The Gratitude of Princes, Scene 2: Jalizar, March 2510

Well, the players have proved very interested (excellent) and we moved on rapidly. As ever in PBEM though, there are a lot of exchanges per scene, and I won’t work through those here – in this post, I’ll focus on how I use Larger Than Life to drive the plot forwards.

At the end of scene 1, the patron – Prince Baaltasar – had commissioned the PCs to recover the Mandible of Xarigas from one Makis, purveyor of antiquities and curiousities. I decided to make things more interesting by having them turn up to find the House of Makis on fire, and Makis himself as a mangled body in the arms of a sobbing woman.

We’re now in a Story Advancing Scene, Scene 2, which means the PCs must succeed at a skill check of some kind to gain a clue. First, though, I roll 1d6 to see if the Big Bad is present. I roll a 3, so he is not (LTL p. 34). Incidentally, notice that I have no idea who the Big Bad is yet. I don’t need to know at this point. Strictly, I should now roll as per LTL p. 34 to find the person, but the scene above was so interesting I didn’t bother, and decided it counts as searcher passing 1d6 more than quarry.

One of the key lessons for this kind of thing is that story trumps rules.

The Star (PCs) must now make an Opposed Task Challenge to see if they retrieve the information. I decide this will be in two steps, and use Savage Worlds trait tests rather than the THW Challenge rules; first, the PCs must make a Healing roll to stabilise Makis, which will be hard as neither of them have Healing; then either a Persuasion roll (if he lives) or a Notice roll (if he does not) to gain a clue.

“Quick!” cries Bjorn. “Let us see if he still breathes and whether anything can be rescued from the blaze for ourselves or for the woman.”

Bjorn has specified trying to help Makis, so he rolls for Healing. Skill 1d4-2 gives him a result of 3-2 = 1, but as a Savage Worlds PC he also gets a Wild Die of 1d6. Rolling 1-2 = -1 doesn’t help him though, and Makis expires in his wife’s arms. No clue for Bjorn today.

“Elyena,” Makis chokes, “I’m so sorry… They didn’t believe me…” Then he dies.

Meanwhile, Ochirtani (whose Major Hindrance is Curiousity) is ferreting about and makes a Notice roll. She gets a 3 on her skill die and a 4 on her Wild Die; a 4 on either one is a success, so she notices something useful. In LTL terms it doesn’t matter what, so I have a free hand, and decide it will be something left behind by Makis’ attackers. I decide to park that for now and see where they go next before I determine what the clue is.

Just for fun, I make a Notice roll for Bjorn as well – in PBEM and solo play I tend to roll Notice whenever there might be something interesting. Bjorn’s Major Hindrance is Greedy, so when he rolls a 6 followed by a 5 for his skill (Notice d6) and a 6 followed by a 2 for his Wild Die (1d6), I decide he has noticed Makis’ strongbox, filled with his savings. Elyena will be destitute without it, but Bjorn is Greedy – surely he deserves it more than she does? I like to give PCs moral choices.

Bjorn finds himself unable to meet Elyena’s eyes, and looks away, into the wreckage. His eye is drawn to the twinkle of silver; smashed open nearby is a small strongbox, with silver coins spilling out of it.

Anyway, while Bjorn is thinking about that, I roll on the Advance the Story table on p. 30; Star Rep (which I’ve decided counts as 4) + 2 x number of Clues (1) + 1d6 (5) = 11; they need more information from someone. Under the Rules As Written they should only get +1 per Clue, but in my experience that is too slow, so I usually double it. Both PCs are new to Jalizar, but they did request a slave guide from Baaltasar, so he can point them in the right direction.

I have no particular view of who the next person they talk to should be, so I roll 2d6 on the People List for a Metropolis and get a score of 3+3 = 6; a specialist. What should his special skill be? I prefer the SW skills list to the LTL one, so I roll randomly on the summary list of skills (SWD p. 44) using a d23(!) – OK, so it’s 1d4 + 1d6; 3 and 6 gives me an 18, which counting down the table is Streetwise. As Jalizar is the City of Thieves, I decide to introduce a criminal gang – the first name that comes to mind for these is the Fish Head Gang, inspired by a vaguely-remembered fantasy novel whose author and title escape me, and the contact they’re after will be called Furritus (Latin for “Little Thief”, and the origin of our word “ferret”).

Ochirtani, with the instincts of a hunter, squats by the couple. She notices a fish head discarded near Makis, and picks it up. A fish head, this far from the docks? Unusual. She also notices the slave blanch when she picks it up, and back away slightly.

By GM fiat, I’ve decided to keep the focus of this adventure in Jalizar, so the mandatory Travel Scene is the Stars moving to another part of the city on foot. Strictly speaking you can’t go to a Metropolis – which is what I’ve decided Jalizar is – on foot, but am I the GM or am I the GM? I roll for encounters (which occur on a roll of 1 on 1d6) and get a 2, so no encounters yet. I roll 1d6 to get the time of day for the next Story Advancing Scene, and get a 1: daytime. Now I have enough info to write the next in-character piece.

“What?” asks Ochirtani of the slave, whose name she has not yet asked, but which on a whim I decide is Erebus. She advances on him, waving the fish head. “This means something to you, yes? What is it?”

“The Fish Head Gang,” he stammers. “It is their mark, the one they leave to warn others.”

“I must know more about this,” she says, flatly. “Who can tell me? Can you?”

“N-no, master,” he says. (Ochirtani is in fact a girl, but since Valk men and women dress alike, and Valk men are known to be beardless, it’s an easy mistake to make. The voice is perhaps a bit feminine, but Erebus is not going to risk pointing that out to a demon-worshipping Valk with a scimitar.)

“Speak to Furritus, at the sign of the Brass Dragon. He will know.”

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