Since, of late, my current gaming group are struggling to find any mutually convenient evenings and now a certain adorable bundle is keeping her father fully occupied, opportunities for me to roleplay are few and far between at the moment.
Thankfully my extremely understanding other half, Emma, has volunteered to help me with a playtest of Bill White’s The Perilous Realm; which is great because it’s a game I’ve really wanted to try for some time now. Granted the backdrop of continuous baby-care is a somewhat unsuitable arena for this but I felt The Perilous Realm seemed robust enough to handle the kind of piecemeal play dictated by our present circumstances.
The Setting (summarised from Bill’s description here):
The time is the 12th century. The place is the Kingdom of Prester John, great and wise Christian monarch of the Far East, Lord of the Four Indies. Into this world, it has been foretold by the apostle Judas Didymus that, “a star called Wormwood” will fall, unleashing beasts of war, plague, famine and poison to devour the people. Heroes from far off lands will rise to oppose these beasts, at great cost to themselves, and ultimately to little avail, for both they and the kingdom of the Four Indies will perish. This game is the story of that time.
Pleasingly, despite the interruptions, Emma and I have succeeded in completing Act One, which is basically setting the scene by generating a map of the kingdom and creating the protagonists.
Character creation entails rolling on a series of tables to generate elements around which your character is built. I’m a fan of such tools for prompting ones imaginings and certainly, on this occasion, the process worked really well for us. The resulting ‘key words’ provided a very nice basis for developing the protagonists, suitably stimulating our imaginations and encouraging collaboration as we tossed around ideas for how they could be incorporated.
Like all ‘oracular’ type mechanics, there were times when the randomly generated elements positively reverberated with meaning and other times when they were rather less fruitful but without doubt the characters were all the more interesting for being woven around things that we almost certainly wouldn’t have come up with ourselves.
Although only Emma and I are playing (and I’m notionally the GM) we decided to create two principal characters, as we thought it would be more enjoyable that way.
We came up with the following:
From the above elements, which we generated for the first character, we got Urraca Sombra del Alba, an emissary from a sect of Spanish women who work in secret to thwart the pending Apocalypse. Urraca is currently charged with travelling to the Court of Prester John, in the grand and glorious city of Nysse, with a warning from the sect that the end of days is near. The star Wormwood has fallen and agents of the Apocalypse are now in motion.
Combining ideas prompted by the key words associated with her alchemical archetypes we decided that Urraca was going to be a woman with a troubled past. As a young girl she was orphaned when her mother and father were executed for practicing witchcraft. She herself escaped, fleeing from the purusing authorities, staying alive purely through her grit and determination. Eventually she was taken in by a benevolent Sister who initiated her into the secret order of which she is now a part. Throughout that time she has hidden a dangerous potential, for should it ever be discovered that she inherited her mother’s aptitude for the Magical Arts then she would surely be put to death like her parents.
Her traits are:
Determination – life’s a struggle (Sange)
Eldritch potential – witchcraft inherited from her mother (Melanche)
The character also gets a gift associated with one of the key words from her zodiacal aspect, which are death, old age, failure and destruction. For this Emma chose:
The ability to talk to the dead (Melanche)
Her resulting humours are Chole 5, Sange 5, Melanche 3, Pneuma 3
From the second set of elements we came up with Alma Tormenta de Otoño, another emissary from the same sect of women that Urraca Sombra del Alba belongs to. Emma and I liked the idea that both protagonists had been despatched to the Kingdom of Prester John to undertake missions associated with thwarting the Apocalypse. To facilitate this we changed Alma’s Origin to 11: Leon & Castile, the same as Urraca’s. This change has no mechanical effect.
Alma is charged with delivering a second message to the Castle of Gathonolabe, a mountain fortress where a rich and evil sorcerer trains an order of assassins, rewarding them with hedonistic and sybaritic pleasures.
Using key words associated with Alma’s alchemical archetypes we decided that she had trained diligently to achieve mastery of the blade and that she was an exceptional judge of people’s body language. Speak falsely and she will know that you have lied to her.
Her traits are:
Blade mastery – wind of knives (Chole)
Good judge of people – reading body language (Melanche)
Her gift is associated with one of the key words from her zodiacal aspect, which are worldly power, justice and leadership. From this we decided that Alma doesn’t undertake her missions alone. She is the leader of a small team of specialists; a visible envoy who is accompanied by unseen cohorts aiding her covertly from the shadows.
Leader – accompanied by unseen cohorts who aid her covertly from the shadows (Chole)
Her resulting humours are Chole 5, Sange 4, Melanche 5, Pneuma 2
Finally we generated the following map of the kingdom by drawing cards to form an eight by eight grid and then rolling randomly to determine the locations of the six destinations:
Also rolling randomly, Urraca will start the game at (8,2) and Alma at (1,5)
Note: It took three tries to randomly generate start locations where one or other of the characters wasn’t either adjacent to or collocated with their destination. I don’t know for certain that this is an issue but it seemed to limit play somewhat so we changed it.
Act Two to follow…