Wolves upon the Coast log
Session report 1, played at home with some friends who haven’t played in 20+ years. we quickly do the character sheets while explaining test resolution rules and combat, 30 minutes top. We start adrift in South Albann.
They party is mostly Norse and Bretonian, one is from Noos.Varia, Comignolo (cimney pot) Aldina (the viking ant), Costantina.
Courier type is used throughout for my own notes and ramblings upon rules and setting.
One word about Wolves the minimum required set-up for Wolves: it’s very light. The Grand Campaign is bound to be a 400+ pages monster. You don’t need to read it all to be able to play, you might as well go almost blind. Information is given in the place where it’s needed. At the time of play, I had no idea about the difference between the Noos warriors and King Vagn’s brother rank occupying Hwicce. Little I knew about the difference between fallen Druids of Albann and from their healthier cousins in Ruislip. There is no need to know any background or lore, beyond the hexes you’re playing in. Just have the overall vibe of the world. On the most basic level, it can be played with zero prep, needing just the MAP, and the appropriate island booklet (okay, also volume2 &monsters). It’s an exploration game. Enough studying, let’s go.
Fordunum (10.21) is the starting village, the villagers are already scared when the party gets out of the boat. The town needs fighter to train them, Norse raiders often pillage the village. Comignolo somehow wins a duel to prove they can train the miserable people of Brujwalhaz. The real player agency is to scrounge some food and board, when they hear about a latin inscription on a rock nearby, they organise a “training trip” for the ranks.
The dwellers of Ffordunum are scared of Kerwin o’Eyes, the eye-stealing Ogre in 09.20, they asks the party to avoid the eye-stealer, but NO! Varia will have her way right THROUGH the monster’s heart. They depart to 09.20 knowingly. In retrospect, this could have been a Boast, but by the beginning of the session I’ve only introduced the basic resolution rules.
The Ogre stalks them until 09.19 where they find shelter, Kerein kills a few unfortunate villagers who were left behind drinking wine during the walk. The text in WutC assume they are “unarmored and unwilling”, so I felt it was proper for them to try to get away from the main group. The villagers are found dead, missing eyes. Other villagers tried to flee, they also died.
During the trip, to raise the moral of the expedition, Aldina boasts about how she dislikes the church, and once baited by another player, ups the ante bragging that she will make priests run down the street in a mock car-race.
The first Boasting came naturally in this session. Aldina start bragging and then I realised: “wait we have rule for this”.The players did not know yet that you could achieve something by boasting. The boasting mechanic is nothing short of a revolutionary take on the usual number churn of level-based progression system.
The progression system is a strange beast. Boasting adds +1 HD or +1 to hit. But that’s not all. The Coasts are disseminated by upgrades: teachers, pets, secret techniques, NPCs that might join the party. magical weapons. Knowledge is power, and often is worth money. Character growth is not vertical and not based upon stacking +1s. Just like WutC’s weapons, character growth unlock functionalities rather than numbers or bonuses. All weapons are situational. Wolves is a good example of horizontal design.
The concept of horizontal design comes from here: https://www.reddit.com/r/Eve/comments/ss275h/a_question_on_expansion_vertical_or_horizontal/
The party stays in [09.19] the Burnt Hilfort, which is a safe place, Kerwyn is not following them here, so they have time to think a trap. There’s no shortage of beautiful safe places to rest in WutC, it’s part of its charme. Meanwhile, a new player joined the party: Costantina escaped from the Moerheb Wald when “something” got hold of her village, she wants to find out.
The group lays a trap for the ogre, leaving one of the PC as bait with a captive tiny wild boar in her hands. They keep the boar’s eyes peeled, showing the eyes for the monster as a lure. Other players with long ranged weapons climb upon trees (the village had some weapons to spare). Kerwyn o’Eyes arrives and is dispatched by a serious amount of luck, even the willing lure stays alive. Comigonolo, the Noos warrior, jumps on the Eye Keeper’s head and against all odds inflict serious damage with his bronze weapon. The two attacks of Ogre often fail to strike, Kerwyn o’Eyes is then finished by a salvo of arrows.
The thing about ogres in WutC is they once were humans so greedy and so strong they were able to bring their whole hoard with them, SO THEY CAN GET MORE OF THAT STUFF THEY LIKE IT SO MUCH, being eyes, or piles of weapons. I love these Ogres, They are compulsive HOARDERS of the same article. Their houses are labyrinths.
From Volume 2 & monsters: “muscle cords thicker than greed, take up all you possess, and carry it with you. See what you desire, and come to possess it. This is but one of the paths a man may walk to leave humanity behind”.
A modern example: the terrifying hobo in the back of the diner in Mulholland Drive? What was its cart filled with? Primal fear.
When the party and the “training ranks” get back from the fort, the remaining people of Ffordunum are not happy about their hunt: most of their already shit city defence is now dead because of a monster they could just avoid. Out of 12 footmen, only 9 are left.
Before the villagers can take arms and rally against them, the party run back to the coast and resume travel, stopping to buy baits from the twins in [12.20] while a storm is in sight, one of the nice quiet moment that WutC is not short of.
After the storm they resume their trip, passing next to a village surrounded by a ring of fire. In this Apocalypse Now moment, the party just watch the fire burn around the town, with no understanding of the situation. They stop to see what’s happing upon reaching an overgrown peninsula: a female druid and her soldiers. She is trying to know the real name of the sea. Fate Spoiler: she will never learn it.
Romanticism echoes through WutC, and at times read like Spoon River in reverse. It’s full of mentions of the ultimate fate of NPCs. Doomed expeditions, Utter failures. Betrayals, Sometimes the desire is fulfilled and the NPC suffer a terrible fate nevertheless.
An awful reaction roll meant that the Druid is tired of her failures and wants a sacrifice, and wants it now. So she calls one in the party to get into the water, and tries to drown her as she approach.
The party rush away from the crazed druid and the soldiers, the wind is quiet so they sail around the South West coast of Albann, bordering with the Moerheb Wald forest.
Next comes an interesting stretch of villages:
The village of travellers, in [17.20] only kids and the old, sometimes somebody returns and they wait for them. They pass the night there, Good reaction test. They talk about their travels and showing scars and weapons from afar.
The party exchanges some of their silk for a random magic item here. This turned out to be a javelin of thorns.
This was my favourite hex so far.
They pass through another losers’ village [18.19], inhabited by outlawed who’d rather take the sea then fight. They’re building a wall, but not quite there. They’re oblivious of the fallen Druids threat, which implies there are good chances that they will be targeted in the future.
Most people within these villages of the South-East just want to live removed from the rest of the world. The coast around Moerheb Walt is unclaimed. The coast is thin. The sea and the invaders from one side, a dangerous forest behind. They choose none. This is one of my favourite areas of the whole hexcrawl.
I wonder how this grand campaign would play as a Bandit party.
The party keeps bordering the forest, their main quest now is Constantina to get rid of the fallen Druids from her village in [17.16]. They reach the Norse Raider encampment in [18.17] and they learn about the quest for intel. They can’t go to Hwicce just now: they decided to stay in Moerheb Wald first.
One of the PC comes from a village in Moerheb Weald and wants to win back her village from the druids, so they go there: the inhabitants of Owriyn are all smiley. They haven’t figured out yet, they’re under the control of a Dryad.
The party don’t know what to do in the city, smelling something is off.
At the end of the session we reached Diserth, here they find other people willing to contrast the fallen Druids, as well as the quest to hunt for sorcerers.
Next session, the party want to explore the forest to understand whats wrong with it, and get rid of any sorceries fuckin up the people of Owryin. It would be great if they take the lure to investigate the Black Strath for the fallen Druids, delivering a tongue to their sick god.
Few quick considerations about the system. There’s so much meat in Wolves that a proper review would require a full series of posts.
The game plays fast and furious. Once you get the basic rule framework, it’s easy to make rulings. Rolling multiple d6 for resolution is satisfying. The lack of “mental” stats means mental tasks such as people manipulation and bullshitting are unmediated by rules and as such not resolved by dice. This is interesting because in my games we often roll for reading intentions and manipulate people into doing stuff.
The stats are: Dexterity, Strength, Constitution. These are physics stats. It’s not a survival game though, it lacks survival rules. It’s an exploration game. Pure and simple. There’s potential for Wolves to be played as a pirate game, a cultist game, or even an army clasher.
There are “board-wipe” hexes, monsters who, when awaken or freed, might rampage through large areas of the map, annihilating settlements in their wake. There are few Godzilla: a gang of pissed-off Ennts, a spider-demon, a Gothrog fueled by Kobolds, a Green Slime the size of cities, just to name a few. Literal time–bombs hidden through the hexes. If triggered, they can change geopolitics.
I’ve ran it with no prep. Before playing I only had read Albann and Ruislip, and skimmed through the monster manual. There’s an entire setting of lore parcelled through the hexes. But you don’t NEED to know it to play. Wolves is a masterclass of implied setting, in a post-Troika kind of way. To referee, you just need to read through the hexes as they are explored. I had a general idea about conflicting forces. The travel unravels itself. Communities are sparse and information is slow, the settlers are often scared of their surroundings.
Everything runs smoothly.
I received a very good setting book today in the post. Hardcover, beautiful illustrations, good worldbuilding. I flip through and out of the 120+ pages, only 20 pages are adventure. Compare it with WutC, which ONLY contains adventure (+ monsters, loots, and magic books). I’m spoiled forever now.