Decked!: Custom Biotics vs. Nasir Meidan

Decked! returns with a Netrunner match-up between the cyber explorer Nasir Meidan, with Roy scrounging credits from thin air to pay for his probes into the developing agendas of Haas Bioroid’s Custom Biotics, headed up by Alex, eager to prove not only his division’s ability to produce marketable products, but also their offensive defensive techniques against virtual intruders.

Click through the video to visit the official Decked! YouTube channel, where you can subscribe to get updates as new episodes post, and browse the archives as they grow. Decked! is produced with facilities provided by Vermont Community Access Media in Burlington, Vermont. You can also watch it on VCAM 15, or on VCAM’s web player.

In this episode, and the one to come, I made a back-up recording of the overhead angle of the table. This way, in post-production, I could either cover up switching mistakes I made during the recording, and skip over the longer pauses in play.

Decked!: Tennin Institute vs. Ken “Express” Tenma

Decked! returns with the follow-up Netrunner match between Roy and Alex. This time, the tables have flipped as Alex’s runner, Ken “Express” Tenma, takes on the Tennin Institute, headed up by Roy.

Click through the video to visit the official Decked! YouTube channel, where you can subscribe to get updates as new episodes post, and browse the archives as they grow. Decked! is produced with facilities provided by Vermont Community Access Media in Burlington, Vermont. You can also watch it on VCAM 15, or on VCAM’s web player.

Decked!: Whizzard vs. Jinteki

We’re kicking off something new today. Embedded above is the first episode of Decked!, a web series of people playing board games, in homage to shows like Magic Matchups, Team Covenant‘s living card game coverage and Tabletop. We kick off with a round of Android: Netrunner, in which my friends Alex and Roy pit the relentless trashing might of the anarch Whizzard against the Jinteki corporation’s layers of traps and misdirection.

Click through the video to visit the official Decked! YouTube channel, where you can subscribe to get updates as new episodes post, and browse the archives as they grow.  Decked! is produced with facilities provided by Vermont Community Access Media in Burlington, Vermont. You can also watch it on VCAM 15, or on VCAM’s web player.

Fate of the Norns: Fafnir’s Treasure

Join me in welcoming Dan as a contributor to Held Action. You may remember him from Carrion Crown, Mummy’s Mask and Carnagecast. This time, Dan’s written an actual play report of running Fate of the Norns: Ragnarok, which has proven quite popular at Carnage and around Vermont. Take it away, Dan!

This past Saturday, down at Brap’s Magic, I ran a one-shot session of Fate of the Norns: Ragnarok, using the quick-start rules, pregenerated characters, and adventure provided in the Fafnir’s Treasure sourcebook. I was joined by Toby, Hunter, Jake, Cory, and Tom.

After a bit of explanation of how the Runic Game System works, and a rundown of the pregens, we had this lineup:

  • Toby: Sigyn the Maiden of Ratatosk (a taunting agility-based fighter)
  • Hunter: Fjori the Skald (a spellsinger)
  • Jake: Jokull the Galdr (a runecaster)
  • Cory: Vanadis the Seithkona (a witch)
  • Tom: Turbog the Ulfhednar (a wolf’s-head, a strong warrior who can assume the shape of a wolf)

Once the characters were chosen and folks read over their various abilities and such, we got right into it. After here, be warned: spoilers for Fafnir’s Treasure abound!

The scene opened on the docks outside the Icelandic town of Evingard — the party’s ship had been attacked by ice krakens, but made it to town, sailing though the sunless days and moonless nights of the Fimbulwinter, their way lit only by the stars.

A Viking longshop lands on a landscape of plastic green hexes. The hero figures approach the walls of Evingard.Abandoned by the ship captain, they wandered to the gates of the town, only to find scorch marks on the walls, arrows all over, and a bunch of dead, dying, and wounded townsfolk — the guards quickly explained that the town was seemingly cursed: the mine was shut down, there were undead polar bears attacking every few hours, and to make matters worse, the town was playing host to Volstagg the Einherjar, an emissary of the Aesir, and Aud the Son of Muspel, an emissary of the Jotuns. Either of these immortal beings could destroy the whole town, if the mood struck them, but the guards were afraid that if they fell to fighting, they’d level the town and everyone in it.

While the guards were explaining what was going on, Fjori took out his harp and played a song about the Apples of Idun, a powerful healing melody, and helped many of the wounded to live on.

Counter clockwise, from lower left: Toby, Cory, Hunter, Jake and Tom sit around the game table.

Counter clockwise, from lower left: Toby, Cory, Hunter, Jake and Tom.

They headed into the town, seeing the poor and destitute eking out a miserable existence, beset by frostbite, while the wealthy strut around in silks and jewels. Truly, all bonds of human kindness have broken down during Ragnarok!

The gate guards had mentioned that there was a tavern called the Burning Boar in town. Expressing a desire to see a flaming pig, Sigyn exhorted everyone to head there for some drinking and maybe to meet this Einherjar, Volstagg. Well, the tavern didn’t have an actual pig on fire, but it *did* have an abundance of delicious raspberry fishcakes! A true Nordic delicacy, but the tavernkeep, Sven, refused to say where he got raspberries in the time of the Fimbulwinter, when the sun and moon had been eaten by wolves.

Well, after a bit of knife-throwing with the guards, some drinking and more of those fantastic raspberry fishcakes, our heroes went up to speak to the Einherjar, Volstagg. Volstagg explained that he seeks Andvarinaut, the Ring of the Niebelungs. He would use the gold it makes to finance the Aesir armies when the last battle comes. While he told the story of Fafnir and the treasure, though, Vanadis slipped into the shadows and out into the town. She crept to Astrid’s House of Pleasure, where she had heard that Aud, the Son of Muspel was staying. While the others discussed things with Volstagg, Vanadis asked Aud what he wanted — well, of course he wanted Andvarinaut as well! Many armies can be paid from the gold brought forth from the ring.

Eventually, everyone regrouped at the Burning Boar. They drank, they sang, they talked about the problems in town. Vanadis wanted to investigate the mines, so they did talk to Magnus, the mine-owner — but he did not want to discuss the matter. So, they decided to go after the great treasure. They wanted supplies, though, and alas! did not have enough skatt to buy skis or snowshoes or any other supplies. Reasoning that the town would reward them if they dealt with these supposedly unkillable bears, they decided to investigate. The townsfolk told them that they had tried everything to kill the bears — swords, arrows, fire, everything, but the bears just keep rising and coming back. Turbog tracked the bears, and determined they were coming from the forests to the northwest, so they headed out.

A near skeletal bear charges across a field of green Heroscape tiles at the heroes.It didn’t take long before they encountered a ragged bear, a miserable white specimen that looked as though it had been killed over and over again. It roared and charged at them!

The bears claws were deadly, and its icy breath chilling — but when Sigyn enraged it with her snide taunts, Turbog slew it with his maul. They burned the body as best they could, but they couldn’t know if it would stay dead. They chose to press on.

After camping in the night-black woods, the dark chill kept away only by their campfire, they headed further into the snows. It wasn’t long before they found more bears.

IMG_1763Jokull called on the power of the World-Tree to create an alka to erode the bears’ life-force, Vanadis invoked her seith to snap their bones, and Fjori unleashed his song of the Long Knives, spurring his friends to ever-greater heights of combat prowess. The bears did not stand a chance before the onslaught of these mighty heroes.

No matter how many they killed, though, the bears kept coming.


Sigyn taunted the bears, slashing at them with her sword. Turbog took the form of a deadly blood-wolf to savage them. Fjori sang of the long knives, and he stabbed them in the back when they were attacking others. Vanadis snapped their bones, and called on the dead sun and moon to heal her compatriots. Jokull’s runic powers called forth the alka of Yggdrasil to harm them, and used his crossbow to send them flying. Eventually, after slaying bear after bear, taking grievous wounds themselves, they reached a deep crevasse at the base of the mountains, the ground falling away into darkness.

Jokull and Vanadis studied the crevasse, consulting the runes and reading the omens. They determined that the crevasse was full of the stuff of Niflheim, and was corrupting the bears, making them even more deadly. They didn’t know what to do, at first, but then Vanadis opened herself to the spirit of the mountains, using her seith magic to become a living conduit for the will and desire of the landvaettir.

The spirit spoke through her, and told that it knew of the corruption leaking from Niflheim in the crevasse. It said that it would fall into the crevasse and bury the foulness, but only if they did something for it, first. It knew of a place of comfort and springtime nearby, and it wished to feel that spring weather upon its mountaintop again.

They had no idea how to accomplish this, so they went back to Evingard to talk to Sven again. As the local tavernkeep, he seemed to have a pretty good handle on what was up in town. Eventually, with much mead and skilful cajoling from Sigyn, they did get him to reveal where he was getting those amazing raspberries — from Ivar the druid. They surmised that a druid might dwell in the stone circle they’d seen outside town, so they headed there to beard the druid in his den.

It took some yelling, some pounding on the walls, and a bit of smashing things up to get Ivar to acknowledge them, but eventually he grudgingly opened his manse to them and brought them into his lands — his druid’s power kept his land green and growing, even in the midst of the eternal night of Ragnarok. With some doing, the party gained Ivar’s trust — at least, enough for him to tell them what he would desire if he were to make the three or four day hike to the mountain, and then the week of work to make it feel the spring again. It turned out that Ivar is Ingvar’s son — Ingvar being the chieftain of the Wolf Clan and ruler of Evingard. He was exiled for marrying his sister, Ingvar’s daughter. He wanted the exile lifted — not to live in Evingard again, but freedom to travel there as needed. Tutting a bit at this indecorous behavior, everyone decided to talk to Ingvar anyway — what does it matter of Ivar marries his sister Bera? the world would be over soon anyway, let men and women seek what solace they can, ere Garm’s third howl.

Ingvar, at least, was easy to find — his hall was the greatest in Evingard. Explaining that they could solve the bear problem, Ingvar’s guards led them to the old war-hound. Stroking his beard, Ingvar heard their plea. The old man weighed the plague of bears against his son’s misdeeds, and decided that it should be left to Jadvyg, the Angel of Death.

Entering the frozen cemetery, the party were struck by how silent it was, even inside the town walls. They found the Angel of Death in the House of Hel in the burying ground’s center. Speaking to her in the silent darkness of that place, they had to speak carefully — Jadvyg suffers neither fool or idle chatter. She asked them about the Einherjar and the Son of Muspel — she had heard they spoke with the immortals, and she wished to know whom they would serve. At first, the party tried to hedge their bets, and avoid a decision — but the crone would not have it. She gave them one chance to decide and decide now, and how they chose would tell her everything she needed to know about them and whether or no she should support their plea to help Ivar.

Well, they could not decide. They talked about it, but were unsure whom they should support — until Jokull the galdr realized the best course of action — to let the runes decide. He raised up his bag of runes and wyrded one solitary rune — and the runes indicated they should serve the Aesir.

Jadvyg nodded, satisfied. She send a message to Ingvar that she would support lifting Ivar’s exile. Ivar traveled to the mountain top and in due time the rumbles of a great avalanche were heard. The foul current of Niflheim were drowned in a thousand tons of snow and rock, and the bears returned to being regular bears. Ingvar rewarded the heroes with a feast and a thousand skatt, and they prepared later to head out in search of the treasure for Volstagg — but that is a story for another time.

And that is where we ended it — they got a little ways into the hunt for Fafnir’s treasure, but not very far before time was up. Everyone had a great time, and found the runic system to be pretty easy to use once you got used to it.

I’m looking forward to running it again!

[Mummy’s Mask] Wednesday Night Ghoul Fever

“I like to think of my familiar as quantumly entangled.”
— Devin

The Half-Dead City cover art.After a night of rest in the temple of the old goddess Bastet, Raenar the archaeologist awoke to find a cat lying on his chest. This seemed like a good omen, so the party proceeded down Acrid Street into Lapis Dog territory, looking for the leader of the pack, Priest in Chains.

First, they snuck up on ghouls rooting through what turned out to be a buffet of sorts: a street fountain filled with rotting corpses. One ghoul fleeing from that exchange led them to the Lapis Dogs’ chief lair, as Priest in Chains himself descended to join the fray, after the Plundercats forced their way through the rear entrance.

Once Priest in Chains’ head and items of value were secured, the adventurers discovered living humans languishing in the inn. While Akhil and Mentu tended to them — conveniently taking them out of dealing with any “friendly” ghouls — the others returned up Acrid Street. A chance encounter with ghouls brought out the Walkers of Nemret. Tath tried to sell the Walkers on using Priest in Chains’ mask of Set to impersonate the dead ghoul and take control of the remaining Lapis Dogs, but the language and culture barriers defeated communicating such a complex concept through gestures.

After a last pass of Bastet’s temple, Plundercats LLC cleared out of the necropolis. The ghoul victims were taken to the temple of Pharasma for care. Their cut of the take from Acrid Street did not impress the surviving Sand Scorpions at all. Sad for them, but the fewer competitors in the marketplace, the better for Plundercats LLC’s bottom line.

#RPGaDAY 29: Most Memorable Encounter

#RPGaDAY prompts.

The #RPGaDAY prompt was concocted by Dave Chapman of Autocratik. Grab the list and join in!

Wake of the Watcher cover.In the midst of Carrion Crown‘s Wake of the Watcher chapter, beset by nightgaunts and mi-go, we happened across a creature sufficiently bizarre to put all the Lovecraftian beasties to shame. It hopped. It squawked demanding, nonsensical questions. It projected images between antennae. It was . . . the riddling turnip. Or really, it was a cerebric fungus. But the WTF factor of the encounter stuck with us for weeks after, past the mi-go’s Mr. Chunder blender, Gea the inside-out mockery of an eidolon from beyond the Dark Tapestry and even the incarnation of Shub-Niggurath herself.

“They must have ordered it late one night off the electric radish.”
— Geoff on Mr. Chunder

Honorary Mention

Way back in the day, there was the Stargate SG-4 campaign. This team of four tromps through the gate to a shiny new world, discover it’s the middle of the night in a museum and they immediately panic. Run! Hide! Don’t let the aliens find us! Never mind that this is the Stargate universe, where a simple “hi” works wonders. No, some primal groupthink instinct kicked in and the team members were all seized by an utter dread of actually encountering any inhabitants of this world they’d come to explore.

[Mummy’s Mask] The Fragrance of Fallen Qlippothim

“You know there’s a bard in the party when you’re arguing about scansion during a fight.”
— Mentu

The Half-Dead City cover art. This week in Mummy’s Mask, the party continued their sub-contract of investigating the perfume shop in the middle of a ghoul turf war. The depths of the shop beckoned, but ghouls gathered outside, so they took care of those first, with Viktovich playing the star role plowing through them.

The back rooms of the shop boasted elderly perfume-making apparatus, an oven with a qlippoth-infested cat and a giant black widow in the bedroom.

Loaded down with fragile glassware, they beat feet back to the temple of Bastet with ghouls on their heels. It was Walkers of Nemret versus the Lapis Dogs in the street, with archery support from the temple steps. And Tath finally got to use enlarge person on Viktovich, so everyone was happy.

Moreover, we leveled after all that! And then I discovered that all this time, Mentu’s favored enemy was the undead. So he’ll be shifting closer, if less tactfully, to Akhil’s stance of complete disgruntlement at treating with ghouls. However well-spoken, ghouls are pestilent vermin.

#RPGaDAY 28: Scariest Game You’ve Played

#RPGaDAY prompts.

The #RPGaDAY prompt was concocted by Dave Chapman of Autocratik. Grab the list and join in!

The scariest role-playing game I ever partook in was not scary due to the adventure or other prepared material. Rather, it was the use of lights, music and sound effects that got me during the adventure’s climax. The GM did an excellent job of using rhythm and dissonance to get the heart pounding and me feeling off-kilter.

Once was enough for that sort of thing.

#RPGaDAY 17: Funniest Game You’ve Played

#RPGaDAY prompts.

The #RPGaDAY prompt was concocted by Dave Chapman of Autocratik. Grab the list and join in!

Paranoia cover.Hands down, the funniest game I ever played was John Terra running Paranoia at OGC in New Hampshire. Which session of Paranoia, I cannot say, because I made it a point to play in his adventures year after year and they have run together in a glorious mish-mash of secret agendas, poorly understood prototype weaponry and keeping one worried eye on the number of clones remaining.

I was highly suspicious of Paranoia when I first played in one of John’s games. It seemed like a recipe for a miserable time of backstabbing and “ha ha, I win.” I forget how I got past that initial perception, but I did. The backstabbing still happened, but the community spirit at the table was persuasive, and John’s an amazing GM who does an amazing job of making player choices matter while including everyone who puts themselves forward to participate. And the adventures are littered with themed puns. I was puzzled by the year all the player characters were thinly veiled Red Sox team members, though.