A quest for the statue of Poseidon – session report

(Polska wersja)

As I announced at the end of my 2018 RPG summary, I’m working on my own role-playing game “Bronze and Iron”, based on the Freeform Universal RPG rules, and the setting is Mediterranean region after the collapse of the Bronze Age civilizations.

On March 3, 2019, it was time to test my new ideas in practice. I run a five-hour session for four players, called “A quest for the statue of Poseidon”.

Lateran_Poseidon — kopia
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lateran_Poseidon.jpg

The Heroes (in alphabetical order):

  • Chiron – a traveler with musical passion, worshiper of Dionysus
  • Kassandros – an inexperienced but honorable warrior devoted to Atena
  • Pelagios – a man of many talents, including seafaring, craftsmanship and medicine
  • Selina – worshipper of Artemis, a huntress who hunts not only animals, but also opportunities for enrichment

Prologos:

At the beginning of the session, the players got acquainted with the rules and created their Heroes and the city in which the game began. They named it Tripolis and decided that it enjoys the Hephaestus protection and relies heavily on crafts, and has developed civil institutions, but it is also struggling with poverty.

The abovementioned activities took about an hour and a half, but in my opinion everyone really got a feeling of their characters and effectively used their strengths.

Epeisodion (Scene) I: The Calling

Peloponnese, XI century BC. The Heroes stayed in Tripolis, when one morning they were called by the archons ruling the city. One of the elders, Elpis, revealed that Poseidon had appeared to her in dream the night before. God of the sea said that he would take care of Tripolis if his small, but priceless, sacred statue would be recovered from the ruins on the not too distant island of Pelios. According to the archons, the four Heroes were the right people for this mission. Seeing that the Heroes need extra motivation, the elders promised them that everything they would gain during the trip – apart from the statue of Poseidon – would be theirs. Selina tried to obtain the funds for the expedition, but due to the poor state of the municipal coffers, she was refused. Pelagios, in turn, asked for linen armor (linothorax), with a better result, as Tripolis relies on crafts. Kassandros went to his father, an experienced warrior, and when he asked for support in the holy mission, he got his father’s helmet and the amulet of Athena. He offered his prayers to the goddess and felt that she would protect him.

Stasimon (comment of the Game Master) I:

According to my original idea, the Heroes were to be citizens of Tripolis, bound by deep emotional ties with their polis. This assumption was maintained only in the case of Kassandros, while the connections of the other Heroes with the city proved to be quite loose. I adapted myself to this situation.

Per game rules, Kassandros’ prayers to Athena were a plea for divine intervention, which is the equivalent of magic in “Bronze and Iron”.

Epeisodion II: A Cruise to Pelios

The Heroes boarded the little ship which they named “Seahorse”. Pelagios seized the steering oar. They left Tripolis far behind them. After some time they noticed another boat drifting on the sea. A few sailors lay motionless on the deck. However, when Pelagios threw his sandal in one of them, it turned out that they were not dead, only drunken to unconsciousness {what we do with a drunken sailor}. The sailors were completely confused, so they gratefully accepted Heroes’ advice on how to get to Tripolis. They also exchanged wine, claiming that theirs turned out to be definitely too strong.

Exekias_Dionysos_Staatliche_Antikensammlungen_2044 — kopia
Dionysus (god of wine) in a boat. Source: https://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plik:Exekias_Dionysos_Staatliche_Antikensammlungen_2044.jpg

After some time, the Heroes were visited by Nereid (a sea nymph). She told them that because they had undertaken a holy mission and also helped other sailors, Poseidon gave them his divine favors.

Stasimon II:

While preparing “Bronze and Iron”, I came up with the idea that the players roll for navigation/exploration and depending on the result I draw events from “safe events” list or “risky events” list. However, because the players were almost always successful in these rolls, there were almost no “risky events” throughout the entire session. Both the meeting with drunken sailors and Nereid were “safe events” (in addition, I rolled to establish the attitude of sailors towards the Heroes and it turned out to be extremely favorable). In order to provide more dramaturgy, I am considering dumping navigation/exploration rolls in future and returning to randomly drawing events from one list, containing both beneficial and dangerous events.

Epeisodion III: Landing on Pelios

As predicted by Nereid, Pelios soon appeared to the eyes of the Heroes. Observing the island, they noticed that a group of taurogs, also called bucentaurs, watching them from the shore.

buc — kopia
Source: Mazes and Minotaurs Creature Compendium p. 19

The creatures appeared to be peaceful. Despite some concerns, the Heroes got to shore and made contact with taurogs. Chiron offered them wine in exchange for showing the way to the ruins. Pelagios and Kassandros joined the libation, while Selina went with the other taurogs for a (successful) hunt. Taurogs accepted the newcomers on “their” island surprisingly quickly and smoothly.

Stasimon III:

The players were really lucky: first I rolled the highest possible score for the attitude of taurogs towards the Heroes, and then the players were successful in the “wine diplomacy” and hunting rolls. Had the dice been less favorable, meeting with taurogs could have had a far less idyllic course.

Epeisodion IV: Mycenaean ruins

The next day, when everyone had recovered from libations, taurogs took the Heroes to the ruins of the Mycenaean city. Taurogs parted with the Heroes, claiming that the ruins are too dangerous for them. The Heroes began systematic exploration. Initially nothing confirmed the taurogs’ fears: on the contrary, the Heroes found a lot of treasures in the ruins. In the end, however, passing by a building, they noticed a giant, bat-like silhouette glowing in the darkness inside. Fortunately, the creature was sleeping. Selina was already notching the bow, but Chiron persuaded the others to leave the creature in peace. Soon they reached the temple of Poseidon. They found even more treasures, but no statue that they were looking for. Chiron found a lyre and played on it, which (judging by the sounds) woke up some creature in the basement of the temple. In the end, despite their fears, the Heroes descended to these undergrounds. They found a dazzling treasury guarded by a great Sphinx.

Sphinx_CdM_Paris_DeRidder865_n2 — kopia
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sphinx_CdM_Paris_DeRidder865_n2.jpg Licence: Attribution 2.5 Generic (CC BY 2.5)

The monster said that if the Heroes solve its riddle, it will let them live and even take one item from the treasury. Otherwise, they will be devoured.

The Heroes managed to solve the riddle and find the statue of Poseidon. Overcame with greed, however, they did not want to leave without treasures. They decided to face the next riddle of the sphinx, on the same rules as before. They succeeded … four more times! Finally, the Sphinx said that they were far too clever, and he has run out of riddles. The monster told the Heroes to get out of his lair. When they were leaving, it murmured “just do not bring here any more smartasses like you”. This statement inspired two of the Heroes to propose the Sphinx a truly demonic pact: they would provide it with an influx of not-so-intelligent individuals to be eaten in exchange for even more gems. Surprisingly, the Sphinx agreed to this arrangement, and even paid an installment to the Heroes (or perhaps Antiheroes?).

Stasimon IV:

The trouble-free exploration of (supposedly) dangerous ruins was the result of the already mentioned “exploration rolls” and the use of separate sets of “safe” and “dangerous” results. As the Heroes were well prepared for exploration, the “safe” results, mainly treasures, prevailed.

Encounter with the Sphinx is a completely different story. The atmosphere was tense, players hesitated between taking a fight with a dangerous beast and negotiating. They dealt with five riddles, having 2 minutes (counted with a stopwatch) for each of them! The riddles were as follows:

  1. I am not alive, but I need air. Give me food, and I will grow, give me water, and I will die. What am I?
  2. I look at you, you look at me, I raise my left, you raise your right. Use me well and I am everybody, scratch my back and I am nobody.
  3. I am tall in my youth, but with time I devour myself. What am I?
  4. What occurs once in a minute, twice in a moment, but never in an hour?
  5. The more you take the more you leave behind.

After suggesting the Sphinx the deal, the players rolled to check its reaction and achieved the “yes and” result. The very idea of this deal was a big surprise for me!

Epeisodion V: The Return to Tripolis

Taurogs were surprised that all four Heroes returned from the ruins alive (and bent under the weight of treasures). This was celebrated with another feast, and the next day Heroes reached Tripolis without any further difficulties. They were greeted enthusiastically by the population.The statue of Poseidon was immediately placed in the new sanctuary.

A few weeks passed. Kassandros practiced in gymnasium every day, becoming stronger. Pelagios learned rhetoric and Chiron – to play the lyre. They brought appropriate mentors to Tripolis, which influenced the city’s cultural development.

Exodos:

Because the Heroes succeeded in their mission, I rewarded the players with the possibility of acquiring additional Attributes (one per Hero). The cultural development of Tripolis is the result of the “yes” result in the community welfare roll, another of my new ideas.

To my joy, all four players enjoyed the session, and therefore the continuation will take place. I will try to make it a bit harder this time!

***

And here’s the report from the second session, judge for yourself whether I managed to make it more difficult 😉

My other posts about RPG:

13 thoughts on “A quest for the statue of Poseidon – session report

  1. This sounds like so much fun! I love how it all feels appropriate to the setting, from the mission to the encounters and everything in between. Thank you so much for the writ-up.
    I would love to learn more about the exploration rolls!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you very much for your comment! As for exploration rolls, the idea was like that: from time to time, one of the players make an exploration roll, enhanced by Attributes such as Navigation, Sharp Senses, Alertness etc. Depending on the result of this roll, Game Master would roll for random event in one of two separate sets of events: “safe events” (finding a treasure, encountering friendly creatures etc.) or “risky events” (getting lost or tired, encountering hostile creatures etc.). I thought that it is a good motivation for players to “invest” in Attributes such as mentioned above.

      However, I did not foresee that in that case, no “risky” event can occur throughout the entire session, as it happened in this case (only the encounter with Sphinx was risky, but it was not randomized but “scripted”). The players still liked the session, but they were a bit disappointed that there were no fights at all. I think that future sessions have to be more dramatic to be more enjoyable by everyone! So I’m leaning towards dumping the exploration rolls and returning to one set of random events, both nice and risky. What do you think?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Very cool. I totally agree with the need to have some potential for risky actions, but love the idea of an exploration roll. Perhaps you could have the exploration roll made after you randomly determine the encounter (but before you tell the players what it is). Then use the exploration result to adjust the character’s position. If they succeed, they have some kind of advantage in the encounter (even if it is as simple as “you are not surprised / ambushed”). If they fail, the encounter is tougher.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I like this idea! It would be in fact “who spots whom first” roll. There is of course the possibility that the Heroes spots some creatures first and attack them, not knowing that the creatures would have been friendly, or other way round – they will come to some NPCs in a good faith and get attacked. But there is a saying “bad decisions make good stories”, so perhaps it’s good to give the players a chance to make such bad decisions? 🙂

        Like

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