The caravan pulls up to the village of Elder Pine. It is a small town built around an absurdly large pine tree. The tree itself climbs easily 1/4 mile into the sky and can be seen for quite a ways further then that. Elder Pine marks the beginning of the more wooded part of the journey. Word is passed around by the guards that the caravan will be stopped here for three days.
Karis, wishing to know more about the lay of the land, asks the other guards what they know of the place. A little haggling and some minor pilfered goods later, this is what she finds out: The citizens of Elder Pine revere the tree as sacred and simply refer to it as the Eldest. Rumor has it—and the guards don’t necessarily believe these rumors, but they tread lightly all the same—the Eldest is actually an old and powerful god of the forest. He is said to love his citizens and his land. It has been said that Elder Pine is never hungry, never attacked, and that the women are as fertile as the fields. One especially paranoid guard also notes that he has heard the god jealously guards his people from the outside world and that Elder Pine is truly a prison, albeit a happy one.
(We liked the way the [REDACTED] piece of social influence worked. It did not take much time to resolve and I did not find it hard to adjudicate which offers were good and which were not going to cut it. I did not use much of the Larceny systems here, as she was not trying to get difficult-to-acquire goods from especially astute people, and the PC is an amazing thief. So having her roll to get some extra tobacco, a new whetstone, and ten coins was not really something I deemed worthwhile.)
The caravan master, Oberon Telev, informs everyone to be on their best behavior while in Elder Pine, because it is customary for the local priest to bless all caravans heading deeper into the forest, and the priest despises disruptions in his little town.
White Ink finds this curious, and so he approaches Telev to ask him why this blessing is so important. Telev is not especially keen on disclosing these facts, but the gruff looking older man flashes more charisma and social prowess then expected, and uses an inspiring bit of flattery to stoke Telev’s pride and get him talking about his beloved caravan. This gets Telev talking about how any caravan he has ever run on this route has never lost a guard, and how his good dealings with Elder Pine are a strong reason for that.
When pressed further on the subject by a rather persuasive argument that plays on Telev’s sense of gratitude toward those who have helped his caravan, he reveals that the blessing is an important thing for all traveling East on this road to receive. He says that the blessing of the Eldest’s priest lays a mark upon the caravan which grants it protection from all the mischievous spirits of the forest until you reach the town of Shimmering Blossom, which is more then a week’s travel away. Telev asks the older man to keep this secret between them, and leaves shaking his head a bit confused at the old warrior’s skill with words.
(We again do not have much but good things to say about the social system here. It worked pretty smoothly and efficiently to let players find out what they need and then exploit that information to their advantage. I also really enjoy how you can use one action, in this case a [REDACTED], to help feed into another action, in this case a [REDACTED]. It is probably not necessary, but we did discuss whether or not performing certain actions should give you a bonus of some kind if followed up by ones that also exploit that use. In the end we decided to bring it up [in our playtest feedback], but also note that simply awarding a higher stunt for the clever move may also work. The players have also not been trying anything overly hard and have been very cautious about choosing strong Intimacies to exploit, but they seem pleased with the effect and that it doesn’t all end with “LOL NOPE I SPEND WP.” The finishing of the small side quest coming up and the next village may push them harder socially if they choose to go that route with things. I hope it does, as I really want to see what happens to the social system when it starts to feel some stress from more powerful people being involved in it. )
The next two days pass without much fanfare, and with our heroes performing their duties or simply resting. Karis debates stealing a few things from the village but is troubled by what the other guards shared with her, and so she resists the urge for now by telling herself that the next town will be worth the patience here.
The next morning, Oberon Telev meets with the Eldest’s priest to arrange for the caravan to be blessed. Before the priest can begin, though, an ancient roar splits the air as roots twist up from the ground and twine themselves over and through the wheels of the caravan. Guards shout, Karis readies her bow, White Ink appears worried, and Oberon Telev shouts his dismay and insists on knowing what this is about. His demands are cut off by the shadow of a god.
Out from the great pine steps a being with flesh of the strongest timber, hair of the deepest green, eyes of a darkness so great that to look upon them is to be convinced it is night, and a countenance so full of wrath that all sound in the entire wood ends. About him is draped a cloak of moss and upon his head rests a bramble crown. In his massive right hand he holds a club forged from the heartwood of a tree that was born before time began, and as he walks forward, he points it at the caravan master and all those who travel with him.
“Who are you to make demands here, in my home!” The Wood King’s voice seems to carve itself into the air. “Did I not welcome you here? Did my people not feed you well and treat you with kindness?” The god does not wait for a reply. “How dare you receive my hospitality and then treat me this way. I will have all your heads for this. Your blood will become the gems that adorn my hair!”
A startled Telev then begins to praise the great king and ask him what he means, and generally attempts to sort out what is going on. Eldest then informs him that a young girl has gone missing from his village, and that because no one else in the forest would dare challenge him in such a way, it must have been this caravan’s men who took her. After much groveling and begging, the Wood King says that he will give them all one chance to prove their innocence. If the girl and the perpetrator are turned over to him in two days’ time, the caravan and its men may go on with his blessing. If they do not do this, then he will assume them guilty and none shall ever leave Elder Pine.
(Finally, we got a good test of the [REDACTED] action here, and I can conclusively say a [REDACTED] action coming from a Wood King leaves one good reason to be scared. As an ST, I appreciate how the system really lets me guide the tone of the scene I want by being diverse enough to allow me many options, and powerful enough that even stubborn players will want to think twice before resisting.)
Telev quickly gathers all the caravan guards and passengers together and asks for the best and bravest to aid him in appeasing the Wood King. Men grow pale, women shake their heads, and even the animals shy away, leaving only our three heroes, Mato Leaf-Dancer, Karis, and White Ink still in front of Telev. The fate of many lives now rest upon their shoulders, but are even these brave souls strong enough to carry the demands of a god? We will find out next time.
This was a short session, but we accomplished a lot with the social system and honestly we really enjoy it so far. I do not have any real complaints, now that I have seen it used a bit more. As I mentioned above, I look forward to giving it a really good test if the PCs decide to get social in finishing this quest or in the next town, which is rife with strong personalities for them to butt heads against.
Nothing too ground breaking this time around, but I am really enjoying STing with this system, and my players seem to be having a blast so far, so I think you guys are really making something awesome here. I cannot wait for them to Exalt, but that is a few games off yet. If you need any clarification on anything from me or want us to focus on something in particular, just let me know.