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February 20th

After some lengthy preparation (each Hylin gets 1d3 scraps — Atrox takes string) the group set out for the distant monolith, after an inspirational speech from old Tonic. Merlot, who has been amongst the Black Dusters with her plague mask, declares that they are safe (a week has passed and no one is sick), but the party decide not to take them on their trip.

Their route takes them all the way up the Brick Vertical (scene of the encounters with the Black Dust Tribe and the Rats), to the level above, where there is wood above, and wood below, and the space Between is filled with a layer of ash, and then great clumps of some sort of fur (Eater hair?). The trip is long (takes 1 Rest) and tireing — everyone takes 1 Exhausted Damage, and must each 1 Food or take 1 Hungry as well. Some of the characters, notably Behold and Chardonnay, are in a bad way.

The mice find a spot to sit and eat, resting against a large wooden block or pillar that seems to separate the floor and roof of the level. While resting his back on it, Chardonnay hears muffled voices; not Hylin. Investigating, he discovers a colony of woodlice feeding on the rotting wood. Woodlice are gossips and information traders, so he quickly drags Marcus over to talk to them.

The woodlice — who speak in a chorus of repeating voices — are happy to trade information for information. Chardonnay boasts about how "The Great Champion Chardonnay" defeated the one-eyed rat. The woodlice eagerly measure him (so that they can describe him) and repeat the details. In return they tell him about the pack that one-eye had been thrown out of, the Eater Kit Pack, and it's Queen. The Pack is not far off to the left, on this level.

Marcus decides to try and trade for information about food. Merlot tries telling them about the usefulness of plague-masks, but woodlice don't have mouths to cover, and she forgets to arrange a trade beforehand. Marcus offers to trade the location of woodlouse food, for Hylin food. The woodlice agree, and he tells them that there are places in the Dripping Level where magic Eater liquids soak the wood. He says these liquids make Eaters strong, and will do the same to the woodlice. The Woodlice tell him that the Eater who lived above the Quiet Level has vanished, and suggest Stronger Eaters are Eating them!

Chardonnay suggests that they could just eat the woodlice, but Marcus gets them to give the information they wanted. The Woodlice say that there is a route past the rat pack that leads to a place on the very edge of the Empty where there is earth full of Hylin food, like worms, and roots. This is the opposite direction to Glenlivit's suggested plan, and there is some argument about which way to go. Merlot tries a vision to guide them, but the result is unclear. After a vote it is decided to devote a little time to looking for the mice Glenlivit mentioned — if they don't find them, they will turn around and follow the woodlouse route.

The mice prove surprisingly easy to find (Merlot makes an excellent roll, and spends one success to say that they find the mice quickly). They come across one mouse, scrabbling around in the ash. It is nervous till it sees Glenlivit, and then bounds up like an enormous (to a Hylin) puppy. The mice can't speak, and it takes a lot of work to get concepts across to them, but Merlot gets across the concept that they want to find more mice, and the mouse leads them to a family of four more mice, who have made a pile out of bits of broken plaster and are playing at balancing on top. More successes are spent to establish that the mice look well-fed and co-operative.

Merlot mimes being a hungry mouse-pup, so the mice decide to take her to their source of food. They lead the others to a place where the loose hair filling the level has been packed tight to make a big open space. In the middle is the monolith — a shiny black metal structure, 10 Hylin-lengths tall, and 25 long. When Glenlivit saw it last, it was safely inside the Between, but now the roof of the Between is missing! It looks like an Eater has taken a bite out of the Between! The mice run out happily and vanish round the back of the structure.

The open space is scary. No one wants to go out into it, but Marcus makes an inspirational speech and gets them to follow the mice. Round the other side of the metal thing they find the mice gathered around an odd long tube of brown paper, open at one end. Inside vague shapes are visible. No one knows what it is, but Atrox agrees to go inside. He finds a wall of something beige and knobbled, but when he nudges it with his nose it falls on him! He panics, runs around, the end of the paper tube gets crumpled, and he's trapped inside! Luckily Chardonnay manages to haul him out, but then has to sit on him when he whips out a dangerous chemical and tries to set the tube on fire in revenge!

Now Jinzu and Merlot decide to do their own investigation. There is a bit more confusion as they step on one another, but they realise that this is a giant packet full of food! It is filled with enormous beige rectangles, with round corners and white paste inside (Custard Creme biscuits) — 10 FS. Marcus suggests they need to get the mice away from here, so that Cold Stone can have all the food. Chardonnay suggests eating the mice; Glenlivit protests!

Marcus decides to eat some buscuit and then pretend to die, so that the mice get scared and run off. His acting only confuses the mice, but it convices Merlot, who starts squeaking that he's actually dead! Behold drags off the biscuit (to use as poison) and puts it on his snail, which has started to climb the monolith. He clings onto the snail and tells it to run (crawl), closing his eyes so he doesn't have to look at the Empty above. The snail obediently climbs the monolith, goes across it's top and then, finding a nice gap, goes inside, upside down! Behold opens his eyes to see that he's upside-down ... then the lid closes! He's trapped inside!

Meanwhile, the Hylin below are causing panic. Chardonnay and Atrox are fighting, then Chardonnay makes off to attack the mice, while Chardonnay pours out his pouches in the hope of tinkering something. Jinzu is running around in circles wailing about Marcus, who is still pretending to be dead, and Merlot is trying to get the mice to flee. As a result the mice actually do get scared, and start running off in every direction, because the food is now scary! Unfortunately for Merlot, the mice are convinced that she is a defenceless pup, so they grab her too, and run off with her into the Between!

At this point Chardonnay declares himself the victor, and jumps to the top of the monolith, in the hope that the Eater Beast will appear for him to fight. Instead he spots Behold's snail trail and realises he is trapped inside. He tries to open the entire monolith himself (by balancing on the hasp of the lock and mightliy pushing the top on) but instead gets himself trapped in the gap! He is crushed by the lid and, when he manages to wriggle free, falls to the ground. Chastened (and hurt) he crawls away and lets Atrox rig up something to open the lid.

Without Merlot, and out of time and energy, the party haul one of the biscuits back to the Nest. Between the biscuit packet, Behold's cache, and their individual stock of food, they manage to supply 17FS. Not enough to totally avert the famine, but certainly a partial success. Things would have been a lot worse without their efforts!

Five days later Merlot finally escapes the mouse nest and makes her own way home.

End of Year

Because this is the end of Winter we do ageing effects and Improvements. Chardonnay gets a new Legend "I bit off more than I could chew", and Marcus gets one for coming back from the dead ... again! Everyone gets a year older (and less lucky), and both Chardonnay and Marcus lose some Dice from age — only 1 Edge in Chardonnay's case, but three Stats in Marcus' (he is now 8 years old). No one dies from old age.

At the player's assistance we rolled a dice for each Black Dust Hylin, to see what happened when they took the Cold Stone test (drink a random liquid and see if you die), allowing players to spend Luck to turn a failure into a success. As a result nine out of ten Black Dust mice survived, including Kiri, Iro, and Parro.


  • Everything went very smoothly. As with the previous session the lack of remaining Rests created urgency.
  • The negotiation with the Woodlice was great fun. I did it only through RP (didn't force dice) but that was no problem. There were plenty of dice rolls in the session (many of which ended badly for the party as it happened).
  • I gave each player 1 Luck at the start of the session, because the adventure was 2 sessions long. This worked fine.
  • Players are still relying on me to suggest things to spend successes on, I need to encourage them to have their own ideas — possibly by shutting up and letting them choose!

February 13th

A season and more passes for Cold Stone, with no sign of Absinthe's Disasters, but slowly it becomes clear that food is less easy to find. The Eaters no longer drop gifts in the Food Gift Place, there are fewer beetles and plants. By winter, the Tribe is on the edge of famine. Some mice, convinced that this is related to the death of the Eater reported in summer, take to wearing pictures of Eater faces — torn from a strange heap of paper they found — over their own, calling themselves the "Cult of the Dead Eater", and hoping that in this way fate will feed them.

For this adventure I add both a time-limit (9 Rests), and a one-off mechanic. To secure the Tribe from hunger the party must secure 20 points of Food Source (Individual food items are 1/5th of an FS) by discovering new food sources in the Between. If they don't do so before the 9 Rests are over then the Tribe will take 1 Hungry damage.

Atrox and Chardonnay decide that they must hunt bigger prey. There are centipedes in the Dripping Level sometimes, they just need a weapon to hunt them. They decide to construct a sticky web throwing catapult The Netinator and devote a Rest to it ... then another Rest ... then another Rest. By the time they have done, a whole third of the time limit is past!

In the meantime, while Jinzu is hiding food in the Between to prepare for an exodus, Behold, the other former Waykeeper, decides to go and recover one of his own caches from a previous year and bring it back to help the Tribe. Unluckily it turns out that a pack of rats has moved into the area where the cache is hidden! He tries to sneak past them, but is caught by a rat scout. In the desperate battle that follows he is helped by Glenlivit who sneakily followed him (after going through his stuff — ever the thief). Both are badly mauled by the rat, but Behold pretends to be dead, giving Glenlivit the chance to flee!

Reaching the Nest, Glenlivit tells the others about the Rats. Chardonnay and Atrox are all for fighting the rats right now, but most of the rest, including the Champion Brasso, think it maddness. If they hide down here the rats will probably move on. Chardonnay disagrees, and to get his way, challenges Brasso for the title of Champion! The ensuing fight is short and one-sided, Chardonnay is a far more vicious warrior than the inexperienced Brasso.

Armed with his trusty weapon Gilette and the Champion's token, Chardonnay (with the others as reluctant retinue) goes to confront the rats, who turn out to be a gang of young batchelors and infirm old males who have been kicked out of their pack (The Eater Kid Pack) because food is scarce. Chardonnay masters his fear of the rats, and demands a one on one fight with their Champion. The rats argue, each competing for the right to be champion by promising the worst death they can think of for the little mouse. In the end an old rat with one-eye wins.

What follows is almost as one-sided as the fight with Brasso! Using the combination of a lucky roll, the poison he got from Absinthe in the summer, and the Champion ability (+1 Hurt Damage), Chardonnay seriously wounds the rat on the first roll, and it is easy sailing from there on. In the end he spares one-eye's life in return for a promise that the rats will leave the area. (Behold's food cache is recovered, and provides 3FS)

Only afterwards, realising that days have been wasted on things that have produced little to no food, does the party have a serious talk about what to do next. Glenlivit mentions that when she was an exile there was a family of mice one level up who she traded with for food. There is a big, mostly deserted, level up there, which she calls the Quiet Level. In the middle, is an enormous black monolith of metal hidden in the level itself. With no better plan, everyone agrees to prepare an expedition to the monolith.

Before they can set out, a ragged procession arrives at the Nest — the survivors of the Black Dust Tribe, led by Kiri, Iro and Parro. Kiri explains that the famine hit their tribe as well, but the many sick Hylin were too weak to survive it. Many perished, and the survivors decided to abandon their home and seek shelter with Cold Stone. Kiri led them on a great trek and the ten outside the nest are all that survive.

There is instant argument: What to do about the survivors. Some are for turning them away; Chardonnay suggests eating them; Merlot insists that they are quarantined. In the end they are allowed to stay — outside the main nest. The Tribe takes 1 Exhausted Damage.


  • Chardonnay should not have won the fight with the rat so easily. It is a fight that can be won, but it was almost casual. There were a number of reasons: I forgot my own solo advice and didn't give the rat armour; I shouldn't allow abilities that stack bonus damage — so I changed the champion ability to inspiration instead; I ignored Size; there is no penalty for having a low initiative in a solo battle — Chardonnay went second, but it didn't matter. I've added a tentative First Strike rule to address this, but I am not 100% convinced I have the right answer yet.
  • Chardonnay had too many dice. Players suggested a slightly more punative ageing curve to reduce the dice assigned to older mice.
  • There was no advantage to defending with Dodging instead of Fighting, I gave Dodging a bonus armour, and added Cringing as a social equivalent.
  • The use of Rests as a timing mechanism went great! Once the players realised they were properly on a clock they were driven to action. That's the sort of tension I want.
  • The improvisational nature of spending successes went really well in Behold's encounter. The rats, the food cache, and the place he hid, were all from player and GM narrated successes.

February 6th

The number of characters goes up to seven, as Robyn rejoins the game with her Thief Glenlivet.

The group has agreed to follow Absinthe's map and find their way to the source of the strange noises. They take a Rest to heal some of their Afraid damage, and then descend the Ladder of Heaven, picking up the three Black Dust mice on the way. A little further down Chardonnay (the Hylin with the highest sensing) spots a recent trail of crumbs, and they discover Glenlivet, a mouse exciled from Cold Stone for stealing a sacred Thing (a scrap of a bottle label) from Clorox. Glenlivet claims to know the Empty well, so they agree to let her guide them, in return for entreating Absinthe to allow her back into the Tribe.

Soon they reach the bottom of the chamber, and must cross the pitch-black expanse of teracotta tiles. They hurry to a wall, and soon reach the far side where (as Absinthe told them) a series of cliffs and flats leads up to a huge wooden wall (a door). They climb these steps without too much trouble, but at the top they see that the gap under the door is choked with webbing and balls of un-hatched spider eggs!

There is an argument about what to do. Atrox and Chardonnay want to destroy the eggs, and set about making an incendiary (using the Tribe's "Bountiful: Spices" trait to produce materials). The others just want to sneak past, and try a series of Helping Tests to set it up. Sadly they fail, and one of the egg sacs bursts open, unleashing a tide of tiny spiderlings! Chardonnay winds up to throw the incendiary while the others scarper through the gap into whatever blinding light is beyond. Amazingly he gets 6 successes on his check, destroying the spiderlings (a 6 Dice Monster) in one go!

On the other side, the Hylin find themselves in the Empty for the first time! It is enormous and blindingly bright. Squares of coloured light are everywhere, illuminating an enormous orange furry thing that seems to be sleeping in the middle distance. Everyone makes a Daring 3 test to avoid an Afraid Damage (and mostly fail).

The group can see where they want to go, but it is beyond the orange thing. Luckily the strange wheeled structure that Behold saw in his vision is nearby, and they all hide underneath it. A few moments later a young Eater enters the Empty! — But then leaves again. Quickly some of the mice investigate the structure, there are nests of white china, and bright shiny metal things they can sit on, but not much cover. They decide to push the structure to where they need to go, but it only gets halfway, and that seems to wake the creature up. They run for the next area with the creature in pursuit, but just as Merlot saw in her vision it is snatched into the sky by an Eater before it can catch her. She hides with the others in the thick forest of cloth tufts that covers the next chamber. (Somewhere behind them the door is smouldering).

Now they can see the source of the noise — it is an Eater crying. Jinzu figures the Eater has lost something and goes to look for it. Merlot decides a vision is required, and falls over foaming at the mouth! All this (and the group of nice Hylin) attracts the attention of the Eater Beast being held by the young Eater! Merlot's vision shows two Eaters struggling, a brown and a blue. The blue one doesn't want the brown one to go because it will be killed, but it goes anyway, heading into the unbearable light, and shutting something behind it that makes the whole world shake. The group conclude that the other Eater is dead, and the blue Eater is crying because of it. They aren't sure how this helps them, but at this point the Beast breaks free of its captor and they flee.

Cue a quick chase back down the passage. Chardonnay is sure he could fight the beast, but no one is listening, instead they run back under the wheeled Thing, which the Beast promptly crashes into, sending it flying. The Eater comes running, but sees the smoke from the fire instead of the Hylins, and they get away into the dark while it stamps on the fire.

In closing, they return to the Tribe (with the Black Dusters going back to theirs) along with Glenlivet, who Absinthe vouches for. They spread the news of what they have seen. Glenlivet avoids Clorox, but Merlot agrees to study being a Seer with him. After this we award Legends.


  • A group of six players can get a lot of Dice. Would this let them fight an Eater Beast? It shouldn't.
  • The Quick Helping Optional Rule is too good with this many characters, it is basically +6 Dice. We agree to change the rule so that the Helper must have a score of at least 2 in whatever the helpee is rolling, otherwise they have to roll to Help.
  • Having the Beast as a Turn by Turn Hazard worked okay, but not perfectly. While it was clear that the players could roll against the Obstacle 8 the Beast presented to avoid 1 Hurt a turn, it wasn't clear what they would be rolling the rest of the time. i.e. there still needs to be a pool to roll against if you want to overcome/escape the Beast.
  • I decided to drop the cap on Stats from 5 to 4. Getting a 5 in a Stat is easier than I originally anticipated, and the system seems to work better when Luck Dice are a limiting factor. Right now high Stats are too good.

January 30th

The number of characters goes up to six, as Ben rejoins the game with his Guardian Chardonnay.

The new game begins with a re-visit of the scenario Knight of Sorrows used in the previous term — the Hylin of Cold Stone nest are awoken on the edge of dawn by strange and terrifying noises. A rattling series of bangs, then a crash so loud that it shakes the world, followed by an unsettling wail from from somewhere in the Empty that starts but does not stop. The Tribe is scared and frantic.

Two warring Seers, Clorox and Vimto, have different explanations for the noise, and what they should do about it. Clorox thinks it the sound of Fate — coming for the tribe because their Luck has run out — and that they need to go out and prove that they are still lucky any way they can. Vimto thinks that it is the howl of an Eater Beast, and they need to stay in the nest and avoid it at all costs. The characters get involved in this argument, which rapidly comes to bites and scratches, before Marcus (the peacemaker) intervenes. The players suggest that the two Seers submit to some higher authority — the only one they will agree on is Absinthe, the venerable seer who lives in the Sacred Bottle Place.

The group decide to go and see Absinthe (very reluctantly on Merlot's part). This involves a trip through the Between. On the way they run into Iro a Yearling from the Black Dust Tribe, who is fleeing from spiders! He begs the Cold Stoner's to help find his brother Parro, and their friend and guardian Kirra, who stayed behind to fight the spiders. The group ends up split in two. Chardonnay finds Parro, and kills some spiders, while Atrox finds Kirra and gets eaten by spiders! (well just about). Luckily Chardonnay comes to help before he can be killed. The three Black Dust mice have also come to investigate the noise, and tell a tale of sickness in their own nest.

The party moves to the Sacred Bottle Place, emerging halfway up the "Ladder of Heaven" where the bottles are stored. Leaving Kirri, Parro, and Iro to rest, they rig a climbing device attached to Behold's snail and scale the heights, till they find Absinthe, who is bright green! The old blind seer seems to have no trouble knowing who they are. He has been expecting them. He tells them he has had a vision of sickness, famine, fire, flood, and earthquake (in that order), and that only finding the answer to the noise may help. He believes the answer lies in the Empty, and gives them a map — scratched onto a beetle shell — showing the way.

He also offers the chance to try the "sacred green liquid" to see if the party can have visions of their own. They all leap to accept (except Chardonnay). As a result each gets a vision scene, along with a Legend along the lines of "Haunted by the Green Fairy" or "Enlightened by the Green Fairy". Only Merlot and Behold see useful things, the rest see only their own pasts. Behold sees a strange wheeled device that he believes might help them in the Empty. Merlot sees a terrible Eater Beast descending on them all ... only for them to be saved by an Eater before it can happen (giant hands descend from the sky and take it away). This convinces her that she must go with the others.


  • I used "Damage and Move on" more frequently in this session, and achieved good results (e.g. 1 Afraid for hearing the prophecy).
  • The vision-granting scene was incredible fun. Thinking up the various "Green Fairy" Legends was also fun.