Wednesday, April 6, 2016

One Last Journey as the World Dies : Ryuutama

One Last Journey as the World Dies


As part of our continuing attempt to share and spread the joy of role-playing games with other people, we have been holding mini-conventions on a monthly basis whenever possible.    For April, the group has opted to run a multi-GM experience using Dungeon World.  Given my promise to always push lesser known games and give them visibility, I opted to run one of the most heart-warming games I've ever played before: Ryuutama.

This game had six players whom have never tried playing Ryuutama before.  To have things run faster, I opted to pre-generate the characters and have them choose.  In addition, I created a few new cards that were intended to help push the narrative forward.  Given this was a one-shot game and not a continuing campaign, I decided it would be best to have this added to the game:

Arthur played Filthy George, a young Merchant whose pack animal, Billy, was one of his closest friends.  He had Dreams of Heroism to meet before the world ended.
Josh played Miki, a young Artisan who was hoping to find The Last Gift for his sweetheart, a moonstone that could allow one to speak to the dead.
Carl played Kit Sune, a fearless Hunter whose curiosity were equaled only by her mastery of her battleaxe.  She wanted to Prove They Exist and felt the Ryuujin were the one and only thing to hunt.
Kim played Ten, a young Healer whose mother was sick and dying.  Given the Unfinished Business, Ten hoped to find the legendary Phoneix Feather - what he believed to be a rare herb.
Jann, who has very kindly been playing in more of my games, portrayed Nikko the Noble who had A Promise Made to make a difference one way or another before all fell apart.
Justine then played Haru, a young Farmer whose Donkey and Dog accompanied her in her journey.  She wanted to solve The Riddle somehow before it all ended.

The world was ending.  Not many knew why or how, only that one day the morning came and the sky was as green as unearthly fire.  Magic began to work less and less, with only the weakest of spells functioning.   Eager to still somehow spend what could be the last days doing something worthwhile, Nikko posted a call for adventurers willing to join him in a journey.  Destination: to be determined.    Answering his call came the young adventurers, with a barefoot woman who called herself Aki asking to join.  Aki's story was one of a noble woman coddled through the years desperate to break out and live a life.

Day 1
The first day began with Clear Skies.  The group traveled through the Grassland and left the town of Last Chance.  Eager to make a sale, Filthy George purchased a generous number of dried meats in hopes to sell it somewhere for a good sum.  The group debate on their choices: North was the Captial City, far West stood the great Mountains, East was the vast Forest with the Hidden Cloister, and finally South was the Port City and the Silver Seas.   With the group deciding to make for the Capital City, the group excitedly allocate their water and rations for the trip.  Nikko takes the Leadership role, while Kit takes the task of being a Mapper.  Miki offers to handle Quarter-Master duties while Filthy George decides to handle Journal-Keeping.  As they travel, Haru makes a few hilarious slips as she tumbles down a few rough patches.  Miki and Kit, on the other hand, failed to get any good sleep the night before. They chance upon their first encounter, a moaning Skeleton that lumbers forward with a club in its hand.  As the group moves to fight it, they quickly discover how their sharp weapons are not as effective as they hoped. Kit embarrassingly double fumbles and falls flat on her face during the fight.   They defeat the Skeleton with some effort and both Miki and George quickly salvage what they can from the remains.  They get a good handful of ivory fragments.  Soon, they come upon a popular camping site along the path: a massive tree towering over a hundred feet up with wide branches and generous resting spaces.   There is even a nice rock pile for a fireplace, and a watering hole for washing things.  They consider between camping for the night or pressing on.  They vote for pressing on, excited at the thought of soft beds to sleep on instead of camping in tents.

Quietly, Kit watches Aki however.  She is suspicious at the supposedly wealthy girl's history and wonders if there are any truths behind the stories of Ryuujin taking interest in adventurers and moving among them.

Night 1
As the group continues to move through the Night, the Grassland starts to feel more treacherous than expected.  Exhausted and hungry, the group soon sees a massive giant further up the path.  Miki offers to handle distracting the giant while the others (yes, including Filthy George's Elephant) sneak past.  She lights up a torch and hurries to the giant, waving at him to notice her.  The giant, busy with chomping on something, does see her but remains unmoving.  Miki decides to start a conversation with him and learns the giant eats rocks and that there haven't been any good rocks to eat lately.   When Miki offers the ivory, the giant seems very happy and offers to give in exchange "all the stuff he found" on his way away from the mountains.  Strong lightning flashes and fire have been striking the sky where the mountains are.  Miki recommends the giant consider heading towards the port city south, and only later realizes she had given the giant directions heading straight for Last Chance!  The others have even noticed insects and smaller animals fleeing to the east.  Bidding the giant farewell, Miki collects the items and finds a sphere of glass that glows, as well as a bag of other junk.  She rejoins the group and they all arrive at the Capital City in one piece.

Deeper in the Night
At Capital City, the group splits up with George, Kimi, Ten and Kit heading for the bustling marketplace that seems to still be open despite the hour, while Nikko and Haru head for the Grand Archive to search for knowledge.  George discovers a Guildsman who offers to trade the meats. When his speech on why they should be purchased enthralls the guildsman, he offers him a choice of three exchanges: a golden carriage with weather-proofed walls and a portable bathtub, a menagerie of well-trained animals (a giraffe, an ostrich, a horse and a dog) all trained for combat, tracking and carrying things, or a rumored rare magical dagger.  The dagger was pitch black and supposedly belonged to one of the Ryuujin.  George's eyes widened in curiosity.

Ten finds himself speaking to an old woman who claims to be a Herbalist.  She senses Ten is new and even offers to let her have one Herb for free from her stash.  With the world ending, she might as well give something of value.  Ten excitedly chooses from the stash and finds himself drawn to the Windcrying Tulip.

Kimi speaks with a pair of twins who are sellers who help him learn to use the Light Orb, which allows him to have the light of a torch despite not having fire.  As he considers selling all the other stuff in his bag, unawares that one of the items inside is the very moon stone he's hoping to find!

And at some alley, Kit sees a bandaged figure motion at her to follow him into a dark alley.  There, he then motions as her to wear a blind-fold and follow inside the gated tunnel.  Further inside, Kit fearless allows the man to lead her into the darkness, given his claims of having answers that she hopes to gain.  Some might mistake her to be slow but in truth, Kit merely had full certainty she can handle anything that might happen.   When the man reveals he is actually a vampire, Kit simply smiles at the chance to be in a fight at last!

At the Archive, Nikko and Haru meet an interesting pair of people.  One is an old wise man whose pet lemur wore spectacles and read what he read.  The other was a young bald boy who was being given stacks upon stacks of books to read.  They talk the old man and discover he is just the servant; the lemur is the master!  Each time they ask a question, the lemur then whispers to the old man its reply which the master shares.  After a lot of philosophical questions on the need for change, the search for answers and the mountain being the best place to search for answers as a heroic group died there supposedly in a failed attempt to stop the end of the world, the lemur offered one last nugget of wisdom before retiring to have his servant scratch his belly for an hour:  Birth shall always look like death from the other side.   Hoping for clearer answers with the boy, the two are interrupted by servants and a noble woman who insist they do not disturb her son.  The boy, they learn, is gifted with perfect memory.  With the world coming to an end, the mother is having her son memorize every single ink of culture the world has written to take with him to the next world.  To Haru's surprise, the mother then reveals she owns one of the fabled Phoenix Feathers in a glass vial.  She plans to have her son take it as the world ends, that he may be reborn in the next one and carry the knowledge of their world to the next.  The Queen even mentions how they have given up the title and made all in the City own whatever they owned.  Instead of riots, the people merely stopped worrying about debts and money and shared what they owned!  It was a paradise unexpected of city folk.   But when her emotions rage upon remembering her husband, the King, who had seemingly run away with some woman in the streets, she hurls the vial to the ground to shatter it!  Haru catches it the first two times she does so, but on the third, Haru fails and with it the feeling of giving it to Ten to cure his mother.  

As George chooses the Black Dagger, the guild immediately packs up to leave.  They thank him for choosing to willingly take from them the Kuro-Ryuu's Cursed Dagger and tell him that those who hold it are doomed to sacrifice someone they care for.  When he feels the dagger pulsing, he decides to follow and see where it leads.  Both Kimi and Ten see George running down the street, they chase after him curious to see where he is going.  George finally reaches the same locked alleyway gate which Kit and the bandaged man had gone through, and orders Billy the Elephant to kick it open.  The group rushes inside to see Kit battling savagely against the Vampire, which while it had been injured many times, had been healing its wounds each time it hurt the Hunter.  With a sudden surge of courage, George ends the battle when he rushes forward and uses the Cursed Dagger to absorb every little bit of the Vampire.  The three congratulate him for successfully defeating such a powerful creature!

Thinking it was best to leave, the former queen notices Haru's sadness and asks why she is tearful.  Haru shares her hopes to help Ten, and to her surprise the Queen pulls out a second Phoenix Feather.  While the first was her husband's, she lies and tells them the second is meant for her son.  In truth, she was handing Haru her own vial (and had kept a final third secret for her son).  She wishes them well and Nikko and Haru return to find the others excited with tales of a battle against a terrible monster.   They turn in for the night in soft beds and excitedly consider their next trip.

Day 2
Come morning, the group decides to try heading for the Mountains.  The initial journey was once again filled with Clear Skies as they traveled on the Grasslands.  Unlike yesterday, however, the sky was now a brilliant hue of blue.    The trip is uneventful and unlike the day before, they decide to camp and sleep for the night.

Night 2
It is late in the evening when Nikko awakens, bothered by something.  He looks up and sees no trace of the stars in the sky, and a strange shifting wind that blows Easternly, then Westernly.   Seconds after, the stars return to the sky and the winds are gone.  When Aki emerges from the darkness, asking him what was wrong, Nikko asks her about the world ending and about whether they will find something worthwhile at the end.  Aki admits she does not know, but she feels more brave being with them all.  They go to sleep and rest for the night.

Day 3
The brilliant morning startles them all as the sky has become a vicious shade of red.  The group hurries to move given the growing Strong Wind and the Grassland having shifted to rougher Hills.  The group continues on their trek towards the Mountain, hoping they will arrive in time to try and at least see if they can help in any way.  But terrifyingly, they discover an unexpected twist along the path:  a massive Chasm stretches across the land, with no end on either side.   A rickety rope bridge precariously hangs, ready to allow others across.

All save one.  Billy the Elephant.
The group cries out in sadness when they realize they may have to leave the Elephant behind!  Ten and Haru fight back tears as they hurry across the bridge.  Kit reinforces the bridge with her ropes while Nikko and Kimi guide the donkeys across.  When George finally starts crossing however, Billy the Elephant begins to wail in fear as he realizes he is being left behind!  George tries to calm the elephant down, but over and over the poor loyal animal wails.  Twice, Billy tries to test the rope bridge despite all the others crying at him to stand back.  When the ropes snap against his weight, thankfully Billy the Elephant backs away and stands at the edge, alone as the world nears its end. The group sorrowfully continue on, hearing Billy's wailing echoing behind them as they walk in silence.

Then, a battle field.
Dead bodies.  Blood.  Torn armor.  The group moves carefully as they see signs of a recent battle.  Ahead, a small hut stands.  Very quickly, however, Kit realizes the hut is not a sanctuary but a monster!  Rushing forward, she uses her rope and light blades to hook up and clamber atop the construct!  The Mimic House turns to roar at the others and all quickly move to join the battle.  Kimi clambers atop the Mimic House as well, joining Kit while Ten and Haru combine their efforts to attempt a magical attack:  Ten summons dried leaves which Haru ignites with her firestarter kit.  Ten then blows the burning leaves at the hut to hurt it!  At one point, despite delivering deadly blows, Nikko is chomped by the Mimic House and thankfully, her armor holds.  But the thing continues to chew and it was only a matter of time before the light armor broke away.  As they fight, both Kit and Kimi spot the possible reason for the Mimic Hut to battle so savagely!  A younger baby Mimic Hut was cowering behind her mother.  And beyond them, a dead Mimic Hut was in pieces.  The two quickly surmise that the Mimic House was probably the mother and it was now trying to defend her child!  After a lot of arguments, the group eventually decides to try to let the thing leave peacefully.  And though wary, the Mimic House and its child finally hurry off to leave.

But time runs out.

The brilliant red sky shifts one final time and a black darkness sweeps across the clouds!  The group finally is shown that Aki is actually the Kuro-Ryuu herself and she apologizes to the adventurers that time has finally run out.  Unable to accept it is too late, Nikko demands that they do something to try and stop it.  Aki, however, tells them she only has enough power to send one more person to an ending... and is too weak to do any more.  She wanted to do this, at least, as a gift to the group for giving her one final tale to write.   When Kimi realizes the moon-stone was in his bag the whole time, the others are unsure if he or if Ten should go.  Haru reveals she had the Phoenix Feather Ten wanted to find but didn't admit it cause she wasn't sure when to do so.  Kimi however realizes that Ten could still drop off his final present to Kimi's loved one before giving his mother the cure.  Kimi hands Ten the moonstone and tells him to leave.  Ten hesitates.  The others all cheer him on, and before he can fully thank them, he is gone.

Haru sighs, sad that she will never know the reason the world has to end.  Nikko hates the fact he never made a difference.  Aki however explains to Nikko that it was thanks to her that all these others had one final adventure despite their fears and uncertainties.  That, in itself, was a difference in their lives unlike any other.  George mumbles that him defeating a vampire was pretty awesome.  The others agree, especially since they all just started being adventures a few days back.  Kimi admits he feels he's ready to say goodbye.  But Aki surprises them and tells them it is her who has to go. "The others have gone ahead of me.  Green, Blue, Red... the skies have shown us the others have ended their tales.  Now it is my time, and the best way to go it seems is to give you your final wish."  Kit stares back at her, realizing the Ryuujin is asking for the Hunter to use the Cursed Dagger one final time.  Kit admits she did not need to hunt her to kill her, but if that is what needs to be done, that is what she will do.

Kit Sune stabs the Cursed Dagger into Aki's chest, and Aki vanishes into a silent fading shadow.

And suddenly, in the darkness of the sky, a slice of light shines through, and from that ray, the whole world explodes with colors.

Back at Last Chance
Ten watches as his mother begins to heal from her sickness.  The brilliant light from outside tears into the room and manifests as a young child transcribing the story of what was coming to pass in the room into a tiny red book.  The heart-warming tale of a mother receiving the love of her son enveloped around the young child's writing and vanished.  Ten blinks a few times, uncertain of what just happened.

In the other room, Kimi's loved one desperately whispers to the moon stone for an answer.  She believed Kimi had died and the stone would allow them to communicate, but with no answer coming, she wondered if it meant he was still alive.  Somewhere out there.  And would eventually come home.  She could not see the green child inscribing into his own scroll her simple story of a lover waiting for another lover to return home.  Stories of everyday people, not adventurers, now having their own Ryuujin to scribe them.  To keep them.  To remember them.

It was a whole new world now.  One where even more Ryuujin existed: some for those seeking adventure!  And some for those who didn't.  

Days Later
The group gathered at the tavern, summoned by the former queen. As they gathered, they quickly shared their stories.  Of seeing Billy excitedly still waiting for them across the chasm, doing small hops as they crossed back to let him hug them with his trunk.  Of the Rock Eater now a member of the guild setting up shop along the road.  Of a pair of houses that waved at them at the distance as they made their journey back home.  Haru shares her thoughts on what she thinks was the answer to the riddle, but admits they may never truly know for sure.

And there, at the tavern, they found themselves before a bald young boy who does not feel content to merely know all the stories of adventures done before.  "I want a chance to experience them."  And as the group smiled at this and realized a new adventure was just about to begin, none of them were aware of the four dragons that watched them from afar.  The four held their hands together and the Ryuujin wondered which of them will get a chance to write the first new adventure of this exciting new world.

There is No Ending.
This is a New Beginning.

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