Monday, May 16, 2011

The Last Fleet: Exodus (Session One)

I've worked on and thought about this campaign for the last several weeks and we finally had session one. You cna find the lead up entries for this under the keyword "Last Fleet." PC names are in bold the first time they appear, NPCs in bold and italics. Ship names are in italics. I'm just going to apologize in advance for the tense shifts.

SESSION ONE
I’d laid set up the basic premise of the story over the past couple of weeks for the players- but written large, and now we came to the details of the thing. The people’s had been scattered by the Landfall. They stood now in the final days, on what ships they could find, pursued by the forces of Lord Sunforge. Among those scattered ships and peoples, rumors emerged of a way to go beyond the Stormwall, and so some flew desperately to a rendezvous, through dangerous and turbulent skies to the end of the world.

The camera pans in from among the constant thunderheads and clouds which roil from the stormwall. Waves of rain and the crackly of thunder, bolts of lightning illuminating the scene. We draw closer in on a dot, which resolves itself into a floating fortress. This was once a beacon post for the dwarves who surveyed the Stormwall. A flying longboat has pulled up to the dock of this ancient and decayed tower. In the rain and storm a party of Namir, cat-people, pour out and disperse along the walkways and stairs. They are led by Lira Moondawning. Their task is to pack magicite into the fortress- to create a magical bomb which might be used to slow Sunforge’s forces should they approach. Lira deals with the Arcanist Rodol Faithjester, who is to her eye perhaps a little rougher with the dangerous elements than she would like. Lira heads to the top of the tower as preparations are being made. As she watches, she makes out shapes approaching in the clouds. She has to decide- rush to prepare the explosion or hold off and perhaps lose the chance. She decides to wait- a lucky decision as it turns out- she see the last group of White Elf Wyvern Riders flying at top speed to return to the fleet- but they are pursued.

We switch to the Empath Whet Bloodlaced, clutching a package to himself, pushing his mount for greater speed. Only a few riders remain and the two White Elf warships which accompanied his mission fell days ago- he watched as his fellows tumbled into the sky but could do nothing. Sunforge’s forces have been doggedly pursuing them- Whet would turn around now, try to claim vengeance for his fallen father, but he has a more important mission. He holds the Twilight Key- an artifact of sufficient magic to power the device to allow the Fleet to escape. He must deliver that key to the grand Battleship, The Daughter of Woes. Behind him he hears the cries of the elemental hounds. Then Whet sees his two cousins, those who raised him since he was born without a twin. Flying beside him, they look at one another and then peel backwards, a sacrifice to buy him more time. Their mental death cries echo in his head, distracting him. The wildly flying mass of stone debris catches him and his mount and suddenly Whet finds himself falling into the storm, his Wyvern thrown. He cries out in desperation and his mount makes a desperate dive to catch him. Wounded and dazed, Whet presses on. However his course proves to be inauspicious, leading the pursing elementals straight into the Lunar Elven Ship, The Blooded Moon. Whet tries to close his mind from the screams as Lord Sunforge’s hunters tear the ship open behind him- he must deliver the key.

Aboard the Horn of Wrath, the secondary flagship, the elder goblin Dweena Squint awaits. In charge of supply and delivery, she’s assigned to lookout for the Twilight Key’s arrival. Then she see the Lunar Elf ship catch fire and tear apart- the enemy has arrived. In the flashes of lightning and battle she catches a glimpse of a Wyvern rider. Dweena activates her Sky-Squid and leaps out into the air currents. She weaves in between fleet vessels- panic has set in. They’re caught between Lord Sunforge’s forces and the Stormwall. Dweena finds the injured elf rider, bloodied and red, and catches the key from him before the crashes back to his own ship exhausted. Dweena delivers the key to the Daughter of Woes, but catches sight of a new problem. A rescue ark has arrived, rising up out of the clouds from below. The overfilled ship blazes with flames and shows damage. Dweena’s forced to make a quick decision- she can order the Goblin ship to pull back to maintain its safety, or she can order rescue parties to head down at great risk. She gives the order for a rescue. She sees several of her sons head down on long ships to save who they can.

Meanwhile, Chain Firespinner and his brethren take to their flying mounts- intending to head out to relieve the Lunar Elf vessel. However, by the time they get there, they find that ship in pieces and another set upon- a human vessel of the Relmarek nation, The Billowing Storm. It has intercepted in a desperate attempt to hold the elemental hunters at bay. Suddenly, Chain spots the burning rescue ark and realizes that it is not one, but two arks, tied together. He, his father and the others turn their attention that way. They fly down and work their fire magics, trying to control the flames. Unfortunately, they cannot save both ships- and one ark tears apart, even as the refugees attempt to leap to the other vessel. The goblin rescue parties find themselves caught in the explosions. Chain sees valuable supplies falling from the hold, but opts to rescue more people and allows them to fall. Then the elemental hunters reach their position.

On board the Battleship, Master of the Hunt Marreg Warmane waits for the arrival of the key. His job is simple- carry it to the Admiral, August Winterborn, to activate the passage through the Stormwall. Beside him is the ship’s second in command, Captain Aughra Bronze. She gives the order for the blowing of the Namir-set charges as the body of Lord Sunforge’s force finally breaks through the clouds. The explosion rocks the fleet. Marreg knows this is only a delay and rushes through the hallways of the ship, heading for the bridge. He forces himself through personnel when he spots a flash of light and the appearance of some of Sunforge’s elite killers- including the elemental called Sunforge’s Daughter. He pauses for a moment and presses on- knowing that the key must be delivered. On the bridge, Marreg hands the key to Admiral Winterborn who instructs his men to activate the passage. They do and suddenly a tunnel appears in the Stormwall- like the eye of a hurricane. But this is not a calm opening, but rather a sudden pulling and everyone and everything is drawn into the swirl of the maelstrom. But the device on the Daughter of Woes holds part of the great vessel in place, while the other half tears way, destroying the Flagship of the refugee fleet. Winterborn orders Marreg to grab Captain Bronze and take an escape boat to the Horn of Wrath. Marreg leaps out an observation window with his reluctant rescue-ee and lands sixty feet below on an escape launch.

Everyone and everything is thrown through the passage and then suddenly, silence and stillness.

The fleet finds itself outside the Stormwall. They’re in a strange "In-Between" bathed in orange light. They see the sphere of their own separate section of the broken wall- in the far distance they can see another blue storm sphere.

The fleet ties itself together and the characters come to terms with the events- the loss of so many ships, including the key flagship. Marreg, on board the bridge of the Horn of Wrath sees Captain Bronze arguing command with the Wrath’s Captain, Elding Greybattle. Marreg intercedes, seeing that Greybattle has lost an arm in the escape. Marreg meets the Orc Physiker Isnala Rainmouse who thanks him for his efforts. Meanwhile on the Namir ship, Lira Moondawning reports in. The Namir leader, Syleng Wyrmbreaker, nods as she speaks. He tells her that she will have to secretly make an assessment of the numbers on board each of the remaining nine vessels of the fleet. Any Namir should be called back to The Silent Vanguard. He also wishes to know relative populations as information for any coming negotiations.

On board the Scalebound ship, Chain returns to report. Many were rescued, but many were lost. His own father fell in the battle. Chain is commended by his master, the seniormost Scaleborn, Anrec Hailslayer, who tells Chain that he will have an honored place among the officers of the new fleet. Likewise, a bloodied Whet Bloodlace, stumbles to report in to his senior, Tytessa Chillstealer. Her mood is somber as she asks for details of the battle from his view. She orders him down to the infirmary, and for the first time Whet notes the extent of his injuries. Heading down he notes how many of those aboard the sole surviving White Elf vessel are civilians- most of the warriors having perished in obtaining the Twilight Key.

Finally, we cut to Dweena Squint sitting down at the great table with her family. No one speaks, noting the empty places. Dweena says nothing but stands up and clears away the silver and plate for her late sons. That moment honored, everyone settles in to eat. They’re interrupted by a delegation from the ship’s council. The Consortium of Nocturne ship they’re aboard, The Unbowed Forge, has lost its Captain in the crossing. Luckily they have an experience pirate captain in the brig- they’ve decided to offer her the job. Dweena makes sure that this pirate will actually fit the hat, and then agrees.

A few days later, a meeting is called, with representatives from across all of the ships. The players meet several of them, including the strange diplomat from the Rescue Ark, The Heart’s Refuge, Irisy Tearbrewer. Whet gets a bad impression from him. After some closed-door negotiating, it is settled that Elding Greybattle will act as Admiral for the fleet, and Captain Bronze will act as his second. The various offices of the fleet are assigned. Whet Bloodlace agrees to form up the Watch for the ship- in charge of handling civil and criminal affairs, investigation and enforcement among the 10,000+ people scatted across the fleet. Chain Fire Spinner will head up the Vigil, those who keep a lookout and Lira Moondawning will serve as the Chief Scout. Marreg and Dweena will continue in their positions, as the Masters of Hunt and Supplies, respectively. The PCs will also serve as the "away team" for checking out any new territories or strange events. Some of them will also serve as magical navigation beacons. They are ‘twinless’- with twins having been born in these other parts of the world. It is hoped that by following those links, the Fleet might find a new home.

GM Notes
I’ll be brief, since I’ve already written too much above. This was a first session- which meant that it was important to establish tone and come out of the gate big and widescreen. I wanted big explosions, big death, great tragedy, great sacrifice and so on. We had some final character polishing off and mechanics stuff to go over, but when I finally started, I tried to keep things rushing forward without a pause. I handled each player individually in an extended scene at the start for a couple of reasons. One, I wanted to put them definitively in the limelight, with a chance to show off their skills. Two, I wanted to build up the bigger picture of what was going on in pieces. Three, while I enjoy the introduction and meeting scenes between players, I worried they’d slow the action down. They would have a chance for that after the escape.

It went- to my mind- really well. I’d say most of that came from players who bit and bit hard on their scenes and played them 110%. They were unselfish and generous in play- paying attention to others’ moments as much as their own. It is a great crew that really showed emotion when Chain’s father vanished, Dweena’s sons’ died and the various vessels died with the last of their peoples. I had stressed as the game started that everything they had ever know- every place, every path, every sight of their homeland was now destroyed. They felt that and grappled with it. In the aftermath of the escape, the players took their duties seriously- seeing the physical difficulties of the fleet as well as the potential cultural and social strife.

As a side note, four of the five players came up with compound names, which meant that when I put together my big random NPC name list, I made sure about 60% of the last names followed that convention.

I’m really looking forward to seeing what these players do next.