Tales from the Sodden Reach – Session II

A belated posting of last week’s session. I’m very happy with the way things are going so far, in terms of how the world-generation tools work during prep and how the rules have been working in play. On the playbook front we discovered a significant problem in the wording of the cleric’s Invoke move:

When you call upon your deity to manifest their power, say what you want to have happen and how it falls within at least one of your deity’s domains. The Judge will assign your request hubris from 0 (insignificant) to 6 (miraculous). Then, roll -hubris, +1 if you bear your holy symbol, and +1 if you occupy a place sacred to your faith: on a 10+, your request is granted with duration 3, and may be made permanent if you perma-burn 1 ability point of your choice per point of hubris; on a 7-9, your request is granted with duration 1, but your deity demands proof of devotion—the Judge chooses 1 from the list below; on a 6-, mark XP, and the Judge makes a move.

Safira the Cleric led a ritual that called for the ingestion of psychoactive lichen, calling upon the snail-god Caracol to grant the participants the ability to safely climb a steep incline. Sophie, Safira’s player, rolled a 10+ to Invoke and took advantage of the clause that allowed her to make the invocation permanent by perma-burning ability points.

In the half-dozen campaigns of Freebooters that I’ve run to date, no one had ever done this! It was one of those rules bits to which zero attention had been paid since I first wrote it down. As we applied the effects, I saw immediately that it was overpowered — a level 1 Cleric had just granted herself and two companions the permanent ability to make difficult climbs without risk. Granted, creating this sort of game-changing effect is the kind of thing I hoped to see happen with the Invoke move, and the recipients have to climb slowly since it’s a blessing of the snail-god, but it felt like too much too soon, or at too little cost.

Part of the problem was that I went too easy on the Judge side, assigning the invocation hubris 0 when 2 or 3 would have been more appropriate. That’s just a matter of getting used to how hubris feels in play, and I’ll need to include more guidelines for that in the full rules. The bigger issue was that, as written, a 0-hubris invocation can be made permanent at no cost to the cleric. So I need to either rewrite that clause (to something like, “…and may be made permanent by perma-burning a number of ability points of your choice equal to hubris +3”), or extract it into an advanced move on its own. If I go the former route, I’m also considering adding a condition under which a permanent invocation can be cancelled or revoked.

Despite this snafu, I really enjoyed how Sophie made use of Invoke. It’s a perfect illustration of how I want the cleric’s powers to feel in the game — flexible, but constrained by the domains of their deity. I am looking forward to seeing if and how the other clerics of Caracol will follow Safira’s lead in asking for otherworldly aid.

We’re deep in the wilderness now. They’ve taken some minor hits to ability points and gear, but haven’t encountered anything too dangerous yet. We’ll see if their luck holds out as they try to locate the entrance to the Cave of Bright Crystal.

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