The Traditions of the Swordlords campaign has picked up full-steam this year, so I wanted to put all of the Book 1 AP threads in one place with links and quotes. The above link will take you to the tag in the BW forum.
The campaign uses Paizo’s Kingmaker Adventure Path for situation inspiration, maps and rough background.
Actual Play threads have become a big part of my play in the past decade and then some. At first they were a way to share excitement and enthusiasm while thinking about techniques that were successful or techniques that fell short. After some years of writing this stuff up, though, they have become an important artifact of play.
I like that I can go back and read about the O’Declan’s Brewery, Celedon leaving Waterdeep or how the apocalypse effected the Mohawk Valley. Good times.
We’ve been playing this game via Google Hangouts, though we keep threatening to meet up in NYC and game in person. Thank you, Rachel and Drew for playing and contributing.
1 Leaving Rostland & the Giant Spider
Rachel and Drew teased this fascinating bit out of it, where Rostland is about to be overwhelmed and they were not only venturing into the Stolen Lands to claim land and bring law but they were also saving a piece of Rostland’s culture and Swordlord tradition.
:We share the heaviest of weights together; the perseverance of our people. In the decades to come only you will remember as I remember. The Swordlords have given me a Quest Brother, and I shall never have another. All will survive only if we remain loyal and steadfast to each other.”
2 The Spider’s Lair & the Siege of Oleg’s Trading Post
The SwordLords are not the white knights. “Where were the swordlords when..”, awesome. Complicated and sad all at once. Meaty stuff.
And also to what comes of our mission. It’s sobering and feels very true to embark on a quest with head full of glory and then come face-to-face with this gritty reality that two battle-pros may not be enough to carve out a safe place for their people. And if they do, it will not be with bright armor and heads held high, but with shoulders bent, mud-drenched, and exhausted. This may be harder on Zora than Hajek based on their backgrounds. I know Zora has already had to examine some ideals. But I wonder if she’ll rub off on Hajek at all or if he’s just that stubborn.
4 The Long Walk After Bloodshed
Lady Zora covered in blood, having just hacked the head off of a bandit. Hajek, stone-faced, giving his sword-sister the nod for a difficult job done.
The Stag Lord has had enough. He demands that Zora melts down her lord’s sword, proving that the messes from Rostland have no place in these Riverlands.
Which belief is more important, Zora?
All my life I have heard of the monster-strewn Stolen Lands, but I know there are others, perhaps like us, who call it their home. Allies may be our greatest hope of survival – we need to find them and make fast friends.
I will never forgive my lord for denying my right to die with him. His sword I will keep, but it will never know bloodshed again until my name is as great as his.
6 Pragmatism, Generosity and the Bear
She asked the sword, Bahuslav, the bring Hajek back. She begged. She pleaded. She said that she would do anything, would carry the blade to the ends of the earth.
“I am a sword. We don’t do that.”
They put Hajek’s body on the riding horse, Bastard, and started the three day ride back to the fort.
The neat thing about Ivo being connected to our Hajek’s father and headed to the fort in the south was that we could travel the same roads Hajek and Zora originally traveled and see how the Stolen Lands/Riverlands have changed.
Tonight Zora and Ivo finally got to talk. Hajek’s presence was felt, his shadow was over everything – like in that one Star Trek movie without Spock felt like the Spockiest of them all.
9 Letters, True Swords and Summoning
Yeah, so Zora is kind of, sort of a Swordlord. She realized she could and maybe should step into the role, but at the same time – if you declare yourself a Swordlord in the wilds and nobody gives a shit, does it matter?
After Hajek’s death the game has felt a bit heavy. It was nice to have a game that certainly mattered and had consequence but wasn’t dwelling on death and mud. It was nice to get out of the fort and put some new pieces in play in the Riverlands.
Taxation, squires, crime, courtship, love, loss…this dusty frontier is coming together.
12 The Swordlord, the Sorcerer and the Tower-Bound Ghost
For me, my favorite little snippet of the game came courtesy of Rachel, who asked — after Drazj was headless — how Bohuslav felt as it had long been denied action. It was a Conan moment, the relishing of action of power. We got to see a little light turn on and illuminate a side of Zora we hadn’t seen amidst the bow fights and the loss to the Bear. She’s a warrior, don’t forget it. I am looking forward to seeing her interact with her fellow warriors in the games ahead — Zora has been a fish out of water for awhile, let’s see if she enjoys swimming again.
13 Caught Between Duty and Revenge
After the last game’s events, in which Lady Zora killed Lord Drazj and Ivo, the late Lord Drazj’s bastard son, bound his father’s ghost to a tower – the players find themselves at the head of a 450 person army, with 7 knights from Rostland. The army is starving
14 “History will remember your names.”
We played a quick game after months away, just to touch base, make some big decisions and get things moving. It was great to see Rachel and Drew again.
15 Belief -> Failure/Success -> Belief and repeat
like the cycle: Success/Failure, Belief, Success/Failure, Belief. The good failures drove the game forward and the flat failures just sat there, limp and lifeless. They were really obvious tonight because the good failure results were so vibrant. Something to think about.
16 Consequence and Love in the Riverlands
Chickens are coming home to roost. Artisans and refugees (circled up out of a debtor’s prison sessions ago) and an army is heading southward towards Fort Hajek. It will be time to pay the army (ob or pay some carpenters (ob 3, I think). Zora made a successful Circles test for her parents and her relationship with her sister.
17 Long Lost Sister and Dead Man’s Gold
You know, we were chatting afterwards about how this had been a ‘slow game’, but there is something satisfying in building a support structure that allows Zora to be the big damn hero. Negotiating taxes, figuring out soldiers schedules, cobbling together a system of law, worrying about pay, deciding which NPC best fits where and how — man, if I get one chance to do that a game, I’m stoked. I cannot put my finger on why that is exactly; the immersion? That the sorcerers of my youth were all world builders (Merlin, Gandalf, Allanon, etc) and I get to move that ball imaginatively now too? Maybe the idea that while the world we knew is destroyed, we’re fighting that hopeless loss with construction rather than punitive reciprocal destruction? I don’t know, but I really enjoy this part of our game. Lighting Orcs on fire is also fun, but the building is deeply satisfying.
Paying the soldiers had been hanging over our heads for a few sessions now and seemed an impossible feat. The gold wasn’t ready yet, the soldiers were there and working hard and waiting, and with Zora’s failed Oratory roll, delaying payment or failing to pay would have gone badly. We threw all of our cash dice at it, but it still seemed unlikely. Feels like we can take a breath now and take a leap forward, which is pretty exciting. I’ve never played in a game were we got to do this much direct world-building before and it’s delightful to see it play out and no less tense than if we were fighting the latest Big Bad. Maybe more because so much hope rests in these rolls.
19 Killing a Demon-Bear and Fucking a Forest God
And so ends Book 1 of Traditions of the Swordlords. It was fucking satisfying.
I want to play this game.