Thursday, March 21, 2013

Magic World After Action Report #1: The Vengeance of Kallim Campaign

Tuesday night kicked off with a bang! We had four players, and there should be two more joining in the near future. Of the players, my wife Jody and friend Mark are both BRP/RQ vets, with my wife having run BRP (in her own weird apocalypse setting) and played in MRQ and RQII campaigns I have run. Mark is, like me, an old grognard veteran and has both played and run almost every edition of RQ as well as BRP. My other two players (Mary and Jeff from my Wednesday Pathfinder game) were familiar with Pathfinder and D&D 4E but new to BRP based systems.

We spent about an hour in char gen. The process was fast and the methodology in MW (providing predetermined sets of skill points applied in a rigorous fashion to cultural, occupational and then other skills) made this process much simpler, and avoided decision paralysis on the part of the players. They might want to do specific point buy in the future, but it was an excellent fast and efficient method for a first session.

The campaign I chose is the humanocentric Sarvaelen, about which much has been presented in this blog. This is the first actual game I've run in Sarvaelen...the realm of the Watchers of the Sullen Vigil has up to now been 100% purely a blog exercise. Now it has life! This does mean that everyone rolled humans only.

The characters rolled included two southerners from Neremune (a quasi pagan Nabatean analog), one clansman out of the region of southern Yakhal (a darkest Africa Congo-analog) and  one local Atlenari. When the dust settled we had (in order):

Zhamal, a mercenary bodyguard from Neremune who was of Emon blood (expatriates), who served as guardian and protector to various clients and was looking to reclaim the lost fortunes of his once great family, now brought down by corruption and gambling debts;

Jafar, the other Neremunish adventurer who was a shaman by trade on a quest to find a woman named Asylla who appears in dreams begging him to help her;

The Yakhali was a huntress known as The Hunter (and a very efficient one at that) on a journey from her pagan homeland to find the meaning of a vision she experienced of the goddess Nevereth from the north;

Their guide and advisor to the north was the last adventurer, Shamus, an Atlenari sorcerer and scholar by trade who was looking to reclaim the lost fortunes of his once great family, now brought down by corruption and gambling debts.

(Note: MW has cultural details and distinctive marks as part of character generation, but one thing RQ6 and Legend provide that MW does not is a random chart of "initial background events," that you roll on to get some weird piece of history for your character. For people with a strong vision it may not be necessary, and its certainly not needed, but I like the odd variables it gives to I had everyone rill once on the RQ6 chart to get some strange results.)

The group began while traveling, stumbling across a farmer's convoy of wagons hauling grain to the port city of Alton, where the city needed food and supplies due to recent conflict. The convoy had been attacked, and a troll had run up, grabbed the oxen, beaten two farmhands and run into a field of corn stalks. The farmer and son were in pursuit, the farmer's wife tending to the wounded. The sorcerer and shaman did some quick healing when the troll, having doubled back, charged them from the corn field, using chunks of the dead oxen as a club.

I intended this to be a quick introductory fight, and boy was it quick...the huntress acted first, getting off an arrow with a critical strike, dealing enough damage to drop the troll in his tracks. This was the first lesson the new players got about BRP vs. Pathfinder/4E: it's all about hit faster, hit harder, and most importantly, don't get hit!

The group ended up being invited to join the farmer on his journey, who payed them a handful of bronzes for their help. They camped out while the farmer and son retrieved another oxen, and cooked up the dead one in the interim. During their cook-out, two Grampus (giant whip-tail scorpions) were attracted to the smell and descended on the camp. The ensuing fight was not as quick, but the shaman and sorcerer proved very useful as they Muddled one grampus and cast Sleep on the other. The fight was only a few rounds long, the end result being a butchering of grampus carcasses for shell, meat and the sorcerer and shaman trying to figure out how to extract the acid sacs in the giant vinegaroon tails.

Battle in Alton Harbor

The group eventually made good on their journey to the port city of Alton, where they found a city under siege. An outgoing company of soldiers were heading south, led by a Knight who spoke briefly with the group and even purchased the grampus hide, which he intended to cure and treat for hard leather armor for his men. He explained that the city was not yet in danger, but that Sammarite privateers had blockaded the harbor and were engaged in a vicious sea battle with Alton's own defensive navy. The city needed all the recruits it could find, but his garrison was headed south to guard the pass to Thaerinal, in case the Sammarites had decided to deploy soldiers in safety along the coast and ambush the city from inland.

The group got to stay free of charge at an inn run by the farmer's wife's brother, who also gave them some tips on employment. By morning they had two obvious job prospects to consider: go down to the Militia Watch Tower and sign on to the army, or speak with a visiting Chancellor of Aeronost to the north named Prios, who needed bodyguards to protect his overland caravan on his return to his home city. As it happened, his home city was Aramen, southernmost bastion of the Kingdom of Aeronost.

In the end, they went with escorting Prios. He was paying very well, loaning them horses, paying them a gold each to outfit for the journey, and promising 4 gold on safe arrival in Aramen (gold is worth a lot in MW).

While the group was wandering the markets and upgrading gear, the Huntress spotted some black-cloaked fellows who looked like they were also from Neremune in the south following her oblivious sorcerer and shaman companions. When the two met up with the bodyguard, they made to return to the inn, when they found the street blocked by a broken cartload of chickens. A small thuggish boy nearby stood in an alleyway that would let them bypass the incident...they decided to turn around (didn't like the look of the boy), only to find that the two men secretly following them hard barred their way (and unknown to those two men the Huntress had taken up a defensive position with bow behind an old woman's kiosk full of roasting alligator meat).

The two men revealed each was armed with twin scimitars, and declared that they had a warning to deliver to Jafar: stop pursuing the woman Asylla, it was no business of his, and should he seek to find her only ruin and death would come of it.

Apparently the internet doesn't believe assassins existed before Altair
Naturally the group attacked (Huntress scoring a kidney strike from behind with an arrow setting it off) and after a short and brutal fight from which everyone scraped out okay they looted the bodies. Four scimitars, two robes and a handful of bronzes proved to be a real treasure in MW terms....weapons are expensive, and scimitars are nice swords. They also found tattoos on the men, indicating they belonged to a group known as the Sullari Sect, a radical assassin cult from Neremune. Not good!

The boy from the alley revealed himself to be named Pando, and told them that there were more men waiting for them at the end of the alley, who would likely grow suspicious when neither the adventurers nor the two stalkers appeared and come looking to see what happened. Jafar took Pando under his wing for a bit, and they left to return to the inn by circuitous route, relying on the boy's knowledge of the city in exchange for bronzes.

The game wrapped up with the following morning as the caravan escorting Chancellor Prios left at dawn, a very long road ahead....but technically safer than trying to run the blockade of Sammarite privateers in the harbor.

Next week we will resume, and may have two more of them actually showed but had to leave due to some emergency (that or his cat allergies went into overdrive). The other is an old friend of mine who moved to town recently...he and I have been gaming together since 1990, so this is a major reunion of sorts to get gaming again.

Some observations about the GM Side of Gameplay:

1. The GM screen cannot come out soon enough, too many charts to flip around and look for! I need to pull out my CoC screen for the resistance table in the interim.

2. Everyone thought the Sleep spell should include a line of text indicating that there's a chance the target wakes up if someone assaults them while sleeping.

3. I decided to let everyone do the heroic hit point rule (even though its supposed to be grimdark Sarvaelen). This is proving less noticeable (so far) as they've all been good at avoiding damage.

4. The Weapon Class System is kind of cool, and despite some reservations I had about whether it would cause some confusion or extra paperwork headache to track weapon skills, the players "got it" immediately, which is good. I like the MW method for weapon skills much more than the RQ6 method, which is oddly hermeneutic for the "big daddy with more rules edition" of the system. With MW there is no confusion or guesswork, and a very clear direction on what skills relate to one another, which is good.

5. The "one magic system to rule them all" went over well. The fact that the shaman and the sorcerer both play differently by virtue of their choices was cool.

6. Everyone got into the skill improvement is, as always, a mixture of gamlbing and instant gratification, something quite unlike the class-based D&D stuff the players are normally used to. I personally liked the option to pick a single occupational skill for a guaranteed increase over the RQ and Legend mechanic of a guaranteed 1% increase....everyone knows they will get a single sure improvement this way.

7. Since it's not D&D, I made a big deal about languages and how there is not "common tongue" in my setting. People took note and bolstered their languages...but I did give them a second single free language choice, equal to INTX1 to insure they had some flex in what dialects they knew. I call this the "well traveled barbarian effect" in honor of Conan, who at some point must have learned twenty Hyborean languages in Howard's tales.

More next week!, I mean Asylla


  1. Hi. Could you elaborate on "one magic system to rule them all"-- I assumed MW had the usual BRP/RQ magic systems (battle magic, divine magic, sorcery). Does it only feature one?

    1. Magic World is actually from a slightly different lineage. It's based on the Elric/Stormbringer 5th edition rule system, and the sorcery mechanics are based on that book. It does poach some content from Runequest as well, and the next MW release is called Advanced Sorcery, which I understand will include additional options and possibly extra magic systems, but the core book has only one mechanic, designed specifically to be easy to manage. If you've ever played Stormbringer or Elric, this one will feel quite familiar. Chaosium did publish the BRP Magic Book last year, which contains the actual Runequest 3 magic systems for use in BRP, and that is effectively compatible with MW. I thought about using it with MW at first, then decided to play it "by the book" for my opening campaign instead.

  2. What about shamanistic/spirit magic?

    1. The Shamanic magic and spirit magic systems are in the BRP Magic Book. I will have to check in with Zomben (who answers a lot of inquiries in the MW section of the forum over at if there are any future releases that will retool these systems specifically for use with MW....from what I recall, most of the future releases will include updates from other works like the Bronze Grimoirie and such.

      I think if you're specifically looking for a multi-tiered game with several magic systems Runequest 6 is still far and away the best choice. But if you want one very clear and easy to manage magic system that is robust enough to stand in for five, then MW is a good choice.