SGAM 2017 had a challenge that I unfortunately didn’t undertake due to a combination of not being aware of it and not having the overall time for it. It involved using Sharp Swords and Sinister Spells’ adventure generator. This year has a variant where we use the Zero Tangent dice to randomly generate a quest, though I have done two so far.
So instead, I’m gonna just play Sharp Swords and Sinister Spells. Functionally, it’s similar to the OSR-style Shifter Bots, but there’s quite a few variants. Not to mention it has a built-in adventure generator to spice up your campaign. However, I already had something in mind, so I sadly won’t be able to touch upon this, but perhaps for a later game?
And, just to further spice the game up, I’ll be taking a look at a new engine: Ursa Minor. It has a mechanic similar to CRGE’s Surge Counter or Mythic’s Chaos Factor where it increases or decreases during certain events. This is called Turmoil and it increases and decreases with set conditions. The usual “if things go without a hitch, it goes down, but if things go to pot, it goes up” schtick. However, it also changes depending on random events as well and it even changes if you critically fail or succeed on reality-bending powers like spell casting. It then plays a role in determining random events or even adding to Yes/No answers.
On paper, it seems that Turmoil is Chaos Factor and Surge Counter’s love child, hooked up on steroids. As such, I may take great pleasure in testing this. With that out of the way, we’ll begin our game with Shane Swosh and Sinclair Spears, two private eyes who have a self-employed company by the name of Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells. They have begun to offer half-priced quests due to their increasing debt to the Baron of Huldra. Recently, they had undertaken a quest to investigate the disappearances of two dwarves who had went to go explore the Ruins of Pelgar.
The story begins as our heroes depart from their village of Cawther. On the road, there’s usually a risk of bandit attacks, especially near the farmland where Cawther is, so I will ask the Limner, Ursa Minor’s version of the Fate Chart, if they are to encounter bandits. If I wanted a more complex answer, I would use the Fray, which factors in different attributes to get a denser answer. For this case, a simple Limner question would work.
[Q: Do they encounter bandits? Odds: Unclear, roughly even odds. Turmoil is at 2. A: 11]
Yes, they do. They encounter 4 of them. Combat is fairly simple. You need to roll lower than your given stat when attacking. This was the same in Shifter Bots, but I didn’t mention that because I was mostly immersed in writing up the story. Rolling to cast spells is different, as the difficulty is determined by the power level of the spell, which is set by the spell caster. Skill rolls are done with a roll under system, meaning that with a Willpower of 18 (the most anyone can have), Sinclair is able to succeed at most of the spells.
Despite one scratch from the bandits, they manage to defeat them okay. With that, they advance like normal and end up at Donat’s Temple. Scene ends, with an additional point in turmoil given how they fought bandits. Now, when determining a new scene, I tend to check for scene events. I’ll do the same here, using the “roll 2d6 and if they get doubles, I have a scene interrupt.”
[Scene Roll: 2 & 6, no match]
The two enter a temple and decide to make offerings for a safe trip. As they do, the high priest discusses matters to the two of them. He wishes to have the rightful Baron of Huldra return to power and has spoke of a man who is trying to rescue him. He wants the two to help this man. Sinclair considers it, but tells him they must take care of other matters before they tackle this Huldra problem. With that, they begin their trek through the desert. The scene ends and things have gone their relative way so I reduce a point of turmoil. Now I check for an incident.
[Scene Roll: 3 & 5, no match]
Now, normally I’ll just play out the long trek through the desert, each hex on the map representing a scene. However, with The Fray, I can simply put together some numbers, then roll 4d6 to get the results I need. There’s a process that involves calculating the potency of both the actor and its target, so, for this scenario, it will be Sinclair’s Intellect vs. the number of spaces in the desert times five. In this case, 12 vs. 20. There’s a lot of other processes, but to make it simple, I’m doing 12 vs. 20.
[Fray Roll: 4]
Welp, they failed miserably. They take one step into the desert before some tragedy befalls them. Incident time. This is basically the random event part of the game, though a lot more controlled than the other random events, as the Turmoil helps guide the Incident along to more heavier consequences.
Incident: 12: Obstacle. (-3 to Turmoil for a result of -1)
Type: 7: The environment moves the plot tangentially.
Auguring: 552, 532, 332: Spoiling foreign rest.
The triple digit numbers were what the game calls “Trihex”. It’s akin to a D100, except it’s three d6’s acting as individual numbers. The problem it seems is that the desert heat is making it hard for our heroes to make it through. As such, I need to ask some Willpower checks.
[Roll: 1 and 18]
Both of them manage to succeed on their Willpower checks, powering through the desert and onto the next hex. The next Fray roll will deal with both Willpower and Intellect.
[Scene Roll: 3 & 4, no match]
[Fray Roll: 20]
And so they manage to venture forth through the desert undisturbed. The scene ends with one less Triumph point as things turn up their way.
[Scene Roll: 2 & 2]
At least until this happens.
Incident: 2: Progression. Turmoil does not change at all.
Type: 10: a supporting NPC appears, makes progress toward a goal, or attains a goal.
Auguring: 213, 222, 216: Collapsing critical comradeship.
Our heroes arrive at the mountain… Only to be greeted by an iron giant who has what looked to be a large club pointed right at them. He asks who they are and Sinclair introduces themselves as Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells, private eyes who investigate rumors for a quick buck. The giant calls himself Destrox, brave soldier of the Cogdroids who had unfortunately been blown off course in the battle. I’m gonna see if they can tell this guy had something to do with the disappearance of the dwarves. Because his Vocation (basically his “subclass”) is Detective, he gets a positive die, which basically means advantage… erm… disadvantage… Because he takes the lower result, but low is good in this case and… Ugh, let’s just roll!
[Intellect Roll: 4]
He realizes that this robot isn’t really a nice guy and so he alerts his friend about it. Fortunately, Sinclair is already on it and cast False Friendship. Destrox falls for the friendship and stands down. With the two easily coaxing a confession out of Destrox, they write down that he was indeed the one that made the dwarves… ahem… disappear. A job well done. And hey, while they’re on the way back, perhaps they can do something about that Huldra situation. Hell, they have a huge hulking robot, after all…
And that wraps this session up. I don’t think it will come as any surprise now that, throughout these past three games, I’ve decided to create one massive narrative. Namely, how I’m slowly putting together a party that will be featured in my next game, closing out this year’s Solo Gaming Appreciation Month with an Actual Play of Lamentations of the Flame Princess.