Lately I’ve been thinking about holding some ad-hoc role playing sessions again and this was an attempt to get the thought going. Quite some concepts are rather unrefined at this point and I’ll continue to make things up as I go. However, some mechanics have already started to form and work fairly well.
In this I try to encourage some experimentation by having the player start with nearly no resources and no prior knowledge about the world or its inhabitants. They are not familiar with its systems and moreover, they are not aware of what actions they can perform or how their body reacts at the start. Players are expected to keep their own characters sheets in order to keep tabs on what is achievable for them as I am thinking about implementing negative consequences. For example, in this session, a Google Sheet was used.
Please choose your level of difficulty:
- Take me for walk in the park
- Give me a challenge
- Grind my bones and drink my blood.
Please choose your level of absurdity:
- This is pretty reasonable
- Maybe you should not have eaten those mushrooms
Is your persona:
- A man
- A woman
- A person of mysterious and indistinct gender (Write my story so that it stays a mystery and NPCs are unsure)
- Does it matter, really? I find it offensive you would even ask that. (Write the story so that it’s gender neutral and NPCs don’t care)
Please confirm: You will awake as a man seeking a challenge in a world of unbelievable absurd wonders, magic and fantastical creatures.
“Sir? Sir? Please wake up, you cannot sleep in Lord Melisano’s gardens. I must ask you to leave”, the guardsman tells you. You sleepily open your eyes and notice you have been dozing on a perfectly groomed lawn under an equally perfectly cut apple tree. In a slight distance you see a fence. You feel a bit uncomfortable in your clothes and while checking, you notice you are wearing a business suit.
What’s your reaction?
I blink and look up at the guard. “I’m sorry, I was so tired I just… dozed off.” Wondering how I ended up here I get up, looking around briefly. Figuring it’s probably a dream I ponder what to do. He asked me to leave, I probably should. “I apologize once more. This should not have happened. I will take my leave now.” I head toward the fence, figuring that’s probably the way out of the gardens.
The guard sighs and answers “Yeah, I know the feeling of being dead tired. I can relate. Sir, I will escort you to the front gate. Please make sure Lord Melisano never hears of you entering his property without permission.” He steps into your way and gentle nudges you into the other direction from where you were heading. The guard seems overly friendly. When you reach into the pockets of your suit, you find a little card.
You did well in the last round, so here’s a little gift. Make sure it’s always well ironed and snazzy. ~ a friend
It would probably be wise to follow the guardsman. But maybe you have other intentions?
I nod politely at the guardsman and follow him to the front gate. The card I put back into my pocket. “Thank you,” I say to the guard as I pass him at the front gate. Once outside of Lord Melisano’s gardens I take a look around to see where I can go from the gate.
“You’re very much welcome. A pleasure to talk to you, sir”, the guardsman shouts after you as you leave. There’s a signpost at the fork of the road. One direction says “harbor”, the other “botanical library”. In the distance you can spot a tower. Everything else is either hilly farm land or lush forest. From what you remember from botany and geography, you’re likely in temperate climate.
“Have a good day!” I start heading toward the botanical library. As I walk down the road headed there I take the card out again and flip it over to see if there’s anything else on there. If not, I put it back in my pocket. During my walk to the library I subtly check out how my body functions. I tense some of my muscles to get a sense of what I’m capable of doing. Weird dream this. It feels so real… Hmm, if it’s a lucid one I should be able to… I hold my hand in front of me and try will a sword into existence.
The card has the format of a business card but there are no logos on it, and neither is a company name. The elaborate design involving black, sweeping lines along the borders of the card as well as the quality of the paper suggest it is expensive.
Your muscles… Strength check. current: 2, required: 5, luck: +2. failed. …hurt. They feel like the haven’t been used in ages. You try to conjure up a sword. Imagination check. current:4, required: 50, luck: +1. failed. It’s not working. You can feel you’re on the right path, but maybe you require instructions?
You hear a faint voice chuckling.
I come to a stop and turn my head in the direction the sound came from, a slight frown on my brow. “Hmm?”
Nobody is there.
“Who’ s there?” I call out, looking around more carefully.
Even upon closer inspection, careful observation of the nothing, thoughts about nihilism and intense deliberation of the nothingness, the void and its meaning, in the end it is still nothing. Nobody is there.
You gain Imagination +1.
I ponder the situation a bit longer, but then decide to move on. As I continue walking I try my hand at various other things: conjure up a small knife instead, create a flame in my hand, stare at a bird and try to read its mind, push a pebble away with my mind, and focus on ‘feeling’ the area around me to see if I am capable of perceiving more than my normal senses.
- You try to conjure up a knife. Imagination check. current:5, required: 50, luck: +0. failed. Nothing happens.
- You try to create a flame. Required ability not learned. Nothing happens.
- You try to read the bird’s mind. Required ability not learned. Nothing happens.
- You try to push a pebble with your mind. Required ability not learned. Nothing happens.
- You try to focus on feeling your surrounding area. Imagination check. current: 5, required: 5, luck: +1. minor success. You can sense that there are living beings nearby. You do not know how many, what kind or how far away they are.
Okay, so that’s at least something I can do… I look around for a place where I can sit down for a moment. Something like a bench or a log maybe.
There are no logs or benches on the long paths through the grain fields. You find a medium sized rock though, that will do in a pinch. You sit down. You nod. Good rock. Maybe you should try rolling it.
Before doing rock (‘n) rolling I sit down on the rock and once more try my hand at conjuring something, figuring conjuring up something that isn’t a weapon might be easier. Okay… something easy and small… With nothing else coming to mind I try to conjure up a toothpick.
You try to conjure a toothpick. Imagination check. current:5, required:20, luck:+2. failed. Nothing happens.
It feels like the toothpick is not as far out of reach as the sword or knife, but still well above what I’m capable of right now, and so I give up on conjuring right now. I look around and pick up a small twig I see lying around. Focusing my thoughts I try to bend it with my mind and turn it into a round shape.
You try to manipulate the twig. Imagination check. current:5, required:15, luck:0. failed. Nothing happens. You notice a difference in difficulty despite the failed attempt.
I place the twig on the ground in front of me. Moving the pebble had not worked, but I now try to move the air surrounding the twig and push it that way.
You try to move air. Required ability not learned. Nothing happens.
Okay, let’s focus on the single thing that actually did work. I close my eyes and focus on feeling the life around me, both plants and animals. After a while I try to shift my focus on specific life forms, if I’m able to pick out anything. If I’m not able to pick out anything with my eyes closed I’ll open my eyes and try to find something, on which I will then focus the ability to sense its life force.
You don’t see anything moving around you apart from the grain gently swaying in the wind. There’s a cool breeze. Your suit is not made for harsh weather. At this point you’re not sure what you feel, aside from something alive being there.
I get up from the rock and get moving again, toward the botanical library I was originally headed for.
You walk the road for a while. After an hour or so, you come to another fork in the road. One path goes to the library. The sign for the other path is completely faded from wear. Someone has hung a nice black leather messenger bag on the signpost. The wind is cooling down. The sun will likely set soon.
I look down the road where the faded sign’s pointing, to see if there’s a building within view. I then try to get a sneak peek of what’s inside the messenger bag.
You spot ruins of what might’ve been an outpost made of big stone blocks long ago in the past. The messenger bag contains a neatly wrapped bread, a piece of hard cheese, a full flagon and another card.
I thought you might venture into this direction. This will make your beginning a bit easier. You’re welcome to keep the bag as well. ~ a friend
I take the messenger bag and break off some of the bread, which I start eating. Library isn’t gonna be open at night, I guess. Need a place to sleep… Let’s check out those ruins. I head over to the ruins and check those out from up close, trying to work out if I could use the ruins as shelter for the night.
The ruins are nothing more than some remainders of walls. Relics of once great buildings, now just crumbled remains. There’s the occasional stone arch, but nothing in the vicinity looks like it could provider shelter in case of rain or wind. As you inspect the ruins closer, you find withered writing on the wall. Symbols are engraved on the arch. And if your mind isn’t tricking you… Imagination check. current:5, required:2, luck:0. minor success. which it isn’t, then the ruins are a perfect triangle when seen from the sky.
I give the ruins a thumb-up, then turn around and head toward the library after all. Nowhere else to go, I suppose. While walking some more bread is consumed, as well as some cheese. I take some sips from the flagon to taste what’s inside.
The flagon is filled with nicely chilled chocolate milk. After some more time of walking, you can spot a building far off. Even though its green walls make it a bit harder to spot in this light, especially amidst the trees surrounding it, the place must be massive in size.
When I feel like I’ve had a decent fill I put everything away in the bag. The moment I see the building I start an easy paced jog toward it, keeping the messenger bag tightly against my body by lifting it a little with one arm. As soon as I start to feel somewhat tired or sweaty I will resume moving toward the library at a walking pace.
Fitness check. current:8, required:5, luck:+2. major success. You arrive at the library speedily, without breaking any sweat. Your suit pants suffer further wear from the earthy ground. Your run left you feeling great and your muscles are starting to come back to life.
Strength restriction lifted, value restored to original value: 5
As I arrive I head straight over to the door and see if the place is still open. If it is, I enter.
You arrive at an elaborate wrought iron fence. There is no guard at the open portal, so you simply pass through. There is also nobody guarding the large wooden gate, but that is closed. Light can be seen through the windows and underneath the door. The wooden gate is locked and doesn’t move an inch when you try pulling and pushing.
I knock on the gate and call out: “Hello?”
A sleepy girl in her teens sticks her blond head out of the slightly opened gate. “Who’s there?” She has a half circle in blue tattooed around one of her eyes. You might’ve woken her.
“I’m terribly sorry for waking you up, but I am without a place to spend the night.” I make an apologetic expression. “I was hoping to find one. Do you happen to know where I could go?”
She looks you up (to your apologetic expression) and down (to your dirty clothes and shoes). Charisma check. circumvented. “Good sir, please wait for a moment while I wake a librarian. I’m sure we’ll find you a place to stay. It’d be a pleasure, in fact.”
I nod understandingly as I smile softly. “Will do. My apologies for the inconvenience.”
After a few minutes (which most certainly feel like an eternity. or two) the door opens. The girl is clad in a grey robe and so is the middle-aged woman next to her. She, too, is wearing the same tattoo on her face. Her robe has additional silver decorations at the end of her sleeves, perhaps to signify her importance. A book is embroidered on the robe just where her heart would be. “Greetings. I hear you require shelter?”
“That I do,” I reply while giving the older woman an apologetic smile as well. “My sincere apologies for the inconvenient time at which I show up at your doorstep.”
The older woman looks at your apologetic smile. Charisma check. circumvented. “No, good, sir, it’s no matter. You’re welcome as a guest in the Botanical Library. Please, follow me, we’ll find you a chamber. I cannot promise that it will be the finest we have - you might have to make do with a room in the acolytes’ wing. It will most definitely be more comfortably than sleeping outside though.” She gives you a warm smile and leads the way.
The teen stays behind at the door. You take the opportunity to check out your surroundings while you walk. It is indeed a Botanical Library. In the most literal sense of the term. There are both bookshelves as well as planters everywhere you look, even in the walkways connecting different buildings inside the complex.
My own smile brightens a bit as the woman returns it warmly. “Thank you, miss. I am very grateful for that.” I follow the woman to the room where I’m allowed to spend the night, checking out the various sections of the library we pass while keeping an eye open for things that might be of interest to me. Maybe there’s a section that can help me with this magic thing… Or to help me figure out where I actually am… The latter’s probably more important right now given I need to be able to get around in this world, find an actual place to stay long term. This place is bound to have info about the local area.
Despite trying your best, you cannot figure out how the books are ordered and what kind of knowledge is available.
The room is plain. There is a bed, a desk, a chair and a commode. There’s also a chest. No, not a treasure chest. The desk has some ink stains, so clearly has seen use recently. Of course, there’s also a stack of books. It’s propped on the windowsill.
“Thank you,” I say as I put my messenger bag down next to the bed, “and once more, my apologies for the inconvenient time at which I arrived.” “If I need a toilet, where can I find one?” I ask before the woman leaves. Once she’s gone I check out the books on the windowsill out of a sense of curiosity.
sessions.KY 1 is part 1 of sessions.KY: