Playtest Report: Prince Caspian

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Playtest Report: Prince Caspian
« on: September 09, 2014, 05:21:26 PM »
OK, so we had 7 people from the Weekly London Fiasco group turn up to playtest AW:DA last night, so we decided to split into two groups. This report will just cover my table, Tom can come in with his playtest report separately.

My table had three players and we started with Stronghold creation. It was quite organic to pick one each and agree a forth option, and we ended up with a stronghold atop a hell, stood in defence of a temple/shrine to an pre-Empire-of-Eagles Sun god, Ignatius. Question: Since the Empire of Eagles is Rome, should we have picked someone from an existing Greek/Roman or earlier pantheons, or just make stuff up?

We came up with with archers lookouts incorporated into a stone & carved wooden temple, which itself was atop a basalt crag surrounded by fertile lands. The softer rock in the crag was worked and eroded over time, leading to a maze of caves, crypts & bolt-holes, and finally down to a deep well beneath it.

The people we came up with (the players created the Caspians jointly, and Malthatches were created by one of the players and I created the rest). So we ended up with:

* The Caspians, the people of the Stronghold. Speak Persian. A warrior order who are all descended from the Sun Lord, Ignatius, himself. A tall, bronze-brown look, but all with pale blue eyes. Dressed in golden & red silks under sable furs/capes. Known for their vigilance against sorcery, fearlessness in the face of death, their archers & loyalty to one another. Plus their spicy, cosmopolitan, cuisine.

* The Malthatches, a revival of an ancient enmity. Speak Berber. An enclave of people who worship the Moonlit Queen, which others around them do not. They are a diversity of sizes, but all with tawny brown look. Dressed in furs, hide and bone. Their warriors wear hide coats, bone mask helmets & carry curved knives. Known for their sorcery & enchantments, veneration of priestesses, the might of their Godess, their ruthlessness and their amber, ivory/bone-crafting & furs. During character creation, we determined that the Caspians drove these heretics away 15 years ago after a bloody massacre nearby, and haven't been seen since.

* The Aamu, raiders from the lands to the South. Speak Finnish. An outlaw band who are a single family by birth or marriage. I'm thinking they're some kind of remnant fraction of the Empire of Eagles. They have a willowy, bone-pale look. Dressed in layered wool & herringbone. Their warriors fight on horseback with spears, kite shields, iron helmets and cuirasses. Known for their fearlessness in the face of death, their cavalry, brutal raids, and strategy & tactics, and their superb metalwork.

* The Ebrill, a Hostile clan, never conquered. Speak Welsh. These people have lived on the broken foothills and moorlands around Ignatius since time immemorial, before the Empire of Eagles invaded. A small and peach-pink look. Dressed in simple linen tunics and capes. Known for their vigilance against monsters, their individual skill at arms and mercy to their defeated enemies. Also known for their craft & skill and far-reaching trade routes to the independent peoples of the West.

* And I also created the Benat, the people of the farming village who worked the fertile lands at the foot of the hill the temple of Ignatius stands upon. Allies of the Caspian people. Speak Basque, with a hulking & ruddy look. Their 8 warriors use round shields, iron helmets and swords. Known for their devotion to law, veneration of priests, their physical prowess, their rich land and generous hospitality.

Whilst I was getting on with that, the players created their characters & their household. We picked ages to be 'historically' accurate, but for creepiness reasons decided that the TV show would cast actors who are 5 or so years older than the characters.
 
We ended up with a Caspian Keep Liege, Payam Zalathar. The eldest son of the (annoyingly unnamed, it turns out) head of the Stronghold. A 16 year old with the palest blue eyes. The spitting image of how Igancius is portrayed in the ancient texts. He is a legal heir to his father's crown.

We also had a Astera Nuri, a 15 year old Wicker Wise. Although she was born Malthatchian, she was raised as a humble ward of the Caspian King after being she was discovered hiding on the battlefield after the massacre of the Malthatchers. She still is drawn to the old blood, the poisons, and the enchantments of the Moonlit Queen, but tries to keep a low profile. Effectively a younger sister of Payam, who just deeply cares for her, regardless of Astera's past.

Finally, we have the honoured guest, the 24 year old Caspian Troll Slayer known as Vannerick. Shorter and stockier than most Caspians, he is well regarded by the Zalathar household who recognised him as having the blood of Ignatius within him. He wears an enchanted Troll-skin coat reinforced with massive elk ribs, and carries a simple hand-axe.

Finally, they picked their season moves. Payam said that he we was sent travelling to Persia last season to reconnect with his heritage. But he only got as far as the Mediterranean before having to turn back due as winter's massive storms, floods and earthquakes came in, stronger than ever, from the East.

Astera decided that she would spend her season celebrating the holy rites of the Malthatchers in secret, worshipping a small shrine and ancestor spirits secluded in nearby woodland.

Finally, Vannerick spent his season hunting and laying up stores, preparing for the forthcoming winter.

Overall, the setup and preparation took about 90 minutes. I didn't miss Hx questions too much, as the characters seemed to naturally work together (helped by all being closely tied to the Zalathari household, I think), but in general the prep seemed to provide a lot of context, but no real kicker that could start things off. Also, some of the details of the People we didn't use (the Ebrill never appeared at all, and the Benat and the Aamu were only mentioned or as background color) didn't seem to affect the starting situation at all.

So I took matters into my own hands and started out with Payam returning home, ahead of a brewing winter storm. As he walked through the rich fields of the Benat's farms, the rest of the group came out to meet him along with Javed, the limping, ancient (like, 50 year old) Keeper of the Temple. Notably, King & Queen Zalathar, Payam's parents, were not present.

As the group ascended the massive stairs carved into the side of the hill, Javad explained that there was an raid by the Aamu on the farmland a few days ago, and King Zalathar died defending his allies and the temple. Now, the body is lying in state within the crypt of the temple with Payam's distraught mother. The funeral rites will begin at sunset, and Payam's coronation as the new King would begin at sunrise.

(At this point, Javad took Vannerick aside and asked him to advise and protect young Payam to take over as King. Maybe even act in his stead as a regent until the boy is old enough to lead, perhaps? Unfortunately for Javad, Vannerick is not interested in power, but promises to watch over the boy.)

In the crypt, Queen Tehmina Zalathar is crying over her husband's body, which has been cleaned and prepared (with a surprisingly high collar). A few other (unnamed) of Payam's brothers hover, uncertainly, in the shadows. There's an argument, and Queen Tehmina accuses Astera of being an evil child who weakened her husband's mind and brought demons into the temple. Astera's presence is why the King died! The mother is escorted away and the funeral rites are prepared.

We discussed how the rites would work, and decided that the funeral ritual required the male members of the household to stand around the body, looking out. Armed, but statue-still, from dusk to dawn, so they could protect the spirit of the deceased from demons and other malefactors whilst Igancius slumbered. Barely even blinking. We considered this Undertaking Great Labor from Payam, and he rolled... a 2.

So, I had him flinch and turn his head. Maybe even letting out a small yelp of surprise when screams were heard, and the alarm was raised in the village below. So he's messed up his part of the ritual and we cut to Astera, who is watching from the archers lookouts of the temple.

She has some kind of ancestral memory of the distinctive helmets, crafted out of bones and skulls. It's a 3-man Malthatcher raiding party, slicing farmers throats and taking separate routes towards the temple hill under the moonlit night. Whilst Astera takes stock, Vannerick runs out towards the nearest one and slices his arm off with a single blow (inflicting 3 Harm), using his momentum to carry him towards the second attacker. Then we enter a one-on-one fight, which Vannerick easily wins.

As this fight is going on, Payam tries to refocus his thoughts on his duty, and I say that he unwittingly Consults the Other World. He rolls and fails; he gets an vision of his father telling him that he's a useless mess and not fit to lead; his trip to Persia was supposed to get rid of him for a year or two of training, but it couldn't even manage that!

Astera quietly descends the steps to the village and convinces the severely wounded Malthatcher that she is of his blood, and takes him to a stables where she treats his wound, healing one harm, and stemming the loss of blood with an improvised tourniquet (is that correct? First harm is automatically healed with treatment; no roll or right required?) in return for him binding his soul to the Moonlit Queen as a sacrifice to her (does this count as a sacrifice if the NPC already follows that God anyway?)

Back to Vannerick, who tries to charge the remaining attacker -- Kwella -- from behind as she starts climbing the hill to the temple. Vannerick rolls poorly and thus he stumbles and falls, his axe slipping out of his grasp and alerting her to his presence. We enter 1-on-1 combat again. We end up with Vannerick inflicting 3 Harm overall, suffering no harm after his armour, but losing the Positioning spend. That means Kwella has Vannerick at her mercy, but at the same time is now "no more threat to anyone." And there isn't a winning option of "withdraw from the fight cleanly" or something, so I ended up with Kwella holding het knife to his neck, albeit bleeding profusely and somewhat faint. She demands that she be taken to the King's body in his resting chamber.

Vannerick complies, thinking that bringing a wounded attacker to Payam to kill would give the boy a chance to shine. It all goes according to plan and Kwella is dispatched at spear-point by Payam, "proving" his worth.

We are nearly out of time, so we round up the session with the coronation of Payam as the sun rises. We call that asking for a blessing from the Caspian people, which succeeds and he is given the Right and title to rule the stronghold until they decide to revoke it.

Vannerick determines that the way to prove the boy a true leader would be for him to avenge his father's death at the hands of the Aamu and/or defeat the Malthatcher threat anew. Similarly, Astera took stock and discovered that the best way of her being accepted by her mother and the rest of the household would be to help wipe out the Malthatcher, putting the protection of he current People over the old ties of blood.

We awarded XP according to the rules, which everyone really liked, and that's where we left it. Everybody seemed pleased with how it turned out, so the second session will take place next week.

Overall, I really liked the balance of moves, although I struggled once with there not really being a clear "Act Under Fire" kind of move, and I could do with one more political move, for swaying large crowds perhaps? (Or would that be an additional right). And as I said earlier, the situation creation seemed good for building great context for a campaign -- I could imagine we could have many good sessions just with the things created so far and growing them as things progress -- but less so for actually starting the game off with a bang, and are not as clear-cut as Fronts -- I did find myself missing that list of specific Threat MC moves from time to time as well.