Paladin: The Werewolf, the Witch, the Baby and the King of Nutons

We had another episode of our ongoing Paladin game. Alas, one player was unable to join but we still had three of our four sibling knights facing supernatural adventures!

At the end of last episode, our grandmother—now widowed, retired from her own days of knighthood, and abbess of a nunnery—had revealed that she was cursed by witches to turn into a werewolf AND had abandoned a baby at birth, triplet to our father and evil uncle Guillaume, because she could only care for two infants.

We had then discovered that a group of local Redcaps had found the baby in the forest and kept him. They handed it back to us, unaged! But the mere sight of the baby cause grandmother to turn into a wolf creature and attack.

So we started this episode in the middle of the Ardennes forest at night, facing a werewolf of supernatural strength which we did not want to harm but who kept trying to attack the baby. Hildegund’s page Bernard, son of Ogier the Dane, was tossed like a puppet and dashed against an oak (earning him a good concussion but nothing worse than a scratch otherwise.) We tried to restrain the wolf but in vain [largely because the system is that of Pendragon, where you should not expect your characters to be competent…] so Theodelina [my character] vaulted on her horse, snatched the baby and fled with him to keep baby-uncle from being eaten by wolf-grandma. Hildegund drew her rosary and called up the love of God [with a critical success], sending the werewolf fleeing directly away.

We regrouped and tracked grandmother wolf, finding her in human form once the sun rose. We secured her and resumed our search for the witch who had cast the curse—or at least for a village where we could get the baby fed.

We eventually found the witch’s hut in the depths of the forest. She recognized us, let us in and even gave us milk for the baby but wanted our entire lineage to suffer under the curse: long ago, our grandmother the Lady Knight Giselda had slain the witch Liutgarde’s sisters, as ordered by then-King Pepin.

We tried to convince the witch to relent, but she would not give up her vengeance. When we said that the (now-dead) king was the one she should take exception with, she demanded to be heard by “our king” but we soon realized she meant Carloman; she refused to recognize Charlemagne, even though we were in the lands given to him by Pepin when the old king split his kingdom between his two sons.

Meanwhile, our grandmother kept urging us to kill her and the witch both, and wanted nothing to do with the baby.

I finally got the notion to ask the witch if she would agree to the judgment of the king of Nutons instead since I was his knight and champion. She agreed, so we all trooped out to seek the Nutons. (It was the first such visit for my twin brother Adalfried, who finally believed the stories.)

The King of Nutons agreed to hear both sides, then rendered his judgement: his curse would fall on the king instead but would have to be witnessed by us young knights. Our grandmother would be freed from lycanthropy, at least for for now. Presumably, if we failed in the task the deal would be off. And the King of Nutons refused to name which king we should take the curse to…

We took our leave, returned grandmother to the abbey, and took the baby to Adalfried’s impoverished manor in spite of the rumours this would spark. We asked our steward Radegunde to find him a wet nurse, then prepared to visit Carloman—because to make things even more tense, our liege Duke Thierry asked us to attend Carloman’s winter court!


The Pendragon system is, to be frank (haha), an antiquated disaster. We all use it cheerfully, no one is lobbying for a conversion to another system because we love the setting (writer Ruben in ’t Groen did a great job with the Paladin material) and we love playing as a group, but we’re constantly mocking its ridiculous whiff factor, its unnecessary random tables, and its laborious logic. Yet we have such great stories together!

Paladin!

Today’s episode of Paladin: Warriors of Charlemagne was like Call the Midwife meets Brother Cadfael by way of Brotherhood of the Wolf. The group is wonderful and the story was great.

Our four knights (Hildegund, Gottfried, Adelfried, and Theodelina) went to see our widowed grandmother, recently elevated to abbess of Our Lady of Pain and found the abbey under lockdown: three nuns had been torn to piece during a night of vigil in the chapel. We ended on a cliffhanger when we finally came face-to-face with a werewolf in an entirely unexpected way.

Oh, and the weird name for the abbey was due to my bad translation for “Notre Dame des Douleurs” (Beata Maria Virgo Perdolens, or Mater Dolorosa): this facet in the Virgin Mary’s veneration, I found out after the game, is actually known in English as “Our Lady of Sorrows.” But I did find A.C. Swinburne’s 1866 poem that does shed an odd light on the topic!

Who has known all the evil before us,
Or the tyrannous secrets of time?
Though we match not the dead men that bore us
At a song, at a kiss, at a crime —
Though the heathen outface and outlive us,
And our lives and our longings are twain —
Ah, forgive us our virtues, forgive us,
Our Lady of Pain.


Dragon Age for the Underage

It takes a geek village: tonight we tried the Dragon Age RPG for the Underage campaign that Edmund has been running for two 10-year-olds and two parents plus me, ported to Roll20 for the first time. We had last played in person the weekend before the Bay Area counties decided to shelter in place.

To help the kids focus their plan, I yanked the Scheme Worksheet from Mistborn RPG, and it really helped.

Here is our start page on Roll20, with all the pets, er, animal companions the party has collected…

Agon: Death of a Prince

On Friday we held the fifth session of our beta playtest of AGON 2nd edition and visited our third island.

The lying in state of a body, terracotta pinax by the Gela Painter, latter 6th century BC.

Our heroines landed on the island of Nimos, where they were surprised to learn of the untimely death of the crown prince, one of their companions during the War. The royal family and the whole island were in mourning.

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Agon: Seeds of Democracy

Tonight was the fourth session of our beta playtest of AGON 2nd edition and our second island. Dolia’s player was unavailable so our heroes were Antiochis and Phaedra.

Our heroes landed on the islands of Ion and Soros, linked by a land bridge. Usually there was a gate on the island but it had been destroyed and masses of people were fleeing from Ion into Soros. Orta, the giant who controlled Ion, was raging; his cries of rage and stomping could be heard from afar and every stomp was accompanied by a ground tremor.

Seeing something big going on at the royal palace on Soros, the heroes went to check it out. King Vlakas was preparing to pronounce judgment on his daughter and leader of the Soros army, Commander Tyla, for failing to stop the Ionian refugees by force. The King assumes that the heroes were sent by the gods to restore order on Soros. Tyla recognized the heroes and called them by names and deeds, asking them for support.

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Agon: Boarding Action!

And now for a recap of our third episode of the AGON 2nd edition beta playtest (see the first and second episodes.) Thank you to Kim for taking notes during our games!

In the final thrilling episode for this island, an epic naval battle took place between the heroes and Thesekyra the pirate queen!

Attic pottery, 6th c. B.C. (Musée du Louvre, Paris)

Battle!

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.]

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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.

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Agon: Amazons and Pirate Queens

On Friday night I ran the first episode of an AGON mini-series for a beta playtest of the second edition. I had three wonderful players: Misha Bushyager, Sandy Jacobs-Tolle, and Kimberley Lam.

The Heroes

Heroes are created by giving them an Epithet, which translates to particular ability in a Domain (Arts & Oration, Blood & Valor, Craft & Reason, or Resolve & Spirit) and a specific Strength (e.g, Authority, Ferocity, etc.); a deity, which lends them another specific Strength (or increases their Strength if it’s the same they get from their Epithet); and picking their lineage, description, and weapons. 

We had discussed characters online and they had created the following characters:

Open-Hearted Antiochis (Kim), daughter of Helene and devotee of Aphrodite. She is large as a bear, with short, wild white hair and a playful quirk to her lips. She wears piecemeal armor and she prefers to wrestle rather than use weaponry. (d8 Resolve & Spirit, d8 Daring, d8 Beauty.)

Phaedra the Clever Eyed (Misha), daughter of Sophia, devotee of Athena, known at a glance by her panther-like stride, piercing amber eyes, dyed braids, shining dark armor, and paired khopesh. (d8 Craft & Reason, d8 Cunning, d8 Judgment.)

Dolia the Wayfinder (Sandy), daughter of Polytropos, devotee of Hera, never at a loss to man or spirit. Lean, rangy woman, tanned and tough from the hillside ranges and simply dressed, with an oak staff at the ready. (d8 Resolve & Spirit, d10 Cunning.)

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Next playtest: AGON 2nd edition

AGON is a game inspired by the Iliad and the Odyssey where you play heroes of antiquity having adventures and tossed by the whims of capricious gods. John Harper (One Seven Design) published the original game in 2006, but a new edition has been in the works for a year and a half, this time written in collaboration with Sean Nittner (Evil Hat Productions), as well as the design chops of Jason Morningstar (Bully Pulpit Games)..

The intensive alpha playtest resulted in a streamlined but also more structured system to create episodes with minimal preparation. The game has now been released outside the development team for some beta playtesting, and I was invited to participate.

According to the playtest document, the game plays best with one Strife player (game-master) and two to four Hero players. The default setting is Ancient Greece, but it’s easy enough to re-skin for another pantheon of Antiquity or fiction, such as the Egyptian, Tagalog, Norse. or Marvel’s polynesian pantheon.

We chose to stick with the default. We’re merely in character creation for the moment, but I look forward to our first episode. I have three players right now, three great ladies who I only ever get to play with at conventions or online because we’re scattered across great distances. It looks like this will be a Themysciran Odyssey—and maybe for the characters too. 😁

Since Google is closing G+, stripping down Google Groups further, and tinkering with Hangouts, we decided to go for a Discord server for both chat and voice; and I started a great big Pinterest board of visual inspirations.

RPG test drive: Turn

I had a chance during the holidays to play with one of my online groups. You know how hard it can be to get a group together, especially when they are spread in different time zones; when the friend who was supposed to run the adventure had to ask for another week to prepare, I offered to run something in our original time slot so we would not lose our precious gaming time.

Since this group has greatly enjoyed Golden Sky Stories, I first thought I would try running Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine, but I just can’t quite grasp how play proceeds, let alone explain it to others. So I decided to playtest Turn: A Game of Shapeshifters in Small Towns instead.

Turn (Daedalum Analog Productions) is “a slice-of-life supernatural roleplaying game set in the modern era”; I think of it as Northern Exposure meets Teen Wolf, or Twin Peaks done by Studio Ghibli.  It’s written by Brie Beau Sheldon and recently had a successful Kickstarter campaign (where you can find the beta playtest version, freely available.) Here is what the author says:

Players in Turn are shapeshifters in small, rural towns who must balance their human lives and habits with their beast needs and instincts in quiet drama. Their baser natures will challenge them as they strive towards goals from everyday tasks to life-changing experiences, and they will need to find comfort in one another to make it through without becoming stressed out.

Turn is part of the family of games Powered by the Apocalypse (PbtA), which means that a lot of the setting and story creation comes from the players, not just the game-master. Starting a game involves group creation of the small town where the stories will unfold, and player characters are designed by picking one human role and one beast archetype and selecting from their menu of options to customize your characters.

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