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Author Topic: [Actual Play] - Elephant Queens & Tiger Kings  (Read 2265 times)


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[Actual Play] - Elephant Queens & Tiger Kings
« on: July 17, 2020, 03:47:06 PM »
Elephant Queens & Tiger Kings - 1: Creating the World



Bronze Age(ish) Sword & Sorcery set in Southeast Asia during the last Ice Age. For the past couple of years I've been creating a setting construction toolkit for Ice Age Sundaland, the now sunken land that lay between Java, Sumatra, Malaysia and Borneo 15,000 years ago. I call it a setting construction toolkit because the aim has been to create resources for people to discover their own version of this setting rather than to make them absorb pages and pages of history lore and fiction.

The tone I'm aiming for is a mix of pulp fiction, sword & sorcery, dark fantasy, alternative history and fringe archaeology. You can read more about the setting here:

I'm going to be playing a solo game using the free IronSworn rules. I don't expect I will be writing complete fiction but there will be some narration to go along with the dice rolls and I'll be explicit about all the resources that I use to create the world and drive the game. IronSworn is a game that is partly influenced by Apocalypse World and has a narrative tracking mechanic built in, which means that even a description of the rolls and results will provide a description of the action.

Today I will start with choosing options from the Sundaland Workbook (which you can find on my blog) to set the scene of the world I'm going to explore. Further details will be fleshed out as I play.

Each section has 3 options to choose from, but for brevity I've only written out the one I've chosen as well as the accompanying plot hook.


Gods and Religion

People worship many different gods. Most religions are polytheistic but even the monotheists don't deny the existence of other gods, just that theirs favours them in particular or is the most powerful above all others.

2. The gods exist but their direct impact on the world is limited. They work through mysterious ways. Communication with them is difficult to achieve and the results are often ambiguous and open to interpretation. Who is able to communicate with the gods and how do they do it? What are their messages and intentions for mortals?

Quest starter: The lands have not been yielding as before and the people fear the gods have abandoned their leaders. The people grow restless and some are openly questioning the ability of the elites to rule. What is the reason for poor yields and what can be done about it? Can the people be convinced that the gods still favour the rulers?


2. Magic is something that a select few have access to under the right circumstances or with the right knowledge and resources. Even then the results are not consistent or definitely identifiable as magic. Perhaps it is dangerous and maybe it corrupts those who indulge in its practice. What are the necessary conditions for magic to happen? What do the results look like? How does it affect the practitioner and the world?

Quest starter: A totem has gone missing from the temple and the priests are certain that calamity will befall the city if it is not found soon. What has happened to it and can it recovered before it's too late?

Human Species

Homo Sapiens Sapiens are not the first Homo species to arrive in Sundaland. Other species like the Homo Denisova and Homo Floresiensis inhabited the land before we arrived.

2. Our species rarely interacts with other types of humans since they are low in number. We are out competing them in many areas and it seems it won't be long before we become the dominant type. However we have much to learn from them if we're willing to. What special knowledge or abilities do other species of humans possess? Are they willing to share those or are they intent on keeping them to themselves? If the latter, what could persuade them to share?

Quest starter: A group of the "others" has entered our territory but it's unclear what their intentions are. The local people are weary and would rather they move on. What do the newcomers want and can they be convinced to move on?

Technology Level

I imagine that cultures will each be at a different level of technology, with some remaining as hunter-gatherers while others develop in a different direction. There's also the possibility that cultures lose knowledge and regress in sophistication due to wars or natural disasters. This section described the average technology level for your setting.

I've left the question of the domestication of rice as a separate matter for now because it has such a big impact on the world. Rice farming is very labour intensive and requires a lot of planning and cooperation which necessarily requires or leads to more complex social structures. The current scientific consensus is that rice wasn't domesticated until 13,500 - 8000 years ago in China. But you could imagine that rice was domesticated in Sundaland and then spread around the region after the floods.

1. Bronze Age

People have learned to cast bronze tools and weapons using copper and tin. Sources of food are early forms of horticulture (gardening) and agriculture (farming) supplemented by fishing, hunting and gathering. Some plants and animals are in the early stages of domestication. Examples of technologies include the plow, soap, oil lamps, rope and the wheel.

Writing has been invented but very few people are literate. Astronomical knowledge may be quite advanced with some cultures building monuments that reflect knowledge of precession, equinoxes and various planetary alignments.

Boats consist of various types of canoes and catamarans powered by oars or using sails such as the Crab Claw Sail. Commerce is facilitated through barter and various non-coin currencies. Coin currencies may be in use by some cultures but it's not widespread or standardised. Most people live in wooden buildings but temples, forts and palaces are built with stone.

Quest starter: A nearby culture has advanced knowledge of the stars and their motions. This knowledge could be useful for your people so you've been tasked with acquiring their secrets by any means necessary.

Status and Hierarchy

Civilisation allows for the division of labour and role specialisation which can lead to the formation of class and caste structures, often hierarchical in nature. Each class or caste ranks in rights, power, wealth and status but there doesn't necessarily have to be a correlation between each of these. Some classes or castes might have a lot of status but no wealth or vice versa.

3. Your culture has a loose social structure with a lot of opportunity for social mobility which is either inbuilt or due to external circumstances (war, natural disasters, depopulation etc.). This is a dynamic social environment with both positive and negative consequences. The risks are are great but so are the opportunities. Why is the society of your culture not as stratified as others? Has it always been this way or did this situation come about recently? What are the challenges and opportunities?

Quest starter: Your extended family has been accused of shirking its duties and is in danger of losing respect amongst your fellow citizens. What is the accusation, who is making it and what can be done to restore the families' honour?


2. There are numerous towns and city-states. The world is still a dangerous place but well prepared groups can explore far from civilisation. What are the incentives for venturing out into the wild?

Quest starter: It is time for your people to expand their domain so you've been sent out as part of an expedition to identify a site for a new settlement. Can you find somewhere your people can prosper and grow?


2. Some resources are scarce. Each culture has the basics of what they need but there are a couple of key things they need to acquire from outside sources. Sometimes those resources can be acquired through trade or exploration other times through raiding or conquest. Which resources are in need by particular cultures? Are they in need of food staples, luxury goods or strategically important materials such as tin and copper? What happens when a resource restrictions happens? How are conflicts over resources resolved?

Quest starter: There are rumours that a new tin deposit has been discovered in hills several days away. It is necessary for the production of bronze and could give your city the advantage over rivals. You've been sent with a scouting party to find out if the rumours are true and secure the site for your people.


3. Economies are interlinked and reliant on each other in a complex web of trade. Cultures have become specialised in what they produce. Everything from food to luxury resources are traded back and forth. A broken link in the chain could cause a cascading collapse of heavily interdependent economies. Which resources are most important to keeping the system going? Are there particular resources that are becoming scarce or about to be restricted in some way? What will the outcome of that be?

Quest starter: You are part of a trade envoy to another city state. The goods you transport are highly valuable and rivals are afraid the gift will upset the balance of power in the region. What is your envoy carrying and what are the implications if the mission succeeds?


2. The land experiences intermittent or ritual warfare. If there is a cold war of sorts then there are small skirmishes and conflicts erupting all the time. Things are in a precarious balance between the various factions that each strive for an advantage. How do the factions try to secure an advantage? Are they willing to risk an escalation? What are the potential rewards for the victors? What could change the balance of power between the factions?

Quest starter: Warriors from a rival city state have been spotted in our territory. You've been sent out to investigate the situation. Is this a planned incursion, have strayed into our territory by mistake or were they driven here for some reason?

Ice-Age Megafauna

2. Occasionally explorers and travellers encounter large animals and monsters far from civilisation. Is there any value in hunting or capturing these animals? What are the rewards? Do they threaten civilisation in any way? Are they likely to multiply in numbers or die out?

Quest starter: The animals of a local village have all been killed overnight and the villagers fear they will be next. They plead to the leaders of your city to find the culprit and end the danger that besieges them.


1. The tides are regular and predictable allowing settlements to exist safely along the rivers and coasts. Is there competition for the available living space? Are there any constraints on available resources? Are there any outside forces that seek to take advantage of this stability?

Quest starter: A group of sea gypsies has moved into the area. They are putting a strain on the local resources but insist they have no where else to go. Can you find a solution to their predicament before the locals take things into their own hands?

Elder Beings and Species

Elder beings originate from beyond space and time, older even than the gods and perhaps more powerful. Elder species are intelligent non-humans that developed culture and technology before any kind of human set foot in Sundaland.

2. Elder beings and species were banished from this world or mostly killed off in ancient times. They seek entrance or ascendance. For elder beings: How do they manifest in our world? How do they communicate their will and with whom? What is their ultimate goal? For elder species: What are they? Where do they live? What do they want? How will they go about getting that?

Quest starter: A previously dormant volcano has started emitting smoke again. The priests believe that dark forces are working to open up the gates to the netherworld. Is someone or something responsible, and if so, how can they be stopped?


In my next post I'll roll up some factions so that there are some chess pieces on the board as it were. Active participants in the world to bounce off.
« Last Edit: July 20, 2020, 03:30:24 PM by TimothyWestwind »
Sword & Sorcery in Southeast Asia during the last Ice Age: Lots of tools and resources to build your own setting.


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[Actual Play] - Elephant Queens & Tiger Kings
« Reply #1 on: July 19, 2020, 06:54:23 PM »

Last time I said I was going to roll up some factions but I've decided to start the action outside of the city. So I'll create a character and jump right into the game.

I'm using the free game IronSworn RPG which can be played in solo mode. I'll play the rules as written, (although I should really substitute Bronze for Iron!). I'll also bring in other resources to help run the game as and when I see fit.

My character is named Kiakro and his stats are

Edge: 3 (Quickness, agility and prowess in ranged combat)
Heart: 1 (Courage, willpower, empathy, sociability, and loyalty)
Iron: 2 (Physical strength, endurance, aggressiveness, and prowess in close combat)
Shadow: 1 (Sneakiness, deceptiveness, and cunning)
Wits: 2 (Expertise, knowledge and observation)

I've decided my three starting assets are: Skirmisher (Spear handling), Waterborn (Knowledge of watercraft and travel) and Herbalist (Healing with herbal remedies)

I'm also adding the optional Fortune Hunter asset from the Delve supplement to track wealth. Sword & Sorcery settings often have protagonists who wish to enrich themselves so this asset will add to the atmosphere of the game.

That's it for now, let's play to find out what happens.


I wake up from a slap to the face. My friend Auko is looking down on me, a relieved smile on his face. I'm soaking wet, bruised and aching but otherwise unscathed. All I remember is a loud crash and our boat coming to a sudden halt. A breach in the hull, and a rush of water meant all had to abandon the craft.

Thank the gods that we weren't tied to our benches as so many rowers are. It was every man for himself, diving into the water and swimming for their lives. I can't even remember getting to the shore, but here I am, lying on a small rocky beach.

"We've got to get moving, this is our chance for freedom" Auko says.

There were 20 people in total on the boat. 10 rowers and the others consisted of the owners and some merchants. I wonder how many survived int total?

Roll 1d20. Result: 13 survivors. Including myself and Auko.

How many are rowers? Roll 1d10. Result: 3.

I'll decide that Auko and myself are the only people to be seen at the river bank right now, but the other survivors might come into play later.

Auoko helps me to my feet, we can see the boat some way off, one side raised in the air as it's taking on water. It must have struck a rock or perhaps a large tree trunk just below the surface. We hear some calls, it's time to escape into the jungle.

Face Danger with speed and agility (Edge).

Action Die, Roll 1d6 + Edge (3) = 3 + 3 for a total of 6.
Challenge Dice, Roll 2d6 = 4 and 4.

That's a strong hit and an opportunity because of the matching challenge dice.

I get +1 momentum

We are lucky to be so close to the trees and within moments we crash our way through the undergrowth into darkness of the forest. It doesn't seem like anybody saw us.

If we can sneak away from the other survivors without leaving a trail, then the others will assume we didn't make it out of the river alive.

Secure an Advantage with deception, stealth or trickery.

Action Die, Roll 1d6 + Shadow (1) = 2 + 3 for a total of 3.
Challenge Dice, Roll 2d6 = 7 and 2.

A weak hit for a short lived advantage, +1 momentum.

We do our best to sneak off through the forest without leaving a trail, but after a little while we hear shouts behind us. It seems that if we're not careful we'll be found and caught. I look around to see if there's some way we can hide or otherwise lose our pursuers.

Gather Information with Wits.

Action Die, Roll 1d6 + Wits (2) = 4 + 2 for a total of 6.
Challenge Dice, Roll 2d6 = 7 and 4.

The information complicates your quest or introduces a new danger, +1 momentum.

I'm not sure what the complication is so I roll on the Aspect and Focus oracle tables.  89, Dead and 2, Attack.

We're running across the forest floor when we see a figure up ahead, it's one of the men from the boat. He must have been carried further down river before coming ashore. He's clutching his side which is bleeding profusely. It doesn't looks like he will live much longer but he's standing in our way and is calling out to the others that he's found some runaways. I decide I need to take him out so I run towards him and attempt to roughly tackle him to the ground.

Normally he'd be a Troublesome foe which would take me 3 hits take down. But because he's outnumbered and so badly injured I think it will just take 2 to fill up his damage track after which I can attempt to end the fight.

Enter the Fray with Heart.

Action Die, Roll 1d6 + Heart (1) = 2 + 1 for a total of 3.
Challenge Dice, Roll 2d6 = 4 and 3.

That's a miss but I decide to burn momentum to get a Strong hit and to get the Initiative. My momentum resets to +2 but because of the Strong Hit I get +2 raising my total momentum to +4.

I launch myself at the man and tackle him to the ground, I start punching him with all my might, aiming for his bleeding side as much as I can.

Strike with Iron.

Action Die, Roll 1d6 + Iron (2) = 6 + 2 for a total of 3.
Challenge Dice, Roll 2d6 = 7 and 9.

A Weak Hit. I inflict damage but I lose initiative.

I get some good punches into the side of his chest which cause him to scream out in pain, but I can't get a good grasp on him. He wriggles out from under me and starts flailing at me.

Clash with Iron.

Action Die, Roll 1d6 + Iron (2) = 1 + 2 for a total of 3.
Challenge Dice, Roll 2d6 = 2 and 2.

Strong Hit with an Opportunity.

I manage to get close to him and land more punches into his bleeding side, Auko rushes up behind him and muffles his mouth preventing him from crying out.

End the Fight. As mentioned earlier because he we was outnumbered and already dying I decided it would only take two hits to fill out his damage track (10 out of 10).

Roll 2d6: 5 and 3.

A strong hit.

Auko wraps his arm around the man's neck and squeezes until his body slumps to the ground. We hide him in the undergrowth as the calls of his friends draw closer. If we can make a run for it now we should be able to lose them in the vastness of the forest.

Secure and Advantage with Edge

Action Die, Roll 1d6 + Edge (3) = 3 + 3 for a total of 6.
Challenge Dice, Roll 2d6 = 6 and 2.

Weak Hit. We succeed but face a cost. I choose to Endure Stress, -1 to spirit to leave me at +4 Spirit.

Make the Endure Stress move.

Action Die, Roll 1d6 + Spirit (4) = 6 + 4 for a total of 10.
Challenge Dice, Roll 2d6 = 3 and 4.

Strong Hit. I choose to embrace the darkness and get +1 momentum bringing me to 5 momentum.

Auko and I escape into the forest and the calls of the boatsmen is soon drowned out by the cacophony of the birds. I've been running on adrenaline for the past couple of hours and the fact that I had to wrestle with a man for my life and freedom has left me somewhat shaken.

As we walk we keep a look out for fruit or other edible plants.

Resupply with Wits.

Action Die, Roll 1d6 + Wits (2) = 3 + 2 for a total of 5.
Challenge Dice, Roll 2d6 = 2 and 9.

A Weak Hit which means we can take +2 supply in exchange for 2 momentum (down to 3).

I have a d20 table with a list of fruits that I roll on (Plant, Animal, Mineral and other Resources of Sundaland). 2 and 15.

We find some Bay Berries and Rambutan. It's already dark under the jungle canopy but we can tell night is approaching so we decide to make a rudimentary shelter with some branches and large leaves.

Make Camp with Supply

Action Die, Roll 1d6 + Supply (2) = 6 + 2 for a total of 8.
Challenge Dice, Roll 2d6 = 4 and 3.

Strong Hit. I choose to take +1 Spirit bringing me back to 5 and +1 momentum bringing me up to 3.

As we build our shelter we discuss our plans for the next day. Our boat was headed down the river towards the sea and from there along the coast towards the City of Pearls. I've never been there but Auko has and he believes that is still in our best interest to head there. If we travel by river it should take us a couple of days to get there.

We take turns to sleep while the other holds watch. As I drift off I remember the stories I've heard of the riches of the City of Pearls I vow to reach the famed city and build a new life for myself there.

Swear a Vow.

Action Die, Roll 1d6 + Heart (1) = 4 + 1 for a total of 5.
Challenge Dice, Roll 2d6 = 1 and 7.

Weak Hit. I'm determined but begin the quest with more questions than answers take +1 momentum.

I decide the Vow and Journey rank will both be Dangerous.
« Last Edit: July 21, 2020, 01:03:25 PM by TimothyWestwind »
Sword & Sorcery in Southeast Asia during the last Ice Age: Lots of tools and resources to build your own setting.


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[Actual Play] - Elephant Queens & Tiger Kings
« Reply #2 on: July 20, 2020, 09:49:05 AM »
BTW, I'm happy for people to leave comments or ask questions.
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[Actual Play] - Elephant Queens & Tiger Kings
« Reply #3 on: August 04, 2020, 06:15:05 PM »

I wake up with a jolt, for a moment I've forgotten where I am. But it all comes flooding back to me. The sinking boat, the escape into the forest and the violent encounter with one of the boatsmen.

Auko is already awake, squatting under the shelter we made.

"You were restless in your sleep. Did you have bad dreams?"

I can't remember what I dreamt about but I know I'm not as rested as I would like to be.

But survival is at stake and it's time to find our way to the City of Pearls. We know that if we follow the river we should be able to get within its realm and hopefully there will be people to guide us the rest of the day.

It will be hard to follow right along the river bank because the forest grows dense along the water, but we should be able to gauge our general direction by following the undulations of the ground with it's gentle slope towards the water.

I trigger the Gather Information move and roll +Wits (+2).

Action Die, Roll 1d6 + Wits (3) = 3 + 2 for a total of 5.
Challenge Dice, Roll 2d6 = 1 and 4.

A Strong Hit, the way forward is clear and I gain +2 momentum.

We find the river nearby and get a feel for the lay of the land. We  set out with confidence.

Undertake Journey (Dangerous): 2 Progress per Waypoint. So we need 5 successes to reach the city (although we can try our luck at an earlier point).

I roll with Wits.

Action Die, Roll 1d6 + Wits (2) = 6 + 2 for a total of 8.
Challenge Dice, Roll 2d6 = 10 and 5.

A Weak Hit. We reach a waypoint (2 out of 10 Progress) but suffer -1 supply.

We set out with confidence periodically checking to see if we are following the river as best we can. We travel all day with no issue because the rainforest floor is quite clear of plants and ferns. However we are hungry and eat some of the fruit we gathered before. We need to find some more food and it won't be easy without proper tools. We grew up in this type of environment but it takes time to make a spear or bow and time isn't something we have.

I roll for Resupply with Wits.

Action Die, Roll 1d6 + Wits (2) = 2 + 2 for a total of 4.
Challenge Dice, Roll 2d6 = 1 and 5.

I burn my momentum resetting it to +2 in order to get a Strong Hit. This gives us +2 supply for a total of 3.

Auko and I keep our eyes open and we are in luck as we find...

I roll on the Food Staples, Fruit and Plant Resources tables found here Plant, Animal, Mineral and other Resources of Sundaland

...Lotus stems, Longan (a Lychee like fruit) and Cusur nuts (candlenuts). We have enough to feed our stomachs and some leftover which we carry in improvised satchels made from large leaves.

We rest for the night and continue on our journey the next day.

Undertake Journey, Roll with Wits.

Action Die, Roll 1d6 + Wits (2) = 5 + 2 for a total of 7.
Challenge Dice, Roll 2d6 = 2 and 4.

A Strong Hit. We reach another waypoint (4 out of 10 Progress).

I'll ask the Oracle to help me envisage what is happening.

Location Oracle: Hill

We notice a steepening incline as we travel. But with no way to closely follow the river bank we must climb the hill in order to continue. Perhaps we'll be able to use this opportunity to get a view of the area.

When we reach the crest of the hill I decide to try and climb into a tree and see if I can get a better view of the surroundings. I'm fairly agile so I'm confident I'll be able to do this safely.

Face Danger, Roll with Edge.

Action Die, Roll 1d6 + Edge (3) = 5 + 3 for a total of 8.
Challenge Dice, Roll 2d6 = 7 and 10.

A Weak Hit and not enough Momentum to burn! I succeed but face a troublesome cost. Out of the options I'll choose to Suffer -1 Momentum (I only have 1 Momentum now) and envision a delay, loss of advantage or new danger.

I ask the Oracle: Clash and Spirit.

It sounds like Auko and I might get into an argument.

I climb the tree with ease as far as I can, scaring a variety of birds and monkeys as I go. Auko shouts up to me to look if I can see where the land ends and the sky seems to come down further than it should. I don't really understand what he means but in any case I can only see the forest stretch out towards the horizon and he river snaking along into the distance.

Auko seems to get frustrated and keeps asking me if I can see water that stretches into the horizon but I don't quite understand what he means. Eventually he calls for me to come down where I see he has become somewhat despondent.

"I thought we would be closer to the big water by now. That's where the city is. I thought we could see it from here."

I'm confused asking him to clarify what he means by big water, a river?

"No the big water is where all the rivers lead to, it goes to the horizon and encircles the world."

I'm still not sure what to make of this.

Auko starts muttering to himself and starts pacing around in circles.

"Maybe we should go back, maybe we can find the other and plead for forgiveness. I don't think we can make it on our own after all!"

I'm going to have to try and calm him down.

I roll Compel + Heart (1)

Action Die, Roll 1d6 + Heart (1) = 3 + 1 for a total of 4.
Challenge Dice, Roll 2d6 = 6 and 1.

A Weak Hit. They'll do what I want and I get +1 Momentum but they ask something of me in return.

I manage to calm Auko down by reminding him how good he has been at getting this far and how the forest can provide all the food and water we need as long as we remember what our elders taught us.

This seems to satisfy him somewhat but he makes me promise him to...

Ask the Oracle: Seize, Prize help him raise his status to that of the highest chiefs because I owe him my life. I don't quite understand the request but will say anything to get him to calm down.

Satisfied that we will continue in the present direction we head onwards.

Undertake Journey, Roll with Wits.

Action Die, Roll 1d6 + Wits (2) = 3 + 2 for a total of 5.
Challenge Dice, Roll 2d6 = 7 and 3.

A Weak Hit. Reach a Waypoint (6 out of 10 Progress) and suffer -1 Supply (we are at +2).

We journey for another full day, aside from the occasional light rain and humidity the conditions are fair. We make shelter for the night again.

BTW I'm not using the Make Camp move every night of this journey because the terrain is the same and we're both familiar with living in these type of surroundings.

Undertake Journey, Roll with Wits.

Action Die, Roll 1d6 + Wits (2) = 5 + 2 for a total of 7.
Challenge Dice, Roll 2d6 = 3 and 8.

A Weak Hit. We reach a Waypoint +2 Progress (8 out 10 Progress), -1 Supply.

The environment is starting to change. Something that I didn't appreciate from the top of the hill is that the trees are smaller here, and there are occasionally clearings and open areas where the sun can shine down. Perhaps we are reaching the edge of the forest?

I'm going to make the Reach Your Destination move. Although I think we still have some way to go to reach the city I think we might be entering its sphere of influence.

Progress on the Journey is 8 out of 10. I roll 1 4 and a 9, which is a Weak Hit. We arrive but face an unforseen hazard or complication.

I'm not going to ask the Oracle this time since I have a rough idea of what happening.

As we make our journey we realise that the clearings are manmade, these are the remnants of slashing and burning. A way to create areas for living and working. It's likely that we are entering an area that inhabited by people.

Just at the moment I become aware of this, I hear a threatening voice call out to us.
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Re: [Actual Play] - Elephant Queens & Tiger Kings
« Reply #4 on: October 09, 2020, 07:39:04 PM »
Last time Auko and Kiakro (my character) were travelling through the forest after having escaped our former captors. Auko is now attempting to take us to the City of Pearls where we can start a new life.

After several days travel we start noticing evidence of slashing and burning, fewer tall trees and more open spaces, this is evidence of a nearby settlement.

Suddenly a threatening voice calls out.

We both freeze. While the voice is speaking in an unfamiliar dialect we understand enough to know we must stop.

Is there only one person or are there more?

Ask the Oracle 50/50: 41

A single figure steps out form behind some tall ferns, holding a bow and arrow that's pointed right at us. He's wearing only bark-cloth shorts and a couple of feathered bands around his arms.

He asks us where we are from

Roll on the Disposition table: 77 Unfriendly

He's not happy to see us. It's sensible to be weary of strangers.

We hold up our hands to show we have no weapons with us and tell him we've escaped capture. The man cautiously comes closer.

We trigger the Compel move. Charm, Pacify or Banter

Action Die: Roll 1d6 + Heart (1) = 4 + 1 for a total of 5.

Challenge Dice: Roll 2d10 = 6 and 1.

Weak Hit, +1 Momentum

The man doesn't seem convinced but we decide to offer him the fruits and nuts we've collected along the way. We hold the food out in front of us and place it on a large leaf, then step back. It's not much but it's a universal gesture and all we have (-1 supply, we now have 0)

He steps forward slowly, lowers his bow and picks up what we left him, scooping it into a pouch he is wearing around his waist.

"What are you doing travelling through our territory? Where are you going?"

We explain that we're only passing through and that we are heading to the great city. As he is closer we are able to show him the scars on our body which indicate our cruel treatment while we were held captured and this seems to satisfy him to an extent.

"You may rest in our village, but you can't stay for long."

His bow is now lowered but the motions a direction for us to walk in. We walk for a short while until we get to a clearing where there are around ten small homes built with wood, bamboo and various grasses. There is one larger building in the centre. There are around fifty people, men women and children going about their business.

I'll ask the Oracle whether there is an issue that the villagers need help with. There must be a reason why the man was unfriendly yet decided to bring us to his village. 25% there's no issue, 75% there is.

90, yes there's something wrong.

Roll on the Settlement Trouble

Result: Rival Settlement.

I roll on the Action and Theme tables: Communicate, Risk

The people of the village notice us and the women start gather their children inside their homes. All the men rush up towards us but our guide tells them not to worry, that we're not from the the next village. He explains that there's been tension between the various people's of the lowlands. Over the past couple of months there's been increased competition for food and resources resulting in occasional clashes between both groups. Everyone is weary of strangers. However this village wants to make amends and would like to offer a gift to the nearby village.

They believe it's too dangerous for one of them to go but we could be a neutral party to open up communication. In exchange the villagers say they will provide us with food, escort us through their territory and point us in the right direction to the City of Pearls. We agree since we don't have any other options right now.

We trigger the Sojourn move.

Action Die: Roll 1d6 + Heart (1) = 6 + 1 for a total of 7
Challenge Dice: Roll 2d10 = 1 and 4.

Strong Hit: Take +2 Momentum and Provide Aid: Take a Quest +1 on swearing a vow.

We Swear a Vow to open up communication channels with the other village.

Make the Swear an Iron Vow move +1 (Heart) and +1 from Providing Aid.

Action Die: Roll 1d6 + Heart (1) + 1= 2 + 1 + 1 for a total of 4
Challenge Dice: Roll 2d10 = 3 and 2.

Strong Hit: It's clear what we must do +2 momentum.

I decide this is a Troublesome quest (the lowest difficulty). In the last game I made the Reach Your Destination move and got a weak hit. Normally I wouldn't play out a whole side-quest but I want to learn a bit more about the surrounding lowlands before I get to the city.

We agree to help the villagers. It seems they have a package that we need to deliver. It contains various wooden carvings which look like idols and what looks like some cinnamon sticks in bamboo containers, a valuable gift.

We eat with the villagers in the evening and sleep in a small hut as someone sits outside to watch over us. In the morning they give us some supplies (+2) and a guide will take us part of the way.

We set off in to the forest until we reach a river with a large tree trunk straddling across it. This marks the end of the villagers territory and the start of the neutral area. If we keep walking straight ahead we will reach the other tribe's area within half a day.

In stead of rolling separately for the Undertake a Journey move I'm going to treat the journey and the quest as the same Troublesome progress track.

Undertake a Journey

Action Die: Roll 1d6 + Wits (2) + 3= 5
Challenge Dice: Roll 2d10 = 1 and 9.

Weak Hit

We reach a waypoint and mark progress (3 out of 10) but suffer -1 supply.

We walk through the forest in the direction that we were pointed in. Talking loudly as we go in order to draw attention to ourselves, we don't want to seem like we're sneaking around.

We are successful as we hear shouts and soon we are surrounded by several men, pointing spears and bows at us. They're a little differently compared to the other tribe but their language is similar and just as understandable.

Roll on the Character Disposition table: 68 Demanding.

They are putting on a big display and demand to know who we are. Luckily the can see we are not from the other village and are strangers to this area.

As before the Compel move is triggered as we explain who we are and why we are here.

Action Die: Roll 1d6 + Heart (1) + 3= 4
Challenge Dice: Roll 2d10 = 2 and 3.

A Strong Hit. They do what we want or share what they know. Take +1 momentum (8 total).

They seem satisfied that we are not a threat and that we are indeed envoys from the other village. They decide to escort us to their village, which is only a short walk away.

I decide this counts as more progress on this Troublesome quest so we've reached 6 out 10.

When we arrive at the new village there are a group of elders waiting to greet us. They guide us into a circle and we present the gifts that we have brought. The village elders inspect the gifts and start a discussion amongst themselves. One of the elder women comes forward and speaks to us.

I'll roll on the Character tables to find out about them.

Role: 36, Priest
Descriptor: 62, Honest
Disposition: 34, Indifferent
Goal: 39, Restore a relationship

She tells us that they are satisfied with this offering of peace and that hostilities will cease. However we are to tell the other village that they must stay on their side of the river from now on.

With that done and still plenty of time left in the day we head back to the river with an escort where we are met by hunters from the first village. The two tribes confirm with each other that the exchange was satisfactory and we are brought back to where we started.

I will mark another 3 progress bringing us up to 9 out of 10.

I make the Fulfil Your Vow move.
Progress: 9
Challenge Dice:7 and 2.

Strong Hit.

The quest is complete and I mark 1 experience.

The elders of the first village that we encountered confirm with us and the hunters that the gifts were delivered and that a truce has been struck. They are grateful for our help and as promised they will provide us with supplies and a guide who will aid us on our travels.

After a night of rest we are provided with enough food to last us several days (back up to +3 supply) and we follow a guide on the final leg of our journey to the City of Pearls.
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Re: [Actual Play] - Elephant Queens & Tiger Kings
« Reply #5 on: October 28, 2020, 07:59:56 PM »
Elephant Queens & Tiger Kings - 5: Arriving at the City of Pearls

Last time Auko and my character (Kiakro) facilitated a reconciliation process between two villages. As a reward we were provided with supplies and a guide to take us the rest of the way to the City of Pearls.

We've been travelling for a couple of days, leaving denser forests behind and moving further into the lowlands. Except for low undulating hills the landscape flattens out. Since the rainy season has only just finished the landscape is lush and green. We walk across grasslands and through lightly forested areas. When cresting a ridge we often have an unobstructed view.

With each passing day we start coming across more villages and settlements. Most of the people living here survive from hunting, fishing and tending gardens of fruit and vegetables. Some have figured out how to reliably attract wild pigs with a designated rubbish dump, which provides the villagers with easy pickings.

On the third day we come across a wide, raised and paved road, a minimum of knee height above the surroundings, sometimes higher. This is where our guide leaves us, pointing us in the right direction to reach our destination within another day's walk. We make camp by the side of the road and will set out at daybreak.

Since we already had a partial success on the Reach Your Destination move in episode 3 (which resulted in the encounter with the village in episode 4) I'm going to assume there are no further complications ahead.

The following day we start walking down the road and soon start encountering other travellers. There are merchant caravans, sometimes a couple of water buffalo pulling carts, other times leading groups of captives carrying goods on their heads and backs. There are also pilgrims, priests and groups of soldiers with plumed helmets and long spears, occasionally lead by commanders riding elephants. Little attention is paid to lowly people like ourselves but we're careful and weary of being captured again. We keep our distance and our heads down.

Finally in the mid afternoon we see it on the horizon, the white walls of the City of Pearls.

I decide that this is a milestone in our relationship. We successfully escaped our captors and reached the city. I will trigger the Forge a Bond move with Auko.

Move: Forge a Bond

Action Die: Roll 1d6 + Hearts (1) = 2 + 1 for a total of 3.

Challenge Dice: Roll 2d10 = 1 and 1.

Strong Hit and an Opportunity because of the matched Challenge die.

I can choose either +2 momentum or +1 spirit. I've already have a maxed out spirit of +5 but only 9 momentum so I decide to take that to 10 (I can't increase momentum above 10).

I also decide that because we've started to Forge a Bond that I can add him as a Companion Asset. I mark the Bonded option.

I'm going to roll up some details about the city and the culture of its people using my Sundaland tables. I won't weave all the results together just yet, but will do so as the game develops. I hand picked the first result, for the Cultural Archetype because this city is going to serve as a base for my character and I don't want it to be too 'out there'. All the other results are random.

Sundaland Culture Generator

1. Cultural Archetype: 7, Civilised

2. Origin Story: 4, Overthrew their oppressors.

3. Rulers: 1, Kings and Queens

4. Main Sources of Income and Things the Culture Wants

    Income: 20, Plant resources

    Wants: 2, Jade or Obsidian

5. Motivation: 2, Facilitate commerce and generate wealth.

6. Anathema: 4, Pacifism or perceived weakness.

7. Internal Conflict: 4, A new religion or cult is gaining followers and influence.

8. External threats and dangers: 8, Mass delusions or madness.

9. Religion: 5, Monotheism

10. Moral Compass: 4, Strict rule of law.

11. Preferred method of punishment: 4, Quick execution.

12. Great works: 5, Megaliths like stone circles, henges or large statues.

13. Prominent symbol: 7, Star

Cultural Flavour Tables

1. Status Symbols: 7, Mercantile rights and obligations.

2. Personal Decorations: 6, Body paint or makeup.

3. Which aspect of religion is most important: 5, Trials.

4. What do people do with the dead: 5, Mummify, entomb, placed in a catacomb or mausoleum.

5. Ceremonies: 3, Sports or games.

6. Customs: 3, Unusual dowery, dower or bride price.

7. Folkways: 7, Always leave a little food to indicate to your host that you are full.

8. Mores: 6, Be grateful for what the forest, river or sea provides.

9. Laws: 2, Ban on a particular resource. Areca Nut

10.  Taboos: Against, killing hunting or hurting particular animal: Peacock

City Generation Tables

1. Unusual Features: Extensive waterways.

2. Features outside the city: Independent religious community.

3. City Scenario: A slave or commoner revolt is on the verge of breaking out.

As we get closer to the city the frequency of vegetable and fruit gardens increases, small patches of land are separated by ditches and waterways being worked by people under the hot sun. We then come across the first of several large statues raised on mounds that look to be three to four times the height of a person. They depict various human and animal hybrids. Some of the statues look ancient and weathered while others look as if they are newly carved. There are altars placed at the feet of the statues on which are displayed flowers, incense and various food offerings. The figures are an imposing feature on the landscape.

We reach the city and can see the lime covered stone walls that seem to be as tall as three or four people. There is a large towered gate through which both local workers and merchants are passing. But there are several guards both at the entrance and on the walls keeping an eye on the crowds. Next to the road there is market and camp where people are trading, perhaps these merchants and workers do not have the right to enter the city. We need to discover whether we can enter the freely.

Move: Gather Information

Action Die: Roll 1d6 + Wits (2) = 5+ 2 for a total of 7.

Challenge Dice: Roll 2d10 = 8 and 5.

Weak Hit, The information complicates your quest +1 Momentum

We approach the gate and it seems that the guards are only letting people through if they possess a chord or bracelet with specific combinations of beads and shells. Some merchants seem to be able to pass through by showing a clay tablet, others have their goods inspected and are escorted by guards into the city. However we notice that some groups of workers are led inside by guards and foremen so it seems that not every individual needs to prove their right of way if they are with a larger group. In any case the two of us can't just walk in.

We decide to follow a path that leads along the walls down to the river, there we see various boats and canoes out on the river, some are fishing in the river, some are heading out to sea, which I'm now only seeing for the second time in my life. Further along the riverbank we see a harbour where larger boats are mored, there are also seem to be several narrow canals that lead into the city through small gates.

Perhaps we could offer our services here since we both have experience on the water? There are various canoes and boats pulled up on the shore, people cleaning and fixing nets and sails, gutting and cleaning fish. Surely someone could use some extra hands?

Move: Gather Information

Action Die: Roll 1d6 + Wits (2) = 5+ 2 for a total of 7.

Challenge Dice: Roll 2d10 = 2 and 5.

Strong Hit: You discover something helpful and specific. The path you must follow or action you must take to make progress is made clear. Envision what you learn (Ask the Oracle if unsure), and take +2 momentum.

I've taken a look at the results I generated with the Culture and City tables and I think I have an idea.

We mingle amongst the fishermen and women, the sailors and workers, asking if anyone needs extra hands, explaining that we are good rowers and have boating skills. Unfortunately no one seems interested in providing work to two strangers until a man catches us our eye and motions us over to come sit with him.

We crouch down beside a small boat and he starts speaking to us in a low voice.

"I'm in need of some help, I could use a couple of hands for a trade"

We're suspicious as to why he is speaking in a hushed voice and ask exactly what he wants us to do and what we will get in return.

He explains:

"Let's just say the city guards are trying to prevent certain goods from entering the city and while I used to be able to provide incentives to make them look the other way, it seems that for the moment they are not accepting any of my gifts. I know you want one of these right?"

He holds up his wrist and shakes one of the distinctive bracelets that we saw some people wear earlier.

"The city used to be more welcoming but recently there have been restrictions. I can get you each one of these, you'll be able to come and go freely."

"So tell us, what do you want from us?"

"I want you to pick up a couple of baskets of Areca Nuts on the other side of the river and deliver them to me here, then help me get them into the city."

Areca nuts are chewed for their stimulating effects but are addictive which is probably why they are banned from the city. This job is risky but we are desperate to get in, so we agree to help.

"What's your name?"

"You can call me Colpa." as he stands up. He motions for us to follow him, walking to the river bank he points to the opposite side of the river to a rock outcrop. Tonight you'll take one of my canoes and meet my friend to pick up the baskets then meet me back here.

We spend the rest of the day helping him make repairs to one of his boats. The sun starts setting and people start heading back to the city but we stay behind. until it's dark.

Despite it being night there is enough star and moonlight for us to see. Colpa helps us push out the canoe and we make our way to the other shore.

The river is wide and slow moving but it's dark and we are not familiar with its currents. So I'm going to roll for Face Danger. However I possess the Waterborn Asset: When You Face Danger related to your knowledge of watercraft, water travel, or aquatic environments or creatures, add +1 and take +1 momentum on a hit.

Move: Face Danger using expertise, insight or observation.

Action Die: Roll 1d6 + Wits (2) +1 = 2 + 1 + 1 for a total of 4.

Challenge Dice: Roll 2d10 = 6 and 2.

Although I could burn momentum I'd rather save it for later.

Weak Hit: I decide to take 1 harm to reduce us down to 4.

The currents are stronger than we expect and it takes us all our endurance to paddle to the other side, by the time we reach the outcrop we are exhausted.

We gather ourselves and start speaking out into the darkness, trying to meet Colpa's accomplice. Finally after a few minutes we see the light of a small oil lamp and a voice calls out to us. It seems to be an old woman beckoning us over and as we come closer we see three large baskets loaded up with fruit.

"The nuts are hidden at the bottom."

We each lift a basket and head back to the canoe which we pulled ashore. Before we can say anything the woman has disappeared and there is no sight of her oil lamp.

It's time to cross back over to meet Colpa.

Move: Face Danger, this time using strength or endurance.

Action Die: Roll 1d6 + Iron (2) = 5 + 2  for a total of 7.

Challenge Dice: Roll 2d10 = 1 and 3.

Strong Hit: The months of enforced rowing has come to benefit us as we have recovered quickly and have the strength and endurance to make it back across the river. It is also easier to see where were are going as there are torches and lamps on the walls of the city as well a lights in some of the taller building and temples.

We locate Colpa and he helps pull the canoe ashore.

Now we have to get into the city unnoticed.
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Re: [Actual Play] - Elephant Queens & Tiger Kings
« Reply #6 on: October 28, 2020, 08:01:05 PM »
As always, please feel free to leave questions and comments.
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Re: [Actual Play] - Elephant Queens & Tiger Kings
« Reply #7 on: July 03, 2021, 11:29:39 AM »
In the last episode we (my friend Auko and I, Kiakro ) agreed to smuggle Areca Nuts into the City of Pearls for a man named Colpa. In return we'll each be given a bracelet that will give us the right of way in the city. We picked up the goods from the other side of the river and have just arrived back on the shore near the city.

We are hunched down by the canoe and Colpa explains that we can access the city through one of the canals that pass through the walls. It has a gate that can be prized open that will allow us access inside.

We pick up the canoe and make our way to the correct canal, drop it in and climb aboard. We paddle with our hands to make as little noise as possible. There are guards posted up on the walls but neither their oil lamps and torches nor the moon and stars illuminate the the night enough for them notice us. Still, we have to be silent as we approach the gate.

Move: Face Danger with Stealth
Action Die: Roll 1d6 + Shadow (1) = 6+ 1 for a total of 7.

Challenge Dice: Roll 2d10 = 5 and 7.

Weak Hit. On a weak hit you succeed but face a troublesome cost. You are delayed, lose advantage or face a new danger. -1 Momentum.

We silently paddle up to the latticed gate in the wall. Colpa drops down into the water and swims to the left side, we can't see what he's doing but we hear him grunt and gasp, then he starts swearing.

"They fixed the gap between the wall, I can't reach around to the rope for the counterweight. I don't think we can get through."

We have to figure out another way in.

Move: Gather Information with Wits

Action Die: Roll 1d6 + Wits (2) = 6 + 2 for a total of 8.

Challenge Dice: Roll 2d10 = 10 and 9.

This a Miss but I decide to burn all my momentum to turn it into a Weak Hit. The information complicates your quest or introduces a new danger, +1 Momentum.

I Ask the Oracle. Action: Demand, Theme: Corruption.

We all freeze when we suddenly hear another voice call out to us from the darkness beyond the gate.

"Well Colpa, you filthy Hyena! You didn't think I'd let you come in without paying what you owe me?"

"Balzar, what a pleasure, I was planning to come see you tomorrow and..."

"Be quiet. My men have been watching you sneaking about for weeks. What makes you think you can bypass my authority. I control what moves in and out of this city. Give me one good reason why I shouldn't throw you to the crocodiles right now?"

The gate has now been raised and we are surrounded by spears and bows pointing towards us, motioning us to pass through. Balzar is easy to recognise, he is short stout man, wearing red dyed bark cloth trousers and a leopard skin around his shoulders. His dark hair is tied back and his face is adorned with black and red markings.

"Balzar, look what we have here. Three baskets of Areca Nuts, and I have a new source for more. I will take all the risk and we can both profit".

Balzar chuckles.

"Yes, we could both profit. But not tonight. Men, take those baskets! I'm letting you go Calpo, but I expect the same haul every ten days, maybe I'll let you keep a little profit now and then along with your life. Now go, I don't want to see your face until you bring me more".

Balzar motions to Auko and I. And what are these two?

"Oh, just escaped rowers I found. I don't know them at all. Do with them what you will".

Balzar motions for us to come out of the canoe and we are hauled up on the side of the canal by his men.

"Well I can always use an extra pair of hands... or heads" Balzar chuckles.

Calpo heads out with the canoe and it seems we're once again no longer in control of our own fate.

We're marched through the narrow streets of the city, across stone bridges and through small courtyards until we come to a larger building, one of the few built entirely from stone. Lit up with fires that are kept burning through the night. We are taken inside and down into the lower levels and pushed into room with several other men.

I went back and read through my session zero notes where I established the particulars of the setting. The section on Status and Hierarchy is relevant to now:

3. Your culture has a loose social structure with a lot of opportunity for social mobility which is either inbuilt or due to external circumstances (war, natural disasters, depopulation etc.). This is a dynamic social environment with both positive and negative consequences. The risks are are great but so are the opportunities. Why is the society of your culture not as stratified as others? Has it always been this way or did this situation come about recently? What are the challenges and opportunities?

This explains why Balzar has locked us up and not disposed of us. There have been decades of wars and famines resulting in a steady depopulation of the lands. Only recently has civilisation found a precarious stability from which it can start to grow again. Society is in relative flux. Where before the social casts and hierarchies were rigid and strictly enforced, now there is some flexibility and opportunity. A person can make their own way in this world, but it will take a lot of work and some luck.

I think that attaining my freedom and perhaps citizen of this city (or another) will make for a good vow so that I can become more self-directed. In the mean time Balzar will make for a good 'patron' of sorts.

The door behind us is bolted shut. We look around and see a couple of read mattresses, some vases of water and two small oil lamps. But other than that the room is bare. We find a corner to lie down and do our best to sleep. As I drift off I make a vow to Auko and myself that I will become a citizen or free man.

Move: Swear a Vow (Extreme Rank)

Action Die: Roll 1d6 + Heart (1) and +1 because I share a bond with Auko = 6 + 2 for a total of 8.

Challenge Dice: Roll 2d10 = 1 and 1.

A strong hit and a match! I am emboldened and it is clear what I must do. Take +2 momentum.

I decide to roll on some Oracle tables.

Major Plot Twist: The truth of a relationship is revealed.

Settlement Trouble: A rival settlement

Settlement Trouble: Urgent expedition

Action: Move

Theme: Relationship

I think this has something to do with my friend Auko.  I'm not entirely sure of the details just yet but I'll see how things play out.

We're kept in the room for several days with no indication of how long we will be kept there or for what purpose. Although we are brought fresh water and food twice a day, which keeps us placated.

Then on the 4th day one of the guards comes to us asking if any of us speaks the language of the Longheads? There will soon be a mission to one of their cities to trade and conduct diplomacy and the expedition will be in need of interpreters. Auko enthusiastically explains that his home land was near a Longhead city and that he learned some of their language growing up. The guard seems interested to know more and he is taken out of the room. I sit and wait for a while until he is brought back. He explains that he has put in a word for me and how useful I could be on this expedition because of my boating and healing skills.

A couple of days later we are taken out of the room and upstairs together with a couple of other men. In the light of day we finally get a good look at the building we are in. The ceilings in the corridors are high, as tall as four people. Many of the walls are covered in beautiful murals that detail the achievements of the kings and queens of this city and the stories of their gods. There are alcoves with statues draped with flowers and surrounded by offerings. The smell of incense is in the air and the sound of priests chanting. We are brought into a large in the middle of which is a raised platform on which is situated a beautifully carves bench. On it sits Balzar, flanked by an intimidating looking guard and behind him a servant that is slowly waving a fan.

We are pushed down to our knees and Balzar begins to speak:

"Our holy queen is sending diplomatic mission to a city of the Longheads, the one they call Nanbeg Gakwha about 10 days up the Green river. The precise details are of no concern to you. All you need to know is that it's been determined that each of you have skills that will be of use to the expedition. Should you return the queen and the city will bestow upon you proper gratitude and reward. We are grateful that you have volunteered to further elevate the glory of the City of Pearls".

One of the others manages to exclaim 'What do you mean, "should we return"?' before receiving the but of spear to his stomach, leaving him groaning on the floor.

Balzar shouts: "Silence! It is an honour to serve the city and the queen. You leave in three days. Men, take them away."

And with that we're all pulled to our feet and marched off, this time to another room that's above ground and slightly more accommodating. There are windows that let in light, bowls of various kinds of food; fruit, nuts and dried fish and on the floor comfortable looking bedding.

Auko, in a cynical tone says: "I guess they want us to be well rested and in good strength for this journey. We wouldn't want to let this chance to honour the great queen go to waste would we?".

We dive into the food that's been set out, enjoying what we can in the moment in case we don't see the likes of it for a while.

Auko's health is raised back up to +4.

Sword & Sorcery in Southeast Asia during the last Ice Age: Lots of tools and resources to build your own setting.


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Re: [Actual Play] - Elephant Queens & Tiger Kings
« Reply #8 on: April 06, 2022, 02:49:53 PM »
This is a write up of my solo game in a Bronze Age S&S setting using the IronSworn rules. See my signature for resources for this setting.

Feel free to leave comments.

In the last episode I was attempting to smuggle Areca Nuts into he City of Pearls in exchange for the right to live in the city. However my companion and I were captured by Balzar, who seems to be a head guard or military leader of the city. We have 'volunteered' or press-ganged into being part of a trade and diplomatic mission to Nanbeg Gakwha a city of the Longhead people.

Early in the morning we are jolted awake as guards drag us up to our feet and march us out of the room where we have been held for several days. We gather in the hallway together with dozens of others and then through further halls and courtyards until we are out onto a large plaza where we are again joined by more captives led by guards. All in all there must be a hundred people. We are led through streets along canals and over bridges towards the edge of the city to a great port where many large ships and boats are moored. This is where the great trading vessels embark for the spice islands in the East or to procure Jade on the Northern coasts.

There is a throng of people on the quay. People are loading and unloading goods from the water vessels and carts with various wares bound for the markets in the city or further afield. Craftsmen in docks are making repairs to the decks and hulls while women mend sails and weave and twist rope.

The guards push through the crowds leading us along a stone quay where 3 galleys are moored. They each have double layered deck, there are what seems to be about 25 oars coming down from the lower deck and towering above, each boat has two masts from which hang massive triangular sails made of matted fibres.

There are priests making animal offerings while chanting, the smoke of incense is in the air and bells are ringing all seemingly to bless the voyage ahead. However we are unceremoniously bundled up a wooden walk way onto the boat and below deck and to one of the benches where we are expected to take up an oar in pairs.

We wait several hours until finally we hear the beat of a drum somewhere behind us, we are shouted at by some senior mariners to deploy our oars and push off the quay and start rowing to the steady beat of the drum. The boats make their way out on to the river and at this time of year the monsoon winds are blowing inland from the sea allowing us to make our way into the hinterland.

I will treat the journey up the river as a Formidable Journey (1 Progress per Success) and will roll for the navigators giving them a +3 for Wits to add to the Action die. I will also track the supplies of the expedition as usual, starting at 5.

Move: Undertake a Journey (Extreme Rank)

Action Die: Roll 1d6 + Wits(3), 4 + 3 = 7

Challenge Dice: Roll 2d10 = 9 and 7

A weak hit: Reach a waypoint and mark progress, -1 supply.

The initial part of the journey is uneventful. The river is wide and slow and the combination of sails and oars allow us to make progress up the river. I can see out from a gap in the hull that we are within the hinterland of the City of Pearls, the villages, farms and gardens that we encounter along the river are under its sphere of control. In the late afternoon we reach a village and trading outpost that has several large jetties where we moor. We are allowed to prepare food from the supplies and then sleep on the benches or on the deck. Incense is burned to keep us safe from the bites and stings of insects.

Move: Undertake a Journey (Extreme Rank)

Action Die: Roll 1d6 + Wits(3), 5 + 3 = 8

Challenge Dice: Roll 2d10 = 9 and 3

A weak hit: Reach a waypoint and mark progress, -1 supply.

We've made further progress (2 out of 10) and lost more supply (3 out of 5).

We are awoken as dawn breaks and after some preparations we cast off once again. Despite the hard work we've been treated quite well so far. It seems that the captains and mariners want to keep us in good health and good spirits. As we journey up the river I notice that villages and huts on the shore become fewer in number and the vegetation growing up to the water becomes more dense.

Move: Undertake a Journey (Extreme Rank)

Action Die: Roll 1d6 + Wits(3), 6 + 3 = 9

Challenge Dice: Roll 2d10 = 7 and 6

A strong hit: Reach a waypoint and mark progress.

We've made further progress (3 out of 10) supply remains (3 out of 5).

On the evening of the 3rd day we are fortunate to come across some wild pigs on the shore which means we don't have to use as much of the supplies we've taken with us.

Move: Undertake a Journey (Extreme Rank)

Action Die: Roll 1d6 + Wits(3), 6 + 3 = 9

Challenge Dice: Roll 2d10 = 8 and 1

A strong hit: Reach a waypoint and mark progress.

We've made further progress (4 out of 10) supply remains (3 out of 5).

The 4th day is uneventful but I'm noticing only the occasional small village and more often there is thick forest growth overhanging the shore. I believe we are venturing deep into the jungle.

Move: Undertake a Journey (Extreme Rank)

Action Die: Roll 1d6 + Wits(3), 4 + 3 = 7

Challenge Dice: Roll 2d10 = 10 and 1

A weak hit: Reach a waypoint and mark progress.

We've made further progress (5 out of 10) - 1 supply (2 out of 5 left).

It is the 5th day of our expedition and it seems that we are running low on food and supplies so we take the opportunity to set anchour. We are tasked to take some canoes to a pebbled shore to see what we can gather nearby.

I'll roll for myself as well as the others.

First I'll roll for myself.

Move: Resupply

Action Die: Roll 1d6 + Wits(2), 2 + 3 = 4

Challenge Dice: Roll 2d10 = 2 and 1

A strong hit: Take +2 supply

For my companions I'll roll with Wits = +1 since the average rower will not be skilled at finding food in the jungle.

Move: Resupply

Action Die: Roll 1d6 + Wits(1), 3 + 1 = 4

Challenge Dice: Roll 2d10 = 8 and 5

A miss: They find nothing useful. Pay the price.

Several canoes from each of the three boats make it to the shore, all in all there are perhaps 20 to 30 people now making their way into the jungle in search of food. Since I'm used to

I'll roll twice on my Food Staples table and twice on my Fruits table: Plant, Animal, Mineral and other Resources of Sundaland

10 Yam

2 Banteng (wild cow)

18 Starfruit

6 Artocarpus fruit

Move: Pay the price

48: A new danger or foe is revealed.

We spread out and make our way amongst the trees, bushes and ferns. This isn't a dense part of the forest so there is plenty of light. I quickly find some fruit and pull down what I can, wrapping them in large leaves, but then I recognise a particular patch of plants. I drop to my knees and starting digging in the ground with my hands, sure enough I've discovered some yams. Just as I'm about to call the others to help I notice a rustling amongst the bushes ahead. I freeze and remain as still as I can. There's further movement and I realise it's a Banteng. I then notice another, and another. I slowly move backwards and then jog to find crew with spears so that they can capture the wild cows. I leave them to it while myself and some of the others start digging up the Yams. Some of the others have also gathered various fruits but I've been the most successful by far. There is enough space on the boats for the Banteng which we'll keep alive until we need them.

We now have 4 Supply.

I wonder if the new danger is an Animal 0 - 45, Humans 46 - 90 or a Monstrosity 91 - 100.

44: Animal

As we're loading our bounty on to the canoes we suddenly hear screams from beyond the trees, then several of the crew come running out of the undergrowth. A large scaled beast burst out into the open. It's about twice as long as a man is tall and reaches up to the waist, but when it rears up on its hind legs, propping itself up with a long tail it towers above us. It screeches and brandishes sharp talons with which it lashes out at us. I attempt to duck out of the way and get to the canoes.

Move: Face Danger with Speed, Agility or Precision.

Action Die: Roll 1d6 + Edge (3), 5 + 3 = 8

Challenge Dice: Roll 2d10 = 8 and 4

A weak hit: You succeed but face a troubling cost. Choose: You are delayed, lose advantage or face a new danger. -1 momentum (now at +2 momentum).

I duck and roll out of the reach of the creature's claws. But it seems I've found myself separated from the others. Some crewmen are attempting to drive the scaled monster away with their spears but in doing so they're pushing me it towards me. I need to get past it in order to get to the river.

Move: Face Danger with Speed, Agility or Precision.

Action Die: Roll 1d6 + Edge (3), 3 + 3 = 3

Challenge Dice: Roll 2d10 = 5 and 2

Strong hit: You are successful, take +1 momentum (+3).

I keep calm and realise that the creature seems to be in a state of panic rather than having a particular aggressive or ill intent towards us. It's scared of the spears being jabbed at it and by being to it's rear I'm adding to its anxiousness. It's splitting its attention between two perceived threats and when I see it's distracted by the others I dash towards the canoes. The spearmen start to back away and the creature now seeing a clear route to escape returns to all four legs and scampers off into the jungle.

Thanks to finding all the food and my close encounter with the jungle animal the crews believe I've been blessed in some way by the gods and spirits of this land. Whether true or not, it will help me stand out from the regular crew and might be something I can turn to my advantage later.
Sword & Sorcery in Southeast Asia during the last Ice Age: Lots of tools and resources to build your own setting.


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Re: [Actual Play] - Elephant Queens & Tiger Kings
« Reply #9 on: September 26, 2022, 07:16:53 PM »
Elephant Queens & Tiger Kings - 8: Arriving at the City of the Longheads

Bronze Age Sword & Sorcery in Southeast Asia during the last Ice Age.

In the last episode I was press-ganged into becoming a rower on a galley that's part of a trade and diplomatic mission to Nanbeg Gakwha, a city of the Longhead people. We are slowly travelling up the river occasionally stoping to stock up on food and dealing with the dangers of the environment. I was instrumental both in finding food and in dealing with a giant pangolin which has put me in good standing with the members of the expedition.

We are almost a week and a half into our journey, the 3 galleys are making good progress and rowing isn't as strenuous as it could otherwise be, thanks to the monsoon winds blowing inland at this time of the year. There is a light misty rain falling and the air is filled with the cacophony of jungle wildlife. We haven't passed any villages in days and likely won't see any for a while yet.
The journey progress trackers is currently at 5 out of 10. I want to get to at least a 7 or 8 out of 10 before I risk making a progress roll. Remember I am using 3 Wits for these Undertake a Journey moves since the expedition is being lead by navigators and helmsmen of the galleys.

Move: Undertake a Journey (Formidable Rank)
Action Die: Roll 1d6 + Wits(3), 2 + 3 = 5
Challenge Dice: Roll 2d10 = 2 and 7
A Weak Hit: Reach a waypoint and mark progress.
We've made further progress (6 out of 10), -1 supply (3 out of 5 left).

Nothing remarkable happens, we make steady progress up the river. No signs of human activity. Just the dark jungle and the sound of birds and monkeys in the air. We set anchour just before dark and sleep until dawn for the next leg of our journey.

Move: Undertake a Journey (Formidable Rank)
Action Die: Roll 1d6 + Wits(3), 3 + 3 = 6
Challenge Dice: Roll 2d10 = 6 and 7
A Miss: You are waylaid by a perilous event. Pay the price.
Ask the Oracle: It is stressful.
Action: OverwhelmTheme: World

Over the course of the following morning we continue our journey and then the first signs of humans. We start seeing the occasional carved stone pillar along the shoreline. They seem to be the height of two or three people and we can see that they are adorned with decaying flowers and surrounded by what looks like rotting fruit, if the clouds flies are anything to go by. And what's more, the macabre sight of human skulls. It's not clear to us what the purpose is of these pillars. Are they places of worship and offering, boundary markers or warning signs?

There are mutterings amongst the other rowers. Some of them have heard rumours about the Longheads and their vicious ways, in battle, towards prisoners and sometimes each other. The chatter increases, stories are passed around and then the arguing starts. Some of the rowers stop, guards start beating people. The rhythm of the rowing has been thrown off and the helmsman orders everyone to raise their oars out of the water.

While I sympathise with the nervousness of the crew I believe it's better to continue rather than let ourselves drift listlessly in the river. We shouldn't get separated from the other galleys as we don't know who might be watching us from hidden vantage points amongst the trees.

I'm going to try and speak to the crew to calm their nerves. I've gained respect amongst the crew due to being successful at finding food and defending against the giant pangolin, so I hope they will consider what I have to say.

I will give myself a one off +1 on a Compel move for the aforementioned reason. 
Move: Compel +1
Action Die: Roll 1d6 + Wits(3), 1 + 3 + 1= 5
Challenge Dice: Roll 2d10 = 5 and 2
It's a Weak Hit but I burn momentum to turn it into a strong hit. The momentum drops to +2 but I get +1 for the Strong Hit putting me back at +3 momentum.
Strong Hit: They do what I want.

I raise my voice to grab everyone's attention and explain that it is better to keep moving than to stay still. And that to turn back now, on our own, is even more dangerous. This seems to satisfy the crew, for now. The mariners in charge of the boat don't usually allow rowers to speak out of turn, but make an allowance for me this time when they notice the crew calm down and agree to continue. Everyone on the boat is once again aligned in a common purpose, to continue on. But in the process I've used up my favour with everyone on the boat. They'll have someone to blame now if anything goes wrong.

Move: Undertake a Journey (Formidable Rank)
Action Die: Roll 1d6 + Wits(3), 4 + 3 = 7
Challenge Dice: Roll 2d10 = 9 and 5
A Weak Hit: Reach a waypoint and mark progress (7 out of 10). -1 Supply (+2 Supply).

We all get back to work and row hard in order to catch up with the other galleys. A message is shouted over by one of the mariners to explain what has happened, which seems to satisfy everyone concerned. Mutinies can happen. We continue on and in the latter part of the evening we once again start encountering signs of human life. Huts by the water, then small villages. But the people we see fishing from their canoes, playing by the rivers edge or returning from a forest hunt are different from what we have encountered further down the river.

Their skulls are unmistakably elongated. A result of the the bindings that are applied to their heads as soon as they are born. We are amongst Longheads. They watch us suspiciously, occasionally pointing and shouting incomprehensibly at us. But not daring to venture towards our galleys. We also keep our distance and set anchour only once we are at a sufficient distance from any dwellings. At night there is a double watch and we are awakened earlier than normal to start rowing again.

Move: Undertake a Journey (Formidable Rank)
Action Die: Roll 1d6 + Wits(3), 6 + 3 = 9
Challenge Dice: Roll 2d10 = 7 and 3
A Strong Hit: Reach a waypoint and mark progress. +1 on the Journey Progress Tracker now takes to 8 out of 10.

I'm going to attempt the Reach Your Destination move.
Challenge Dice: 10 and 4 against 8.
Weak Hit: On a Weak Hit you face an unforeseen hazard or complication. Envision what you find or Ask the Oracle.

We make good progress over the next couple of days. This stage of the journey could be described as uneventful save for the fact that we are clearly being watched. Every time we pass a village there seem to be more people watching us from the river side or out on canoes. They still maintain a distance but it's we can tell that the word of our arrival is spreading ahead of us. Also we now notice the presence of groups of warriors, bearing spears, clubs and bows. Decorated with feathered headdresses and tattoos and body paint different to what we are used to seeing.
Finally, almost 15 days after we left the City of Pearls, we navigate around a bend in the river to find ourselves at our destination. Out of the mist appears the light of burning fires, high up on stepped pyramids. Then pillars lining the river bank, as before with flowers and various skulls hanging from woven vines. Also more huts, gardens and pig pens amongst the trees. Occasionally a stone tower from which we are likely being watched.

I wonder what our reception will be like?

Feel free to comment or ask questions.
Sword & Sorcery in Southeast Asia during the last Ice Age: Lots of tools and resources to build your own setting.


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Re: [Actual Play] - Elephant Queens & Tiger Kings
« Reply #10 on: December 11, 2022, 08:25:52 PM »
In the last episode our galleys arrived at Nanbeg Gakwha a city of the Longheads and ended on a cliff hanger because I rolled a Weak Hit on the Reach Your Destination move.
On a Weak Hit you face an unforeseen hazard or complication. Envision what you find or Ask the Oracle.

I need some inspiration for the complication so I'll roll on the Settlement Trouble, Action and Theme and the Major Plot Twist oracles.

Settlement Trouble table: 86: Stranger causes discord

Roll Action and Theme oracles.

Action: 14 Inspect. Theme: 75 Mysticism

Major Plot Twist: Someone or something goes missing.

Our galleys are moored at a large quay where dignitaries from the Longheads are waiting for us. Whether they are kings and queens, priests or warriors I don't know. Some of the most important looking of them are wearing tiger and leopard skins around their shoulders, their long heads decorated with brightly coloured feathers. Warriors carrying spears stand nearby, some of them with tattoos on their faces, dark circles under their eyes and the outlines of teeth around their mouths making them look like living skeletons. They are a frightful sight.

A translator is helping our leaders communicate with them, small gifts are exchanged and then the command is given to start unloading our cargo. We start lifting heavy bags, baskets and enclosed clay pots across the gangway on to the shore. It's clear that one of the goods we have brought with us is salt, something that's hard to come by so far from the sea. But I don't know what else we've transported. Whatever we are trading with each other, it must be valuable.

It seems from the conversation between our respective leaders that we are not going to immediately receive goods to bring back. We are beckoned get back on the galleys are then brought some food which consists of boiled meat and vegetables. Our leaders are taken into the city presumably for more lavish treatment.

We settle down on the on the benches of our boats or out on the deck, the smell incense is in the air in order to drive away the mosquitos. We sleep as best we can, our tiredness overcoming any trepidation.

A commotion wakes us abruptly in the morning, there is shouting from the deck above. We scramble from our resting places but before we can climb out a group of Longheads come below. Some shout at us and use their spears to corral us to one side while others frantically search every nook and cranny of the lower decks. After a while they seem satisfied and leave. One of the mariners comes down to explain that we have been accused of stealing a bronze idol from one of their temples. They are currently holding all out ambassadors and emissaries captive and it's unlikely that they will let us leave until they've found it. We've found ourselves in a dangerous predicament.

I ask one of the mariners if it's possible for some of us to visit our leaders.

Ask the Oracle 50/50: 50 or below is No, 51 or above is Yes.

73: Yes.

I'm told that we are allowed to visit them with an escort. I decide to ask if I can visit them in order to see how I can help. It's unusual for a rower to make a request like this but I believe that I've distinguished myself on this mission enough that the mariners will give me a chance, they are clearly at their wit's end, unsure how to proceed.

Move: Compel with Heart (+1)

Action Die: Roll 1d6 + Heart(+1), 3 + 1 = 4

Challenge Dice: Roll 2d10 = 6 and 3

Weak Hit: They'll do what I want +1 momentum (4 momentum) but they'll ask for something in return. Ask the Oracle if unsure.

The mariners will allow me to visit the ambassadors but they want me to credit them with any success. They ask me what my plan is but since I don't have one I'll lie.

Move: Secure an Advantage with Shadow (+1)

Action Die: Roll 1d6 + Shadow(+1), 2 + 1 = 3

Challenge Dice: Roll 2d10 = 7 and 31

Weak Hit: Advantage is short lived, take +1 momentum (5 momentum).

I make up something about having dealt with this kind of situation before, in normal circumstances it would not be convincing but the mariners are willing to go along with it for now out of pure desperation. My idea is to to visit them on the pretext that we are bringing them some food. I ask if I can bring a group including my friend Auko. He trusts me enough to want to come along but for the rest I will need some volunteers.

1d10: 4 

Four others trust me enough to give whatever idea I have a chance. We gather some baskets of fruit, nuts and dried fish and wait for the mariners to speak to some of the guards at the quay. The communication between our respective people is not easy but eventually they seem to understand what we want and we are motioned forward. The spearmen escort us from the docks into the city. The main street is paved with large, flat limestone tiles, some buildings are of the same material, probably temples and other important buildings. But most of the smaller houses and huts are made from various organic materials such as wood and bamboo, the roofs being covered with large leaves or woven grass. A light drizzle starts to fall as this city is deep in the rainforest.

We are taken further into the city, now there are only stone buildings, then through a set of bronze doors, through a corridor and then finally a reasonably large room where the captives are held. The room has small openings at the top of the walls letting in light and air but is otherwise lit by oil lamps. There are benches and recliners on which the ambassadors are sitting, 9 in total, 3 for each of our boats. The Longhead spearmen stand at the entrance while we bring in the baskets of food.

The ambassadors are surprised that we are there and ask who sent us. I tell them that the mariners wanted us to come and find out more about the situation. I ask the ambassadors what they know.

Move: Gather Information with Wits (+2)

Action Die: Roll 1d6 + Wits(+2), 3 + 2 = 5

Challenge Dice: Roll 2d10 = 5 and 6

Miss: On a miss, your investigation unearths a dire threat or reveals an unwelcome truth that undermines your quest. Pay the Price.

Thinking back to the complication that I introduced at the start of the session. The ambassadors seem to believe hat they're being set up by some priests who object to our presence. And they're using the disappearance of the idol as leverage. It may be that there are different factions within the city that are at odds with each other. I don't think we're in a situation where we can find the idol. It could be anywhere. Trying to force ourselves out could be incredibly dangerous. Perhaps if we somehow create a distraction? However we are in the middle of the city and our appearance is very distinctive.

I think we need to appeal to the other faction in the city and exploit the conflict between the two.

I'll generate details for the Priest Caste and for the other faction; Warrior Caste (The Longheads are a warrior culture ) with my Random RPG Faction Generator. Skim down for a narrative summary.

1. Caste or Faction Type: Warrior Caste

2. Origin: Splinter Group

3. Leadership: Council, Elected, self-appointed or selected on merit.

4. Motivation: Power

5. Method: Manipulate or Leverage: Using secret knowledge

6. Strength: Meticulous planning: Account for all possibilities and outcomes.

7. Weakness: Immoral

8. Secret or MacGuffin: Resource

8.6 Resource: Weapon

9. Complication: Need more or a specific resource

10. Inner Conflict: Competing whats. What should they be doing?

11. Outer Conflict: Political disruption: An unintended shift in the political environment is preventing the faction from achieving their goals.

12. Moral Compass: Let fate decide

1. Caste or Faction Type: Priest Caste

2. Origin: Local

3. Leadership: Elite. A small group of people.

4. Motivation: Revolution.

5. Method: Manipulate or Leverage: Hidden violence. Assassinations or secret raids.

6. Strength: Fanatical. Will stop at nothing to achieve their goals.

7. Weakness: They have a debt or someone has leverage over them.

8. Secret or MacGuffin: Person

8.6 Resource: Heir or claimant.

9. Complication: Need more or a specific resource.

10. Inner Conflict: Disputed leadership.

11. Outer Conflict: Direct opposition: Another faction or group is trying to stop them.

12. Moral Compass: Let fate decide.


There is a splinter group within the main warrior caste leadership. Some of the council members, motivated by power are plotting to remove other members to cement the position of their own clans. They've been trying to gather sufficient bronze spears and axes for their clan members but are struggling to get as many as they would like. The splinter group has been encouraged by the priest caste who believe the Longhead culture of this city is not adhering to their religion as they once did.

The priests are becoming impatient and have resorted to subterfuge such as assassinations and now theft of the idol in order to stir up conflict. They want to show that the current leadership is ineffective. The splinter group of warriors is weary of making their big moves now and some of them are willing to out the conspiracy of the priests rather than risk showing their hand too soon. Our group is caught in the middle.
We are aware that we are being used in some kind of power struggle but aren't sure of the exact details.

I think it's reasonable that we will be brought in front of the council of the warrior caste and the priests.

Move: Secure an Advantage with Wits (+2)

Action Die: Roll 1d6 + Wits (+2), 2 + 4 = 6

Challenge Dice: Roll 2d10 = 5 and  7

Weak Hit: Advantage is short lived, take +1 momentum (6 momentum).

We decide that with what little we know that we need to get in front of the council as soon as possible. I coach the ambassadors into laying out a case to the guards as to why we should be brought before the council as soon as possible.

Move: Compel with Heart (+1)

Action Die: Roll 1d6 + Heart(+1), 5 + 1 = 6

Challenge Dice: Roll 2d10 = 5 and 3

A Strong Hit. They'll do what we want, take +1 momentum (7 momentum).

The ambassadors speak to the guards explaining that we have been thoroughly searched and no one has found the idol, in addition we have no reason to want to start any trouble since we want to keep up good relations between our cities. While the guards do not have a say as to when we will be brought before the council it so happens that some of them were observing us from a behind a curtain on a balcony above us.

The guards are called to escort us out, through various corridors to a large hall, perhaps three stories high. There are stone benches on raised platforms on which sit a dozen or so elders. It is much lighter in this room since there are large openings at the top of the walls, some birds are occasionally seen flying in and out.

With the aid of a translator the elders tells us about the accusations, however there is already bickering happening between them. The translator is continually interrupted and being given conflicting messages. Then some of the elders start shouting at each other. People start pushing and shoving each other, then some of the other people in the hall, nobles, priests and guards get involved in order to prevent a scuffle.

Does the scene turn violent? Ask the Oracle. Unlikely 76 or higher: 58, no.

There is a lot of commotion but thankfully it doesn't look like any real violence breaks out. We are taken back to the holding room to await our fate.
Sword & Sorcery in Southeast Asia during the last Ice Age: Lots of tools and resources to build your own setting.