We tried an experimental rule, and it partly worked. During action sequences, rather than having me “buy” dice from them (Giving me Danger Points and them Hero Points) they had the option to spend unused dice as soft failures. That is, they were treated as raises in terms of when the character could act, but the player was obliged to describe their character failing in some way (ideally an awesome or funny way). When they did so, I got a DP and they got an HP.
It mostly worked. It meant more actions (including failures) which slowed things down a little, but it also introduced a little bit of interesting decision making regarding when to take a failure. The main concern we had was that it’s technically abusable by allowing a player to opt to take a BUNCH of failures, but that is reasonably easily mitigated by demanding players optimize their success building. If it’s still a problem after that, then I’ll consider switching to allowing only a single incident. But with those considerations, I’ll probably keep it around.
We started with a little background material, as I asked each player what they do and where they stay while in port. We got some nice background details out of that (unsurprisingly including the names of a few drinking establishments), but the most interesting bit came out of The Swordsman attempting to go to church. This was complicated the fact that he was a devout Castillean in the middle of very Objectionist Vendel. So we went to the dice and he ended up with the options Castillean, Honest or Safe: Pick one. He picked honest.
If he’d gone safe, I probably would have had him find the church where the local Vodacce mobsters go to church (which may not seem safe, but the mobsters take the church very seriously), so instead I improvised a bit and decided it was the improvised church of a group of Montaignians who had fled their country to what seemed the least bad option to them – the Vesten may be godless, but they don’t bother you so much about it. So they joined in that community’s church, and all seemed well, but at the end, an old man seemed to recognize The Swordsman, and said many things in Montaignian which neither he nor
The Acrobat could understand before saying, in Old Thean, “We Remember” and pressing a coin into The Swordsman’s hand. (EDIT: The Acrobat’s player has reminded me she has the Linguist advantage and could understand JUST FINE, but heard Montaigne and wandered off, bored. My players are wonderful).
And here, I note, is why I love my players. They are genre-sensitive enough that The Swordsman’s player knew perfectly well the coin was hooked into his Tragic Backstory, so he did not ask for any details about it. We understood what it signified, and details would not be important until they were important.
Anyway, having looked over the character’s stories, it was pretty clear we had another sailing voyage ahead of us. I dipped into the hooks from last session and laid out two things: Red had some cargo she wanted moved surreptitiously, and Lyonetta, the fate witch they’d smuggled into Vesten had encountered problems on the last leg of her journey (to Carleon) and needed help. Red’s mission was to Kirkwall (which, as a table, we agreed the Scot’s pronounce as “Kurkle”) but that would also bring them close enough to Carleone for help Lyonetta.
Planning the journey proved fun – because we were using a light patina of travel rules, the players could look at the map and figure out a few possible routes, I could talk about what they knew about each one, and they could make an informed decision. Realizing they lacked the loose cash for a very profitable trip to Kirkwall, they opted instead to load up on beer and stop over in “The Gut” (Gotkirschen, a wretched hive of scum and villainy atop a Syrneth ruin) because The Captain’s pirate ties meant he could come and go in relative safety. The thinking was the beer would sell well in the Gut and goods of dubious origin could often be acquired there at good prices.
And it mostly went according to plan, until a group of raiders decided that stealing the beer from the docked ship would be easier, and violence ensued.
It was OK Violence. One medium villain and a bunch of brutes – I didn’t flesh the villain out to much, but I did decide he did 2 wounds when he hit (because the dude was huge) which was a bit handwavey on my part, but seriously, this guy did not need a full sheet, or even a name. Also, the acrobat had some time to do damage before the fighting properly started, so there weren’t a huge number of Mooks either.
The most interesting thing about the fight is that it happened while The Professor was negotiating the sale of the beer, so I opted to take advantage of the raise structure to thread those scenes together, as if a TV camera was cutting between them. Thus, when other folks rolled their attack skills, she rolled for her negotiation, and every time turn order came around to her, the haggling proceeded, with her counterpart making a slightly better offer. As a result, the fight culminated with with villains fleeing and the Professor being offered two crates of Syrneth artifacts, and who says no to that?
They took the Artifacts, and spent the last of their pennies on a shipment of linen of dubious value, but had some “legitimate” cargo to take to Kirkwall. And so they did, and that also went well, until the sea monster attacked.
It was a Kraken style thing, so they were mostly fighting tentacles. The Professor had a lovely moment where she severed one and got covered in black ink. The captain went below decks and removed the chains on the port side cannons, causing the whole ship to list to starboard far enough that the cannons were angled down towards the creature. And then, of course, the Earth Shattering Kaboom.
Naturally, as it slipped beneath the waves, it had several crewmen in its tentacles, something that was an invitation to the Swordsman whose story’s 4th step was to sacrifice himself for the crew. He cut one guy free, pinned another in place with a belaying pin, and jumped over the side after the last, emerging with him after a suitably dramatic pause, and pretty well loaded up with injuries.
So it was that a very badly wounded ship limped into Kirkwall. The secret sale of Red’s goods went seamlessly, but they had to take some precautions to not get ambushed selling off their Linen. They could probably have sold the Syrneth artifacts here, but they would go for much more in Montaigne or Vodacce, so that would have to wait. As the session ended, they had enough money to get the ship afloat, but not enough to repair her fully (or buy any new cargo, though they did pay the crew, because responsibilities) so next session we get to find out what goes wrong next.
It was a good session, though not as strong as the first. I hadn’t planned on them going to The Gut, so it had a little bit less of a sense of place than I would have liked, but I did fair service to the character’s stories, so I’m happy with that.