Agon: Stormriders

Quick recap for our second episode of the AGON 2nd edition beta playtest (see also first episode.)

When last we left our heroes, they were about to give chase to Thesekyra the pirate queen, who had sailed away with the stolen Pillar of Storms. Before leaving the panicked inhabitants of Kryos, Dolia convinced the villagers to hide in the mines from the harpy attacks.

Our heroes set sail after the pirate queen, with a captured harpy attached to the mast with a length of yarn as a guide. The closer they got, the stormier the sea was, thanks to the stolen artifact. Unfortunately, the attempt to outmaneuver the pirate queen was met with abject failure and the heroes’ ship was driven into the magical storm.

Odysseus, Norman Lindsay 1925.

Dolia attempts to call upon Hekate for assistance, pouring a sacrifice of sacred oil onto the waves, but the sacrifice did not go so well and the ship capsized in the towering waves. Phaedra rescued the bound harpy rather than let her drown. Antiochis rallied the boon companions and Phaedra shamed the harpy into not abandoning everyone. With her help, they were able to find a nearby island and tow the capsized ship there.

The heroes decided an interlude to rest was a good choice. That night, Antiochis healed with Dolia, while Phaedra heals with help from the harpy, Zephyra. The storm slowly abated as the pirate queen sailed further away. [The rules seem to imply but not state outright that the healing is between Heroes only, but when Misha said she wanted to heal with the harpy, and therefore exchange oaths with her, I thought it was cool and I could not see any reason this would be a problem later. So we named the harpy Zephyra, and she and Phaedra now owe each other oaths. Everyone reset their Pathos.]

In the morning, the heroes make a sacrifice to Hera under Dolia’s guidance, offering a sheep that had broken legs from the shipwreck, and Phaedra earned an oath from the goddess, who was clearly pleased with the Heroes’ willingness to recover the Pillar of Storm stolen from her own temple. [Everyone regained their spent Divine favour. Strife advanced, adding a d12 to my future rolls.]

Later that day, the crew righted the capsized ship which much heaving. The heroes turned the ship repairs into a jolly, heroic contest to see who was the best at detangling the ship’s sails. It’s a great work party! However, the next morning brought approaching storm clouds again and a pirate ship on the horizon, sailing for the island… [I reminded the Hero players that these were pirates and that their freshly repaired ship was currently a sitting duck in its moorage.]

Some Thoughts

Because we’re spread out over different time zones, we were only able to have two hours of play. Even so, I had expected to wrap up the Kryos adventure that evening; but I followed where the dice led.

I am still trying to get a handle on how many rolls I should ask for; fewer means briefer episodes but also less Glory for the Hero characters. My rule of thumb on whether to call for a roll in response to the players’ stated intentions was whether a failure would propel the story into a new and interesting direction. If I felt I could spin it, I went with a roll. As it is, I might have skipped one or two rolls for pacing’s sake but I still like where play ended up.

I also wanted to push the game economy to see what happens when the resources (Oaths, Divine Favour, Pathos) were pushed to their limit. In the Achievements phase of character creation and the first part of the Kryos adventure, Hero players had been inclined to keep piling advantages on in order to get their heroic successes, so I invited them to accept heroic failures too, because they are intrinsic to the genre.

I was glad to have a chance to try interludes. I really loved the idea of hero and harpy forming an uneasy rapport and I didn’t care whether it was “by the rules” or not. We used the Day phase a little differently from the rules too: this phase is supposed to be strictly for the heroes taking a holiday, not to move the adventure forward.

But narratively it made sense that the heroes and boon companions would have taken care of the ship at this point, and frankly, I don’t find pure contests of muscle-flexing for glory particularly interesting. Turning the repairs into the glory contests made sense to me because it was just that, glory; a failure here would not have propelled the story forward, only stretched the time they were stuck on the island.

Next episode I expect to break out the battle rules.

Detail of vase, c. 420 BC

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