Jan 14, 2024


No books this week, I was busy playing Ironsworn (see below).

Roleplaying Games

The Halls of Arden Vul

Session 30 this week, wow.

We spent about an hour of real-time finishing up business with the goblins, and the players managed to get free entry to and passage through the Goblin Warrens, which was quite clever of them. They were hauled in to meet the King of the Goblins, who was grateful to them for finding and opening up a route to the surface for them, but also cautious about the motives of these strangers.

As a test, after talking about how valuable this entrance is and how much trade and gold it will bring in, he asked the PCs to name their reward.

The players said that they simply wanted the goodwill of the goblins, and were sure that the king could name a suitable reward, but that if they could make a suggestion it would be free passage. The entrance fee is normally 1gp each, really a token amount, so this was a really insignificant reward. The king happily granted it, and the PCs rose in his estimation.

Now they have some friends—admittedly from one of the weaker factions—but more importantly they have direct access to the middle levels of Arden Vul.

We spent the rest of the session furthering their plans at the Obsidian Gates. The players suspected that an electrum rod they found was one of the two keys for a nearby set of big bronze double doors, so they had a duplicate made and it worked! They kicked open some more doors, looted some stuff, and we ended the session with a pair of human eyes floating in a bowl of mercury, gods know how old but at least 250 years, looking at them…

This is all fun and well and good, but something on my mind (I’m not sure if the players have realised yet) is that it’s been a while since they found a big treasure haul. Their finances are starting to run low. They still have a few thousand gold, but if they keep paying hundreds of gold for living expenses (which includes food, lodgings, hireling wages, property tax, etc), on identifying magic items and potions, and on philanthropy, it’s not long before they’ll run out.

I wonder what they’ll do then.


I’ve spent a lot of this week playing Ironsworn, a free solo (or co-op, or GMed) RPG about being an honourable guy in a low-fantasy frozen viking northlands kind of setting.

The mechanics are very PbtA, which normally I’m not a huge fan of. I prefer rules to operate at the level of the character or the world, not at the level of narrative, and PbtA moves are all about driving the narrative. But for a solo game like Ironsworn, I think that narrative rules actually work really well, because you need something to send the narrative in unexpected directions when it’s just you.

The action is driven by swearing vows. Completing vows is how you get XP to improve your character. Your character is an honourable guy who would be pained to forsake a vow, and so only swears them for important things. You start the game with two vows: an overarching background vow which is the driver of the campaign arc as a whole, and a smaller more immediate vow to resolve the inciting incident that kickstarts the game.

I played a guy called Delkash, a hunter from a settlement near the Deep Wilds, a region of untamed forest in the heart of the Ironlands. His background vow was to forge a bond of friendship with the elves of the Deep Wilds, he’d never seen an elf before, but he’d heard legends, and respected them as a people who had become one with this inhospitable monster-filled forest. The inciting incident was a raid on his village: he came home from hunting to find buildings on fire and people gone, his sister amongst them; so his second vow was to rescue my sister from the raiders.

Unfortunately, Delkash ended up dying in a fight with a raider, but not before he’d spent a few weeks living amongst them as a hunter (after being captured himself, but proving himself useful enough to not be sold into slavery) trying to slowly earn their trust and respect, to set himself up in a position where he could challenge their leader for supremacy (and so just release his sister). Alas, plans don’t always work out.

It was a lot of fun though. The creative muscles take a little while to warm up, but now I’ve got some ideas for a second campaign attempt—maybe a more successful one this time. I liked it so much that I bought the books, as it is always nice to have a physical copy.


The upcoming Japan trip in April is slowly coming together. This week I swapped a troublesome on-call shift at work and booked the time off, and there’s been rumblings in the group chat about booking hotels. I need to get in touch with my banks to let them know I’ll be abroad and so not to shut everything down when I try to do things, but I’ll leave that closer to the time.