snake-oil type treatments that won't actually help prevent the Phage. He uses the Unspeakable Power to infect a few remedies with the Phage-taint... now, people who are trying to protect themselves will become infected.
  • Will doesn't manage to arrange a face to face meeting with Valtus. His intent was to strike a bargain - to trade the last drug-plant (which is in Valtus' possession) for one of his followers, knowing that the follower may die during medical experimentation. To make a long story short, Valtus is actually asking for two followers. Will thinks this is too much. No deal is arrived at, but Valtus now has an older cultist and is experimenting on him, trying to figure out actual remedies for the Phage.
  • During experimentation, Valtus realizes that this plant (and only this plant, not other plants like it--there's something special about this one) needs to be fed blood. Without human blood, it will quickly die. Valtus uses his captive subject, setting up a blood-drip to feed the plant.

  • Feather tells their Majesty Hesperia that the missing Guild members probably died in the woods, and Feather suspects foul play. Right now, the town is in need of resources that can only be found in the Ruin Heart.
  • Hesperia says that they will lead the next expedition into the Ruin Heart. Several members of the royal court object -- you can't risk your life like that! Hesperia uses the do you know who I am move, so another courtier reminds the court that Hesperia is an accomplished duelist, and has won many duels to the death.. the monsters of the Ruin Heart don't stand a chance.
  • Hesperia attemtps to persuade the court that they shouldn't worry about them leading the expedition. The head of House Wayleer intimates that if they support this action, they should get a cut of the profits. Hesperia socially maneuvers until the noble gets flustered and repeats their request as a demand... bad move.
  • Both Will and Valtus appeal to the crown to be included in the expedition, and the crown agrees. Valtus says he needs to acquire rare reagents to treat Vega, and Will intimates that he fears for Hesperia's life if he is not there.

The Night Before the Expedition

  • Feather and Hesperia have a secret meeting about that insolent noble house, House Wayleer. They hatch a plot to subjugate House Wayleer. Hesperia sends two missives - one saying that they are taking the heir to house wayleer, Kesson, as their personal squire. The other missive explains that the head of the family, Kess, is expected to join them on the expedition. Fearing a loss of status, they accept.
  • Will has a feast at his farm past the edge of the city. House Wayleer accepts the invitation. Will feeds them and drugs them... and then attempts to persuade them to form a secret agreement.. but it backfires. They are disturbed by the intimations and excuse themselves.
  • Feather sneaks into the House Wayleer estate and, using a helmet and stolen uniform, disguises himself as the head of House Wayleer. He gives the guard on duty a fuck-off order, and then burns down their supply shed.
  • Feather's plan is to assassinate the head of House Wayleer during the expedition. Hesperia will have taken the heir as squire, and will then be able to influence their spending of house resources. This is basically a plot to annex the House Wayleer monies and use them for Royal purposes.
  • We review each character's mood about the upcoming expedition.. most are excited, but with trepidations about the dangers in the forest.
  • Valtus knows that Vega is looking forward to an opportunity to sit in the throne in Hesperia's absence. Her knight and her merchant lord (Gluster Fraust) apparently have plans they are ready to put into motion.

At this point, the session more or less degenerated into a discussion about what ridiculous mounts everybody would like to acquire in the forest. Feather, for example, would like to leave the forest riding some kind of armored milipede thing, or some weird-ass bug thing like this:




If this was an HBO series, we basically ended the episode with a shot of the group about to proceed from the Royal Court into the dark and forbidding forest. The Verdant watches, eagerly anticipating their entry to the lost city called the Ruin Heart.
« Last Edit: May 16, 2020, 02:57:01 pm by Cramulus »