Trail of Sky and Fire

Chapter Two: The Endless Field of All Eternity

Summary

In what is quite possibly the worst game i've ever run ever in my life, David and I sat down to play a game of Storming that resulted in two one shots and a field that stretched longer than Rainbow Road merged with Galactus.

So let's start this out easy: The beginning was where it all started to go wrong. I was jumping at the chance to run a game. Chapter one was droll. It had as much life as a wet fart. But it wasn't dead, or evil, or warped (all this would change). The campaign was off, not with a bang, but not with a collapse, either. I pitched the chance to hit session two…trumped by love. Mac and Lu decided to co-mingle the way youngsters do when they're happily enthralled with each other. That left me and and the wizard to team up against the next threat scattered in our path by the Wizard of the Yet Unpublished Next Level. What did this mean? I didn't have a game. I sure as Botch Dice wasn't going to use the one i'd been fermenting in my sub-conscious all week. Heck, no! I needed that one! So…hey…i says to myself…why not just…you know…whip one out. Like all these Indie Gamers are saying they do. "Why, I never prep more than five to ten seconds worth of game before i run!" (usually they're wearing a monicle and smoking a bubble pipe as they tell me this.) In times past i've tried running such games. In five to ten minutes i've usually gotten something like this:
[note]
"There's this guy, but he's got hooks for eyes…no…feet…but then who's going to kill the chicken? Wait…what was i doing with the chicken? Oh! He was going to hang…no…he was hanging on the…wait…
[/note]
Which often leads to games where Chicken riders are killed by a hook monster and the players kill themselves afterward (IRL) because i suck so bad they'd rather make out with C'Thulu before they join another one of my campaigns.

So. First Mistake: I thought i could come up with something good while riding the 48 north in the rain. This was not true.

Meanwhile i arrived at Skull Mountain, home of the Ninja and the Wizard, with little sanity left. Every time you have to wait on the 48 you loose a little bit of your soul, btw. But the real magic happened at Character Creation. I'd gained a bit of pride, you see, coming up with a nice list of Spells for the game. Spells that, as i now realize, do not work. Creativity is one thing. Mechanics are another. So David rolls up a character with the sum total in his stats being less than the fingers on his hand. We looked at this retard and thought, "Hm… maybe he's the tribal idiot?" then, "We're not going to play this guy. Especially not on a night when you're the only player and your only ability is tactician. Roll another character." That time he did okay, getting a slightly weaker version of the guy he was originally going to play.

And we're off! How should a winner like me start out a game? Like i always do. With an action scene. His character, unaware of the events that transpired last game, comes riding back to the Tribe from a scouting mission along the trail. As he approaches…wolves! Cursed wolves! With all these amazing details i put into how they look and what that means for the overall theme!

David rolls his dice! I only made one wolf! It dies in one blow!

Fight…over…

Okay. The..uh…other wolves…they all run away. You scared them pretty bad (?)…

Second Mistake: Don't make Monsters that suck.

If this all sounds mediocre then great. At this point it is mediocre. A shining, happy, wondrous place compared to where we'll go next. Remember this blessed mediocre feel. You will be parched for it later.

Because next up is the 'finding out what's going on' part of the game. And there's a way this happens in StWT. It's not your typical "Go from person to person, listening to their dialog and wishing you could hit the B button." It encourages and supports an elaborate method of planting elements of truth throughout a host of characters, so that your chances to interrogate them with Perception and Command lead to a relevant working through the mystery the players half carve out of the story with you. A good way to kill this is to have an entire tribe of people that don't know shit. And one person as guilty as sin. Then have that person glare at the only player character in the game as he rides into the scene. What happens? The PC says, "that jerk knows something." Turns out she did. Turns out she was the only one that did. And, moreover, she knew everything. So after wasting, oh, half a minute talking to his Chief, David wanders right up the only person keeping any secrets and begins to drop Command rolls on her like a carpet bombing raid. What could have been a revelation of a series of events revolving around unrequited love, adultery, the death of innocents, and the exile of a huntress became, "I called them wolves. Sorry." and "Then i'm going to go and kill them. And you're dumb."

But, since i was born and raised on the railroad, i knew the scene planted in my brain had to happen. So David gave it to me, and didn't tie the woman to a tree for being the sole reason cursed beasts were killing her tribe. Instead he let her wander into the next plot point. What a participationist! And how do i reward him? With painful stupidity.

Third Mistake: Mysteries should involve more than one character that knows more than one thing. Typically with 'motivations' and 'explanations' and 'backstory.' You know. Not a volunteer moron raising their hand in camp and shouting "Can you please confront me for bringing hell down on our family?"

Now…here's where it get's awesome. And i mean that in the kind of "Ragnarok will make you die with a gaping mouth of shocked painful awe" kind of awesome. This is not Bill'n'Ted awesome. This is "Satan just vaporized your genitals with a weedwhacker" awesome. I'd built this nifty feature into the game, you see, one of the coolest aspects of StWT. It's where you roll up a Terrain instead of a Monster proper. They're not fighting to fell the beast, you see, they're attempting to traverse the Terrain.

And for some reason, i thought this would be too easy. So i bolstered it. The Terrain had zero Red Dice (attack dice) and only a couple of special abilities. One allowed the 'group traversal boxes' to be tripled, meaning it would take triple the successes to cross the whole thing. Then i gave it 'armor' which adds blue dice, meaning you have to roll a lot of hits to even check off one of those boxes.

To set the scene i have one of the younger pathfinders ride into the camp as the howling of the wolves begins again. The moon is starting to crest the horizon, it's late, the night is eerie. The pathfinder is wounded, bleeding badly from a wolfbit…before she passes out in David's arms she says, "They have her…tied to a kairn…covered in Wolf's Bait…a little…girl…" David knew who it was, and who had done it. "I'm going to kill her," he mutters, but first mounts his faithful steed and spurs into the darkness to reclaim the lost child left for dead among the wolves.

He rolls his attack against the terrain.
No hits.
He rolls his attack against the terrain.
No hits.

This continued for literally forty five minutes. We rolled those damned D6's until our fingers were bruised and pip-marks covered our palms. All i had left in me at this point was to keep saying, "You ride more." "You ride more?" What the hell was i thinking? Was this girl tied to a rock on Pluto? Did they rocket her to the Space Wolf System? Where was Yoda? He's the Buffalo Hunter that made the Kessel Run in under one billion parsecs. On a gorram horse. WFT?!? Being the indefinably more retarded GM than even you could guess at this point, i allowed this to persist like a genetic heritage. Trees died of extinction before we were done 'traversing the terrain'. Let's not forget, too, that it was just a friggin' rock field. Not like a chasm or a slope of molten rock pouring out of a thundering volcano. No. He rolled for forty five minutes to get lucky against a field. He one-shots the lead wolf of a daemonic pack. But fields? Thems tough.

Fourth Mistake: Don'tDON'Tmake stupid, stupid monsters. LEARN TO MAKE GOOD MONSTERS.

I'll be honest. There wasn't much time left after that. We talked out the rest of the game while i nursed what little i had left of a human soul. I told him that the woman finally confesses everything when he gets back (while David mentally jammed the B button on her dialog like he was just knocked down in Mike Tyson's Punch Out.) So we skipped it, to be honest. I told him that he goes to the mountains to meet the Wolf Lord, who tells him some of her cubs betrayed her to join a 'Horned Man' offering them power. Then he goes and kills those wolfs. For some reason. I don't know why. But they were being led by a pack leader, so David fought them in a cave, surrounded by Wolves, killing their leader and ending the curse that empowered them. After the pack leader died the rest ran into the night and the truce between the Blackfoot and the wolfpacks resumed.

All in all it wasn't the worst experience i've ever had. Some sort of humor-based-bad-kharma made it utterly unavoidable for me to not audibly fart every time the elder female character called "Gentle Thunder" came into the story. I don't have to explain what kinds of joke emerged from that coincidence. And i'd say it wasn't all bad. You do reach a point in the night where all the stress of what's coming on Monday morning, and the fear-factor of knowing you'll have to run the chapter that comes after this monstrosity, all blur into a sort of drunk-like state. It's like being up too late into the morning. Someone says, "I dubba stood," and even though it's a sign of mental breakdown, and doesn't have any meaning what-so-ever, you laugh like a Novocaine junkie.

Treasures

(a rough sketch)

A pact with the Wolf Lord between Blackfoot and the Wolfpacks of the Northwest.

Observations

—First Mistake: I thought i could come up with something good while riding the 48 north in the rain. This was not true.

—Second Mistake: Don't make Monsters that suck.

—Third Mistake: Mysteries should involve more than one character that knows more than one thing. Typically with 'motivations' and 'explanations' and 'backstory.' You know. Not a volunteer moron raising their hand in camp and shouting "Can you please confront me for bringing hell down on our family?"

Fourth Mistake: Don'tDON'T—make stupid, stupid monsters. LEARN TO MAKE GOOD MONSTERS.


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