Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The doomed voyage of the Gem Carver.

I tried with my friend H. to play a solo expedition in the polar region of the Weird New World.

I placed the Hammers of the God module on the Weird New World map and H. created a fifth level dwarf explorer: Rakmar Shalecrusher. 

I gave H. his character fifth level's XPs worth of treasures to buy a boat and to engage a crew. 

Rakmar rented the Gem Carver, his uncle's longship, To do so he promised a generous part of the spoils to his family.
Rakmar recruited a crew of dwarfs still greedy enough to venture out of their mountains and promised them ancient dwarven treasures. But worried of his race slow decline, Rakmar secret goal was to lure a crew of dwarfs to the site of the Hammers of the God to claim back their dwarven heritage and to build a new dwarven settlement. There will be no coming back, he will make sure of this: once there, trapped by the ice, the only way to survive will be to settle in ancient dwarven structure.

I liked his secret plan so much! 

The Gem Carver (longship) crew (we used a random dwarven names table):
  • Expedition leader: Rakmar Shalecrusher (lv 5 dwarf)
  • Vallad SpiderKiller (lv 3 dwarf) commanding four lv 1 dwarf retainers. 
  • Baz DragonAxe (lv 3 dwarf) commanding four lv 1 dwarf retainers.
  • Captain Olar Fireleg 
  • Navigator Birgus Stonefist
  • Telda Onyxhair the Whitestone healer.
  • Almara Redpike the teamster. 
  • Del Copperfoot the cook
  • Dwan Axeheart the scholar and rune reader.
  • Thoric Strongaxe the carpenter.
  • And 75 dwarf sailors. 
(Telda and Alamara, being the only two female aboard, were very precious for Rakmar's plan). 

We were very enthusiast about exploring the Weird New World and the Hammers of the God module. But the Gem Carver voyage was short and doomed. 

H. kept a captain log diary:
Olar's log, captain of the Gem Carver.15th day of the 7th month of 1735. - Foggy day, broken ice, south-east wind, some of the crew are fishing. 9 miles N.
16th day of the 7th month of 1735. - Foggy day, broken ice, south-east wind, fishing. 9 miles N.
17th day of the 7th month of 1735. - Foggy day, broken ice, south-east wind,  fishing. 9 miles N.
18th day of the 7th month of 1735. - Fog lifted, broken ice, south-west wind. 9 miles N.
19th day of the 7th month of 1735. - Fog, borken ice, south wind, dangerous ice, slowed down the ship, 4,5 miles N-E. Hit a iceberg! Ship badly damaged, must repair, can't go on like this. Rakmar is angry, I had to cheer Brigus, better times are coming.
20th day of the 7th month of 1735. -Foggy day, broken ice, south-west wind, ship stopped for repairs, nothing special happened.
21th day of the 7th month of 1735. - No fog, south wind, always bad wind, got the oars out. 13,5 miles N-E, our best day yet, it felt good to the men to move, spirit is better.
22th day of the 7th month of 1735. - South wind, Birgus counsel to travel east to reach hot stream. 13,5 miles E. Saw walrus on a chunk of ice, I wonder what it means. Probably naught.
23th day of the 7th month of 1735. - South west wind, bad winds as usual. Reached hot current as Birgus mentioned. A polar bear was sighted, Almara said it was a good omen. A sign of richness to come said Rakmar. It was a great beast anyhow. 15,5 miles to the east, we are moving fast.
24th day of the 7th month of 1735. - South wind, no ice. 18 miles East.
25th day of the 7th month of 1735. - Small breeze to the S-W. 24 miles N-E, good speed. Nothing special.
26th day of the 7th month of 1735. - South east wind, navigation east in warm waters, 30 miles, dark clouds on the horizon. Caught in storm!!! Ship heavily damaged!!!! Must repair. In great danger. Nothing we can do in that storm for now. Morale is tested.
27th day of the 7th month of 1735. - Storm rage! My life is in the hands of the gods. Perhaps it was not meant to be.
Vek Shalecrusher journal, Shalecrusher hall, 4th day of the 4th month of 1736.- Family counsel decided to consider Rakmar dead. Nobody knows what happened. To be sure, he never reached the trading post. A symbolic ceremony will be held in the crypt. His statue had already been commissioned. I feel sad, so many empty coffins in our family. 

So what went wrong? Simple: the way we played, the sea encounters were unavoidable, once rolled you could only endure them and record the ship damages, there was no place for player skill or agency. 

How it happened? In our hexcrawls the group often run away from encounters, but there on the sea, maybe because some encounters are presented as events (like the storm), we din't consider that the option to avoid encounters (or to run away from them) had to be clearly present. 

I should had described signs of the incoming encounters and offered the player the option of navigating into a different hex to avoid them or to run away from them. Having to change course is a good consequence on the Weird New World map. This way you can naturally get lost, etc. 

We talked about retrying the venture. But we ended up wishing to play the same premise with Burning Wheel to see the the BW dwarfs beliefs and greed conflict with each other. Playing a all dwarfs BW campaign have been on our wish list for a time now. Oh, I just can smile at how Hammers of the God woul challenge those dwarfs beliefs! :D.

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