Hall of Judgment was a successful Kickstarter that produced a – even if I do say so myself – fine, playable, good-looking product. Even so, it’s nice when a creator gets feedback, and my ego appreciates stroking as much as the next man. Even better than compliments on the book itself is that most Fremen of compliments: “Your plan worked, Muad’Dib.” In short, as Peter Dell’Orto would say: “Did it work in Actual Play?” So what follows is a bit of an instigated post. Simone De Bellis posted that he was playing Hall of Judgment with his group, and had gone through several sessions worth. I nudged him to write up a play report, and he willingly obliged. So here’s a Hall of Judgment actual play report!
He posted the results on the GURPS North America Facebook Group, and I’m reproducing that here. He’s not a native English speaker; I believe he’s from Italy, and I’ve done some editing, with his permission, for clarity.
What follows is an example of how to play Hall of Judgment while dropping it into a very unique and self-sculpted campaign world. He didn’t feel the need to conform to my assumptions of the world of Norðlond, and did things his own way.
This is as it should be.
Play Report (Simone De Bellis)
Here I’ll post the report of my “Hall of judgment” campaign we are playing (i’m the DM). There is a little disclaimer to explain some details and then there is the report itself.
I’m not a native english speaker, i’m trying my best: Please, just don’t flame me too much. By the way, this post contains spoilers about “Hall of Judgment.”
Here we go:
Disclaimer: I created a homemade setting years agoo. I worked on it over the years, and now it is quite big. There are a lot of influences, but the greatest and most important are: Warhammer fantasy, The Witcher, LotR, and Malazan Book of the Fallen. But I like to let the setting a bit open, so my players can have freedom in their characters’ creation.
The magic in my world is very important. Every “archetype” of spellcaster uses a different way to cast spells: wizard for example, uses standard magic (divided in 13 warrens of magic, and generally a mage knows 2-3 warrens, the magisters know 4-6); clerics use power investiture; sorcerers, the sorcery; druids the path magic; alchemists, herborists, runecasters and so on also exist (did a lot of work about magic in general).
I introduced GURPS to my friends and we set up a fantasy campaign. In the beginning there were two characters: Kaji, a Norseman, who was a cleric of Sigrun. He’s a good combatant and he knows the secret of rune magic (he knows 5 runes). In my setting, the north is pretty much pure Viking style. He moved from his lands because his wife and daughter were slain by a dark figure. He wanted to know who did this and why.
The other one, Ulric, a knight with a noble background but from very warmongering realm called the bloody throne (yep, they like golpes) of the north. He has sorcerer blood in his veins. In my settings, sorcerer lineage comes from the Forkrul Assail, a kind of demon.
A sorcerer’s power is incredible, but the more they use it, the more they become “demons,” and a huge war destroyed half world because of this. Every sorcerer of the world has been imprisoned in a “golden prison.” But not him . . . because, where he comes from, there is a noble order of saints – the king’s guards – that have the burden of sorcery. They have to live with it, showing the force of will to avoid being swallowed by pernicious power of their heritage. He had to flee his home realm with the son of the king because of a golpe. He has brought the king’s son to another realm (the southern realm called “the Crown”), where he will grow to be a king.
Editor’s Note: I think golpe is an Italian word for ‘blight,’ and is a curse or geas. I think.
After several sessions, another player joined: an elf archer. He fires arrows. A lot.
One month ago, my cousin joined the group as a Wizard, called Navor. He had mastered the knowledge of 2 warrens: sky and movement. He enjoys casting lighting and buffing himself. He was a student of the magical academy in the western island, called “The Wind Country,” a magocratic state, but he had to move when his parents (with his younger brother) were forced to flee. His father was caught the day after and sentenced to death. Navor fled too, looking for his mother. Her trail brought him to the north (funny thing is: this was a part of his background, I did not force him into doing anything). His parents ran because they tried to heal the little son, who seems to be doomed with a power hex or something. They did something really terrible to heal the little baby, but with no success. Stories tell that in the north there is a place where they could know a way to do it.
The Hall of Judgment campaign came after another one that took 3 months of game to be completed. Then, Kaji, the norseman, decided to travel back in his lands to find information about his wife. I planned this, but then Hall of judgment was released and I decided to use it. A great success. In particular, in my setting there are 13 houses, called the house of azath: every house is a point of entrance of one of the warrens of magic in the material world. I took the Hall of Judgment as the house of light of Tyr (totally not planned, and this is very cool).
They journey began when the fellowship reached Isfjall, where both Kaji’s wife came years ago looking for the Hall of Judgment and Navor’s mother came to heal her son.
The priest of the light himself, Geirolf, had met Kaji’s wife: she came in the autumn, years ago, and he’d persuaded her to wait ’till spring to start the search for the Hall of Judgment, but then she never came back (she got married and have a daughter with Kaji).
Now, there is another woman (Navor’s mother) who wishes to do the same. The group started to ask Geirolf what this Hall is and how can they find this place, because there, Kaji could find the truth behind the murderer of his wife, while Navor can save the life of his little brother. After the benediction of the priest of Tyr and the Druids of the north, they left Isfjall.
The first couple of days, the group moved in the direction of the Logiheimli Ruins. The first day a little group of bandits followed them, but failed to hide from the elf’s eyes. When the night came, the PCs prepared an ambush: the poor bandits didn’t know in what kind of trouble they were rushing in to. Literally 3 seconds of fight: The wizard unleashed a lighting strike from the sky; the knight used his magic to enchant his sword with the power of light; Kaji, used his runes to strengthen the fire of his brazier (yep, he uses a brazier as weapon) and arrows flew.
The second day the weather started to be more inclement: temperature dropped, snow fell. Even so, they managed to reach the Ruin. As they arrived, Navor (the wizard) smelled something strange in the warren of magic (the infamous unholy obelisks). With weapons unsheathed the move into the destroyed village, aiming towards the bigger building: the temple.
Silence. Then, a roar and ghouls attacked. It would have been an easy fight. . . if not for the magic that simply doesn’t work. They killed the undead and decided to destroy the obelisk from the distance (dancing blade spell, it required few minutes). The blast of the obelisk managed to take down Kaji but he survived.
They decided to camp in the temple and barricade the entrance but when the night came the dead rose: the barricade worked and no skeletons managed to enter and bother them. The day after they decided to look for the Barrow and wisely didn’t bother the dead buried there. The other 2 obelisks were destroyed and they met the priest and priestess with the huskarls behind the sturdy door. They received the meistaratakn, the second relic to find the Hall of Judgment, and some warnings.
When they exited from the barrow, bad news arrived: the ancient creator of the obelisks, a dark elf from the Svartalfheim world – who destroyed the village a century ago in service to his undead dark lord (who wanted to destroy the Hall) – felt what happened.
He teleported there, summoning a Forkrul (the krabbari demon) and 4 crypt horrors (huge undead warmachines), and commanded to the undead to scout the area and kill the intruders. Then, with the Forkrul, he teleported back. The horror was searching the area when the PCs decided to fight, making a frontal assault.
This was not a good idea, as the horrors have been created for only one purpose: to bring death. The battle was going bad for the heroes. Ulric (the knight) took a beating, collapsing on the ground; Kaji did the same but, when everything was going even worse, he started to pray to Sigrun (he has Divine Favor) and a major miracle happened: the wrath of Sigrun smote down on the undead with a huge fire column. Thanking the goddess, they caught their breath and decided to continue the journey.
For a couple of days, nothing happened: the cold and the snow were their only companions save for a pair of two big crows that started to follow them (can they be Odin’s ravens? Has the Allfather really started to look after them?). One day they found an abandoned hut where they passed the night, at last in a warm place. The day after, they travelled all day, reaching the hills in the middle of a storm. Nothing happened, but in the evening, when they started looking to camp, a light, like the one from a fire, was spot in a cavern. They approached it carefully, finding a man, clearly drunken, leaning against the cave’s wall, several mugs of ale, a huge billygoat and his weapon lying on the ground. They entered and they asked him what he was doing there: “well, I’m just passing the night, recovering from a drinking challenge.” The group was initially scared: why the hell one man should be there, when I told them that should not be none there? But after have talked to him they realized that is very drunk and he only wishes for some chat.
The wizard was pretty suspicious and he said: “Sir, I see no heavy shirt. We are freezing our asses here, but you seem unaffected.”
The man answered that he had a lot of ale in his body, nothing strange.
But then the wizard asked about the drinking challenge. And still, he was not satisfied. They asked more, till he challenged him to a swim race, pointing, as his champion, Ulric, the knight, totally unable to swim. But he has a vow, he cannot refuse a challenge. They reached the river close by (the man was without shirt at -15°) and the first challenge began. The knight lost the challenge badly and risked drowning on top of that.
But the humble and big man (half naked) made his congratulation to his challenger.
But the wizard wasn’t satisfied and this time, nor was Kaji: “I challenge you, but this time, the challenge will be about dirty jokes and who loses, has to drink”. The man answers: “Don’t know if I am able to do it, but I will try. I won’t step back from a challenge”. Needless to say, Kaji fell totally drunken after one hour.
The man said: “Seems I have win this one, but I didn’t expect this. Congratulation to you…emm.. are you already drunk?? Seems so! Well, I think is time to rest now”
But the wizard wasn’t satisfied: “I think is the turn of the elf. He will challenge you in a bow competition” (but the elf truly didn’t want to).
So, the bow competition started and the elf did an excellent job, but wasn’t enough.
The wizard the said: “Now it’s my turn, I challenge you in a running competition”. And before starting, he buffed his basic move with spells, but the man won the competition by few inches.
At that point the wizard knew, but wasn’t sure, about the true identity of the strange and friendly man. He gifted him with his corsage [I’m told this is a girdle or belt. This makes me think “If Thor offers you his belt, say YES!!” ], made with the skin of exotic beast they killed previously. The man, instead, gifted him with the most beautiful fur they have never seen. He told them some stories about the gods and gave them some advice for the journey. Then they went to sleep and the day after, he wasn’t there anymore, but they found the tracks of another billygoat. And they realized: the man, before entering the river, during the swim challenge, wasn’t wet at all, even under the storm. They had no more suspicions: he was Thor, the God of thunder himself. But when they were thinking about the precious night, they found some really strange tracks: could be a huge footprint?? And the ravens still are flying close to them.
And we stopped here: 3 Thurs are lurking close to them.
Because the magic in my world works based on the Azath Houses system, I found the Hall of Judgment perfect for me. I planned to make them travel for them and the fact that the Hall of Judgment is the house of Tyr, of the law and light and some astral coincidences made me place in the north the Azath House of light of Tyr (yep, exactly) everything worked very well, like a good oiled engine.
We had a lot of fun yesterday playing the “drunken man” encounter. I am pretty proud of myself because I did a lot of improvisation (I like improvise), recalling the stories about the Viking Myth that I love.
- I’ll admit that I’m impressed at how Simone blended the adventure with his home-built world. I think it’s a piece of evidence in support of a few things:
- By slightly de-Norsing the world, he was able to re-Norse it easily
- By not siting Norðlond in any specific locale or providing a larger-scale map, he was able to plunk it into his world quite easily; the ‘generic’ style of the Dungeon Fantasy RPG is well suited to this sort of quilting
- There are plenty of useful hooks in place
All of this will continue should there be more adventures in the works.
Some things were there that I really liked.
- He was able to repurpose Geirolf easily to his needs.
- Weather was used as a real obstacle, and the report saw the adventurers contending with the elements and cold
- Turning the tables on the Bandits, having the PCs ambush them instead due to superior perception, is a likely outcome, and he rolled with it nicely.
- The recasting of the encounter with the drunken warrior as Thor himself was inspired; the encounter was meant to be with a barbarian/berserker who’d engaged in a drinking contest with Thor, not Thor himself. But frankly I like his version better and encourage everyone to do likewise.
- Bringing powerful foes into the Logiheimli ruins when the obelisks were destroyed? That’s a fantastic – and fairly likely – alternate “boss challenge” mid-point climax. I wish I’d thought of it (though I’d probably have had to cut something; I was tight at page-count).
- I’ll have to re-read my own work, but I loved the mention of the master-tokens (meistretakn); as I’d noted elsewhere, the tiwstakn had been of supreme import in Lost Hall of Tyr, but got de-emphasized in ensuring that the adventure could be completed without it.
Overall, I couldn’t be happier with this play report. A gamer was able to take the adventure, use most of it, repurpose the rest to his needs, adapt freely, use the hooks and challenges provided, and it provided what seems like many sessions of play.
Kudos to Simone and his group, and my Tyr, Thor, and the Allfather bless you all. Plus: smoochies from Sif. But that’s later. I just have that feeling.