I'm running a skype playtest of my epic fantasy story game Final Hour of a Storied Age
with Lenny Balsera and Lance Allen. I released an audio recording of the session on my podcast
and posted a text synopsis on my blog
. The game is highly procedural and the fiction is pretty tightly integrated with the mechanics. I'm going to try an AP-posting experiment and just post the fiction here without explaining how the mechanics produced it. Check out my blog post
to see the operation of the game mechanics interspersed with the fiction.The main characters
Julian, a stubborn but goodhearted young man from the farming community of Red Valley, seeking to wed the daughter of a wealthy farmer.
Gerhard, a cold and calculating prince, envious of his older brother who is destined to both take the throne and become the vessel of the magic of the Valley of Fire.
The Elder, a short-tempered old wizard, the current wielder of the magic of the Valley of Fire who must pass it on to the next rightful recipient.Chapter 1
The Elder storms into the palace of Cresthaven, demanding an audience with the crown prince. Prince Gerhard lies that his older brother Steffan is out among the poor of the city and The Elder should search for him out there. The short-tempered Elder demands that the crown prince be brought to him, since he has already journeyed far and is in no mood for further inconvenience. The Elder shouts Gerhard down, demanding that the crown prince be brought to him at once. Gerhard offers apologies and suggests that The Elder wait in the dining room while they fetch the crown prince, calculating that The Elder will overindulge as usual and eat and drink himself to sleep. The Elder's long experience should let him handle it, but he notices that the cooking has improved considerably since the last time he was here, stuffs himself, and falls into a deep sleep.
The next day, Gerhard tells The Elder that the crown prince tried to meet with him during the night but The Elder wouldn't wake up for him, calculating that The Elder will be too embarrassed to cause more commotion. The Elder, his anger evident, says that his business is more important than any affairs of state that might be occupying the prince. The Elder flies into a rage that intimidates Gerhard. Gerhard lies that there is a fire at the granary and The Elder should go put a stop to it. Still angry, The Elder says that his business is far more urgent and important than a fire. The Elder calls Gerhard on his lie. Gerhard admits that he was trying to distract The Elder, claiming that the crown prince is afflicted with plague and they've been hiding him in a plague-house in the city. Gerhard begins leading The Elder to a plague house, calculating that he'll be able to lose him in the crowd. The Elder gets angrier and angrier the longer the journey takes, complaining the whole way. Gerhard leads The Elder to a plague house and then slips out the back way. The Elder, fuming, realizes that Gerhard is up to something and vows not to be fooled again.Chapter 2
Julian is in Red Valley on market day. He has arranged a meeting with Klaus in order to ask permission to court his daughter. Klaus, protective of his daughter Astrid's heart, orders Julian to shop for her to prove that he knows her well. Julian realizes what a daunting task this is, but stubbornly goes forward anyway, trying to find things that she would actually like rather than things that would impress her father. Julian walks through the marketplace, selecting items which are simple but of good quality, knowing that's what Astrid prefers. Klaus is impressed, but says that Astrid is a craftsman's daughter and appreciates fine workmanship. He orders Julian to tell him which of the items would make the best gift. Julian eyes the items while fingering the silver ring in his pocket, knowing that's
the gift he'd truly like to give to Astrid. Julian doesn't have the nerve, and Klaus pounces on his hesitation. “No man who lacks conviction will have my daughter!” Klaus, never one to mince words says, “If you have something to show, you should show it.” Julian reluctantly pulls the ring from his pocket. “I would choose to gift her with this, but I think the most important thing I can offer is that I was born of this country and know the woods, know the hills, know the farms, and would give her the true heart of a Red Valley man.” Although Klaus doesn't grant permission to court Astrid, Julian can tell that Klaus is warming up to him. Klaus says, “Son, when I was your age, I courted my wife by breaking into her father's stable, stealing his best horse, and running it ragged across the country daring him to stop me. You're a nice kid, but I want to see your spirit. Now buy these things and give them to my daughter.” He walks away, leaving Julian holding a bunch of items that he's not sure he can afford.Chapter 3
Fed up dealing with functionaries, The Elder returns to the palace, expecting to talk to the king directly, but he finds Prince Gerhard sitting on the throne. Believing that The Elder's pride is his weakness, Gerhard calculates that he can humiliate him in front of the assembled nobles. The Elder pounds his staff on the ground, sending up a blast of magical flame, saying that he is immensely powerful and should not be trifled with. Gerhard says, “Don't you remember that you met my brother last night? Have you gone senile? Is this what we have to look forward to, a foolish old man who's lost his wits, with more power than he knows what to do with?” Clearly, Gerhard's plan to undermine The Elder with the nobility is working, and he is confident that he can push as hard as he wants because he believes that The Elder would never strike down someone of royal blood. The Elder, having dealt with politicians before, suggests that if he is
losing his mind the proper reaction is fear and obedience. The nobles realize that The Elder is dangerous and should not be mocked. Gerhard leaps from the throne, draws his sword, and holds it to The Elder's neck. Calculating that The Elder is bluffing, Gerhard says, “You think you're the only one with a temper, old man? Perhaps you'd better rethink what you're saying.” The Elder rolls his eyes, wishing that the children who rule kingdoms would learn not to trifle with wizards of his power, and his anger nears the boiling point. The Elder sees the cold look in Gerhard's eyes and knows he won't back down. Twenty years ago, The Elder would have easily been able to defeat Gerhard, but today he isn't so sure. Is he too old for this? He backs down and apologizes for creating such a scene.Chapter 4
Julian, hoping to prove himself worthy of Astrid, is out hunting a predator that has been taking out local livestock. There aren't any tracks on the cold, hard ground. A country boy like Julian knows more ways to track than just studying footprints, but they don't seem to work either. With no way to track it across the hard ground, Julian stubbornly begins checking every place the thing might
attack. The cries of a wolf are heard in the distance across vast stretches of hard, stony ground. Julian, a stubborn country boy, starts running after the sound as hard as he can. Julian sees it and gets off a shot with his bow, mortally wounding the wolf. It takes off into the woods and Julian follows the blood trail to find the creature dead just outside a hole in an embankment from which he can hear pitiful sounds. Klaus, also hunting the wolf to protect his family, steps out of the woods. “So, Julian,” he says. “Are you going to kill all of them?” Julian isn't comfortable with the idea of killing the pups. “No, I've eliminated the threat,” Julian says. “These pups can be relocated, and then it will be up to nature whether they live or die.” Klaus doesn't say anything, but gives Julian his hunting vest to wrap up and carry the pups, an unspoken gesture of approval. Julian moves them to a new den, far enough away that they won't threaten the community.
I'll try to post more chapters once I've typed up the events from the second session. (A question for anyone reading: do you like this mechanics-free writeup, or is the way I've done it on my blog with the fiction+mechanics better?)