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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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Masks Phoenix Academy: Session 18, Part 2 – 2019-12-23 – It’s Comfort AND Support!

The team finally frees Colin from the Invictus addiction, drives back Cephalos, and learns more about the terrible psychic squid’s history.

(And there was, as the title suggests, a LOT of comfort and supports.)

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Masks Phoenix Academy: Session 18, Part 1 – 2019-12-22 – It’s Comfort AND Support!

The team finally frees Colin from the Invictus addiction, drives back Cephalos, and learns more about the terrible psychic squid’s history.

(And there was, as the title suggests, a LOT of comfort and supports.)

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Fellowship Session 13 – The Fellowship and the Faces of the Overlord

The Fellowship splits up and encounters several different minions of the Overlord.

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Fellowship Session 12 – The Fellowship and Chains Crossing

The Fellowship explores Chains Crossing.

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Fellowship Session 11 – The Fellowship and the City of Chains

The Fellowship arrives at Chains Crossing.

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Masks Phoenix Academy, Session 17, “My Head Hurts from Screaming – 2019-12-01

The team has had several months to track down clues bout Invictus. Ember does science. Palacine works on Colin. Sil makes connections in school. Everyone fights some invictus-powered criminals.

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The Smartwood Kids: Session 5 (Halloween, pt 2)

We (myself, Kaylee, Sean, and Zoe) continue the adventures of Marzipan, Kenilworth, and Zoology Smartwood, as they defend the town from alien invasion on Halloween.

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Fellowship Session 10 – The Fellowship and the Haunted Mountains

The Fellowship tries to make it through the mountains surrounding Chains Crossing.

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Fellowship Session 9 – The Fellowship and Mist-wolves

The Fellowship sets out for the city of Chains Crossing.

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Fellowship, Session 8 – The Fellowship and the Trials of the Macqul Taxat

Conflict comes to the Fellowship and the People of the Air.

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Fellowship, Session 7 – Under the Shadow of Corruption

The fellowship spends downtime with the People of the Air.

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Fellowship, Session 6 – The Fellowship and the People of the Air

The fellowship encounters the Heir and their people.

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Fellowship, Session 5 – Escape from Red Valley

The fellowship makes their way in a Long Journey away from Red Valley.

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Fellowship, Session 4 – The Fellowship and the General

The Fellowship confronts Siflae, the Overlord’s Ohir general, and Ekki of Bornaer, most-skilled of the Overlord’s harbingers.

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Actual Play MMO & Computers

Minecraft – Underwater Edition

The family and I spend a bit of time playing Minecraft. One way we spend that time is on Testertopia, a realm server we can access via Switch, Windows 10, iPad, Android… whatever.

Just lately, we found an ocean (finally), and after battling it out with some Guardians for control of an ancient ruin, we got the necessary stuff together for a new… thing.

A really pretty thing.

Basically, a new base in the middle of the ocean, underwater, in the middle of a coral reef, with a permanent breath water effect for about 60 or 70 blocks in all directions. It’s great. Here’s some pictures…

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Fellowship, Session 3 – The Fellowship and the Red Valley Forges

The Fellowship enters the Forges of Red Valley.

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Fellowship, Session 2 – The Fellowship and the Angry Mob

The Fellowship leads civilians through the city of Red Valley in a bid to escape through the ancient Forges.

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Masks: Phoenix Academy – Session 16 – Invictus Sucks / Tater Tots in Space!

The group argues about what to do about Invictus, and finally settles on sunbathing, snacks… and blowing up a space ship.

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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Fellowship, Session 1 – Under a Falling Sky

Stage two of character creation. Everyone starts off in an inn’s common room. Then we drop a thousands of tons of rock on the city.

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Fellowship, Session 0 – The World Fully Formed

We’re off on a new adventure! Time to save the world with Fellowship.

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Scum and Villainy post-game analysis, and What’s Next

(Spoilers: what’s next is Fellowship, 2nd Edition.)

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Scum and Villainy, Session 16, Risky Bid-ness

The crew tries to auction off an Ur warship without getting killed by everyone in the sector, simultaneously.

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Scum and Villainy, Session 15/16, The Warship

The ancient undersea Ur ruins are not, strictly speaking, ruins.

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Scum and Villainy, Session 14/16

The crew begins infiltrating the ancient undersea Ur ruins.

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Masks: Phoenix Academy – Session 15 – Regroup, Fail, Repeat

Intro Video!

It’s Kaylee’s birthday, and the end of the first week of REAL LIFE high school for our players, so between birthday cake, rehashing school, decompression, and half the team needing an early bedtime for marching band practice the next morning…

… and introducing some totally amazing character art I got commissioned for the girls (art by charcooll on Instagram) …

It was a pretty short session. Thank goodness we’ve had the good play-by-post action going on.

It’s gym class, and S.U.R.G.E. has everyone fighting annoying opponents in 1v1s. It doesn’t go well, but hey: everyone gets potential?

Also: Palacine thinks everything going wrong is her fault.

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Hogwarts RPG

Spent the afternoon playing Hogwarts with the kids. Elici Davies (fifth year Hufflepuff), Emma Quinn (1st year Gryffindor), and Will Finnegan (third year Ravenclaw) are ‘siblings’ fostered by the same magic-friendly muggle family.

I asked them for something weird that happens on the train ride (while will studied “A New History of Hogwarts” and ate chocolate frogs and Elici made corrections in her Potions book), and Emma/Zoe told us about the turtle drawing on the cabin wallpaper that animated and started turtling around!

In seconds, dozens of animals were rising up out of the wallpaper all through the train car, causing chaos. Elici went and got the prefects, Emma gathered up animals, and Will took some guesses about what might have caused it; his best guess – a much BIGGER version of a transmutation/animation spell that had rippled out and affected the train.

We have… a mystery!

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Masks, Phoenix Academy play-by-posts, Sessions 14.1, 14.2, and 14.3

We’ve had a looooooong stretch where we’ve been unable to play Masks with my daughter’s group. To deal with the withdrawal, I ran solo play-by-post things with each player, both to move some plotlines and, at their request, get some time with their boyfriends. It went really well! (Some players take to PbP better than others, and I’ve never been great at keeping such things up in the long term, but for this, it was pretty awesome.)

Anyway, for the sake of completeness, here’s are links to the three “between” arcs that happened.

Session 15 tonight! I am excited.

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Scum and Villainy, Session 13/16, Under the Sea

The crew gets memish.

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Scum and Villainy, Session 12/16, Breaking Bad

The crew storms a Wrecker’s stronghold, while the Wreckers watch.