20 December 2006

... And Then the Dragon Exploded

We played the second session of the Savage Worlds game last night.

Again we were just 3 of the four players plus the GM, but on this occasion the one new PC was present and so his character - the sky pirate Captain Col (whose surname I can neither remember nor feel the need to use). Again the session felt like an introductory filler - appropriately since in addition to being a player light we now break until the New Year - yet again it managed to be fun and just a little unexpected.

We began where we had left off the week before: having just earned the ability to free a group of slaves that were to be traded between the Sky Cities. The two of us present who had been part of the rescue were left with a frankly ungracious chain of 20-odd dependents and nowhere to take them.

After much agonising and the improvising of torches (it was dark by this time), it was deigned that they should, at the very least, be escorted to the nearest village, Skyhaven: a commonly used docking or resupply point for sky ships of all creeds. Zeff and Kelvin were, in principle, taking charge of the freed slaves - top and tail of the column. Adenaar (and the NPC who had accompanied us last session) had returned to the Free Brigades in Surtur's Throne to report on the night's activity. As the column neared Skyhaven, a good three miles walk from the site of their skirmish, it was clear something was wrong: no lights were on in the village - not the inn nor the landing tower. With nowhere else to go, Zeff marched the group into the village square, when someone noticed the silhouette of a skyship hovering over the village. Panic set in amongst the freed slaves, and whilst Kelvin and the villagers broke into various buildings to find cover, Zeff swiftly put out the one torch he had to hand and hid in a doorway watching the tower. The skyship had tethered, and a figure called down to no answer before disembarking and lighting the lantern atop the Landing Tower, then slowly climbing down. Kelvin, being Kelvin, had identified the inn and broken in; someone had left a chair behind the door to block it, yet the building itself was empty. The figure was heading towards the now-lighted inn when Zeff snuck up behind him, whipped his blade to the man's throat and ordered him to disarm.

The new arrival was ordered into the inn, where the assembled all tucked into food. The village had been empty, deserted and it was setting some of the freed slaves on edge: they really were ungrateful for their freedom! Col introduced himself, for it was he who had descended from the tethered ship - his own - and the group were beginning to ask questions of each other with respect to the odd status of the village when Kelvin and Col heard the hum of arrows. A glance out of the window confirmed the worst: the building was under attack from several hunched figures, and its wooden frame was sprouting more burning arrows every moment. Whilst Kelvin and Col tried to keep the former slaves calm and controlled, and signal to Col's ship for a pick-up, Zeff became a blur of motion - beginning his rhythmic dance before diving out of the window and closing with the nearest attacker. It appeared these things were ape-like creatures with arrows that ignited themselves when pulled from their quivers. None could shoot straight though, and Zeff was able to close.

By now Col and Kelvin had the hapless former slaves on the roof of the inn, kicking burning thatch aside to clear the way for a ladder dropped from Col's ship (there were three crew still aboard). Col, however, took an arrow as he marshalled people to the ladder, but shrugged it off. Kelvin took it upon himself to cover with his crossbow from the roof of the inn as Col descended again and, along with the bravest of the freed villagers (who had been trusted with one of the blades recovered from the slavers earlier in the evening) charged out to meet the foe (there turned out to be 7 of the creatures). The skirmish was brief - without the range and massive target of a wooden building to get the best use of their bows the ape-things were far from trained fighters - even the unarmoured villager held his own whilst Zeff and Col made quick work of the rest. Col took a nasty cut from one of the creatures but it was not enough to put him down, or out.

The skirmish ended with Zeff chasing down the last fleeing foe and Kelvin and Col coming to some alarming conclusions: the rags the creatures had been wearing marking them out as the original villagers of Skyhaven, somehow "transformed"; Kelvin also found a crystal shard in the middle of the square - on ground that looked scarred and burnt in the light provided by the burning inn. Perturbed by the attack the group collectively sheltered on Col's vessel overnight, and briefly stopped down again in the morning to stock up with food and water from the deserted (but still vaguely standing; the flame had burnt out overnight) inn. Col had agreed to help Zeff and Kelvin do what they could by the former slaves by flying them back to their village, and the ship set off for the 50 mile journey.

An hour or two later a shape was spotted aft of the vessel, flying at speed towards Col's ship. A quick examination through a telescope by both Col and Kelvin suggested the unthinkable: it was a dragon. Dragons had been created by man and magic as terrifying sentient weapons of war, and were now few and legendary. In order to avoid a panicking cargo-hold of villagers spilling out onto the decks, as knowledge of the dragon would surely cause, Zeff frantically sought to block the doors, trapping them inside, whilst Col brought the ship around and readied the ballista. The beast was flying right at the ship, and a few ineffective shots later it screeched by overhead, launching a breath of flame that roasted the crow's nest and panicked young Zeff - who had never even heard of dragons before. The beast flew by, banking to come in again. This time it was on a full attack run. Col had the crew drop altitude and then attempted to slide the ship out of the path of the onrushing wyrm. He managed it, insofar as no-one was snatched in the beast's claws, but the dragon itself tangled in the masts and rigging, destroying any control over the ship, which began to fall.

The enraged wyrm was unable to free itself but not entirely helpless, as it managed to swipe at one of Col's crew, flicking him up in the air before swallowing him whole; it seemed just a matter of moments before everyone on board would be similarly deceased. Col and Kelvin - who knew something of the sentience of dragons - had other ideas. Fiercely protective of his ship, and in the knowledge that inaction was certain death, so he may as well act, Col swung out on a loose line of rigging, generating some momentum. Kelvin, meanwhile, was staring the beast in the face, yet somehow managed to keep his wits about him and hold the beast's sentient attention. Zeff was just coming to grips with his fear and recovering himself as Col swung in and buried his blade through the creature's neck whilst it was fixated on the portly alchemist, loosing acidic blood over the deck. Hanging on to the blade with one hand, Col found the dragon's eye with his boat-hook, bursting it and spraying watery fluid. Zeff was moving by now, dancing across the deck and up onto the dragon's back with a deft leap. It was then that the boat hit the tree-line, rocking massively and plowing through the forest as it sunk towards the ground.

The shower of wood and earth in the collision was enough to free the dragon, but not to throw Zeff from its back (or his feet). As the wyrm beat frantically to lift off he ran up the beast's spine and jumped off to one side of its head, plunging his blade into its one good eye to the hilt. The dragon faltered, and was falling; Zeff was able to kick off the side of it's face, pulling the blade free (but dropping it) and catch a branch as he fell. All and sundry then watched as the ailing beast flapped once, then twice, then fell, dying, into the forest...

... And then the dragon exploded, showering the forest in scales, flesh and tooth alike.

Amazingly the encounter left no-one scathed, except the poor crew member who was eaten and the villagers locked in the hold who suffered bumps, breaks and bruises as the ship careered into the trees. They were, characteristically, ungrateful for their lives, and equally so for their fortune - that they were not far from their village; after Kelvin had patched them up they quickly set off, leaving Col, his crew, Zeff and Kelvin to make repairs to the skyship (and collect potentially valuable dragon parts - teeth, claws and scales). Thankfully only the masts and rigging had sustained any real damage and makeshift repairs could be made from the bountiful wood of the forest. A few days later they were aloft again, heading back to Surtur's Throne; none of them quite believing what had happened or what they had done.


It was one of those games where the dice work for the players I guess! I don't think any of us figured we'd kill the dragon (I was more interested initially in how the GM would use it as a plot device) but it rolled very poorly and the PCs aced all the important rolls - Col's first attack exploded several times, and combined with situational modifiers to give 5 extra damage dice, and then I aced the attack roll on the fleeing dragon (on a d12) to obliterate its other eye. It all worked to give the game a cinematic action flair, continuing the trend established in the opening ambush last time out. I hope that, once we have the full group together in the New Year, we'll have more opportunity for roleplayed set pieces amongst the action, but similarly I long since came to the conclusion that whatever my preferences for my ideal game, the best way to enjoy any given game is to adapt to the flow of the group.

I'll have a chance, perhaps, to do more direct character drama when I run a game again. For the moment, I shall look forward to that and enjoy the current game for whatever it turns out to be - whether the action-packed nature continues, or whether another tack is taken once the game gets properly underway next year.

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