[Session 1] Musk of the Old Ones


At the first signs of Spring, as the snows begin to melt and the trails start to open up, Gwendolyn selects the troupe to undertake a special mission – one that all Guard undertake only once in their lives.  The troupe was well stocked, given an old letter sealed with bee’s wax, and sent off to Wolfepoint.  From there, once rested up but before the full moon, they would need to make their way to  a secret location disclosed to them by Oleg the Seer - their contact in the remote Mousehold - and gather a rare ingredient needed to make the Scent Border Markings. 

Due to the melting snow and light Spring rains, it had taken nine days to travel what was normally a six day journey to Wolfspoint.   Once there the troupe rests up and while the grizzled and uncouth mice of Wolfepoint are not rude, they do not go out of their way to make them feel welcome.  It seems the mice of Wolfepoint only wished to be left alone.

 The next day, the troupe meets with their designated contact, Oleg the Seer – a blind old mouse said to be well over six Winters in age.  After inviting the troupe into his hovel, he hands them a map and speaks:

"My dear Guard, the journey you now undertake is one that must be done every couple of Winters, and never are the same mice asked to partake in this assignment twice. This year, it is you who have been entrusted with this most important task.  But before you begin, you must collect 6 Lunar Moth caterpillars and secure them for transport. You will then travel to the edge of the Scent Border via a hidden trail shown on the map.  It will lead you to a singular Oak, majestic and ancient, the trunk of which is long dead.  Inside the hollow far up upon the trunk where the Oak splits into two, you will enter and meet with the flutter mouse there named Visl.  Give Visl the caterpillars, and show him the letter – it contains an ancient accord struck long ago when mice first settled this area.  Visl will then bring you to a secret place of disquiet, where long ago mad temples were built to ancient gods.  Be brave, dear mice – and gather the musk of the old ones that slumber there. Once gathered, secure and keep it secret, and take it back with you to Sprucetuck, to the alchemists there.  May you be seen again.”

GM turn

I asked if anyone had the Insectrist skill, and let those that did know that during this time of year, Lunar Moth caterpillars would be found in Maple trees (Technically, I don't even think caterpillar's would be out and about yet this early in Spring, but I fudged it a little).  It came up that once the troupe had found the caterpillars, they would need some means of transporting them.  So they decided to procure a couple of sturdy sacks with which to herd them into with the intent to carry them.  Since none of us had played before, I decided to call for an Ob2 Resources roll.  The roll was made successfully, and now the troupe had in their possession two large caterpillar carrying bags.

The troupe found a large Maple tree outside of Wolfepoint, and made the decision that the whole troupe should climb the tree and gather the caterpillars.  As it turned out, this was a good idea, as wrangling the caterpillars proved to be a major undertaking.  An Ob5 Insectrist roll (Silkworms •••, Many , Labor/Hauling ) was needed and Finn rose to the challenge.  Millicent and Brand both helped.  The roll failed, so I imposed a Condition; the three of them became Angry - banging their shins, knocking heads, caterpillars wandering out of the sack after being put in - it was a terribly frustrating time but in the end, they had their objective completed.

Now to begin the journey past the Scent Border to locate the Old Oak.  This was an Ob6 Pathfinder roll (Remote , Infrequently used ), but the map Oleg gave to the group provided +2D.  The test was successful with a number of the troupe helping out.  Walter made note that he was taking notes on the map the whole way, to hopefully make it more detailed when he got back to Wolfepoint (I decided this would be a check during the Player's turn instead of a Cartographer test during the GM turn).  The Pathfinder test was successful, and after scurrying from bush to bush across an open field, the troupe avoids any predators that might be out hunting and arrives at the Old Oak.  Sure enough, it is massive, dead, and forked at the top.  A knot has rotted to form an opening right at the fork, just as Oleg had described.  A successful Ob1 Climbing roll later and the troupe is at the opening peering into the darkness within.

After some discussion, the troupe ventures into the hollow.  Finn calls out for Visl their contact, and Visl replies.  After a moment everyone's eyes adjust to the darkness, and the troupe realizes that the flutter mouse Visl is actually a brown bat!

Visl is given the caterpillars and he eagerly consumes one right on the spot - much to the surprise and disgust of the mice.  The sealed letter is shown to him as well - Visl breaks the seal, looks over the accord contained within and hands it back.  Walter, quickly scans the letter before returning it to his pack.  

As per the terms of the accord and the caterpillar payment, Visl agrees to take the troupe to their destination.  He tells them to follow him quickly, but to be wary as there will be few places to hide should bird or fox place themselves between them and their goal.

Visl says, "I will take you as far as the iron spires and go no further.  I will await your return and lead you back here.  I will keep watch and warn you of any predators either in the sky or stalking the ground, while you are inside the place of disquiet.  As for you, you must seek out one of the monoliths that has cracked the earth open before it to reveal the catacombs of the Old Ones below.  Within the catacombs, you must carefully take a piece of the Old One that slumbers there - a bit of hair or flesh will do - and you are done.  Meet me afterwards and we shall return here once again, our accord finished."  And with that, the troupe is off.

To follow Visl from the ground as he flies ahead is an Ob3 Scout test, and the troupe succeeds. Running across wide open fields with patches of snow, the troupe scurried from bush to bush, always with an eye on the bat.  

After some time, Visl takes roost in an old birch tree that sits across from an expanse of ground that leads to a gentle sloping hill, at the foot of which stands a dozen rusted iron pylons dripping with spider webs, the ancient metal twisting as it reaches to the sky.  Beyond the wrought iron guardians stand the ruins of a dozen or so cyclopean monoliths of slate, lichen stained and grey as thunderheads.  These massive crumbling slabs, their surfaces etched with fading weather worn runes, each stood facing the setting sun.  The earth before each monolith has sunk over time, and in places - inexplicably - rotting wood is exposed; as if some eldritch structure lay buried beneath.  Mixed with the sharp smell of crabgrass, the heavy smell of yellow ragwort, and the tangy smell of red poppys is something not quite right.  Something lingering beneath the normal scents, hinting of something old and terrible. 

The wreak of primal fear is centered around those places where the ground has sunk and the rotting catacombs beneath are exposed.  To enter a catacomb, each Mouse must make an Ob3 Will test.  The Condition gained for failing is Disturbed (made specifically for this scenario, a Disturbed mouse is unsettled by some instinctual fear.  In any circumstance where acting against their Nature occurs, the Disturbed mouse must pass an Ob1 Will test or must instead act as their Nature dictates.  Millicent, Finn, and Brand all failed and became Disturbed.  Walter passed.

Just before the troupe enters the catacomb at the foot of the slate monolith, a rat emerges, dressed in mouldering rags and bits of ancient glitter, with tiny rat skulls hanging from his belt, and multiple daggers sheathed about his body.  He stands in the opening, not quite blocking the way.  The mice can understand him, but he's got a heavy accent, and he remarks that its odd seeing mice here, and he wonders what they are up to.  The troupe lets the rat know that they have private business to attend to, and make their way around him.  The rat lets them pass. 

Within the catacomb, the stink of old, instinctual fear is strongest.  The massive form of the long decayed Old One takes up the bulk of the catacomb interior.  Some kind of rotting, tattered fabric encases it.  And towards the very back, there is a hole in the bottom of the catacomb that drops deeper underground, and from within, the troupe can here the skittering and chattering of many, many more rats.  With haste, Walter takes some of the decayed flesh and bits of hair and packs it into the bag they've brought.  Then, without further ado, the troupe moves to exits the catacomb.

The rat however, purposefully blocks their exit and asks what it is they have in the sack and moves to take it.  The troupe replies that it is none of the rat's business and tells him to stand aside.

At this point we begin a Conflict.  The rat wants the sack and the troupe wants to escape past with the sack.  A purely non-lethal engagement, the troupe succeeds in lowering the rat's Disposition to zero - but not without Compromise.  For his part, the rat allows the sack to be taken, and in return, he grabs the smallest member of the troupe - Brand - and tries to rat-handle him back into the catacombs!

A second Conflict occurs and this time Finn draws his weapons - he will not loose the tenderpaw!  This conflict is swift and the troupe manages to free Brand, and shove the rat tumbling deeper into the catacombs.  Success!  And the troupe wastes no time, bolting out of the place of Disquiet and across the field to where Visl waits for them.

 Having gathered what they came for and avoiding an encounter with a bullying rat, the troupe once again follows Visl back to his roost in the old Oak tree.  Their accord complete, Visl gives the document back to Walter, and bids the mice farewell.

End GM turn.

Our first game and it was a blast.  I made a number of mistakes - the biggest being that I paced the scenario all wrong and we did not have time for a Player's Turn.  I did allow the group to make their checks though - but we did not really play anything out.  They explained what they wanted to do and made their rolls.  I have to admit, my botching the GM/Player Turns really added to the frustration the group had with acclimating to the structured play.  They felt constrained and rightly so - but had I done a better job with the pacing, I think they would have seen the balance between the two turns.

I decided to begin the next session with an opener more like a traditional RPG rather than the whole GM Turn Go, Go, Go Face The Obstacles style, and see how it plays out.

Oh, here is the Rat:

Nature (  Rat  )
Aggressive, Clever, Bullying, Stealing
Skills:  Fighter 5, Scout 4, Hunter 4, Deceiver 4, Cemetery-wise 3, Scavenger-wise 3
Traits:  Cunning 2, Jaded 1
Gear:  Knives, Dirty Tricks (+1D to Feint), Riches



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