[SPOILERS] ToME: The Champion's Portion

I'm going to be running The Champion's Portion from ToME in 2 days and I have a few questions for those have have played thru, run, or read thru the story.

There will be spoilers, so if you haven't read it, you shouldn't read this thread.

And of course this thread is off limits to my players (they rarely pop on here, but tonight would be the night, if I didn't say this)

All the kids out of the room? Ok, experienced SG's and players, here goes with my brain-storming and questions*:

  1. The home covenant is a modified Semita Errabunda (described in other threads, search for "covenant of the wandering path if interested), so I see no need to include the "getting the PC's to Ulster through the boundaries of the magic realm" stage.

Skipping this section doesn't lose much in the way of the central plot or even foreshadowing and would move the story along faster (were a slow group). Including it would distract from the puported "specialness" of the "wandering" regio. The unique changing regio-mundane location of Semita Errabunda has been described, but hasn't yet been used into a story, so this gives a chance to use it in play.

In this saga, the L7-wandering mundane boundary is a fairly-well guarded secret of the covenant. So the suggestion that a "witch," hermetic or not, discovered the path and led a mundane along it would give the covenant as a whole a reason to investigate.

I can simply decide that the current regio connection is to Ulster, and it is expected to close in 2-7 days. That maintains the urgency and uncertainty of the story as written. To prevent the covenant from knowing all about the mysteries on the other side, I can say that their first explorations revealed the presence of active, opposing warbands, so they have stayed out of Ulster until now.

This change could make it easier to go back-and-forth to the covenant for supplies, expert personnel, healing rituals, and such, but I think I can disuade overuse of that through creating a sense of urgency and can limit the frequency as the regio boundaries can only be passed at sunrise/set. If they really want to, they have magical means of travelling those distances anyway.

QUESTION: Does anyone foresee any problems with this change?

QUESTION: If Eustace of Flambeau thinks that Adeh O'Connor is allied with Muirgen, his rival, then it makes sense that he might lead Adeh away from Ulster. But why would he lead him to the outskirts of the covenant grounds, whether through the regio boundary I'm using or the one from the original story? Isn't it obvious that this is just going to attract some pesky foreign magi, like flys to honey?

*Nothing I say here should be taken as criticism of Matt Ryan's excellent writing. I'm doing the sort of tweaking for my saga and troupe that I would do with any brilliant, well-written adventure. (Witness the infernalist huruls in my BCoC)

  1. I'm tailoring the adventure around one of the character's story goals. He has a "mentored by demon" background from childhood while being raised by a non-OoH group similar to the witches of theseley, became apprenticed to a Pralixian Ex Misc at Semita Errabunda, and is today both a secret summoner/binder as well as a stanch defender of the Order, a hoplite type who wants to be actively involved in the Ex Misc census. (Its a complicated backstory, obviously).
    Although this is the player's first magus, he's an "experienced" gamer so the character is pretty tough for one fresh out of gauntlet.

(Sorry for all my mispellings of game-terms. I'm tired and too lazy to check them all. Hopefully meanings are clear.)

So the PC's personal motivation to get out of the lab and go adventuring is that he is interested in learning more about Muirgen the Nemthega and her Nemthengacha tradition. As such he will likely ally with her and against Eustace, if the story follows the most likely arc discussed in the book. This supposes that Adeh will ask the PCs to travel back to Ulster with him and help him there, that he will then introduce the PCs to Murigen on friendly terms.

In the story background, Muirgen suspected Adeh of betraying him, so she bewitched his companions, turning them against him. Eustace then appeared to Adeh disguised as Muirgen, and led him away from the forest of Ulster along a mysterious and magical path. Adeh followed, thinking Muirgen was offering apology/recompensense, but Muirgen/Eustace disapeared, and he found himself upon the covenant grounds (in my case, in the Pyranees.)

Adeh has been twice betrayed by a "witch" who he knows is a member of the Order, which he knows some things about.

QUESTION: Why would Adeh now trust these completely unknown wizards? Why would he throw such an untrustworthy random element into such a volitile situation?

I'm not saying its impossible, but I'm just not seeing the motivation, just the story need, for him to trust the PC's enough to recruit them to his cause, reveal some of his knowledge to them, and lead them back along the path to Ulster and the other Magi.

Question: What would you do to make Eustace a little more powerful?

Even though he is 43 and obviously some years out of Gauntlet, I suspect he is not as powerful as the 25-year-old newly-gauntleted, min-maxed PC. Rather than rework any of his totals, I'd like to give him a few more spells, and possibly some magic items or even a talisman. That would be less work and those things could be thrown in or left out depending on if the players are intimidated by or beating up on him. At any rate, it seems like a 43 year-old wizard should have those things. Suggestions?

Defense is better than offense, and stuff that says "don't touch" is good, as the players aren't the pillums of fire type. They're more inclined to do thinks like errode their opposition's magical defenses, wait for the opposition to pump up their underlings, and then use mind control to turn the underlings against their master. (Sometimes I know sending a horde against these guys is just giving them a horde.)

Question: Should I also modify or remove Vafer, Eustace's magical animal companion flaw?

Since he's not needed to open the magic path between the covenant and Ulster in my story, he could be done away with entirely. I did notice that he doesn't seem like a "flaw" for Eustace (as discussed in a recent thread about Magical Animal Companions from the flaw). In that case, I'd need a suggestion for a different minor flaw for Eustace.

Alternately, I could modify Vafer, both making him more of a flaw for Eustace, and also giving him different powers. Suggestions?

Finally, I could leave Vafer as-is. He's an interesting enough character. I just feel like I'm setting a bad example for my players after lecturing them about the "proper" usage of story flaws like this. Perhaps if left as is, I should just drop the story-flaw, have him be just like any other npc I control, and give Eustace a different flaw.

Unless you're planning on handing Eustace to a PC, I really wouldn't worry about his virtues/flaws. That said, Vafer looks like a valid magical companion to me: a boon to the character that also drags the character into stories. The latter is somewhat meaningless for an NPC, however, since NPCs exist for the purpose of stories for the players.

If you want to challenge your players and don't think what is presented will do so, then change it. I wouldn't be overly worried about his not being as powerful as a 25-year-old min-max'd freshly gauntlet'd magus, because you can min-max something pretty darn scary if you set your mind to it. Vafer is capable of getting arcane connections for Eustace as well, which could well make things interesting if it does come to blows. Eustace is probably old enough to know that a stand-up fight isn't how magi do battle - but he is still fairly young by magi standards. Still, his multicast fatigue drainer could well give opposing magi pause - especially if there's only one or two of them.

Given that the adventure revolves around one magus' story flaw, are you expecting a group of all-magi to go stomping off to Ulster? Or are you expecting 1-2 magi plus companions and grogs?

Adeh is likely to recruit the magi precisely because he has heard of the Order. He's a man in a pinch, so any help is better than none. From his perspective, a bit of extra chaos in the mix is better than leaving things as they are - because if he leaves them as they are then his cause is the one that suffers the most. Or, his path through to the covenant could well just be a foible of magic. His turning up at the covenant via their super-secret regio thing just lets the players know that they don't have 100% control of the gate.

I've done enough gaming to understand that as SG, I can take liberties with NPCs that I wouldn't allow for a PC. But since we're all new to ArM, I'm trying to stick with RAW for things I create whenever possible. This helps me to learn the rules and the limits/possibilities of PCs, provides "sample" characters the PC's can use for inspiration later, and allows characters to easily transition from NPC to PC status, if someone wants to pick them up.

Sure. I'm just trying to set a good example for my players; not sure if its so much Vafer "drags him into stories" as "Vafer's abilities/powers are tailor-made to help Eustace with his stories."

My expectation is that Eustace will become, if not the villian of the story, then at least the PC's antagonist. If he is more powerful/threatening than Murigen, then she has a reason to ally with the PC's and her need might make her willing to share knowledge of her tradition, the PC's goal. He is already more combat-capable than Murigen, but I think that the PC's might be able to kick his butt easily, moreso if they have Murigen, Aedh, and others on their side. I'd prefer he have better defenses. Maybe I'll just up his Parma. The PC's have rather high Parma for newly gauntleted magi.

First, to be clear, there is no flaw involved exactly, although as in any scenario, his mentored by demon background could become story-relevant. I recently met with each player one-on-one. One of the topics discussed was the magi's goals. This player would like to actively combine the Pralixian lineage's desire to seek out and integrate hedge and other non-hermetic traditions with the Ex Misc Primus' goal of conducting a census of the House. If opportunity presents itself, he is also interested in acting in a Hoplite manner, investigating and pursuing outside enemies of the order, including but not limited to Hedge traditions that refuse the "join or die" offer.

I'm not sure if I'll have more than this one player, which is why I chose a story I knew would interest him. If he's a solo player, I'll give him 1-5 grogs. If the other players can make it, they will be free to play their magi if he/she is interested, otherwise they can play a companion (although we don't have many yet) or 1-3 grogs. These uncertainties are part of the reason I was fishing for some ways to boost up Eustace on the fly by giving him a talisman, a few magic items, or what have you.

Also wondering what Adeh should ask of the magi when discovered. In the story as written, he tells his whole story truthfully and then asks the pcs to help him return to ulster.

I'm thinking he might be more guarded in what he says. And if he just asks for help getting home, that sort of leaves them directionless when they get there. But if he says "please help me attack the english," or "please help me get revenge on these wizards" they will not want to interfere with mundanes or possibly other wizards.

So if Aedh shows up on their doorstep says 'help me defeat the evil witch who sent me here, or at least help me get home', the players won't go and look to see who this witch dumping unwanted guests on their doorstep is? No-one has personality flaws you could leverage, or story flaws you could work in?