Vastlands ep.1- Winter’s Daughter pt1

Sir Chyde (yes, this guy screams “ghostly knight”)

Winter’s Daughter is an adventure I’ve wanted to run for a long time as it hits so many of the key points that I love having in my games: whimsy, horror, puzzles, otherlands – A classic fairytale. The book is so well formatted and laid out as well

The “hook” I used was that one of the players had come into an inheritance, and among the papers was a description of a lost tomb where his distant relative was buried – along with his fairy-killing sword. We did a random roll and Estmund appropriately got to be the distant relative!

In Game: (Session 1)

Present: Alette (Hunter), Estmund (Dolmenwood Knight), Prudence (Magic-User), Solvang (Magic-User).

The documents indicated that the Tomb of Sir Chyde was in the forests north of Mistmill. The club knew of a path above the waterfall and made their way into the forest. As the day wore on they became nervous about being lost. Alette climbed and called to some crows and received some directions, as well as ominous news of “Tasty leftovers outside” made the club cautious. When they found the clearing and the barrow mound, they were drawn to a circle of standing stones and a stained alter in the middle. Prue and Solvang were drawn to the carvings on the standing stones, but all they could figure out was it was some kind of long term holding or lock spell?

Getting in was its own challenge. They had brought along a sledgehammer when they heard “tomb”, but the reality of trying to bash through a giant cover stone was a wake up call. After 10 minutes of Alette hammering at the stone she only managed to make some cracks, as well as draw the notice of some local animals. They were left speechless when the Deer asked them politely to “please stop that infernal hammering”. After some back and forth, they agreed to not hunt any animals in the woods, in return for getting help opening the tomb. After lunch the Deer returned with a Brown Bear who agreed to pull down the stone in return for some easy food.

Once in, the fell afoul of their first encounter – 4 angry holy effigies (book, statue, candle, cross) which seemed to take an immediate dislike of Prue (a witch?) and nearly pummeled her to death. Estmund leapt in to protect her and take further beatings, while Solvang and Alette fought them. Eventually Estmund calmed them by declaring his right to be there… and then the party took the opportunity to break them against the ground. (Alette saved/stored the silver cross)

The next room was the family crypt – 5 sarcophagi in a decorated room. But the party was shocked by the pair of waltzing skeletons who had risen, and were dancing in the air! Prue played an accompaniment for the dance, and they joyously danced out of the room. The party examined everything in the crypt – while carefully avoiding strange goo dripping from the roof and a giant tear in the floor – and realized that all the family of Sir Chyde was buried here (parents and siblings) but Chyde was still deeper in the tomb.

Carefully creeping into the next room – a grand gallery covered in engravings – the party spotted a pair a huge canine statues guarding a sealed door engraved with the words “Call the Companions”. Prue and Solvang quickly noticed the statues were magical, and assumed they would come alive should anyone interfere with the doors. Seeing images of those dogs with Sir Chyde in the gallery, they decided to ask the parents: the dancing skeletons! Prue played her accompaniment music again. Sure enough the skeletons shortly came waltzing into the gallery. After a short impromtu dance, the party talked to the skeletons and leart the names of the two pets of Chyde (given by the father). After thanking the couple, the party called out the names and entered the final crypt.

Met by the ghost of Sir Chyde, Estmund revealed his hopes (become a knight, carry on the family name, and weild SIr Chyde’s sword). Sir Chyde agreed to gift his sword (and good wishes) to Estmund, but only if he would bring a ring (wedding band) to his beloved Princess Snowfall-at-Dusk, trapped in a tower, through a portal to fairy-land in the lower halls of the tomb. The party agreed to this romantic cause, and went back outside to rest and recuperate before venturing into fairy-land.

At the table

Winter’s Daughter is an award winning module, and it shows. This was an absolute breeze to run. I literally opened the pdf on my computer in the background, and was running the session alt-tabbing between discord and the pdf reader from time to time. Each location was a number of bullet point with bolded words for me to pay attention to, and some gorgeous maps. The feel of the setting is a wonderful “dark fairytale”- like a cozy horror by the Brothers Grimm. So this was a wonderfully easy adventure to run for my table.

Its also only the second time I’m running a Old School Essentials game. The first game was cut short by the pandemic after only a handful of sessions. So this time I’ve had a bit more time to absorb the rules and its been very comfortable to run. I’m probably doing a few too many checks, but I like that it is either “works, no dice”, “impossible, no dice”, or “challenging, roll under stat”. Most of the time the players treated the situations like a puzzle. Getting into the tomb was going to take a long time and be noisy just brute forcing their way through, so they tried to figure out another way through. My favorite event was using the Dancing Skeletons as a source of information, rather than risking further delving into the (potentially) dangerous side passages of the tomb. I loved how the players puzzled this through: this is a family crypt, and Sir Chyde’s parents are now risen and dancing around. The dogs were probably either presents, or would be known by the parent, so lets ask them! Which leads me to my absolute favorite mechanic!

Reaction rolls. I adore how the vast majority of encounters will not default to combat. Its only a 1-in-36 chance of immediate attack, so the players have a chance to investigate a situation and either diffuse, or turn to their own advantage! The talking animals they met, the skeletons, even the Holy Effigies. Every time the players tried to find a non-violent solution to any encounter. This is a 180 from my prior experience with D&D (5e) and I find it even more “non-violent” than many storygames (like Blades in the dark) (so far).

Anyway, more coming soon.

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