Alaric, Grey Warden

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NAME: Alaric                                        SEX: Male

CLASS: Adventurer                             MIGHT: 10/10

NARRATIVE:  A farmer’s son turned brigand, captured by fellow Lakelanders and sold to the Grey Order for favors.  There he studies the art of domination, and how best to channel his rage.

LANGUAGES: Lakelander

EQUIPMENT: Ring mail vest, sword, whip, grey traveling cloak w/ Grey Order pin, satchel, riding horse, survival supplies

EXPERIENCE: 5                                   TREASURE: 15 SP in Kiriyan coins

NOTES: Large and muscular. Dark red hair, long and braided on the left, shaved on the right with the runic brand of a thief scored into the flesh of the head.  Facial stubble. Grey eyes.

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Perils of the Small Press Era

The advent of digital publishing has changed the landscape for role-playing games, as it has for books in general.  We’ve returned to something closer to the early days of the hobby; individual hobbyists and enthusiasts can create and share their games and supplements without involving a large publishing house.  This has led to a wonderful variety of ‘indie’ projects, and I’m a big fan of many of these small-press games.

However, the small-press era does involve certain novel challenges.  I’m active on Google+, where I know and interact regularly with many of the people who make the games I play.  If I offer an opinion on one of their games, or post an actual play report, it’s likely they’re going to see it.  It was easy to talk casually and critically about a game made by TSR in its 1980s heyday, for example, or about a game published by White Wolf during the 1990s.  Those were (relatively) large companies that would not be greatly influenced by what I, one gamer among many, had to say.  It’s a little different when the author is looking over your shoulder in a virtual fashion.  Many of these games are sufficiently small that one enthusiastic (or very critical) blogger or social media poster can have an outsized influence on the public footprint of that game.

As an example of this, consider my current dilemma.  I’ve always been a little unusual in my tastes and in the company I keep.  At the moment I’m running a play-by-post campaign for a longtime friend of mine, someone with whom I’ve gamed for many years through the days of the MU*s (MUSHes, MUSEs, etc.).  It’s a sword-and-sorcery campaign, and at the moment I’m using the Blood of Pangea rules from Olde House Rules, for which I have the highest respect.  I think it’s a wonderful, rules-light system.

My campaign involves a fair amount of kinky, graphically role-played sex.

I’ve been posting actual play reports in an expurgated fashion, but while editing the next chapter in my story, I’ve realized that even a cleaned-up version of this scene is going to be obviously… adult.  I don’t know James and Robyn George– the minds behind Olde House Rules– personally, but I do interact with James on Google+.  He seems like a stand-up guy and he’s justifiably proud of the Olde House Rules imprint.  I don’t flatter myself that I am in any way an arbiter of role-playing fashion, and certainly Blood of Pangea will be fine regardless of what I post.  But the author is watching.  Am I presenting material with which he would not want Olde House Rules to be associated? Am I tarnishing the good name of his game?

I’ve considered switching my campaign to D&D (Rules Cyclopedia), which strikes me as a value-neutral rule set, effectively defunct long ago, and now fair game for anyone’s twisted imagination.

Has anyone else been given pause by the idea that an indie author, active on social media, might be saddened or upset by what one chooses to do with, or say about, their game?  The renewed intimacy of the hobby, made possible by the Internet and digital publishing, may have its discontents.

Shattered Land: Chapter Four

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The sun is setting behind the pines. Spears of shadow cross the clearing before Thorvald’s cottage, and ruddy light suffuses the white snow with blood. The day’s wind has settled and the sky is clear; it’s going to be a still, bitterly cold night.

Thorvald has not yet returned from the wood, although he is due at any time. Yuwen Blue-Eyes appears to drowse by the fire, stretched out as before. He doesn’t snore, but his eyes are closed and his lean body is still. His chest rises and falls with steady, if somewhat shallow breaths. Gritta remains a lump of fuzzy brown beneath the furs.

And so Sora is the sole watcher when, checking at the door for Thorvald, she sees a larger shadow swim out of the trees. Someone wrapped up in a traveling cloak and mounted on a brown horse that struggles through the snow, lifting and placing its hooves in sprays of crystal. The beast’s breath fogs the air.

The stew is bubbling, sending up tendrils of fragrant steam and the warmth of the homestead, at her back, coupled with not looking at Yuwen, at Gritta, is almost enough to lull Sora into a false, uneasy sense of security. But the sight of the rider sends ice water through her veins. Her heart seems to stop, her lungs freeze.

And then she turns and ducks back into the thicker air inside.

“Sir!” Urgency makes a hiss of this call as she hurries to Yuwen’s side, a hand out to touch his shoulder. “Sir, a man on a horse. He’s coming. It… it isn’t the master.” Continue reading “Shattered Land: Chapter Four”

Shattered Land: Chapter Three

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The second day after the arrival of Yuwen Blue-Eyes dawns cold and clear, with a blanket of snow on earth and eaves and a deep blue sky that stretches for miles beyond the tops of the pines. As is his wont, Thorvald has gone with first light to cut wood in the forest above his home, leaving his strange guest in the care of his wife Gritta and of Sora, her slave.

When Gritta was told that Yuwen would not be leaving in the morning, her face had shown a mixture of confusion and subdued pleasure, for the man was surely charming company. When she was told that Thorvald would be helping the stranger ambush the armed Lakelander who was following him, her confusion had become silent worry. Today, with Thorvald away and no pursuer in sight, that worry is shading towards ill-concealed annoyance.

Yuwen, too, seems ill at ease. Waiting does not suit him. He lounges now by the morning fire, playing absently with the embroidery around the collar of his green tunic, watching as Gritta and Sora clear away the bowls emptied of breakfast stew. Every now and then he goes to the door, cracks it and peers out over the snow; then he returns to his place and flops down again.

Silence lengthens between the three in the little house.

As last, while handing bowls to Sora for washing, the matron Gritta remarks, “Another quiet day.”

To which the stranger, after eyeing his host, returns a sardonic, “Indeed, madam. May they continue so. No man of action I.”

“So my husband says,” Gritta answers. Guest and hostess smile briefly and thinly at one another.

Sora has had her own worry to cultivate, hand in hand with those that come with the dawn. Beyond the practical matter that she has agreed to help their charming guest with this dangerous matter, and beyond the temper of her mistress, there is the troubling matter of her belly. She was certain it was flat when she lay down to sleep yesterday and now it curves out from its former smooth concave, giving every indication that she is some weeks gone with child. Continue reading “Shattered Land: Chapter Three”

Shattered Land: Chapter Two

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As Thorvald and his wife prepared to settle for the evening, the woodcutter offered their guest a place by the fire.  However, in a show of humility, Yuwen Blue-Eyes insisted that such a thing would be an intrusion, and claimed that he would be happy with a place on the storage room floor.  Gritta seemed mildly displeased– perhaps by how this might reflect on her as mistress of the house– but Thorvald was easily convinced to agree.

And so it is that the slave girl Sora finds herself sharing the close confines of the storage room with the traveler named Yuwen.  He’s stretched behind her, closer to the wall, wrapped in his cloak with his hood drawn up over his face.  Frail fingers of warmth from the banked fire scarcely reach beneath the leather hanging to the place where Sora lies, so the stranger must be subject to whatever chill the house’s logs can’t keep out.  Wind thrums over and around the house at intervals.

He doesn’t move, but Sora has little doubt that Yuwen is awake in the darkness behind her.  Awake, and watching her. Continue reading “Shattered Land: Chapter Two”

Shattered Land: Chapter One

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The first installment of my one-on-one dark fantasy campaign played using the Blood of Pangea ruleset from Olde House Rules.  Our dice were rolled in a chat program while we took turns writing the results into a Google Docs document.  The actual play document follows.  

Thorvald went raiding as a younger man, but now makes his living cutting wood for trade.  He lives with his wife Gritta on the edge of a great pine forest, in a cabin of rough-hewn logs tucked into the foothills of the mountains.  Once he had a son, but Halmuth fell in battle and dwells now in the Silent Halls of Lord Moon.  Such is the way of things.

Sora is the woodcutter’s slave.

The cabin she shares with Thorvald and Gritta has two rooms: a great room with a central fire pit, where cooking, conversation and all the business of life are carried out; and a storage room, colder, separated from the home by a hanging of leather.  Sora sleeps in the storage room.  There’s also an earthen cellar dug out beneath the house, and accessed through a door outside.  

Most days, Thorvald spends the sunlit hours in the forest, felling trees and hewing wood that he then carries home across his back and deposits in the massive woodpile between the house and the well.  With winter beginning, those hours have become fewer, and the woodcutter has been inclined to work long into the twilight, risking attack from wild animals or savages in order to make his daily load.  So it is today; as the last light leaves the sky and a lean snowfall whirls in winds that brush the great timbers of the house, Gritta and Sora are alone before the fire. Continue reading “Shattered Land: Chapter One”

Sora of the Shattered Land

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NAME: Sora, of Yuji’s Family                 SEX: Female

CLASS: Sorceress                                      MIGHT: 8/8

NARRATIVE: Sora is a plains girl taken by raiders. She’s a born survivor with a quick, clever mind who has been trained in the domestic arts both menial and pleasurable.

LANGUAGES: Plainsman, Lakelander

EQUIPMENT: Bear pelt traveling cloak

EXPERIENCE: 5 (0 Avail.)                      TREASURE: 0

ADVANCEMENTS

Sora has become a fledgling Grey Maiden– a slave-priestess of the Grey Order and an avatar of the Grey Lady of Pleasure and Pain (5 XP)

NOTES

She was taken with her mother when she was 10. Her mother died three years later. She is seventeen now and a subtle beauty beneath the grime of service, with thick blue-black hair and almondine eyes that are dark but show flecks of gold on close inspection. At fifteen, she was introduced to the art of service as a pleasure slave, when her master’s son took an interest in her. He spent a year training her to his own tastes but when he left to raid a year later and never returned, she didn’t miss him overmuch.

The arrival of Yuwen Blue-Eyes and the thing that possessed him changed Sora’s life forever. After being impregnated by the demon Mag-Sothorin, That Which Breeds, Sora betrayed Yuwen and assisted the Grey Warden Alaric in destroying both Blue-Eyes and the monstrosity inside him. In order to purify her body and prevent the birth of Yuwen’s spawn, Sora offered herself to the service of the Grey Lady: a cult goddess of pleasure and pain. Through a ritual, Sora first channeled the Lady’s power and drove out the beast in her own womb.

Taken away from her owner by Alaric, Sora now begins her life as a Grey Maiden– a priestess of the Grey Order and an avatar of the Lady that order serves.