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Ravenloft Ironsworn, part 4, The Blood on the Vine Tavern

Okay, so I’m heading back up the street from the home of Mad Mary, to the tavern. The GM is droning on about atmospheric stuff or… you know. Whatever. GM stuff. They do that.

Now, somewhere in here, if you’re me (or most players I’ve played with since I was 10), you’ve tuned out the GM because you’re turning over what you’ve learned so far. (Or checking Pinterest for pictures of hot vampires.)

So let’s do that. The pondering thing, not Pinterest. What do we know?

  1. Vampires. Okaaaay.
  2. Two letters. Contradictory, so only one of them can be wholly true (assuming either is).
    • One says “Ireena” is afflicted by Vague Evil ™ , and the one true love of the Burgomaster
    • One says she’s got an ‘unholy wound’ and the Burgomaster’s stepdaughter. No. Adopted daughter.

Okay. Obvious facts that can be easily checked.

  1. BY THE WAY: Mira on the road. Ireena. Mad Mary and her daughter Gracie. Or Gertruda. Whatever. All women or girls. All victimized. Brigitte is sensing a vile little pattern.

Okay.


I head up to the bar, lay coin down for a drink, and say. “Ireena Kolyana. Who’s she to the Burgomaster of this town?”

I rate it “likely” a fact as simple as this will be shared for the asking without me needing to coax it out of anyone. I check the Oracle, which agrees with me.

The bartender nods to the boy who brought me, pours ale, but says nothing as you ask about Ireena Kolyana or the Burgomaster. He simply nods with his chin in the direction of the quiet man sitting near the fireplace. “There.”

Okay, it’s likely, but Barovia is a place of caution and paranoia. Fine. I head over.

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The young man looks up, but says nothing, as I approach – the locals seem quite tight-lipped, but he DOES react when I sit down and quietly ask him about Ireena.

“Ireena is my sister – adopted sister, if you insist. We are -” he pauses. “The Burgomaster was our father.”

Was. Fantastic. But at least I know which letter is true.

I pull out the battered letter I found on the tradesman just outside town and hand it over to him without any explanation.

I’m going for a Compel.

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Okay, I’m going to get what I want, which is him opening up. I’ll roll right into a Gather Information with a +1, but I remember he wants something in return, which I’ll get to and agree to.

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Well, okay! Strong hit with a favorable twist! I thought I knew what he was going to ask from me, but now I think I’m going to twist his request into an opportunity. We’ll see it coming here at the end of the conversation.

He looks mildly surprised to recognize the handwriting, but nods at several points as he reads, his expression increasingly grim.

“The Devil Strahd is fixated on my adopted sister – he’s been trying to take her away for nearly half a year – ever since he first saw her with his own damned eyes.”

I shake my head. “Strahd?”

“The Baron of these lands, or he once was. He’s ruled from his castle for almost 400 years, and is the last of his bloodline, though he’s hardly alone up there.” He takes a drink of his ale. “He’s all but waged war on us these last six months. As bad as it was before, when he neglected us, now…” He shakes his head.

“We had some protection thanks – my father believed – to a holy heirloom that’s been handed down to each Burgomaster, for centuries, but two weeks ago it was stolen, and a few days later, my father was killed.”

“Since then, it’s all we can do to keep our homes barricaded against assault, and pray.” He glances at me. “No offense, lady, and I can’t speak for anyone else in town, but *I at least was praying for more than one farwarden.”*

I nod. “I’d have asked for a company at least.” I reach over the table, extending my hand. “Brigitte.”

He looks a bit surprised, but smiles a bit and shakes. “Ismark Kolyana.” I move to sit back, but he holds onto my hand. His grip is strong. His eyes are steady on mine. “Take me with you. Whatever you decide to do, if you are here to help us, take me with you.”

He’s strong. Strong willed. And I like that smile – it’s a smile that says he might be able to hold himself together when things get dark. “Can you follow orders?”

He smirks. “Will you ask nicely?”

I roll my eyes, but my grip tightens a bit. “If I have to ask nicely, it’s not really an order.”

He tips his head in agreement. “Fair enough, and yes. Absolutely, farwarden.”

Alright. I’m going for this.

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I maybe don’t technically meet the criteria here, but I like Ismark and I got a Strong Hit with a twist, dammit, so there it is – he asks to come along and I’m forming a Bond with him.

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Dammit. I cannot catch a break on these dice. Man I could have used the Momentum, too. Ahh well.

Okay, so I still get the Bond on a weak hit, but he wants something from me. Either do whatever it is, or Swear an Iron Vow. Hmm.

Well, hell. I was going to wait on this, but I might as well get it over with.

Still holding his hand, I touch the other to the iron of my armor, over my heart. “I am Brigitte of the Farwardens, and I swear, now, on this iron, I will see this land free from the Devil Strahd.”

Ismark’s face, serious but still playful, goes pale. The tavern goes quiet at my words.

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Okay, so first I’m going to swear the vow and write it out.

“Destroy the Devil Strahd and Free Barovia.” That’s pretty straightforward. Fucking horrible and impossible, but simple.

And… I mean… fuck it. I might as well set the challenge at Epic. It doesn’t get much more Epic than that. Finally, I’m going to attach a Threat to this vow (something with Strahd – I’ll figure out the particulars later), which is a really nice feature of Vows that’s being added in the new Delve expansion that’s in beta right now.

Then, roll +heart. I’m making the vow to a person with whom I share a bond, so +1.

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And I literally can’t ask for a better roll than that, so I’ll take it. That’s +2 momentum.


I release Ismark’s hand and sit back, but turn at a low, choked sound from the barkeep. His boy is staring, but the man has tears, actual tears, in his eyes.

“Bless you, farwarden,” says the barkeep. “Bless you.”

The Vistani at their table seem… less impressed, but one of their clan brought me the false letter in the first place, so I’m not exactly happy with THEM, either.


I’m going to mark a milestone for my vow to Come to the Aid of the Village, since everyone heard me just now and knows what and who I am. That brings my progress to four, and SIMPLY for the sake of cleaning up my sheet a bit, I’m going to risk it and Fulfill that Vow. (Note: This is stupid and I shouldn’t do it – my odds are bad, but I HAVE come to the aid of the village. I mean, I’m here, aren’t I?)

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Ohthankgod. I complete the quest with a weak hit, which has me mark 1 experience for the Difficult vow, which isn’t enough to do anything with yet. HOWEVER, “You may Swear an Iron Vow to set things right. If you do, add +1,” and I’m pretty darn sure that swearing an Iron Vow to free Barovia counts, so I’m taking the extra XP. [Also, I’m taking a Bond with the Village as my third “free” bond that I just noticed I never took during character generation. Good thing I looked while I was writing down Ismark. The ‘free’ bond is with the Village of Barovia, thank you very much. Probably coming at that sideways, a bit, but something tells me I’m going to need all the help I can get.]


Ismark is still watching me. “Would you like to meet my sister, Brigitte?”

“Very much.”

He nods, stands, leaves coin for the bartender, and the two of us depart.

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Adventures of the Smartwood Kids – Ken’s 11th Birthday (adventure 3, part 1)

The kids and I get back into another story of the Smartwood kids (a ‘kids on bikes’ hack of Lasers and Feelings) – this time, it’s all about the weird runic symbols on Ken’s whiffleball bat, and how they got there in the first place.

Here’s the video (with slightly leveled audio, because my kids are noisy).

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Ravenloft Ironsworn, part 3, The Village of Barovia

I’ve finished a journey as part of a quest/vow (come to the aid of the village), so I’ll also mark progress. Since it’s a Dangerous quest, every ‘mark progress’ move fills two boxes.

Now then, the village.

Tall shapes loom out of the dense fog that surrounds everything, even in mid-afternoon.

The muddy ground underfoot gives way to slick, wet cobblestones. The tall shapes become recognizable as the dwellings of the village of Barovia. The windows of each house stare out from pools of black nothingness. No sound cuts the silence except, just at the edge of hearing, a single voice raised in mournful sobbing from a fair distance inside the town.

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A few miles away, Brigitte can see the silhouette of a castle wayyyyy up on a peak, overlooking the valley.

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I decide to follow the sound of the sobbing, as much as I’m able, into the village.

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Brigitte enters the town from the east (red arrow), and follows the streets toward the sobbing sound, so she kind of goes by a bunch of private homes and the main square in the center of town. What we can immediately make out:

MANY of the houses have no glass in the windows. They’re broken out and then people have nailed boards over them.

  • E1 right at the center of town is “Bidrath’s Mercantile” – a general store.
  • E2 is the “Blood on the Vine” tavern/inn.

(They have signs, so she can tell.)

  • The mercantile is well-lit inside; light signs out into the foggy streets.Same with the tavern.
  • There is ZERO foot traffic on the streets. Many of the houses look abandoned or deserted, and those that don’t are closed up tight.
  • The sobbing is coming from E3, which is a two-story townhouse. It’s pretty nice, but it’s been boarded up and barricaded from the inside like many others.

I go and knock on the door.

The knocking doesn’t get any response from inside the house. The sobbing continues.

Brigitte’s about to try something else when a small voice, behind her, says “That’s Mad Mary’s house.”

There’s a little kid standing in the middle of the street, about 20 feet away from the front step.

Brigitte frowns. “Who?”

GATHER INFORMATION
When you search an area, ask questions, conduct an investigation, or follow a track, roll +wits. If you act within a community or ask questions of a person with whom you share a bond, add +1.

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On a miss, your investigation unearths a dire threat or reveals an unwelcome truth that undermines your quest. Pay the Price. Awesome.

“Mad Mary. That’s her house.” He points at the house . “She had a girl, named Gertruda, and never let her leave the house. “Gertruda snuck out, and hasn’t come back.”

The sobbing is the same volume, probably, but somehow it SEEMS to get louder.

PAY THE PRICE
When you suffer the outcome of a move, choose one.

  • Make the most obvious negative outcome happen.
  • Envision two negative outcomes. Rate one as ‘likely’, and Ask the Oracle using the yes/no table. On a ‘yes’, make that outcome happen. Otherwise, make it the other.
  • Roll on the following table. If you have difficulty interpreting the result to fit the current situation, roll again.

Okay, so: |110x75

42-50 A new danger or foe is revealed.

[Man, more complications. Okay.]

“Do you know where she is?” Brigitte asks. “The girl?”

The kid just looks at her, expressionless, for a little while. Then he turns and points.

|624x284

Crap.

“My da sent me to invite you to the tavern.”

Brigitte nods, somewhat numbly, and follows the child back along the street toward the center of town, wondering what she’s gotten pulled into.

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Ravenloft Ironsworn, part 2 – the Maiden and the Corpse

In the last ‘session’, Brigitte set out toward Barovia by way of the Old Svalich Road, made it to the gates of Barovia and (thanks to our second journey roll) found out things were going to take a bad turn.

BUT FIRST, I need a bit of information for an NPC we’re about to meet. I hit a few of the Ironsworn oracles for a name and description and get “Mira, wild and sick.” Horrible. Perfect.

THE MAIDEN

Brigitte is probably half an hour to an hour past the gate of Barovia when she spots someone on the road ahead. A woman. Tangled black hair. A white shift utterly insufficient for the damp and cold. Barefoot, Brigitte notices, as the woman shuffles toward her down the road. Pale, almost gray skin.

A hatchet in her hand.

Hmm.

Brigitte slips her shield from ‘easy carry’ to ‘ready’, and calls out “Hello, sister. Are you lost? Can I help you?”

The woman continues to shuffle forward. Her face is shrouded by her wild hair. Tension tightens the muscles of Brig’s shoulders, but she makes no move.

The woman – young, we think – stops a half-dozen paces short of Brigitte. Silence in the forest.

Then the axe hand swings up, level, the axe pointed at – or extended to – the farwarden.

“End my suffering.” The woman’s voice is dry, cracking. Makes you thirsty just to hear it. She finally lifts her head enough to see her face, and it’s gaunt and gray and her teeth are… wrong.

Brigitte tenses. Her eyes widen slightly, search the woman’s face. “What are… what happened to you?”

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Okay, so the information complicates the quest but I get +1 momentum. Yeah, that tracks.

“My name…” the girl breathes, almost sighs. “Mira.” Her voice is wistful, as if she’s saying the name of a childhood friend she’d almost forgotten and misses deeply.

Her eyes, cold and hard and black despite the tone of her voice, focus back on Brigitte. “Creatures – dark things – came to my family’s home. My mother and father they killed. I hid my brother before they found me.”

“They didn’t kill you?”

“They destroyed me,” the woman says, baring her throat to show the marks there. “They laughed and said I would be welcome in their fold when the moon rose over my new life, and left me in the ruins of the old. I took my brother to town – left him on the doorstep of the church, and fled.”

Brigitte frowns. “Why? You could have stayed -”

Her head droops. “I could – hear his heartbeat by the end, and I wanted it. I wanted it so badly.”

She looks up at Brigitte. “I can’t be this. I can’t be a thing that would take my own brother, and I know – I know – that’s what I could become.”

She opens her mouth, and it is too wide, bends back too far.

And there are too, too many teeth.

Again, she thrusts the axe forward. “End me. Please. Please.”

Brigitte stares at the axe for what feels like a long time, but she knows at least something about what has happened. Knows at least something about what Mira will become.

Eventually she takes the axe, and does what she must.

But it is not without cost.

So, as this is part of a Troublesome journey, I think I take appropriate Stress from this interaction (-1 to my Spirit), and then I do the Endure Stress move.

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But hey, Strong hit! This is pretty good: Since my Spirit is still above 0 (4, after the hit), I have the option of dropping my Momentum by -1 to take a +1 to Spirit – this scene with Mira takes the energy out of my step more than a little, but I’m able to shrug off the damage to my spirit. I like that (And I like not being down in Spirit this early into the game. Momentum loss I can deal with: I’m at 4, currently, so I drop that to 3 and effectively ignore the Spirit damage.
Traveling on:

It’s probably only a few more hours to the village in the valley. Let’s see how I get on.

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Okay, 3+2 gets me a 5 against a 8 and 4, so another weak hit. That moves my progress to 6, total, but I take another ding to Supply (I imagine using up a few consumables while burying Mira’s remains).

I don’t think I’m very far from the town, now, so I’ll risk rolling to Reach my Destination.

For this, I just roll the 2d10 Challenge dice, against my Progress (6), and see how things come out.

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Okay, weak hit again, but a hit, nonetheless. “You arrive, but face an unforeseen complication.” Oy. More complications. “Ask the oracle if unsure” and luckily the Oracle of “the module” has an answer for this.

The last part of your journey is still within thick woods, so it’s hard to see much of the countryside, what you DO spot, however, is a body, barely visible under a bush near the side of the road.

I move to inspect the body. Male. Dressed like a villager. I’d guess he’s been dead a few days. The remains of his clothes are torn and raked with what look like claw marks. Guessing some sort of tradesman. Not wealthy. Not particularly well-fed, either, before he died.

There are many paw prints in the soft soil around the body – big ones, probably wolves, and heavy enough to make an imprint.

He has an envelope clutched in his hand.

The letter, unlike the one I got in the inn, which was dated only the day previous, is dated a week ago. The envelope is sealed with a wax seal stamped with a big “B”, and the parchment, again unlike that other letter, is worn and flimsy with damp.

It reads:

Hail thee of might and valor:

Okay this sounds familiar.

I, the Burgomaster of Barovia send you honor — with despair.

My adopted daughter, the fair Ireena, has been these past nights bitten by a creature calling its race “vampyr.” For over 400 years this monster has drained our land of the life-blood of its people. Now, my dear Ireena languishes from an unholy wound caused by this vile beast. Yet I fear, too, the creature has some more cunning plan in mind. He has become too powerful to be fought any longer.

So I say to you, give us up for dead and encircle this land with armies and the symbols of Good. Let holy men call upon their power that the Evil One may be contained within the walls of weeping Barovia. Leave our sorrows to our graves, and save the world from our evil fate.

There is much wealth entrapped in this community. BURN THIS PLACE, then return for your reward after we are departed for a better life.

Kolyan Indirovich, *
*Burgomaster

While the wording is, in places, similar to the other letter, the handwriting is NOT.

Fantastic.


So… two messages. Very different requests, within. No real way to see which is the real one, yet. Not without further information.

I take the letter, bury the body, and keep moving.

The ground is soft – it doesn’t take long to dig with a camp tool, but Brig hears the howls of wolves a couple times in the distance as she wraps up. First one, then two, a few minutes later…

She wastes little time hurrying on to town and (presumed) safety.

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Ravenloft Ironsworn, part 1 – The Old Svalich Road

So now I envision my character’s recent history – Brigitte doing the farwarden thing, which boils down to the Unappreciated Rangers of the North Job ™ – helping small communities with beasts and monsters, informal roadway patrols, whatever – but all the while she’s got her ear to the ground for word of farwardens who’ve gone missing over the years. She takes these more seriously since one of the missing farwardens is her mentor, Reinhardt. There’s whispers and rumors about these disappearances within the order, many of which are obviously fantasy, superstition, or guesswork, but a few threads float the surface. A letter. A summons.

Barovia. A barony that’s little more than fog and mountain valleys no one seems to know how to find – at least, no one Brig’s talked to seems to know how to get to the blasted place.

That’s recent past. This is reliving a classic old DnD module for me, though, so let’s actually start in a tavern.


To a far warden, this is just another dull tavern in another drab town in a province whose name I can’t remember; just passing time between the challenges of the road.

Outside the Inn, a bone-chilling fog lies over the town this evening, draping everything in a clammy blanket. The damp dirt of the street shines dully in the light of street lanterns. It’s no time to be outside.

But inside, the food is hearty and the ale is surprisingly passable. A fire crackles in the hearth and the tavern is alive with the tumbling voices of country folk.

Suddenly, the tavern door swings open. A hush falls. Heavy, booted footfalls and the jingle of spurs wind through the silence. His brightly colored clothes are draped in loose folds about him and his hat hangs askew, hiding his eyes in shadows.

Without hesitation, he walks directly up to my table and assumes a wide stance with folded arms. He speaks with a heavy accent, “I hevv been sent to you to deliver this message: If you be honorable, you will come to my master’s aid at first light. It is not advisable to travel the Svalich woods at night!” He pulls from his tunic a sealed letter, addressed to you in beautiful flowing script. He drops the letter on the table. “Take the west road from here to the Svalich Forest, at the edge of the mountains. The road there splits; the one leading into the forest will, in time, bring you to mountain passes. There you will find my master, in Barovia.”

Brigitte’s heart thumps at the name, but she manages (she thinks) to remain outwardly expressionless and cool. She says nothing, and does not immediately make any move to pick up the letter.

Amid the continued silent stares of the patronage, the Vistani (a roaming trading clan) turns and strides to the bar and says to the barkeeper, “Fill the glasses, one and all. Their throats are obviously parched.” He drops a purse heavy with coin on the bar. With that, he leaves. The babble of tavern voices resumes, although somewhat subdued. The letter is lying before you. It is dated yesterday, and the parchment is crisp. The seal is a crest you don’t recognize.

[I open the letter and call for more ale.]

Hail to thee of might and valor:

I, a lowly servant of the township of Barovia, send honor to thee. We plead for thy so desperately needed assistance within our community.

The love of my life, Ireena Kolyana, has been afflicted by an evil so deadly that even the good people of our town cannot protect her. She languishes, and I would have her saved from this menace.

There is much wealth in this community. I offer all that might be had to thee and thy fellows if thou shall but answer my desperate plea.

Come quickly for her time is at hand! All that I have shall be thine!

Kolyan Indrirovich,
Burgomaster


Okay, so… this is exactly the kind of lead Brigitte has been looking for in her personal vow, but at the same time, this letter meets all the requirements of a formal request for aid from the freewardens. “Hail to thee of might and valor” and so forth… aside from what I want, I pretty much have to at least go and meet whoever sent the letter and see if I can help.

So. I lay my hand to iron and Swear an Iron Vow to help the village, if I can. Time to roll.

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My roll (4, plus my Heart of 3), gets me a 7. I compare that to my Challenge Dice. I beat one of the two, which gives me a mixed success, the results of which are indicated at the bottom of image. I’ve got more questions than answers (true!), but I get +1 momentum (3, now).

And at least I know which way to go.


Okay, so I’m going to Barovia, and while I don’t think it’s going to be a particularly horrible journey, I DO think there could be complications, so I’m going Undertake a Journey. I’m only going to make it Troublesome, to open the door to complications without making the whole game about just GETTING to the main action. Since the journey is only troublesome, every success on the Undertake a Journey will tick three boxes on my progress bar.

THE NEXT MORNING: OLD SVALICH ROAD

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Black pools of water stand like dark mirrors along the muddy roadway. Thick, cold mists spread a pallor over the road. Tree trunks stand on both sides of the road, their branches reaching up into the mists. In every direction the mists grow thicker and the forest grows more oppressive.

Let see how things go.

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Man! A roll of 5 +2 for Wits is really solid, but nothing’s going to beat that 10 on the challenge die. Luckily the other die is a 2, which still means a weak hit, and means no major complications except -1 to my Supply. I envision Brigitte pushing herself on the road, not taking the time to hunt or forage as she goes, and using up some of her preserved trail food instead. That’s fine. I mark progress, tighten my belt, and march on.

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PASSING THE GATES OF BAROVIA

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Jutting from the impenetrable woods on both sides of the road, high stone buttresses loom up gray in the fog. Huge gates hang from the stonework. Two statues of armed guardians silently flank the gate. Their heads, missing from their shoulders, now lie among the weeds at their feet. They greet you only with silence.

Lovely vibe. Brigitte passes the gates and enters the lands of Barovia itself. The fog is somehow colder. Denser. The sun seems robbed of its warmth. Let’s roll that move…

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OUCH. Goddammit. Not only do I miss on the move (even with a nigh-perfect 6+2), but the doubles on the challenge dice means things go bad and introduce an unwelcome unforeseen twist.

I don’t know what Price I should Pay, so for that I consult the Pay the Price oracle…

(I’m going to switch to Roll20 eventually, but I did all of this gaming in the airport, using my phone and an Android app that’s apparently been discontinued in the last couple weeks. In case anyone’s wondering.)

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And THAT seems to double down on the “unexpected something happens and things get complicated.” I’m going to go with “Horribly complicated,” since this is coming off a full Fail on the Journey roll as well. Now, normally, in Ironsworn, I’d consult the Oracle for some ideas on what should happen, but I actually have a scene I never used in the original version of this I ran with Kaylee that should fit the bill just fine.

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Ironsworn Solo Play – Ravenloft (0.2)

So, last time we did a bit of world building. This time, character.

  1. Envision – Our hero is a member of a freewarden order known as the Overwatch. She’s a younger warrior, mentored by several of the senior members. She’s a classic kind of armored warrior: heavy sheild, at least chainmail armor, whatever weapons come to hand, and a knack for improvising.

(Basically, Kaylee and I made up a character based on Brigitte from Overwatch for our World of Dungeons game, and I enjoyed the character a lot, so we’re sticking with that. It’s cheesy. I do not care.)

  1. Name – usually I’d wait til the end of chargen for this, but in this case, I already know it’s Brigitte (bri-GEE-tah).

  2. Set your stats by arranging these bonuses across edge, heart, iron, shadow, and wits in any order: 3, 2, 2, 1, 1 (page 33).

    • Edge is quickness, agility, and prowess in ranged combat.
    • Heart is courage, willpower, empathy, sociability, and loyalty.
    • Iron is physical strength, endurance, aggressiveness, and prowess in close combat.
    • Shadow is sneakiness, deceptiveness, and cunning.
    • Wits mean expertise, knowledge, and observation.

      This is not going to take me long. Heart is definitely going to be Brig’s best stat (+3) – she is loyal, brave, friendly, and tough-minded. But she is also physically tough and smart, which asks for a +2 in both Iron and Wits. That leaves a +1 for Edge and Shadow, and that’s fine: none of her go-to tactics rely on these stats.

  1. Health, Spirit, and Supply are automatically set to 5. Done.

  2. Momentum is set to 2, automatically. Done.

  3. Mark up to 3 background bonds.
    Bonds provide narrative texture to your world by fleshing out other characters and communities. They give you places to return to, and people to reconnect with, when life has taken its toll. Bonds also provide mechanical benefits when you act within a community or interact with someone with whom you share a bond.
    I’m taking two bonds initially, and leaving one as a freebie once the story gets going.

    • Reinhardt – my old mentor and sort of father/uncle-figure. Currently missing.
    • The order – I am, in many ways, a fresh-faced recruit to the cause of the wardens, and believe all the best about them.
  1. Pick three assets. Assets represent your background, skills, and traits. They give you additional options and bonuses when making a move, or sometimes act as their own self-contained moves. Assets, almost more than stats, is really where you define the mechanical bits of a character. There are four types of assets: Companions, paths, combat talents, and rituals. You can mix-and-match assets as you like.

If I didn’t have a clear picture in mind for Brigitte, this would probably take me a long while, because they’re a LOT of assets, and they are all really need and tempting. Luckily, I pretty much know how this is going to go.

      • Shield-bearer: the core of Brigitte’s approach to combat is her shield. Weapons come and go, but a shield is life (and, in the right hands, death).
      • Ironclad: even traveling light, Brigitte (as one of the wardens) is more heavily armored than most, and can strap on heavier gear when the situation calls for it.
      • Honorbound. This one I’m waffling on the most. I sort of want something that gives Brigitte that paladin-y feeling of a knight with a cause, and this works well, giving her that extra bit of hard-edged will when things get tough. But I’m torn.
        • If she were a leeettle more religious, I’ve had grabbed Devotant.
        • If I lean more toward her Overwatch inspiration, Wright or Improviser would give a sort of Macgyver-y crafting touch.

… but no. I’ll stick with Honorbound, keep Devotant out there as an option, and pine longingly for Thunderbringer.

  1. Finally, make a background vow. I’m going with “Find or Avenge the missing Wardens,” which is background I’ll get into later. Next time, we play!

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Ironsworn Solo Play – Ravenloft! (session 0)

With the holidays looming, my schedule was basically nuked from orbit and much of my normal online/offline tabletop gaming (which wasn’t a LOT to begin with) was disrupted, to put it mildly. Then one of my Monday-night players linked Adam Koebel’s first look into Ironsworn – and reminded me of the game, which I’ve actually had for a while (the PDF is free) but hadn’t dug into.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/images/12876/238369.jpgSo I decided to do that.

Why now?

Because I had no one else to play with.


You see, Ironsworn is a PbtA fantasy adventure game (same inspirational/systemic roots as Dungeon World, Masks, whatever) but supporting three “modes” of play (Guided (with a GM), Co-op (several players, no GM), and Solo) equally and viably.

I enjoyed Adam’s video, and doubly enjoyed the actual play podcast from the game’s creator and his son (search for “Ask the Oracle” on your favorite podcast platform.) Thus inspired, I decided to do a game.

Now, by default, Ironsworn presumes a low fantasy, fairly gritty setting – basically “Logen Ninefingers’s chapters from The First Law trilogy”, which may or may not mean anything to anyone but me. Additionally, the game setup presumes world building to make a version of the Ironlands that is your very own, which is really great.

I’m not going to do that, though.


I have something specific in mind – a use for the game which seems to be okay with the game’s designer in terms of “other potential uses for this game”: using Ironsworn to run a fantasy game/setting/scenario I already have readily available.

http://www.donjondudragon.fr/site/images/fiches/item_51_field_604/l_2017-11-13_01.37.08.jpgIn short, I’m going to play a solo game of the original Ravenloft – I6 AD&D module, augmented with some PBtA style tweaks from a World of Dungeons version of the scenario I ran for awhile with my daughter.

So what’s that going to look like?

Well, in a standard Ironsworn game, you’d either start character creation or world building, and then move on to… whichever of the two you didn’t do first. (The podcast AP from the creator starts with worldbuilding, then does the characters second, for example). The steps look like this:

  • Create your world: Define ‘Your Truths’ (page 122) about the setting.
  • Create your character: I have a general archetype in mind – basically the character my daughter played in our WoD Ravenloft game, but we’ll set stats and select assets.
  • Create background bonds: Create up to three bonds to represent connections to home, friends, family, et cetera.
  • Write your background vow: Create a quest as backstory for your character.
  • Envision your inciting incident: Come up with the problem that spurs our hero into action.
  • Swear an Iron Vow: Make the move and see how that sets our starting situation.
  • Play the game: See how things shake out from there.

Mostly, the part I’m not going to especially worry about is creating the world, because I have one readily to hand in the form of the (implied) setting for Ravenloft. I’m going to do a BIT of world building, to sync the setting to Ironsworn’s assumptions (lower/subtler magic than DnD, etc), but that’s about it. Let’s start with that and then move on to our hero.


There are several sections that the game says we can make decisions about:

  • The Old World: Why did our people leave the Old World and travel to the Ironlands?
  • Iron: The most important possession in the Ironlands. Why is it so special?
  • Legacies: What people came to the Ironlands before the Ironlanders?
  • Communities: What do communities in the Ironlands generally look like?
  • Leaders: Who lead these communities?
  • Defense: How do these communities deal with their defense?
  • Mysticism: Is magic and mysticism all fake, or is there some truth to it?
  • Religion: Are the gods real and walk to the world, or are they just superstition?
  • The Firstborn: Do other, older ancestries exist (Elves, Giants, Trolls) or all they just stories told to children?
  • Beasts: Are the beasts of legends (griffins, dragons, etc) true or just old wives’ tales?
  • Horrors: Are there even darker horrors than the Beasts that lurk on the corners of the Ironlands?

Again, I’m not making decisions about all these things, though most of the questions WILL be answered by virtue of using the Ravenloft module as the baseline setting for our adventure. Let’s go.

The first question is about “the old world” that Ironlanders are assumed to have left behind for the Ironlands. I’m discarding this, as it’s not relevant to the setting.

Iron. The next question also seems like one I’d toss in the bin. Basically “why are the Ironlands called the Ironlands?”, but I like the second option we can choose from, so I’m making a note of it anyway.

The weather is bleak. Rain and wind sweep in from the ocean. The winters are long and bitter. Someone complained, “Only those made of iron dare live in this foul place”

That just fits. Absent any other plot, I could take that, plop my hero down on the Barovia map with the related Ironsworn quest starter, and I could go. Nice.

I’m discarding the Legacies question (what lived here before us?) as not especially relevant to my needs.

What are the Communities like? A good question, and I’m going with the first available option:

We are few in number in this accursed land. Most rarely have contact with anyone outside our own small steading or village, and strangers are viewed with deep suspicion.

That suits the look and feel I’m going for right down to the ground.

Who Leads?

Leadership is as varied as the people. Some communities are governed by the head of a powerful family. Or, they have a council of elders who make decisions and settle disputes. In others, the priests hold sway. For some, it is duels in the circle that decide.

For Barovia, the answer is both in keeping with this answer and… something else.

How do we defend ourselves?

This is an interesting one. I was initially going to go with: Supplies are too precious and the lands are too sparsely populated to support organized fighting forces. When a community is threatened, the people stand together to protect their own.

But another answer lets me integrate my character concept in much more smoothly, once some of the edges have been sanded.

There are wardens are act as soldiers, guards, and militia. They serve their communities by standing sentry, patrolling surrounding lands, and organizing defenses in times of crisis. Most have strong ties to their community. Others, called free wardens, are wanderers who hire on to serve a community or protect caravans.

This is a really good starting place, though I might tweak the answer a bit in character generation, as we learn about our hero – but basically, I’ll call her a freewarden, and a young member of the order. It works.

Mysticism? Magic is rare and dangerous, but those few who wield the power are truly gifted.

Religion? The people honor old gods and new. In this harsh land, a prayer is a simple but powerful comfort.

There’s a question about the Firstborn – elves and giants, basically, but it’s not especially relevant to this game, so I’m setting it aside. I’m homing in on a pretty human-centric setting, but with beasts and monsters aplenty.

Speaking of: Beasts – which is to say, non-sentient monsters and the like.

Monstrous beasts stalk the wild areas of the world. (To which I’ll add “and the wild areas are cheek and jowl with what’s loosely termed ‘civilization.’“)

Horrors – the monsters you can have a conversation with, sometimes.

For the world in general, this:

We are wary of dark forests and deep waterways, for monsters lurk in those places. In the depths of the long-night, when all is wreathed in darkness, only fools venture beyond their homes.

But for Barovia?

The dead do not rest in these lands. At night we light torches, scatter salt, and post sentries at the gate. It is not enough. They are coming.

Okay! That’s the world stuff answered. Next post: moving on to character generation.

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Actual Play MMO & Computers

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A really pretty thing.

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The image for this session goes with events at around 2:15:00, give or take.

Also, check out 2:20:45 for a preview of Masks: Phoenix Academy – The Musical!

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