The following is reposted from Facebook posts talking about my Sylthi campaign, archived here for longevity and ease of access.
Did adventurer creation for a new RQG campaign last night! Finally get to playtest/chaotically explore the Esrolia material I’ve been messing around with. We currently have:
- A Yinkini herder, the neglected son of the prodigal daughter of House Lorel. Despite humble origins, he’s made a small name for himself as a warrior in the Esrolian Civil Wars over the last few years.
- A shapeshifting river-thief who may or may not have stolen those shiny family heirlooms from her grandfather.
- An Ernaldan noblewoman who was recognized for her quick wit and plucked out of poverty in Dickensian style. (Nasty rumors say her family sold her to pay off debts. These are vicious lies and should be disregarded.)
Next session is finishing touches, and then digging into an adventure. Not sure yet, but I’m thinking a prequel set during the civil strife telling what role the adventurers played in driving the Lunars out of their city, and establishing the present-day social order.
We had our first session of my Sylthi RQG game in Esrolia this past Friday. Starting with adventurer wrapup, we talked a little more about the cultural context and the adventurer context within society. Our game’s starting point is basically “You aren’t powerful/important, but you’re related to powerful/important people.” With, of course, the caveat that the adventurers certainly can become powerful/important people over the course of the game.
We have three adventurers currently in this campaign:
- Gandas, a Yinkini herder. He’s the neglected son of a prodigal daughter of the noble House Lorel. We didn’t add new context for him, but agreed that the local Yinkin minor temple is in the Arstola Woods to the north.
- Agnis, a shapeshifting river-thief. She’s from Brol downriver, where her family is associated with the priesthood of the Twin Rivers cult. They… don’t get along.
- Avalon, an Ernaldan adopted into the noble House Netha. She was adopted by the eldest member of the house, Hanalda, who for reasons-undetermined never had children (her younger sister, Hazulda, is the Netha Grandmother and head-of-house). So Avalon is technically the cousin and aunt of members of the city leadership! However, she’ll be demoted to a branch bloodline once her adoptive mother dies. Currently, I’ve summarized Avalon’s family relationship as “Hanalda’s a crazy old cat lady, and you’re her cat.”
I decided to begin the campaign with a prequel exploring how the Lunars were expelled from Sylthi in c. 1623 ST. Afterward, we’re going to jump forward to 1625 ST after the Dragonrise. The goal here is to define “how did your adventurers shape the anti-Lunar revolution?” Some events of the history are predetermined (like who becomes the new city queen) but not everything.
The context is after the Siege of Nochet, as conflicts spread throughout Esrolia between the Old Earth Alliance and the Red Earth Alliance. The adventurers joined the Old Earth Alliance in the Siege of Nochet, and distinguished themselves while protecting Samastina (in the Family History). This helped define that they know and trust one another as local allies.
After a short time back in Sylthi, Avalon receives a family courier asking her to come with trusted companions to Netha Manor shortly after dusk.
The manor’s audience hall is filled with persons from a variety of the city’s factions. Priests, adventurers, nobles, a shaman – it’s an atypical gathering. In particular members of House Doraest – a client of the noble House Pareninna, who leads the Red Earth Alliance in the city – are here, at a secretive meeting, for unknown reasons.
After briefly milling about, Grandmother Hazulda and the Netha elders emerge on the balcony above. Yurivest, the city’s Storm Voice, throws a blood-covered dagger onto the floor below, and announces that the Lunars attempted to assassinate him. (Gandas immediately posited that this was a Netha ploy.) Dorinela (of Doraest) agrees, and immediately throws in her support, along with the support of her house’s Light Son of Elmal, Gandari, in an obviously pre-arranged show.
A long discussion ensues (which we skipped much of) about what to do, ranging from ‘an eye for an eye’ to a full bloody coup and execution of Moon-worshiping foreigners (locals wouldn’t be killed). The council settles on seizing the granaries the Lunars established in the city, and seizing the city granaries as well if they can do so without shedding blood in the Earth Temple.
Various tasks are distributed and argued over, due to the prestige ‘on auction’ for those who participate in this overthrow. Avalon clashes with an Elmali of the Doraest faction named Murhan. They’re competing over who will conduct a nighttime kidnapping. A Fertility augment and an Orate special later, and Murhan is convinced not just to let Avalon and her friends claim the glory of this task, but to follow her leadership as well!
The goal is to kidnap a Lunar noble named Farnalie (Far-NAH-lee-ay). She’s a priestess of the Seven Mothers. This kidnapping will help the Netha-Doraest seize the temple granaries.
Here’s the cultural custom this adventure engages with: the cult of Asrelia in my Esrolia is in charge of – among other things – the city granaries. Usually, these are contained within the underground portion of the local Earth temple. In Sylthi, control of access to the granaries and distribution of grain is held by three women, reflecting the noble triarchy which administrates the city. Each Grandmother (ranking female elder queen) of the noble houses is a God-Talker of Asrelia, in addition to her other duties. Frequently, the Sylthi Grandmothers delegate this religious/administrative role to a trusted relative. For example, Grandmother Hazulda is a God-Talker of Asrelia, but Hanalda (her elder sister, and Avalon’s adoptive mother) works at the temple making the requisite sacrifices to Asrelia, distributing grain as wages/rations, working with scribes to determine inventory, and so on. This custom allows the religious and political powers of an Esrolian Grandmother to be consolidated and wielded by one figure if necessary, but otherwise managed by “committee.” The recipient of the Asrelia Privilege must be (or become) an initiate of Asrelia, but has no other actual restrictions, and the position has been held by an unusual variety of individuals in Sylthi’s 400-year history.
Farnalie holds the Asrelia Privilege for House Pareninna, despite being a foreign noble from Peloria. This is how the Lunars got a foothold in the city’s rulership – they provided grain during the Great Winter in exchange for political power. By feeding the city, the Pareninna claimed the queenship, and the Lunars used their relationships to press for construction of a Seven Mothers temple. The adventurers are to kidnap Farnalie so that she will turn over Pareninna’s Asrelia status to Grandmother Dorinela. This will allow Dorinela to usurp queenship of the Pareninna as the descendant of a branch bloodline.
The adventurers and Murhan – the Elmali warrior Avalon is seducing – head out to the Foreigner’s District, where they know Farnalie has her private residence. When they arrive, there are lights and music inside. She’s holding some sort of feast. Two guards stand lazily outdoors, clearly unaware that someone among their faction has instigated violence. So, the adventurers hang around, attempting to be inconspicuous.
Gandas pretends to be a vagrant, and gets run off by an irritated kitchen servant.
Agnis scopes out local buildings for “later reference,” and eventually settles in on a roof until things quiet down.
Murhan and Avalon, meanwhile, pretend to be lovers having a wonderful time outside one of the nearby alehouses. This results in them actually having a wonderful time, not realizing when Farnalie’s party winds down, and the adjective “himbo” getting stuck to the Elmali. I call for a Charm roll, including Avalon’s earlier Fertility augment, and note the success down, planning to later look up how the Six Seasons in Sartar romance minigame works again.
As they’re flirting, Gandas sneaks into the alley behind Farnalie’s house, and casts Claws (+50% to Climb!) and Catseye. Then, Mobility and Silence, and he scurries up the wall like, well, a cat. Gandas – whose player is the most experienced and cautious out of our group – then begins a careful exploration of the second floor.
While this is going on successfully, Agnis interrupts Avalon and Murhan, and presents her suggestion. They also go hide in the alley (while Gandas is upstairs), where Agnis transforms into a baby crocodile.
An Explanation: Agnis is a member of the Twin Rivers cult, which worships Hrell and Hrenal, half-brother sons of Heler and the gods of the Whitefall and Eagle Rivers in Esrolia, respectively. The transformation uses the Meld Form/Proteus spells from the RBM, on the Water Rune. Each god’s subcult provides three forms, based on the god’s most famous transformations in the God Time. Hrell provides bulls, rams, and crocodiles. However, per Meld Form you have to actually have the creature you want to transform into, and no one is gonna waste their time wrangling a full-grown crocodile for some initiate! But the cult does keep clutches of sacred baby crocodiles, which can be provided to initiates. (This was meant to be a nerf when I designed the cult, but as a thief, Agnis has definitely turned it into a boon. I’m loving it.)
With a careful Devise roll, Avalon slips baby-croc-Agnis in under the wooden shutters of the kitchen window. Agnis’s plan is to search the house for Farnalie and either do the kidnapping herself, or to create a distraction which will let Avalon and Murhan sneak into the house themselves.
However, none of them know Gandas is already upstairs.
Agnis discovers her baby-croc legs can’t get up the steep stairs. The kitchen servant is finishing his baking for the morning bread, and hasn’t noticed her. So, while hiding under the table, she starts hissing at him. He, of course, freaks out, and calls in Farnalie’s bodyguards from where they’re sleeping in the building’s main room (a sort of mini-megaron). Grabbing a broom, he starts trying to shoo the croc out of the house. So Agnis bolts into the main room, chased by the NPCs.
Gandas hears the commotion, and ignores it, while lurking outside what he presumes (correctly) is Farnalie’s bedroom.
Shortly after entering the main hall, the fire goes out! Agnis, as a river-worshiper, knows Extinguish. The question comes up if she can cast other spells while under the effect of Proteus, and I allow it because Rune magic is cool. One of the guards immediately shouts “Trickster!” because that’s the immediate response to this type of bullshit and the servant runs into the kitchen to grab a makeshift torch from kindling.
Gandas hears that, wincing, and knows for sure that something’s going on. But thankfully no one comes upstairs. Farnalie stirs, and when she leaves her bedroom, he rests his Claws’d hand on her neck. One quiet threat later, Farnalie agrees to come with him (she’s Pelorian after all, and understands how skullduggery works).
Outside, Murhan asks Avalon what’s next in the plan. The answer, of course, is “What plan?” which starts an argument. Gandas attempts to get their attention from the upstairs window, but neither of the unhappy “lovers” hears while distracted by the argument and the ruckus inside. He ends up just climbing back down with Farnalie disgracefully over his shoulder (with all his magic, I just call for a resistance roll against her SIZ to succeed). The three adventurers look around, and prepare to run off into the night with their prize once Agnis comes back.
Then they hear a BANG!
Inside the house, the servant’s torch gets Extinguish’d immediately, and the guards start swearing violently. Agnis isn’t sure how to get out of this situation, so decides to continue making a distraction. She uses another point of Proteus to transform into her bull shape, and charges through the house’s closed double doors! This makes a terrific crash, and the guards begin running down the street after the magical hooligan. (Now suspecting this is a Twin Rivers cultist, not a trickster – but if this has consequences hasn’t yet been decided.) I check the chase rules, and feel they don’t really match this situation since a Dexterity Check doesn’t feel right for chasing down a rampaging bull (and Agnis as a bull doesn’t really have a placeholder skill like Ride or Drive Chariot), so I have her make a Movement Rune roll to abstract the situation. She succeeds, and escapes the guards after about five minutes of pursuit. Of course, this is long enough for Avalon, Gandas, and Murhan to make off with Farnalie.
Despite the lack of actual leadership and planning, the heist was basically a success. The biggest impact this has had is on Murhan’s opinion of Avalon, moving from both infatuated and impressed, to merely infatuated. He also sort-of-accidentally became friendly with Gandas, by praising the Yinkini’s efforts as a cat-burglar (intended as an indirect snub to Avalon since Gandas did all that on his own).
While they’re making their way back through the city with the victim, the adventurers hear shouting and scuffling starting. The other conspirators are beginning their own parts in the scheme. A large fire is raging in the Pareninna quarter. I have the adventurers make Battle rolls to navigate the skirmishes and rioting, with the note that in addition to the effects in the core rulebook, if two out of three fail they’ll be drawn into a full melee fight. Gandas takes a wound to the knee, but they manage to flee through the city successfully.
We ended the session with their return to Netha Manor, with Farnalie in hand. If the adventurers got into a melee she would have begun fighting against them, but I judged they never gave her a realistic chance to escape. Next session will be the aftermath and establishment of the New Sylthi Order.
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