Sunday 23 January 2022

Dead Steps

To some, walking is a sacred act. One foot placed in front of the other, a rhythmic homage to the first steps the gods took upon the cooling earth.

Most people just don't think about it that much, but even so: there is an undeniable exchange between land and traveller. A resistance, a partnership. Step upon the soil and it presses back—alive, tangible.

That is, except for a dead step.

* * *

"Why are we stopping?" Aram asked, but his voice trailed off. Before he had even finished the sentence, he felt it. A drop in his stomach, the prickle of anxious sweat.

Behind him, one of the mules groaned as the feeling passed down the line. Someone closer to the front let out a cry.

What's happening? Aram looked up and down the line. The feeling of loss was palpable. Have we forgotten someone? He counted the party.. twelve.. thirteen forms bundled against the blowing snow. The mules. All here. He jostled his canteen. Still full.

He tried to rally himself against the feeling of dread. "All is well, all is well," but no. There, at the front, others had started to back away from Salia.

Aram's eyes darted across their faces. All were staring, mouths in silent motion: dismay, disappointment, disgust. Salia herself was motionless, staring at her right boot.

The last step she had taken had started like any other. But somehow seeing it there, planted on the ground just so, grief filled him.

If it's going to be like this, why did we even come?

* * *

d6The dead step portends..
A ley line eddy. Everywhere the subtle energies flow to and fro, but here they are caught.. not still but oscillating, trapped. Frantic. Cast it from your mind and leave this place! To contemplate the errors of the gods brings only doom.
A border between the Powers. Every place is ruled by something, but here you stand upon a boundary. Anathema, the lands on either side do not touch, and here is a seam that descends to the very roots of the earth.
An end. Below the ground are the remains of a hero. They set out on a quest that was the last hope of many people, and yet here they died. No great duel or mighty task laid them low, merely an accident. A wineskin left uncorked; an infected cut; a map carelessly left at camp. So great is the shame that chance could end the lives of so many, the wind itself has tried to cover their bones.
A sacrifice. The gods walked the young earth, completing it and setting in motion its destiny. But here, no god has ever stood. This inch of the earth is still new. You could complete it and send it on its way! A great pattern of your choosing could begin here, but at what cost? 
A door. The joy of the land is seeping out of a crack. With the right tool it could be forced open.
The end of all things. One day, Sorg's hunger will have claimed all of creation. The last of the luminous void will close as crags and seething forests fill all seven ways of the sky, an ocean of stone leaving no place for life. When it does, Sorg will turn upon itself. A decay will begin, an eternity of lightness, crumbling caverns until all that' left is dust and darkness. You have found the place where it begins.

Monday 17 January 2022

After the Lords of Memory v0.23

After a very long hiatus, here's a new version of my home system, After the Lords of Memory.

After the Lords of Memory v0.23

If you haven't followed along:

Like many games, probably, the impetus for writing it lies somewhere between an elaborate preparation for a specific campaign and a laborious expression of my preferences.

This version is massively cut down from the previous version (which was nearly 80 pages). I work in expand/contract phases, and what I'd left myself was a core system smothered in a big, bloated pile of half-written subsystems.

Inspired by the wave of chopped-down, very short systems like World of Dungeons, Knave, and so on, this is me clearing the decks, keeping only what is definitely the solid core. Something small enough to share (possibly even right on game night) and clearly communicate expectations.

This is not a "complete" game. There's nothing on creatures, buying things, treasure, or moving around in the wilderness. (All that is left to the GM.) Nor is the text edited!

This version still doesn't meet all of my original design goals. As I summarized in 2019:

The core works, it's been playtested in a home game over a period of years--you can make characters, take them places, adventure, fight, advance, get injured and so on.

However, the whole point of writing this game was to enable a particular campaign style, and that hasn't emerged organically from my playtest campaign. If you read the design goals post, essentially what you get is a fairly simple, theatre-of-the-mind game where grubby villagers go forth and either die or become heroes. You don't get geographic advancement.

However, this does feel like a chassis to heading towards them once more.

First up, Rituals. One of the (aspirational) sources of geographic advancement are the secret demands that players. These were just buried by complexity. In this version, hopefully, they'll operate a little more like the player-facing quest generator they were meant to.

Anyways, here we are for now!