I made some semi-complete concepts for the characters of Jan and Alex which they got to flesh out, and we dished out relevant skills and abilities based on these concepts.
Ymir, the prodigal son/berserker prince who had been tasked by his father Jorm to find a mystical dagger which was said to bring fortune to his village and its people. Ymir’s people have a close connection to the raven religion and they worship Corvus, a specific aspect of the raven. Ymir came from a village in the north of Ravenland which consisted of about 200 people. He had primarily left his father Jorm, his brother Mimer and his fiancee Gweyn. He had not left things in a good state with his brother Mimer, since Mimer was often jealous of his much more "impressive specimen of a man" brother, and was not as strongly built as Ymir. Ymir decided to be a Two-handed axe wielding berserker with quite impressive fighting skills.
Hakon, the maniacal blood mage/scholar who had joined Ymir in his quest. Hakon is plagued by a growing insanity from decades of studying ways to counter dark forces, and staring a little too far into “the void”. Maybe it was his insanity that allowed him to sense a disturbing presence in the dagger, and based on the legends recounted by Ymir regarding his village, Hakon suspected more foul things await them when they returned there. Hakon was not that proficient in fighting, using his staff to trip people. However, he had 6 intelligence and 5 in Lore (A bit of a mistake on my part since he was a human that should not be able to reach so much INT).
Before the actual session:
Ymir is around 23 years old and has been on a 2 year quest to find the dagger. He had a group of intrepid followers that have been lost along the way due to several incidents (One died protecting him, another was killed trying to rob him, a third thought the allure of civilisation was more interesting etc).
It was decided that before the session started that Ymir and Hakon had located the dagger. They had reached an ancient temple where a medusa had been present, guarding the dagger. There had been some cultists serving the medusa as well as rival adventurers. The details where not fully fleshed out, but through it all Ymir had claimed the dagger and Hakon had become an ally to Ymir, anxious to learn what lay in their destiny.
The adventure begins - A not so merry welcome:
Hakon and Ymir are riding towards the home village of Ymir: Axheim (This name was actually thought of at the very end of the session). It is nighttime during the autumn which paints a slightly gloomy and scary scene.
As the heroes approach the town and Ymir is dreaming about his heroic return Hakon notices some sort of beast is moving in the forest. He thinks it is a nightwolf, a creature that is present when magical darkness is near.
Hakon and Ymir decides to flee the creature and are then greeted with another disturbing scene. Three figures that seem like humanoids are moving in a twisted and sordid way. It seems to be three humans. Ymir also notices that there seems to be a bigger creature skulking in a jerky and unnatural way further into the forest, dragging a huge weapon behind it.
Both unsettled, they decide to skirt the creature and Ymir decides to move towards the people, which Hakon finds ill advised. Ymir firmly greets them: “Hey, who is going there?”. He then recognizes the figures to be the tanner Freyd and his wife and child, but they have grotesque shapes, with dark veins protruding from their skin. They seem to move in a bizarre dance like movement. When Ymir approaches them they seem to want to attack him so Hakon and Ymir decide to ride away from there. One of the figures is Freyd's 12 year old daughter who almost manages to jump up to and catch Hakon as he was making his escape.
They approach the village, but it seems less populated and less lively than when Ymir left 2 years ago. There are also runes surrounding the perimeter of the village and guard towers seem to have been erected around the village. Hakon finds the runes disturbing and recognizes them as having some connection with blood- and demon magic. He cannot say whether they are beneficial or harmful.
They are greeted by guards who asks who they are, and while it is not exactly a merry welcome Ymir is soon recognised. It is also noticed that several of the guards carry strange amulets and ornaments symbolising snakes.
A reunion (Of sorts):
Soon the city starts to take notice that a visitor approaches. Additionally there is a group of people dressed in beautiful green clothes approaching from the centre of the village. Ymir recognises the slender smiling man in the middle of the group as Mimir, his brother, clad in fine snake-like clothes as well as amulets and rings showcasing a clear serpentine theme.
Mimir greets the two newly arrived and asks them to join him in his residence. Ymir senses that something is very wrong with this situation, Mimir acts with a level of contempt and confidence he has not had before (Alex rolled three 6’s on a insight roll).
Mimir offers some beer in his very impressive residence. It appears he has let build a residence rivaling the chieftain father’s that is filled with snake ornaments and paintings of snakes, some a bit grotesque and twisted compared to regular snakes. Mimir tells a grim tale, apparently a “darkening” started about a year ago. Mimir claims that the village seer Aegon foresaw dark things around this time. People started disappearing due to the darkening, returning as twisted fiends, similar to the way Freyd had been twisted. However, a vision came to Mimir, he saw a form of the snake god named Garm whose call he heeded. Ymir questions this, as this village has always heeded the raven god Corvus, but Mimir claims that following Garm was the only way to protect the village from more disappearances.
- Both players roll insight rolls at this point and can clearly establish that Mimir is hiding something.
The players have more questions and as they talk to Mimir they learn the following:
- Aegon is no more. He was one of the first victims of “the darkening”.
- Freyd the tanner, had disagreements with Mimir so he had moved away from the “safe zone” as Mimir labeled it, which was why his family was transformed. Mimir could no longer protect them.
- Ymir wants to know where the “Honorary Ravens” are, the elite warriors of the village. Mimir claims several of them have been killed or have simply turned to drinking or ineptitude.
- Jorm, the father of Ymir and Mimir, is very ill, and is being cared for by the healer Lo.
Karl seems to be a quite terse and scarred warrior, with an imposing build and menacing aura to him. He leads Hakon and Ymir to where Jorm is being treated.
They are led through the village. Several people are now starting to take notice, children are saying “Ymir is back!” in happy exclamations but there is some trepidation as well. Mimir’s snake warriors seem to scare off several potential greeters. Ymir notices that some of the snake soldiers are people he does not recognize as native to the village.
They come to the chief’s residence and are greeted by the healer Lo. She seem to be carrying snake ornaments as well, and has rings that look like snake fangs. Lo says to Karl that there should be no visitors but Hakon starts doing an intense maneuver:
“Greetings! How pleased I am to make the acquaintance of an esteemed scholar like myself. Please regale me with your insights into the wonderful art of medicine! What school do you practice!?”. He practically assaults the woman with what can be described as violent and manic acts of greetings and curiosity.
While Lo is distracted Ymir takes the opportunity to explore the chieftains residence. It appears to be empty, although he finds a room with bottles and liquids and some dirty bedclothes. It looks like someone might have been cared for in there, but now the room lies empty. Further into the residence there is a locked door.
As Hakon talks to Lo outside, the soldier Karl starts moving towards him menacingly.
Now things gets a bit hectic. Karl shoves Hakon into the chieftains residence, Ymir returns to the entrance and someone (Or… something) starts SLAMMING on the other side of the locked door.
A combat ensues, and the healer Lo bares snakelike fangs. Lo and Hakon both cast “immolate” across this battle but are dispelled by each other. While Lo’s incantations are determined and arcane, Hakon’s is a prattle of loud, frantic gibberish. In the other room, Karl attacks Ymir but Ymir manages to dodge. Ymir shows his prowess with an axe as he lands automatic critical hits. He first lands “damaged eye” and finishes the fight decisively with “Cut jugular” resulting in Karl bleeding to death on the floor.
During the fight the locked door smashes open. It is a sad and deformed figure that moves towards Ymir and it clearly has the crest and sigil of Ymir’s father leaving little doubt as to who the creature once was. Ymir is shocked by this development and screams up into the air “MIMIIIIIIIR!!!!!”.
After Lo and Hakon fail to do any real damage to anything, Hakon decides to grab Lo and hold her to the ground which initially fails. Staring the snakelike creature in the eyes, he activates his Pride that “he dares to stare into and stand against the darkness”, and succeeds in bearhugging her into submission. Ymir does not want to kill his father despite his transformed state so tries to use the blunt side of his axe. After several successful hits on the creature's head and torso the creature takes pause and looks pathetic as it kneels before Ymir.
As he grabs Lo, Hakon starts to question her as to what’s really going on, but the scene turns dramatic as Jorm tries to talk. He grunts forward painfully “Save… Gweyn”. He says this several times and then lets out: “Kill… me”.
Ymir is clearly distraught by this but as he hesitates Jorm starts losing control and grimaces menacingly once more. Ymir says “May the holy raven guide you forward as I send you into the final rest” Then Ymir decapitates his father. Lo screams in protest to this, and exclaims that Ymir has not let Jorm transform gloriously into his true form.
Ymir is heartbroken and furious. He moves towards Lo with dark purpose. Alex states his intent of killing Lo with his bare hands. Hakon stands in the way of this, saying they can’t kill her since she is their only lead. I make a ruling for this: Ymir has 4 CHARISMA, and get +2 since he want to use his bare hands to kill her and an additional +2 since Hakon stands in the way. He gets thre 6’s so he shoves Hakon aside and start to strangle her but soon gives up as he realizes he is not coldhearted enough.
Hakon uses the attack as leverage to question the healer “if you don’t co-operate, I’ll let Ymir take over”. She is quite talkative (I wanted to move forward the plot quite fast, but I might have overdone it here). They learned the following.
- It is in fact Mimir who have caused the “darkening”. It seems he has needed test subjects to achieve some sort of dark goal
- Mimir has found a secret sacred temple that is a link to the snake god Garm
- Lo and several others also worship this god, and when Mimir accessed this temple it was like a beacon being lit summoning more worshippers
- Mimir wanted to turn the father Jorm into something magnificent, and it seems the cult of Garm wants to turn themselves into shapes closer to Garm
Ymir knows of a back door to the residence, which seems prudent to use since there can now be heard activity from outside the building. It seems soldiers and villagers approaches the chief residence.
The heroes manage to sneak past the guards. However outside Ymir recognises someone that seems friendly. It is Katarina, a prominent healer in the village and she notices the heroes. The heroes start talking with Katarina, but only after knocking out Lo with Hakon’s staff since she tries to contact the guards.
Katarina is with a group in the village who does not trust Mimir. She and those with her are at a lonesome place in a hidden valley outside the village. She does stress that she is worried about Gweyn, Mimir has tried to make advances towards her numerous times and she saw that several of Mimir’s men neared her and her family’s residence not long ago.
Katarina leads the heroes to two men standing by three horses. They send one horse away with Lo to the hideout Katarina knows of. Apparently Katarina knows several of the honor Ravens which stay at the hideout, and they can make Lo tell them of the secret temple Mimir uses to worship Garm albeit with quite brutal methods. The heroes will use the remaining two horses for transport.
At Gweyn’s and her family’s residence a battle has taken place. They see the house is on fire and guards from the city are fighting among each other. It seems some warriors are loyal to Bjorn, the father of Gweyn while others are loyal to Mimir. Hakon remarks that “this is starting to feel like we’re starting a civil war” and tries to urge people not to kill each other. “What would be the point of saving a village where everyone’s dead?” he asks to deaf ears.
Ymir sees Mimir and some of his men leading Gweyn away. Mimir sees Ymir and puts up a confident smile. As Gweyn struggles one of his men knocks her out cold. The same soldier puts Gweyn on his horse and ride away, and since he is a rider I pay one WP and says he manages to automatically flee. Mimir, however, is still possible to reach as he is not as skilled a rider.
Ymir sets off. He uses his axe to cut down one snake soldier on the way. Hakon remains behind and tries to even out the fight outside where Bjorn and Mara, the father and mother of Gweyn, live. He casts immolate on one of the soldiers which sends him screaming and burning, away from the fight. The actions of Hakon and Ymir is enough to turn the battle in favor of the raven loyalists.
Ymir rides through the forest screaming for his brother. Mimir exclaims “How do you like your homecoming brother. Not the hero’s welcome you imagined eh?” as he laughs.
Ymir slowly starts gaining ground on Mimir so Mimir does something unexpected. He throws out a snake like shape that explodes in a colourful way. It manages to frighten Ymir’s horse. However, I also get a mishap which leads to the same spell affecting Mimir’s horse! Both riders are forced to continue this chase on foot! However, I use my last 2 WP to give Mimir faster movement. Ymir tries to run up to Mimir but sees him take giant leaps through the woods.
Note: I thought about Mimir shapeshifting here. He could turn into a snake and slither away, but that could have resulted in a too abrupt end to the story as Ymir hacked him to death.
Ymir is disappointed he missed Mimir, but returns to where the battle was won. Now more people are reacting to Ymir's arrival. Some are still hesitant, believing that Mimir will deliver them from the crisis and that Ymir is simply complicating things. The following things happen now:
- Ymir holds a rousing speech for the people of Axheim. It has some success and Hakon wants to press the point that they should not kill more members of their clan, they have all been misled by Mimir. But not many listen to this, they want blood.
- Simone is one of the snake soldiers that fought against the Raven loyalists, and she is also a former Honor Raven. Ymir gives her a chance to redeem herself and she joins the heroes. She says her brother was lost to the darkening and she felt she needed to trust Mimir since no one else seemed able to protect them.
- Katarina heals some of the wounded and is then sent to find out if the interrogation of Lo has yielded the location of the Garm temple. Hakon is disappointed that he didn’t get to question the snake-woman himself, but Ymir makes a point that they should find out more about the situation at Mimir’s residence.
- Hakon and Ymir goes to rummage through the residence of Mimir to find the source of the “darkening”.
- Everyone else will scour the village for people loyal to the raven, and prepare them for battle.
It is clear Mimir has let his jealousy and feelings of inferiority completely take root. He desires Gweyn, and hate Ymir for having the love and respect of their father. He killed Aegon the seer so he could replace him as the spiritual leader of the clan and then started to use people that opposed him in experiments meant to aid him in finding ways to transform himself and others. It is also clear however that he needs more time, and it seems his brother’s return has been an inopportune moment for Mimir. He apparently want to transfrom Gweyn into a more "suitable form" so she will bend to his will.
Katarina returns to the town with a location, and with Lo in tow. The interrogation “turned sour” she says, and it’s clear that the beat-up medicine woman is no longer sporting any fangs.
The location for the ritual is a temple in a crevice near a valley called “The Raven’s tears”. Ymir remembers he and his brother used to play there as children. Katarina also says that Mimir will also probably mount an attack on the village this evening, he said earlier today that he sensed the darkening would manifest in the worst way yet this very evening.
Hakon and Ymir round up about 30 fight-able men and women along with 6 honor ravens (Including Simone). The remaining people are instructed to help anyone still in the village flee in an organized manner when the monsters attack.
The group travels during the evening and eventually reach the outskirts of the temple. They see guards and monsters patrol outside. They instruct the regular fighters to try to distract the main force outside the temple while Hakon, Ymir, Simone and the honor Ravens go inside the temple. The group manages to kill some guards as they sneak inside.
Inside the temple are many dark ornaments that are quite disturbing, where some resemble snakes but others resemble more grotesque and alien forms. Mimir is clad in a ceremonial robe, with a helmet extending into a bizarre snakelike form. He has 4 snake soldiers with him and a huge, grotesque beast that seems to be the combination of several corpses carrying a big sword. Hakon and Ymir recognise this as the creature they rode past in the forest earlier today when they reached Axheim. Hakon identifies the creature as a crude attempt to recreate a "Death Knight": A creature resistant to regular arms but magical weapons can be more effective. In the center of the room is an altar that Gweyn is lying on, tied and unconscious in a ceremonial robe. There are tubes of liquids and strange crystals around the altar. Behind the altar is a huge statue with a grotesque, otherwordly shape that suggests a snakelike form. There are also holes in the floor where there can be seen a moving, slithering black mass which is quite disturbing. They resemble the creature Ymir hacked to death in Mimir's residence.
The heroes oversee this from an alcove and the plan is this: Ymir will walk in and confront his brother. When he says “For Corvus” Simone will attack the grotesque monster with the mysterious dagger that will be more effective against it and she will be assisted by one honor raven. The remaining ravens will attack the snake guards. Hakon blesses Ymir against magic spells, and will then assist with what magic he has (He had 1 WP left) while Ymir will focus on Mimir.
The group gets ready for their positions and Ymir walks in to the center of the room and screams “Mimir!!!”. Mimir smiles at this and indulges Ymir. “Welcome brother, I am glad you could make it. Did you appreciate what I did with father? An improvement I would say”. Ymir asks why Mimir has done this, which tilts Mimir: “Oh the peeerfect Ymir, always so strong and brave was sent to save the village. I was always inferior, always scorned! Now I have the means to turn the people of our village to more suitable beings that can serve my will!”.
It goes on for a bit but eventually Ymir says “For Corvus” which initiates the fight.
The ravens manage to kill one snake soldier. However in the battle between brothers it first seems desperate. Mimir turns one of his arms temporarily into a tentacle, and does three automatic damage on Ymir (With my last WP points). However, as Ymir rolls three 1s I give him a dramatic choice. He can choose to negate the damage but then he loses ALL his armor. He accepts so we describe how there is a corrosive element to the tentacle attack and Ymir must take off his armor.
Simone dances around the grotesque monster but the monster manages to throw away one raven soldier. Ymir trips up his brother to prepare a killing blow, meaning the raven flies over Mimir.
The round ends with Ymer getting a resounding hit with 6 damage on Mimir. I describe how Mimir tries to get up and Ymer gets a perfect swing, cutting Mimir’s head cleanly off. The head flies in an arch of blood and gore down into the pool of black mass.
The following turn a horrible thing happens. From the pool a giant monstrous snakelike head that is black and terrifying emerges. Ymer is almost put into insanity, but he still has 1 point of INT left. The appearance of the monster gives a morality boost to the snake soldiers who kills one honor raven.
Hakon cackles maniacally and cuts himself (even though blood isn’t a necessary component for the spell), trying to cast “bind demon” on the snake creature with his last 1 WP. An interesting use of the spell which I allow, but the snake creature passes its insight roll and is thus unaffected.
Towards the end of the fight the grotesque undead beast manages to crush the windpipe of the raven it threw earlier but Simone manage to cut and chop at it so many times that it eventually just falls down into a heap of flesh and grotesque liquids, emanating an unseemly smell. It is defeated.
The snake tries several times to hit Ymir, and manages to land one hit in his side. At one dramatic point it tries to swallow Ymir whole crashing down, but Ymir rolls away, leaving a part of the floor crushed open showcasing more of the slithering black mass beneath. Ymir manages to cut the snake over the mouth once, spraying blood all over him. He cuts several times at the snake, but does from a spin move from the snake head go down to 1 STR. However as Ymir does one last attack it does enough damage so I say: “Narrate how the beast dies”.
Ymir’s player draws off his final WP to allow himself to enter berserk mode. He narrates how Ymir leaps up on the head of the snake doing impressive swings on its head. Then he uses his fist to punch into the eye on the Snake repeatedly (Claiming he “Kratoses” the snake, a reference to the god of war games) until it is just a bloody pulp left.
Ymir jumps off the now dead snake creature, whose body is slowly being drawn back into the black hole. The temple starts to rumble and Hakon cuts Gweyn free as they all run away from the scene. One honor raven + Simone and one snake soldier survived, and they manage to get out as the temple gets destroyed among the cliffs.
This was a blast, we have not really done "one shots" before. I generally thought out a skeleton of a story with character concepts but Jan and Alex had much input on things in the story. Overall we had the following thoughts:
- The battle in the chief residence took a very long time. It is strange because there were quite few combatants. We discussed whether for the flow of the story it is more important to insert more "easier" fights rather than to have a few "even" fights since the even fights can drag on for so long. The final battle was definitely shorter and it had way more elements in it.
- Alex dislike the amount of dice rolled in free league games and feel that characters are "glass cannons dealing a lot of damage". I like the free league system but can sort of understand why he would say this
- Overall Alex and Jan liked the story, they urged me to make decisions towards the end that were beneficial for the "pace" of the adventure. One thing we noticed was that the inclusion of Gweyn the "damsel in distress" was completely unnecessary, since there was enough motivation to visit the snake temple already.