Amazing character thread resolution moment in our Earthdawn / Lady Blackbird game

edited October 2011 in Story Games
Got together with my regular gaming group for our weekly Earthdawn / Lady Blackbird game (which we've dubbed 'Lady Earthdawn'). We went into yesterday's session knowing lots of heavy stuff was on the line - we've been in one locale (the remote elven city Sereatha) for the better part of 2 real-world years, trying to achieve some lofty goals. If you want a rundown of how the campaign got to this point, you can listen to a few of our Gamecast episodes where we discuss the campaign background. To cut to the chase: we finally had a confrontation with my character's nemesis, a weasly horror by the name of G'zethra, in the resonating chamber in Sereatha. G'zethra manipulated his way into the chamber by possessing the body of our on-again/off-again comrade Gerhardt. A pitched battle between different factions of the Nethermancers was being waged outside the chamber and G'zethra was using the commotion to slip into the chamber unseen. I (Landas) was part of that melee, trying to assist my fellow warriors against a heavy armed enemy host - having charged headlong into the fray (as is my M.O.). I was unaware that G'zethra had snuck in. Fortunately, my two companions spotted him - giving us enough time intercept him.

I leapt out of the fray, tackling G'zethra. G'zethra craned his head a full 180-degrees to tear out my soul with a kiss as I pulled out my enchanted dagger to impale him. I flubbed my roll - a close flub, three successes out of a needed four. The dagger thrust wounded G'zethra, but not before he managed to switch bodies with me. Candace, our resident swordmaster, arrived just in time to see 'me' steadily moving toward the resonating chamber as G'zethra lie bleeding on the floor. Candace made a quick assessment and, realizing G'zethra only had one stab wound (Landas never leaves a job half-done) knew something was up. Candace drew her horror-tainted blade (which typically eats horrors for lunch with a mere touch) and prepared to skewer 'Landas' in an effort to dispel the horror once and for all.

At that moment I made the decision to work the Lady Blackbird mechanics to get a leg up. I bought off my Key of Doom and ditched my Secret of Infernal Aid. Both of these were tied to my relationship with G'zethra. The Key of Doom stated that I gain experience whenever I do something outrageously dangerous without heed for my own safety. G'zethra had told Landas years before that they would have a final confrontation at some predetermined point, and Landas took that to mean he couldn't die until that confrontation occurred. So bye-bye Key of Doom. The Secret of Infernal Aid allowed me to call on G'zethra's influence - if I was to be at this final confrontation, G'zethra would occasionally have to bail me out. So, that's gone too. With the 10 exp I earned, I bought a new key 'Horrorbane' and a new Secret 'Questor of Jaspree', as I dedicated my life to serve the Elven patron Passion Jaspree - we declared that the Secret would allow me to re-roll a task carried out in Jaspree's name.

With that - I (in G'zethra's body) - launched myself at G'zethra and prayed for Jaspree's intervention to switch us back, hoping to put G'zethra's old body in the path of Candace's sword-stroke just as the switch happened. I failed - but re-rolled, owing to my new Secret...garnering a success. Candace failed, however and the sword-stroke went awry. G'zethra - now in his old body - staggered to his feet and began staggering toward the resonating chamber. Candace took up my blade, an enchanted sword entrusted to me by a recently deceased ally of ours, and threw it, impaling G'zethra before he could reach the chamber. I climbed to my feet and beheaded him for good measure.

It was an amazing moment of character transformation, made possible by the Lady Blackbird mechanics. When I first created the character three years ago, one of my stated goals was to trace a character arc - from a shady, unkempt mercenary with a dark past to a redeemed soul, dedicated to a noble cause. It took three years, across three game systems, to make it happen - and the Lady Blackbird mechanics made the moment sing. Looking back at the session, I can honestly say it was the single most gratifying moment in all my years of roleplaying. It's rare that you get the opportunity to develop a character arc and let it play out to it's conclusion in this manner, especially over three real-time years of gameplay - more often than not, these kinds of goals get scratched out on the back of a character sheet and forgotten as the group moves on to something else or dissolves. I feel very fortunate to have experienced what we achieved yesterday.


  • I'm the gamemaster of the Lady Earthdawn game. Thought I'd crosspost my comment from Alex's Google+ thread on the session.
    It was an awesome session all around. I think one of the things about it that was most exciting to me is that as is often the case with Lady Blackbird, the awesomeness happened with more or less no prep.

    In the previous session, the players had planned their next several actions, but I'd actually misremembered the order in which they intended to pursue them. This meant that what little prep and brainstorming I'd done revolved around the wrong situation.

    At the end of the last session, we'd also agreed that it was time for a refresh scene, and that we'd start the next session with one. Since I didn't have anything ready for the first situation the party would be tackling, I figured I'd angle for the players to establish most of the details of that first situation as part of developing the refresh scene. We brainstormed for a bit, and ended up with an awesome framework that was miles better than anything I would have come up with on my own.

    Lady Blackbird makes great games. Thanks, John Harper!
  • Yes. Keys are the best thing. Instantaneous character advancement and shift in abilities triggered by major narrative decisions that are by definition central to what makes the character who they are. Clinton R. Nixon should be sainted.
  • Switching over to Lady Blackbird has made plenty of awesome happen for us - although there have been a handful of drawbacks (which I'd love to outline on the podcast, actually).
  • What were the drawbacks? I'm very interested in hearing about the Yang to the above Yin.

  • The two major ones that I can think of are:

    A.) We more or less ditched the Talents from Earthdawn. The characters still operate very much like their ED counterparts, but we never did implement the Talents properly. Our strategy was to create Traits that more or less equated to our archetype, say Warrior, and then use tags to represent the Talents. But it just didn't seem to fit the Lady Blackbird mechanics very well. Not such a huge deal for me, but for T'sareth (our resident elementalist) it meant ditching entire spell lists and using magic as an 'on-the-fly' casting system. This is especially problematic in Earthdawn, since the game mechanics are so highly tied to the setting (the Warrior talent 'Tiger Spring' has a direct correlative in-fiction talent, so it's not just called 'Tiger Spring' in the mechanics and omething else in the fiction).

    B.) The ebb and flow of the dice pools isn't exactly in line with actual Lady Blackbird. LB leads you from crisis to crisis, forcing you to use more pool creating a natural up and down as pools are depleted and refreshed, either through failure or refresh scenes. In our experience we do a lot of non-critical RP with occasional dice-rolling, and only really deplete our pools in moments of crisis. It creates a different kind of experience than standard Lady Blackbird.

    Those are the biggies, as far as I can tell. Tork probably could add to this list.
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