Friday, August 3, 2012

Age of Bronze Actual Play: Year One

This is written by Steven Lumpkin, GM of the game. This isn't precisely a playtest, since he's dealing with the final draft, but with a probably small rewrite with some tweaks, it's not not a playtest, if you follow. The first session is pulled from the introductory adventure in the book.

I'm copy-pasting as is, but I'm adding a few notes to show what's going on mechanically a bit. I'm still a bit limited in going super in-depth, but I hope you get an idea of what's going on here. Anyway, enjoy.

Year 1:

Fair coastal Eilesium, in Phocis, rests at the geographical intersection of mountains, forest, and ocean.  It sits equidistant to Delphi, Orchomenos, and Thebes, though the terrain makes overland travel a challenging undertaking.  It was founded by chance, when quick-witted Alexandros, a sailor by trade, was blown off course and onto the beach in a storm.  In a symbol of reconciliation and respect to Poseidon, he founded Eilesium and erected a beautiful temple in honor of the Lord of the sea.  His queen he claimed from nearby Scolus; what that bitter people labels theft, the denizens of Eilesium term the favor of Aphrodite, who is also reflected in the Acropolis.  Though the surrounding wilderness is hostile, Eilesium stands firm under the guidance of her king, supported by good fishing, good hunting, and fertile olive orchards. (The group actually designed their city before they did their characters. It gives a communal background and alters the character's stats. In Pendragon terms, you're designing the characters' Homeland before each campaign, via a process similar to the Clan Generation in the HQ2 Sartar supplement. We have a list of cities from the Catalogue of Ships which we don't know much about besides name. So the names are real but everything else is a blank slate. While obviously embellished to make it nicely in-character, everything above is taken from the city creation process.)

Mighty Abrax, son of Ares, is a large and well muscled man.  His face often bears a look of pride, and he sports a thick beard.  He is known for his just nature and his pride, as well as his valour, as befits all citizens of Eilesium.  Once, when bandits harassed the outlying olive orchards, Abrax set forth alone, slaughtering many of their number in retribution for their crimes.

Noble Herodion, of the line of Athena, is fair of face, with a truly impressive beard, and a piercing gaze.  He is just, but with a mind to vengeance, and as valorous as his companions.  Karpos the pirate once lead a series of raids on Eilesium; in retaliation, Herodion sailed forth with a group of warriors.  The group captured Karpos, who begged for mercy.  No mercy was to be found, however, as Herodion executed the villain by his own hand. (Yes, you can be a descendant of the virgin goddesses! We offer a few options on this, with the big one being that it's just okay. If it makes you feel queasy as a Classics nerd, it did for Peter, too, so we offer other options, such as your ancestor being made of clay and having the breath of life breathed into him/her, etc. There's no mechanical difference there, just background material.)

Theron's father was a smith for King Alexandros.  When he passed, Theron, descended from Hephaistos, was fostered in the King's family in the hopes that he, too, might one day craft great works for the royal line.  He is bare-faced, with only a boy's stubble beginning to show on his cheek, but strong enough for two.  At a feast thrown for some visiting nobility from nearby Scolus, Theron grew enamored of one of the noblewomen, Cynthia.  The rash boy made a fool out of himself with his advances in front of her friends and her lover, and none of his companions have let him forget it since.  He is known both for his recklessness, and his honesty, as well as the Eilesian valor.

(So these are the characters. Rather than being Greek adjusting your stats, which deity you're descended from adjusts your stats in ways associated with the deity in question's portfolio. Combined with the city creation, you get some pretty variable characters from game to game.)

All three heroes lost their parents at some point in the past.  Coming, as they did, from noble families of Eilesium, the King himself fostered the young men.  When it was revealed under no uncertain terms that each young man was descended of the very gods, it was regarded as a truly great portent for King Alexandros and Eilesium itself. (To keep character advancement at a good clip, you get 1000 Glory for being revealed as a descendant of the Olympians. That impresses people. It's a bit like their knighthood, except there's no set time that it happens.)

Our story begins with the death of the young prince Kleitos, only beloved son of aged Alexandros.  The boy, only sixteen, was bitten by an asp on a hunt, and swiftly succumbed to the poison.  King Alexandros decreed before the whole town that, after the funeral, a great day of games would be held in celebration of the life of his son.

So it was that, on the morning of the next day, our heroes, Abrax, Herodion, and Theron, found themselves on the stretch of beach south of the city reserved for the games.  There would be four events; the javelin throw, chariot racing, wrestling, and bronzesmithing.  Proud Abrax and Herodion, eager to prove themselves, signed up for all four events; Theron, having a mistrust of horses, abstained from chariot racing. (We have a system for doing games, a la early Olympics. The Greeks loved their games. We cooked up various events, with different rules for each one. It's designed to be pretty quick. Bring graph paper!)

The first event was wrestling.  Theron and Herodion paired off first, and Theron immediately toppled the larger but weaker man.  Abrax faced off against an olive farmer by the name of Timon, known for his skill at wrestling.  Though Abrax was not skilled, the two grappled mightily for long minutes, the crowd following the fight with awe.  In a fit of strength, Timon threw down Abrax, wrenching his leg horribly (crit grappling, dealing a solid chunk of real damage to Abrax); the bout was shortly ended.  Theron and Timon grappled mightily, but the smith made short work of the farmer, taking the title.

The second event was the Javelin Throw.  Theron performed decently, despite the sharp ribbing of fair Teles, a woman of the guard; the two shared many a jest about how properly to use a spear.  Mighty Abrax, great of skill, came next, throwing such spears as few could hope to touch.  Herodion and Teles acquitted themselves well, but Abrax carried the day; his furthest spear resting a full 50% beyond anyone else's.

The Chariot Race was next, along the surf of the beach.  Abrax and Heliodoros competed alongside Iambe and Methodios, and an aging man; Olympiadoros, the old charioteer for King Alexandros himself, who had not been seen at competition in some years.  The old man felt compelled to ride once again in honor of the fallen prince.  Abrax and Iambe started off neck-in-neck, with the others falling swiftly behind.  By mid-field, however, it was anyone's race, with all contestants within a nose of each other.  Spirited by the excitement of the games, aged Olympiadoros and Abrax broke free from the pack.  Experience and skill was with the older of the two; Olympiadoros took the victory with Abrax following closely behind. Herodion, alas, finished fifth.

At last, the artisans sat near the king's dais to craft tributes to prince Kleitos in bronze.  Theron felt in his element at last, but behold, the metal was unworkable in his hands, and Hephaistos himself frowned in shame at his lackluster first attempts (When you decide your divine lineage, you pick a Divine Passion. This works like normal Passions but they're linked to your lineage. In the case of Theron, his Divine Passion had to do with crafting. He flubbed his roll and the result is as expected.).  This cast a pall over his further attempts, and his distress was noted by the King.  Nonetheless, when another artisan blew up his forge in a disastrous attempt at metalcraft, Theron received a second chance to acquit himself.  He performed passably, taking the title with the creation of a well wrought trident in honor of Poseidon.

And so prizes were presented; 1 talent in gold and silver to Abrax, 2 talents to Theron, and a pair of beautiful horses to Olympiadoros.  No sooner had the last laurel wreath been laid, however, when a calamity erupted in the east of the field!  A vicious wild boar rampaged through the crowd, and quickly leveled four bystanders. 

Theron, despondent from his failures at the forge but flushed with success from his wrestling bouts, charged the beast, still naked from competition.  The boar was ready for him- though he made a great attempt, the boar ducked his arms and brought its wicked tusks curving up into Theron's exposed thighs, opening him lengthwise.  He dropped to the ground, unconscious and gravely wounded. (In addition to being gored, Theron gained a point of Hubris for charging a boar naked. This is a borderline case; Hubris is usually reserved for setting the self above society and/or the gods, but Steven felt it was warranted because of the hows and whys of his charge. I'll talk about Hubris in a different post, since those mechanics are set.)  Herodion and Abrax, who had paused to retrieve spears only, were greatly distressed.  They set upon the boar, though Herodion's courage failed him once in the fight, after Abrax took a tusk to the leg.  Recovering quickly, the pair brought down the beast, with Abrax delivering the final blow.(This is an important change which, if you're familiar with Pendragon, you don't want to miss. Glory from kills is not shared. It goes to the hero who scores the killing blow.)

As the priests and Abrax saw to their wounded comrade, a hunter reported to the king.  He had seen boar tracks, but pursued by human footprints; the boar had been driven to the attack.  Herodion and Abrax readily agreed to investigate, but only to track the foul murderers; vengeance would wait for Theron's recovery.

The next morning, the pair followed the tracks to the foothills of the nearby mountains, where a small barbarian camp was set up- five men broke fast on roasted boar, though one was clearly the leader of the vagabonds.  Abrax, though wounded from the games and the boar, was rashly overcome with vengeance; flinging his spear high, Ares himself caught the shaft and rode it to the ground, impaling the leader of the barbarians, and terrifying the others (Another instance of a Divine Passion, this time a success. Age of Bronze is, by default, not about superheroic myths. The characters tend to be powerful but not superhuman, unless their Passions come into play. Their Passions, and the addition of Divine Passions, let them hit that superhero level when they're in high dudgeon.).  Abrax and Herodion rushed to join the battle as Ares leapt once again on high.  Abrax slew a second foe before the barbarians struck him unconscious; Herodion was alone.  He fought cautiously against their combined attacks, though their skill was greatly dulled from shock.  Herodion slew two of the remaining number, and Abrax awoke momentarily to skewer the last with a discarded spear.  Herodion tended to his ally's wounds, and the pair limped back to the city.  Generously, Herodion allowed Abrax to bear back the head of the barbarian leader.

King Alexandros greeted the heroes at the foot of the palace, where they were borne by a throng of celebrants.  He smiled to hear of their tale, and embraced them warmly, with great thanks for their selfless service to Eilesium.  A great feast was held for two full days and nights, with the heroes as guests of honor.

Theron remained melancholic for many weeks, deeply sorrowed by his failure at his craft. (He took that failure hard. Melancholy, with the added bonus that the gods tend to actually show up and tsk tsk at you when you fail)  Morose and distant at the celebratory feast, he drew the eye of fair Teles, who had competed with him so fiercely at the Javelin Throw.  Her words were soft and understanding, and over the next weeks he seemed to shadow her frequently as he recovered his strength and his confidence.  Though no words of love or promise were exchanged, the time they spent together did not escape notice...

Herodion engineered a number of excellent trades between local farmers and neighboring cities, and won the admiration and gifts of a wealthy nobleman.  He also won the daughter's admiration; Leucosia and Herodion were wed in a well-attended autumn ceremony, and her dowry was befitting to her station.

Abrax, like Theron, had a long road to recovery from the wounds he suffered, but he managed it well.  Though he did not find love nor get any bastards, his skill and valor escaped no notice.  After his wounds were healed, he attacked his training and his meals with renewed vigor, growing to tower over even the largest man in Eilesium. (End of year stuff, very similar to Pendragon. Things change somewhat once the heroes found cities, if they do, but for new heroes, it's kept very simple. But a wedding happened, which is always cool!)

1 comment:

  1. Great stuff, I'm going to have to re-read Herodotus again, to keep me satisfied until the game comes out ;-)