We finally had our first session! Wow, the pace of the game and mechanics allow for some real indulgence in epic descriptions, and going from lowest to highest result really underlines the one-upmanship of heroes, especially when they all prevail and each Hero Player has to come up with a consecutively better description. It kept us all at a high-energy level for the whole game and everybody enjoyed it very much.
One minor hurdle we’ve noticed was that players were trying very much to justify their decisions while gathering the dice (explaining Favours and Pathos use) which led to them having not much more left in terms of new ideas and interpretations after the dice were cast - especially in Trials which were focused on arguments and oratory.
We’ve discussed this after the session, and I’ve reaffirmed them about the competency of whether Eponyms and Favours apply lying solely in their discretion (it was a GREAT idea to get that out there, in writing and precise, thank you!) so we think it was mainly caused by the players still being new to the rules and looking for Strife’s affirmation if they CAN use a die or not. I’m sure the next game will be more “oracular”, with players gathering dice and looking for explanations in their description after the roll.
As for the session itself, it went mostly as suggested by the book, so I’ll focus on what stood out.
During Hero creation one player chose to have Dionysus, the god of wine, as their Honoured God. We chose Generosity as the new god’s strength, further defined as Fellowship, Bountifulness and Spontaneity. We noted that having a cheat sheet with the full strength description of each god would help us deciding when Favours are applicable (we’re all proficient, but non-native English speakers).
In fact, there were times when players have described the use of their Favours as more in line with a god’s traditional domain (Poseidon being ruler of the sea came up a couple of times) which lead to the question whether the strengths should be considered in Favours but the full godly domain (including divine intervention) when using the more potent and rare Bond with the divine. We agreed to keep to that divide, but only as a temporary ruling to be discussed later.
We played Kryos island, mostly as-written. To my surprise the handout for the island mentions rolling vs The People of Kryos to calm them down, but no stats were given there nor in the book - I improvised a 2D6 Resolve & Spirit. Also all handouts mentioned Prove Your Greatness as a possible Trial, but we’ve ignored it for now, since the pirate/harpy situation demanded quick decisions and added pressure of time to the mix.
At one point one of the Hero Players lead the people of Kryos in fending off the harpies (the rest chased after the Pirate Queen) and as a Scion of Athena wondered about using Favor with Ares in the Trial, but decided against it as they saw Ares as more slaughter-happy and Athena as being the patron of just wars - i took that as a golden opportunity to propose to them an invocation of Athena which would anger Ares (costing the Favour with the war god) but adding the Bond with Athena as an additional reward, as per p. 69 of the book. The player was enthusiastic about it and even more so that we decided to describe the use of the Bond for the Trial as divine intervention of the goddess.
The chase after Thesekyra failed despite the player’s best efforts. The opponent’s goal was to slip away and hide in a secure place, making he Pillar potentially lost to the Heroes for the adventure. I’ve quoted the part of the book stating, that goals shouldn’t be repeatedly contested for unless the situation changes significantly, and we all agreed that finding the Pirate Queen is now impossible.
However, something being impossible shouldn’t always stop heroes, so I also invoked p. 75 and told them that if they spend Fate, they can reach beyond their normal capabilities to try and find the escaped pirates, and one mystic ritual later they did! I’m unsure if I should’ve offered that, but it was well-received, especially since with Advancements taken I’ve also collaborated with players to describe how they are closer to their doom (vaguely, they still have a lot of Fate, but the Scion of the Nile Delta saw the god Sobek hungry for his soul in the mists of magic, while the mighty warrior contemplated how strategy beats might and feared about never being a warrior strong enough to best truly clever foes) with the action they have taken and improvement they chose.
We wondered whether after all Advancements are taken no other advancement is possible, which might occur in a long campaign.
Ultimately, the players decided that neither Harpies nor Pirates are the actual source of Strife on the island of Kryos, but the divide between the extremes of radical Ionestes and godless Meletia. We agreed that it would make more sense therefore to conduct Battle against the couple who, though enemies, were the linchpins of the people’s problems.
The Battle was Engaged in by distracting the opponents with a Dionysian, celebratory feast, carrying the pillar back to the Harpies, and unlocking the Harpy-children captured inside by a jealous Hera. Then the threat came from the island’s leaders accusing the Heroes of godlessness (Mythic Arts & Oration attack) and their sailors of being invaders (the ship was on the line) while the Clash came in the form of a counter-arguments.
We made a mistake, and solved both Clash and Defends as a single challenge. As I read it now, we should have had two (Clash and Defend), not one or three (Clash and both Defends). Not a big deal, since the Clash didn’t work out.
As a result the enemies were in charge of the Finale - we agreed that they’ll set the situation as such, that player’s won’t be able to chase both of them away, one at most. This was described as plotting and scheming in the next couple of days following the feast (Crafts & Reason), with publicity stunts winning the day and forcing Ionestes into exile.
I had to improvise the stats of a joint Meletia & Ionestes front, hence I can’t wait for the guidelines of creating our own islands, I’m sure that would be a great help.
Likewise, some guidelines about how to judge the appeasement and Wrath of gods would be helpful, since I have a feeling we marked too many stars (four total, in different constellations) for one island. This is partially the result of the leader of the team being given absolute authority over interpretation of the divine omens at the start of the adventure, which we took to mean something similar as players being always in the right regarding Dogs in the Vineyard theology. We liked that element a lot and the leader had the final say on how the gods looked upon them (they decided Hera and Zeus were both furious at the theft of the Pillar and so through their anger they ended their feud and made up, like the players hoped the island would. The only one unhappy was Hermes and he’s Wrathful towards the Heroes).
We will make Agon our pick-up game for when we don’t have our group in full presence for other games, due to the elastic nature of who the Strife player is. This is why we chose to do the whole Exodus & Voyage, except for Leadership, since we don’t know who’ll be present next session and who’ll be Strife.
Again - we loved the game very much. It’s approachable, the mechanics greatly support the theme and the mix of competitiveness and cooperation is a rare and perfect balance for an RPG.