With the random generation going along swimmingly, I decided that it was time to get some actual exploration of this setting “on the ground” as it were.
Our four unlucky contestants were
Bysen: a tough, callous woodsman
Aedra: a strong, yet forgiving miner.
Syn: the pot-bellied, simple-minded Butcher.
Elene: the cautious washer-woman with hidden intelligence.
We started with the four pulled off the streets into a meeting hall, surrounded by the local toughs of the village “head” – Bill. (I’m the bill you need to pay!) The four had been making life difficult for Bill in various ways, and being a strong proponent of balance offered them a choice – either they make life easy for Bill, or he will return the favour and make life difficult for them – they chose the easy option.
Bill has an order for armor from the Warders at Ship-Hold. He needs some Dragonkin hide. If they return with a good sample, then Bill will consider them even.
Elene asks “Hey, since it’s valuable for you, how about some extra supplies and gear to make it easier for us? I mean it stupid to send us into the swamp with no tools…”
Bill got angry at being called stupid… “You lot are a sunk cost. I’m not losing any more on your behalf. Get out of my sight now! If I see you again without a Hide, I will have you killed.”
They are forcibly escorted to the village gates and thrown out
Outside town, the four consider their plight. Bysen knows where to find the Dragonkin – they are down beyond the Drop (the cliff that divides the Rust Plains from the Drained Sea.) The hide is a tough leather reinforced by bone plates – not quite as tough as Dragonskin hide… but a LOT easier to get 🙂 He normally heads over the Drop to get wood by way of the Lift. Its the structure that Bill controls (and makes his money tolling passage). But now they cant really use it. Elene has overheard some gossip – there is another way down that some local smugglers call “the staircase” which is east near the overlook (a great vantage point). No one else has any immediate ideas, so they head out there for a possible easier way down that falling.
During the walk Aedra asks Elene about how a washer woman knows about smuggling routes. She gets very defensive and angry – I’m not defined by my work.
When they get to the Staircase they realise that it is a very broad euphemism. This is a set of rough handholds carved into a cliff. A missed foothold or slip would be a fall to certain (and messy) death. Aedra puts forward the idea of making a run for Ship-Hold and just starting over. They would be 4 nobodies in a larger fort-town. Syn points out that Bill trades heavily with Ship-Hold and would probably make life difficult for them there as well.
Elene has a cavas sack, and with the help of Syn (and her cleaver) they shred the sack into strips of canvas which makes a crude rope. They tie each other together and brave the descent. Elene is struggling and actually slips – only the rope (and Bysen’s extreme exertions) manage to stop a messy fall. Both are shaking when they get to the base.
They decide to make a rough camp – Bysen gets some firewood- but all go hungry. During the non-meal, Bysen waxes lyrical about what she knows of the Dragonkin – namely that they are very dangerous and hunted for their hide which is very valuable (both for how good it is, and how hard it is to get). Basically the only weak points are the eyes… and the neck and joints are less armored. The best hunters try to shoot for the eye or down the throat, or try to crack its neck with a strike. Of course being that close means you are a twitch away from being bitten in two.
In the early hours a smuggler finds the embers of their campfire. He warns them that most things down here will eat them if they give it a chance, especially if they stay still for too long. He sits and dries his shoes at the fire. They chat a little he’s called Calkin. He points out that there is some good foraging west under the cliffs, wishes them luck (and encourages them to move on), before heading up the Staircase as the sun rises.
No-one enjoyed the hungry night, so Aedra and Bysen decide to spend the day foraging while Syn and Elene decide to try to make a better campsite incase worse weather decends on them. The foragers decide to split up to gather more. Aedra avoids some strangling vines under the cliff, but Bysen looses his axe to sucking mud while hunting bird nests in reeds. But they return with enough to cover a few days of rations.
That night they have a comfortable meal around a well made fireplace. There is enough place for three to sleep on small raised mounds (out of the damp) and a nice stump for the fourth to sit watch.
Aedra is on lookout in the dark hours when she hears something in the reeds. Her night-sight is crap after sitting to close to the fire, so she wakes the others. Syn immediately pulls out her cleaver and while standing guard over the others yells a challenge at the night… which is answered by a person-shape leaping out at her. She manages to grab the knife flashing at her and grapple the attacked, but looses her cleaver in the process. Bysen knows that this is a Ravager (and hates them) He scoops up the cleaver and reaches into the grapple and hammers the cleaver down into the Ravager.
He manages to chop into one shoulder and the blood flies everywhere… but the Ravager has turned and is grinning at him, teeth bloody. Then Bysen feels the knife twisting in his guts as the ravager pushes his arm further in… Syn screams bloody murder and grabs the Ravagers head in both hands and slams it (repeatedly) into the ground until the Ravager stops struggling…
The remaining three look down in shock at the two dead bodies. The danger they are in really hits them for the first time, and they all go pale in fear.
This was actually a test run of “Funnel World / Freebooters on the Frontier 2e / Perilous Wilds“. I’ve played Apocalypse World a few times and was actually very impressed at how well Freebooters managed to capture the “Old School” feel. It all flowed very well and the choice of “if/how/when to roll” was very obvious. All the characters were completely random peasants, and very quickly developed in play.
Everyone enjoyed the feel of “struggling to survive” and the feeling of being unconstrained by “rules”. Just pick an appropriate stat and roll 2d6, and the results would always be interesting.
The three surviving characters will continue – and we’ll find out if any get back to the house of Bill.