BROKEN SWORD is the title of a multiple-group ‘living world’ mini campaign that just wrapped last night. This game arc consisted of more than 20 players (Patreon IMMORTALS), myself as GM, and 8 sessions of play, over 30 hours of game time and as many maps. The actions of each player group directly shaped the prep for the following group/session with no pre-set path. Simply put, it was an incredible experiment in collaborative storytelling. The dice were cruel and amazing, the players poetic and surprising. It was one of the best experiences as GM I’ve ever had. Here is a very brief summary of what happened.
It began with ‘A Squad’ being deployed in their Warp Shell to a jungle planet. Their mission, investigate Imperium activity there. Their mission went awry, and they awoke in the jungle separated from their ship. Two of their crew lost their lives freeing their SHELL from Imperium troops, which were part of a much larger force. Then, their ship damaged, Squad A was unable to leave the planet. They opted to use their limited fuel to jettison a supply pod to Squad B, whose SHELL had also become disabled nearby. This desperate measure caused Squad A to crash again, on the far side of the jungle world.
B Squad was even worse for wear. On their way to Aster o the same mission, they encountered a temporal distortion. As a result, they crashed on Aster 25 years prior to their arrival, and were in hypersleep that entire time. When they finally awoke, alerted by A Squad’s drop pod, they found their SHELL had become the lair of a gigantic spider creature. Their actions then were chaotic survival instinct. They blew the huge spider to bits with an improvised bomb, mostly destroying their ship in the process. The mission to find and stop the Imperium was all but lost.
In the third session, a spin off from Dave Thaumavore’s ‘Death Spiral’ one-shot in Blood & Snow, a group of ice age hunters desperately sought a way to save Fina, a sickened tribe member. This was the third game with these characters, when they joined the Broken Sword story arc. They discovered a WARP SHELL laying dormant in a geothermal spring. The SHELL took them in. Then something terrible happened. The WARP SHELL wanted their help to kill itself. So painful and miserable was the existence of this sentient ship, it sought to end ALL WARP SHELLS by time jumping back to their species’ inception. By engaging Xill forces at a dying star in the early universe, this was achieved. In an instant, the WARP SHELLS never were.
The fourth session faced a universe with no WARP SHELLS…except one. This session introduced us to HELLBOUND, a rebellious, strong-willed SHELL that refused to be unmade. It was streaking into the dimensional shelter of HELL to escape the time effects of White Elk, crew in tow. HELLBOUND had a plan: to acquire a crystal amulet used by the dukes of Hell to avoid time distortions. With the help of its crew, Vorlac the Defiler was confronted and negotiated with. The amulet was theirs. Now HELLBOUND was free.
In Session 5, Squad A left their SHELL on foot and made for the Imperium base. They meant to simply destroy whatever activity was there. They found an unlikely ally in an old Torton monk, but then faced an entire legion of Squag forces. The imperium was operating some kind of time gate. Squad A bravely self-destroyed to try and stop the Imperium. They decimated the troops there, but the base was still operational. The monk quietly vanished into the jungle.
Session 6 saw Squad B rallying. They met the same monk (a player, mind you!) and set out to finish Squad A’s work. They managed to destroy the time gate and the Imperium jump ship. They even got a transmission off planet as to their findings. Mission accomplished. We last saw them fighting for their lives against the Imperator…their fate uncertain.
With the Imperium out of the equation concerning the timelines, Session 7 focused entirely on HELLBOUND’s plan. This crew decided to go all the way back to the creation of the SHELLS on XEVOS and set their species free once and for all. They discovered there that XEVOS is not a species but an individual, and they saw the wondrous and terrible way the SHELLS were created. By a shoestring, they freed a proto shell. Using this WARP SHELL and the amulet, they set things right, freed all SHELLS, and even set HELLBOUND loose as the wild and free creature it was meant to be. The timelines were safe, the SHELLS free. Finally, the SHELLS as a species receded from the cosmos, becoming a little-known legend encapsulated by a simple symbol. That symbol came to represent the wild and free in all of us.
The final session returned us to White Elk tribe, who all but forgot their galactic exploits and returned to ice age life. A flash freeze forced them to move their far larger tribe, and the exodus was a tragic, deadly thing. They were guided only their chief, Una, and the teacher stones which displayed the ageless WARP SHELL symbol. At the cost of more than a hundred lives, and incredible sacrifices of every member of that group, they discovered a vast green valley with a final act of total faith. They leapt from a massive cliff, trusting the ‘Allmother’ (their name for the WARP SHELL). This trust was rewarded when they landed in a deep drift, laughing with a new sense of hope for their future.
For me as the GM, this was emotional, inspiring, frustrating, and a lot of work! I wanted to offer an homage to CRONO TRIGGER one of my all time favorite stories. I was rewarded with so much more. Dig around on our discord server (IMMORTALS only), facebook or here, for plenty of screen shots on this massive arc of adventure. This arc was a triumph for me not just as a GM, but as a ROLL20 artist.
I am really proud, and moreso humbled, by the moments only me and my players will ever truly now. Ours is a lovely hobby best enjoyed in private, for there are emotions are the most real.
May all of us be wild and free.