Friday, April 19, 2013

RPG Stuff: Song of Ice and Fire (Reprise)

Last year, I had managed to put together a gaming group that met semi-regularly and played RPGs. We did a lot of different stuff: Mutants & Masterminds was a favourite, having quite a number of different sessions; Rippers, a setting for Savage Worlds, was a one-off thing that one of the others ran; I even tried running a campaign with a homebrew system though, unfortunately, it did not pan out quite how I wanted it to. We'd also considered running campaigns using the Serenity system (to feed our inner Browncoats), War of the Rings (to companion the return of Middle-Earth with The Hobbit) and even running a game using the world of Mass Effect (something that Nick and myself are still working on).

Of all of the games that we played, however, I think the one that was regarded the highest was our Song of Ice and Fire campaign. I spent quite a bit of time crafting an elaborate story with intrigue and violence, as the Game of Thrones setting demanded, and with all of us enjoying the TV show, it seemed the perfect companion to explore the world of Westeros. Not only that but, given the structure of the system, everybody was able to be involved in creating our own house, thus staking our claim in the world as if we were living through the HBO series ourselves

So it was that House Ashborne came to be. The house lands are far to the northwest, near the mouth of the Last River, and feature a great wooded area and a marsh that separates the Hall of Ashborne from the sea to the west. Lord Lennox Ashborne was raised to his station for his valiant acts during Robert's Rebellion and was awarded the lands of a lord of the North who had remained loyal to the Targaryens. The lord in question had fallen in a battle against the forces of House Mormont and left no living heirs to inherit the land; as such, Lord Stark bestowed it upon Ser Lennox Ashborne as thanks for his duty in the Rebellion. House Ashborne has only been around for sixteen years to this point so they are yet young and unproven in the kingdom of Westeros, though they did assist the North against the Iron Islands during the Greyjoy Rebellion.

For the game, Lord Lennox, remained an NPC, in order to help give guidance to the players should they become lost, but many of the other house members were fleshed out:
  • Master Acanthus Ashborne, heir to House Ashborne, was born to Lennox Ashborne when he was still a Ser. The only son of Lord Ashborne, his mother died in childbirth, leaving Acanthus to be raised by his father (and now his stepmother). This character belongs to Dallas.
  • Lady Aralia Ashborne, nee Farman, was wed to Lord Ashborne only a few years after the Rebellion. Wanting to strengthen ties between the Westerlands and the North, the marriage was arranged but has proved beneficial to both families (and sparked a loving relationship between the Lord and Lady). This character belongs to Kait.
  • Solomon Sayt, assistant and servant to Master Acanthus, serves as the head of the servants in House Ashborne. Though he does not contribute as much to business matters as a steward, he has been tasked with arranging meals and making sure that all the servants are kept in line while also attending to Master Acanthus' every need. This character belongs to Nick.
  • Shy is a servant with a mysterious past; she appeared only recently to House Ashborne and has already made her way into the service of Lady Ashborne. She is a schemer, however, and often has many plots on the go at once. This character belongs to Kristi.
  • Emilja Kotar is a sworn sword who serves as part of the personal guard to the Ashborne's. She is a deaf-mute so she has some difficultly communicating with others but is a crack shot with a bow and has proven herself an able warrior. This character belongs to Kurtis.
I really like the artwork that they included
for this book. It's really fitting for the setting!
Though a few other characters presented themselves along the way as people dropped into the game (Ser Simeon Dax who serves as Master-of-Horse for House Ashborne, and a caravan trader [whose name escapes me] who sets out from and returns to House Ashborne quite frequently), these five seemed to be the core group of characters. As the campaign ran, they all shone at different times -- Lady Aralia was a silver-tongued master of intrigue, Emilja proved a valiant and stubborn warrior, Shy schemed her schemes, Acanthus helped his father run the house, and Solomon... got drunk? -- but all contributed to the story in meaningful ways. (Yes, even Solomon getting drunk.)

The reason I bring this campaign up? We have decided to reconvene and start the adventure again! It has been some time since we last got together, however, so I figured it would be good to give everyone a refresher on what has happened thus far:
House Ashborne was waiting the arrival of a caravan from House Farman, far to the south. Ser Philander, brother to Lady Aralia, was on a trip to the Wall and decided to stop to see his sister. It was also suspected that the Farman's would be looking to renegotiate the trade agreements they had with House Ashborne; in any event, the house stood ready to receive their guests.
Some days prior to the expected arrival of Ser Philander and his convoy, an old friend of Lord Ashborne arrived seeking sanctuary. Gunnar of Deepwood Motte -- known as the Fly in King's Landing -- was an information broker of sorts who had stumbled across some awful secret that he believed threatened his very life. Retreating from King's Landing, he sought out his old friend Lennox, hoping the newly-appointed Lord would be able to save him from harm. Though Gunnar would not share his secrets, Lord Ashborne agreed to keep his friend safe and made arrangements for him to be escorted north to House Silt, a banner house that had sworn fealty to House Ashborne. 
Of course, as fate would decree, Ser Philander and his convoy arrived much earlier than expected, leaving Gunnar and the Ashborne's in a sticky situation. Solomon and Emilja were tasked with protecting and escorting Gunnar from the Hall of Ashborne north but were first expected to hide Gunnar while the Farman convoy was dealt with. Instead, Solomon and got Gunnar drunk in an effort to discover the secrets he held, all the while getting more and more intoxicated himself. Emilja merely watched in amusement and curiosity.
The Ashborne's met the Farman convoy and made arrangements for Philander and his noble comrades (Ser Bo Yarwyck and Ser Lorent Lorch) to stay within the Hall of Ashborne, while the guards that escorted them were put up in a local tavern in the town of Howlminster nearby. A meal was had and the knights made themselves comfortable as the Ashborne's distracted them from the presence of Gunnar. Ser Philander suggested a hunt on the morrow, to which most agreed.
Ser Trevor Upton, Master-at-Arms for House Ashborne, discovered the drunken state of Gunnar and Solomon and berated Emilja for not taking better care of their honored guest. Taking the task upon himself, he relieved Solomon and dragged Emilja along for the escort of Gunnar to House Silt. They waited until the members on the hunt departed before leaving the grounds of House Ashborne. On the way, however, they were ambushed by bandits; Emilja managed to escape but she left Ser Upton behind as he valiantly stood against the bandits.
As a feast was being arranged from the game the hunt provided, Emilja arrived back at the Hall of Ashborne, severely injured and unconscious, on the back of her steed. There was no sign of Gunnar nor Ser Upton and now Ser Philander and his comrades had been made aware of some manner of emergency within House Ashborne. Lady Ashborne decided it safe to confide in her brother and asked his assistance (and discretion) with this matter.
Where will the story will pick up? Emilja has been treated for her injuries and is back on her feet, though weakly. Lord Lennox, Master Acanthus and Lady Aralia will be meeting with Ser Philander and his knightly companions, ready to discuss what course of action they should take to rescue Ser Upton. Solomon is busy sobering up and trying to assist Master Acanthus with his preparations, while Shy busies herself with her schemes and trying to assist Emilja.
We plan on getting together next Thursday, so stay tuned next week for a quick debrief about the session and what transpired for House Ashborne!

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