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Godbound - Session 0

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Godbound - Session 0

Godbound

I'm soliciting feedback on how well this prepped scenario accomplishes the goal of introducing OSR 1HD power levels (as opposed to Godbound power levels to come), and a chance to explore different pieces of the setting for someone setting-naive and sourcebook-averse.

I've been intending to introduce my wife to Godbound (her only prior exposure to RPGs was a few 1-on-1s of AW, in which she really enjoyed playing the ruthless hardholder Granny Smith, matriarch of The Orchard). I've been thinking of how to introduce her to the setting, history, and power level without giving her just a giant pile of crap to read - but wanting to involve her in the setting, because I think the cosmology will be a solid hook for her. She also likes apocalypse stories, which puts my eye on Ancalia.

Godbound is, for those unfamiliar with it, is "OSR Exalted". The mechanics are such that OSR materials can be ported into it without effort, but the power level is such that a first level PC is equivalent to a party of level 4 old-school PCs. A group of level 5 Godbound, assuming the presence of some combat abilities, can curb-stomp a Tarrasque. Ancalia is a portion of the setting that is basically medieval high fantasy Ethiopia, where portals to Nowhere have opened up and vomited forth Non-Creatures, which are also causing a zombie plague. The plague erupted 5 years before the present-day (yr 1000). Prior to the general heavenly apocalypse of the setting, ~1000 years ago, this was a transhumanist paradise. The pure transhumans can no longer survive in the wild, and are in stasis in "barrows" - they're known as Fae or Cousins. Some of their degenerate survivors prey on humans in the wild, or sleep in barrows.

Accordingly, my brain-storming looks like the following:

Session 0 in Ancalia, in year 995, in a small rural village. This gives an opportunity to see a tiny slice of life on what life is like post-celestial apocalypse, pre-zombie apocalypse. I figure on giving her four pre-genned characters consisting of stat blocks, stats on weapons they might have to hand, a two-word concept, a one-sentence goal that loosely tied them together & points, but no names or genders. She'd control the party as a whole, with my providing a little assist in dialogueing with her, and they're pointed at exploring the local barrow (a small, never-really-activated barrow that's not on anyone's radar.) Inside they'll find some degenerate ruins, some half-functioning ruins, and a half-feral surviving transhuman. A few of the PC's will likely die to traps, but the general goal is for exploring the barrow to consist of a chance to see some of the setting history and appreciate its celestial apocalypse ... and when they emerge, to walk into the zombie apocalypse. (Session 1 will be a time lapse, and a chance to generate new PCs, or choose one of the surviving PCs from five years prior as a PC, as she wishes.)

PC1 - a farm teen. Goal is "get married. don't get bored."
PC2 - (gender-neutral) tavern wench. Goal is to get apprenticed to the town "bard" (a story-telling ass, the only elder in town with any appreciable knowledge of the wider world who doesn't have a stick up his ass.) (S)He's the main driver for exploring the barrow, hoping that bringing back some historical documents/knowledge will win her/him an apprenticeship.
PC3 - blacksmith's apprentice. goal is to marry the wench. (S)He's got a Cha of 13; (s)He's got a cha of 5. s(H)e does not expect to achieve this goal.
PC4 - Unitary Church Acolyte. Wants to become a town Elder. Knowing my wife this one is likely to become 100% NPC, in which case he'll tag along because he's the well-meaning condescending friend - he needs to save them from themselves, when they go off to do the stupid thing of exploring a taboo ruin.
PC5 - tailor's apprentice. Wants to jump the line to Master, eager to become independent and respected. Only so many ways to do that, of course - like maybe bring home some fabled transhuman cloth to weave a gift for the village's aristocrat lord? Or maybe there's a romantic attachment to one of the other PCs. Whatever.

They all did ridiculously well on stat rolls, so with one exception, they're all carrying 2 HP a piece. Mortals in Godbound more-or-less default to 1 HP.

The Barrow itself has 13 rooms. There are a number of traps; gonna go old-school and give people a 1-2 on a 1d6 to detect. Undetected, they'll have a 1-4 on a d6 to set them off. They're all capable of one-hitting a PC, but they're more likely to bring a PC from 2 HP to 1 HP.

The wandering monster table, in light of the whole "these PC's can all be one-shotted, and I'd really like at least one to survive", was reskinned for the setting and then toned-down to be less confrontational. It still can be, depending on how they act, but you can't save suicidal teens from themselves.

The never-really-used Barrow itself:
Its original purpose was to be a small barrow hosting some few dozen fae. It was never really put into active status, so it never hosted more than a dozen or so, and those remained in stasis. One of the little cousins remained out of stasis to finish loading everyone else in ... and then couldn't get the controls working as the apocalypse happened, so he's been awake for the millenium since. It's got no weapons cache, no special databanks, nothing that would have drawn anyone here. Its lit by strangely glowing crystal shards mounted on the walls in 20' intervals.

Its foremost hazard - why it hasn't been looted - is that it's a local taboo. It is decreed by town elders that this is a dangerous, sinful, locale to enter. Every night two of the younger men of town play guard (AC7, HD1, BAB+1, morale 6, usually drunk). None want to get particularly close, though, so it's not too hard to either sneak around them, talk your way past, scare them, etc. They should be about the same age as the PCs.

The decay of the reality generators keeping the barrow functional has led to some funky gravity effects. This is mostly just flavor text: pit traps on the ceiling, big floaty steps, some 200 pound blankets, etc.

Their reward is some old journals, official paperwork, etc. that give insight into the local history.

The randomly-generated dungeon barrow has some "adventurer corpses" laying around; those will be re-skinned as collapsed automatons.

Likewise, the wandering monster table "small air elemental" is a Guardian Automaton, which won't attack unless it's attacked, or sees a master being attacked. It's got HD12, so actually engaging is suicidal. The local Ancalians are the watered-down descendants of the transhumanist Fae, so it strikes me as appropriate that the Guardians would mistake them for maybe some sort of Fae with a congenital birth defect. Maybe I'll have them tsk-tsk pitifully as they pass.

The wandering monster "toad" is a woven spirit whose role was to maintain the local psychic matrix for the slumbering fae. Also massively over-powering for the PC's, but it only sleeps on hit, no damage. A wandering homunculus will instead be a fae ghost, and if engaged will speak and give forth lamentations. The last monster is a shrieker, which I'm replacing with a hollow clay servitor golem (HD2). There's also a "small water elemental", which I'll be replacing with a "gravity dog", basically ... a dog that has super weird gravity going on. HD1. It's a strange dog.

The "Boss" - the Fae - is a 2 HD Bittermouth; Bittermouths are tall, gray, too-wise Fae who will tell a petitioner how to obtain what they desire, but always take some precious memory or skill in payment. He's not there to be a combat climax, but if it goes that way, the PC's may be able to survive. Or not.

He's accompanied by a Mandog - a man, once - with stupid eyes, wet mouth, silver collar, and feces on hands and feet. He whimpers a lot. He's not a victim.

The actual rooms of the barrow, generated with the random ruin generator from the Ancalia book, more or less:

1. Sleeping quarters, lonely, desolate, unvisited.
2. Light painting room, patched up, half-fixed. This is a room where the Fae would paint with actual, you know, light.
3. Classroom, botany; dark, glowing shards shattered; massive skeleton of a giant fae seated at the head of the room, its skull in fragments.
4. Bathrooms, reeking with mess. Moulded painting/sculpture mounted over urinals, highly valuable; infectious to get near.
5. Gymnasium, patched, half-fixed
6. Records office, signs of recent habitation. Broken tulpa glaive leaning in one corner; patrolling automatons assume if you have it, you're a "Master".
7. Command Area, crumbling. There are screens duct-taped into place, more than a few shattered, a fancy plastic-and-aluminum chair is in pieces in a corner and replaced by a shabby modern wooden construction, there are clearly wood-carved keys jury-rigged to wires that didn't belong there to create something that looks like a keyboard. There are various alarm-type lights; not a single one of them is lit.
8. Tool Storage, unusually good repair, and completely indecipherable to the teens. Like, you're a cave-man that just walked into an electronics shop. Probably they recognize hammers.
9. Failing Hydroponic Garden, crumbling. I picture a patchy hydro lab where there are spots where the proper reality generators are working consistently and there's these lush columns of green and yellow and red with miracle fruits sprouting, and in other places, where the lights are flickering, you see the same column abruptly trailing off into dead husks.
10. Cryogenic quarters, working, crackling with energy. All of the various sarcophagi are open to one degree or another. Nothing is inside of them. The attached crystals are sparkling with barely-contained energy. F'n with one will play a "wake up" recording from one fae to another, something along the lines of "Our timepieces say it is AS 995. If you are seeing this, you've awakened from our preservative slumber, and are ready to resume our place in the world" etc. Its playing will attract a passing guardian automaton.
11. Cryogenic quarters, failed, graveyard, full of old yellowed death. All of the stone-and-crystal sarcophagi have gone dark. It smells.
12. Theurgic workshop. Cozy, signs of recent habitation
13. Library, unusually good repair.

The records office and the library will each give the PC's the chance to get the loot they came for. The hydroponic garden may give them a chance to bring back something useful to their agricultural village - maybe a wisdom check to spot some very fine compost or something that can quadruple their harvest output. I'll probably just disclaim decision-making here and ask her what she found that's useful.

No fudging will happen after they get their first taste of history - once they have a little bit of setting (either via eidolon, or recording, or talking to the "Boss", or reading something in the library), I'd say the target has been accomplished, and if they die, they die. If they survive the barrow - which, aside from some traps and some stupid moves, they should - then they emerge into a town feeling like Big Damn Heroes... and the first zombies meander into town. Curtain close.

My concerns: I don't really have any *dilemmas* in place, and I want her to have at least a couple significant decision-making opportunities. Suggestions along this line would be excellent.

Thoughts, feedback, additions, editions?

Ordinarily I'd be quick to

Ordinarily I'd be quick to suggest PC-NPC-PC triangles, but since one player is running all the PCs that leads to quite a challenging RP task (for the Player) and possible violations of the Czege Principle. On one level that sort of challenge comes down to how well the Player is able to keep separate personae actually separate while roleplaying all of them reacting to each other; some people find this anti-immersive, and some find it impossible.

Perhaps that triangle could be flipped on its head? First intro 2 NPCs and make them likeable and useful (in different ways). This puts the Player in a position of liking them both, but in different ways. Then introduce a conflict between the desires/intentions of these 2 NPCs. Nothing so simplistic as "good vs evil" but rather two equally reasonable but mutually-exclusive opinions, advisements, points of view or tactical concerns. Neither of these NPCs is literally "wrong," but each will refuse to go along if the other's plan is accepted, or at least they'll be less helpful, disgruntled, maybe even become a saboteur.

I could be totally off-base here, reading more gravity into the playstyle than you intend, but you mentioned AW so I'm pointing toward inter-personal stuff. If the tone of the game is more light-hearted (like @Jeph's "Ornithopter World" for instance), then the dilemmas should be more tactical/navigational, and the pace should be fast, replacing emotional dilemmas with ticking clocks and constant pressure.

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