Games:
Rose Peak: An Everway Campaign

Rose Peak was an 8-session Everway campaign I ran for six friends.

Rose Peak Empire

I created the Rose Peak Empire about 10 years ago as the setting for my home Everway campaign. Its underlying theme was the fall of the royalty. My plan was to run the campaign straight for a while and then throw in a real threat to the Empire. The longer I ran the campaign straight, the richer would be the result when the royalty fell, or nearly did but were rescued by the characters.

The problem is that neither of my Everway campaigns set in Rose Peak “took.” They failed, and my Rose Peak notes sat on the shelf for years.

The happy thing about this campaign is that I finally got to use the material I prepared so long ago.

Rules

These are my house rules for Rose Peak.

Element Scores: I capped them at 7 instead of 9. With 7 and a specialty, you’re already heroic. At 9, you’re stupid, and it’s hard for the game to be fun. I’d recommend this cap whether you’re playing a long campaign or a short one.

Experience: A big weakness in Everway is the lack of an experience system. My campaign rule was that each character could get a power-up at some point during the campaign. Arkeduke received a mighty blessing from her god, which brought out and expanded her latent psychic powers. Pike learned to manipulate the life force for healing instead of only for harming.

In an ongoing campaign, it’s hard to work with a loosy goosy experience system like this one, but for a short campaign, it’s fine.

Spherewalking: I dropped spherewalking altogether. Spherewalking is handy backstory, and it does help you explain how any two characters could meet, but it can make a campaign loose around the edges. Since this was a short campaign, I didn’t need a background that could go anywhere. All the action took place in and around the Rose Peak Empire, and each character had a motive for going to the Empire.

For an ongoing campaign, I’d have wanted a portal so the characters could go exotic quests, but for a short campaign, one big location will do.

Mind Control: Normally, I don’t allow “mind control” and “mind reading” powers because they ruin mysteries. For a short campaign, I figured it would be OK, and it was. It was pretty cool, in fact.

Gamemastering

How the campaign went.

Plot Summary: The characters come to Rose Peak each for their own reasons, but when they arrive they find the place conquered by ifrit (fire demons and enemies of the djinn). To return the ifrit to their prison, they have to undo the magic of the no-faces. The characters invade the no-faces’ magical realm, defeat them, and restore order to the empire.

Momentous Spectacle: I am deeply suspicious of the “momentous spectacle,” All too often, I’ve suffered when a gamemaster has tried to convey the momentousness of some spectacle. Spectacles defy interaction with the characters, and I find that you get a better game when you involve the characters.

But this time, I tried a momentous spectacle, and it worked pretty well. During a terrible storm at sea, the characters saw the Midgard serpent surface. The spectacle demonstrated that mighty supernatural forces were in turmoil, and the characters later found out that two fiery forces were battling for control in the power vacuum left by the fall of the forces of air.

The Portal of Infinite Ifrit: In the no-faces’ city, there was a portal to the fiery land of the ifrit, allies of the no-faces. When the characters attacked, ifrit started coming out of the portal. First, one came out. Then two. Then four. The trick was that a huge number of ifrit were going to come through, and the sooner the characters nullified the portal, the better off they’d be.

It worked great. The first ifriti flew up and attacked the party. With their combined efforts, they were able to disable it. Then two came up, and it started to look scary. But the characters had a sword that popped ifrit (the Tongue of Pain), plus some competent heroes, and they were holding their own. But then four came up. There was no way they were going to be able to handle eight, and they used their magic to seal the portal.

The “door of infinite enemies” is a nice little trick that you can drop into just about any campaign with combat. I used it back in 1981 or so on the first adventure in my high school D&D campaign.

“What Are You Afraid Of?”: One night, before we got started, I asked each player what their character was afraid would happen next, and what they hoped would happen next. This was just before they were going to venture into the mysterious realm of the no-faces. It was a nice way to emphasize the danger of their undertaking, entering the lair of the no-faces. It also reminded me what plots could get tied up here and what victories the characters could earn along the way.

One player said, “I hope we don’t all get our brains sucked out,” and everyone else cringed because they knew she had just given me a great idea.

The technique of asking open-ended questions of characters at the starts and ends of game sessions works in most story-oriented RPGs.

Immanent Order: A couple of the card draws were amazing. The promising mercenary attempts to gain an audience with the Chief Smith, pontiff of her religion. Her draw for how well she does is, of course, the Smith. A sorcerer whose power harms the life force tries to use his knowledge to do the opposite and heal for the first time. He draws, of course, Nature, whose nominal meaning is “Life Force.” It no longer creeps me out to get amazing draws like these. I take it as a matter of course that some draws will seem as though they’re an expression of supernatural will. As near as I can figure, they’re a phenomenon of the mind’s positive attempts to see patterns.

—JoT
December 2005

top

passerby at Burning Man 2005

click for more