In the final thrilling episode for this island, an epic naval battle took place between the heroes and Thesekyra the pirate queen!
When last we saw our heroes, it was just before dawn; the storm was rising again and Thesekyra’s ship was coming fast for them. The masses of dark clouds coalesced on the horizon, evoking the shape of a gigantic but stately woman which the heroes recognized as Hera. The storm cloud woman extended a staff in the direction of the pirate ship and the heroes heard, reverberating in their minds: “Retrieve my gift!”
On the opposite side of the horizon, the clouds were even darker but crackling with lightning. They moved to evoke the shape of Zeus, pointing to the pirate ship, and the heroes heard: “Sink the abomination!” For a moment, the silhouettes of the deities looked like two combattants about to throw themselves at each other, then dissolved into cloud masses. [I felt I had not made the gods present enough and wanted to give a little mythic boost.]
Rather than wait at anchorage, the heroes decided to set sail to meet the enemy. [We broke out the battle map for the first time and went over the rules: four possible actions resolved in order each round (maneuver, defend, attack, and attack heedlessly); whoever is best at maneuver creates an advantage die they can pass on to someone else; whoever is best at defense can block one Pathos for another hero; heroes heedlessly attacking suffer one Pathos immediately before resolution, and whoever is best at attack deals 1 Pthos to the enemy (2 if it was a heedless attack). All contests are resolved normally in terms of success, Glory, Hubris, and Pathos.]
As the pirates rapidly approached, Dolia cast spells of protection and strength onto her companions while flaming arrows rained from above; Zephyra the harpy flew up to try to protect Phaedra from danger, while Antiochis and Phaedra shot back.
[Round 1: Dolia maneuvers successfully, (Zephyra defends without success,) Phaedra attacks, Antiochis attacks heedlessly. Strife rolls a 16, no Hero attacks succeed. The rules specify that theroes lose if they are defeated in attack for three exchanges, while they win if they inflict 5 Pathos on the enemy. It’s 6 Pathos for Thesekyra because she has a Battle-Hardened Crew. I screwed up by having Zephyra join the battle on the Heroes’ side but it turned out OK because despite having decent dice, she rolled poorly all three times. What I should have done was give Phaedra an advantage die representing Zephyra’s help. Recovery phase: the battle moves from ranged attacks to melee.]
The pirate ship drew close for a boarding action but our heroes leapt on board first, with Antiochis showing her mettle by flinging pirates aside left and right. [Round 2: Dolia (and Zephyra) maneuver without success, Phaedra (failure) and Antiochis (success) both attack heedlessly, causing 2 Pathos to Thesekyra. Recovery phase: the heroes want to move the domain from Blood & Valor to Craft & Reason by using the fray around Antiochis as a distraction to get close to the Pillar of Storms and steal it. They had an excellent description of a Very Bad Plan so I agreed.]
The heroes recklessly raced to the Pillar of Storms and Dolia enacted her plan to take control of the pillar by knocking it over and covering it with a smoke screen. Antiochis picked up the pillar, looking dashing and incredibly attractive in the process, while Phaedra cut a path back to their ship, her khopesh a terrifying whirlwind. Once back on their own ship, they turned the Pillar of Storms against the pirate ship and set it ablaze with lightning, sinking into the unforgiving sea.
[Round 3: Dolia (success) (and Zephyra, failure) manoeuver, Phaedra and Antiochis attack heedlessly, spending every Oath and Divine Favour they have left to succeed. The final attack totals are Strife 13, Antiochis 14, Phaedra 17. I goofed again, it should have been only the best attacker causing 2 Pathos rather than both Antiochis and Phaedra, but it was really cool and the hour was late.]
Antiochis, seeing the pirate queen Thesekyra tangled in rigging, dove into the sea to save her, leaving the pillar in Dolia’s care.
Afterwards, despite temptation by Hermes himself to steal the pillar for themselves, our heroes returned the pillar to the temple of Hera on Kruyos, and sailed off.
[We resolved the end of session by awarding Legendary Virtue points, trading Oaths, and claiming great deeds and trophies; and the end of the adventure by resolving the fate of the island, updating the Vault of Heaven, comparing Glory, and recovering Pathos, Divine Favour, and Hubris. No one decided to change their Epithet and the linked domain and strength. Antiochis went from least Glory at the beginning of the adventure to most at the end (39), so she advanced her name die to d8, went back to 0 Glory, and found herself the leader again for the next island. Dolia has 37 Glory and Phaedra 21. On the vault of Heaven we marked that the heroes had pleased Hera by returning the pillar to her temple, lighting one star in her constellation, but incurred the displeasure of both Zeus (by not sinking the pillar into the sea) and Hermes (by not taking it with them.)]
The island of Kryos had Hera’s Cunning again, being now wiser to the risks of attack rather than thinking themselves invulnerable thanks to the Pillar of Storms. But they were also fearful now, having lost Hermes’s Daring; and they had lost Zeus’s Authority, manifested by the power vacuum caused by the banishment of the cowardly and incompetent head priest of the Temple of Hera, Ionestes.
A few days before, game designers John Harper and Sean Nittner had decided to change the benefits heroes can call on using Divine Favour: spending 1 point gets you one Unbound die, 2 points allow you to re-roll any or all of your dice, and 3 points let the hero add the Pathos die to their total. They had also moderated the benefit the Strife player receives when the island’s Strife rises from Woe to Fury (add a d10 rather than a d12).
Now familiar with the system and buoyed by the updates in using Divine Favour, the Hero players got into the appeal of fully using the tactical options, aka “gaming the system.” They opted to take Pathos early on in battle so they could can use it in later exchanges. They freely courted the gain of Fate points, shortening their heroes’ life but getting them closer to advancements. They stacked Oaths and Divine Favour in the final exchange to obtain a decisive victory. In short, they were happy with the revised rules. They also commented that the play aids were well designed to support play.
When we worked through the end of session resolution, I was not 100% clear whether I should contribute to giving Legendary Virtue points, but since the text insists that the Strife Player is another player at the table, not game-master in the classic sense, I decided I would participate. We also wondered whether the Great Deeds and Trophies would not be more appropriately awarded at the end of the adventure rather than end of session.
While we lingered on this adventure for three episodes because of logistics (learning curve + short sessions), the text suggests that most island adventure should be resolved in a single session, so we had an atypical situation. My goal next episode (in two weeks) will be to run such a single episode adventure. I also considered writing my own island but decided to stick to the ones supplied in the playtest document because this feedback is probably more useful to the authors.
Finally, some thoughts on virtual tabletops: while I much prefer to play face-to face, playing online lets me play more often and with more lovely people, so a game that supports this is appreciated. I found that the quality of the play aids and the structure of the rules worked well online. The tools we used included:
- Discord for game prep, chat, and voice;
- Google Drive to share documents such as character sheets and images;
- Google Draw in lieu of a game board to set up our character sheets, Vault of Heaven, and Battle Map;
- GIMP to make tokens;
- Roll For Your Party for dice rolls.
Alternately, you could use Roll20 for all of this but it’s more complicated to use so I tend to reserve it for games that use card draws for example.