Due to player absence, we’re playing a flashback sequence between Makino and Osona, who meet in a strange series of occurrences during a circus. There are animals, a bear and a juvenile elephant, doing tricks, with circus performers all around. We’re both somewhat hungry, as well.
Before we start recording, Jessa asks us about our pasts, including what led Osona to leave home, and about Makino’s parents. Makino’s tribe is very matriarchal, something I’ve alluded to in behavior in the previous session, so although her father doesn’t matter, her mother is someone of influence– a high priestess. Our tribe worships the World Dragon, and although Makino did not follow in her mother’s footsteps, as a warrior, she has a place of honor in the tribe anyway.
Part I: Meat Waffles and Circus Bears
Osona’s first priority is to say hello to Mr. Bear, because she’s new to civilization. In Osona’s backstory, she’s been sent out on a mission to save the forests, because she’s not very good at being a druid. Osona decides to head down to the arena floor to meet the bear and say “hi, dude.”
Makino, meanwhile, orders the spiciest meat waffle from the food vendor, who pauses and asks “my absolute spiciest?” He scurries back to his tent to bring back the spiciest he has to offer. Makino insists– “yes! I will show you what sterner stuff is made of!”
Osona is chatting with the bear, who seems sad and upset. (I remind Jessa privately that druids can literally communicate with animals as if the animal speaks Common, but Jessa continues to role-play the animals’ speech as kind of a rowling moaning. Thankfully, Osona’s player Darien seems to understand this well enough, so it works for this session.)
The circus ringmaster is upset by Osona’s meddling and calls for help from the stage hands. I name the bear “Oso de la Fez,” and have to side-bar the explanation of who Oso de la Fez is (part 1, part 2). We agree to call him “Fez” to reduce Jessa’s confusion. Fez puts a bear paw on Osona’s shoulder and she crumples because she’s a tiny halfling girl.
Osona wants to try to turn into a bear, which is a Wisdom roll. Druids are usually high-Wisdom characters, but Osona…. Osona is just about the worst druid out there. She has a -1 on her Wisdom, and this is what makes her special. She wants to know if, if she rolls really badly, can she turn into something random? Jessa mulls that over and says we can do whatever we want to, but she will still turn into an animal.
Osona rolls a 5. Mark XP! And the GM gets to do something. I mention privately that one of the DM moves is “turn their move against them,” which is an excellent way to twist this shapeshifter move. Jessa jumps over to a random animal generator and decides that Osona turns into… a hobgoblin!
If you have been following along with this campaign, you know that, in our first session, we were ambushed by hobgoblins, which Osona tried to be friendly with, and got shot for her trouble. Clearly, she has no real experience with hobgoblins. We have some fun with this direction.
Meanwhile, Makino is given a meat pasty by the food vendor. Makino is already mid-draw of her sword, because hey– hobgoblins! She looks at him, looks at the hobgoblin on the arena floor. Looks back at the meat waffle. She’s hungry and it smells so good and spicy. She’s looking back and forth and thinking “Fame and glory…. sandwich…. fame and glory… sandwich.” I take a moment to describe this waffle taco stuffed with spiced meat, and decide that Makino’s “herculean appetite” is fame and glory, not earthly pleasures, so she’s going to head to the arena floor.
But… waffles are awesome, so she grabs it on her way down the stairs. Unfortunately, Bonebreaker is a two-handed sword, so she folds the whole meat waffle into quarters and shoves the whole thing into her mouth. Spicy red sauce drips from her mouth as she chews on her way to the arena floor. Makino looks downright rabid as she comes down to fight this hobgoblin in the arena floor.
The bear tamer comes back upstairs with some men.
Osona and the bear communicate with each other– he doesn’t seem to be fearful of her, but he’s startled. She chit-chats with the bear and suggests that the waffle taco stand would be awesome. She’s kind of a hippy druid, and Fez decides to trust her, and seems to want the collar off. Unfortunately, Osona’s fingers are very thick and unable to pull the collar off.
At this point, three men come up from below the floor of the arena to confront the bear and Osona. The hobgoblin is obviously trying to strangle the bear, so I am going to charge the hobgoblin to trip it. Osona sees her charging forward, “blood” pouring from her mouth while charging.
Because I have surprise on Osona, Jessa decides that Makino trips her easily and Osona lands face-first in the dirt and muck of the circus floor.
Part II: Makino’s Chicken Dance of Death and Osona and the Animals Flee the Arena
I sweep her legs out from under her. Barbarians add the tags “forceful” and “messy” when using a weapon. I want this to be messy without amputating Osona, so knocking her to the ground accomplishes both tags.
One of the men brings a truncheon up to bring it down on Osona’s head. We take a moment with the video off to discuss Osona’s options and the Defy Danger move, a move that is really needed in this case.
Now we noodle a bit about hobgoblins, to talk about why Osona later doesn’t seem to know what a hobgoblin is, but right now, she just shifted into one. I posit that maybe she’s known one hobgoblin, and he was just a really nice guy with delicious chocolate, so that’s why she doesn’t realize their generally hostile and brutish.
Jessa suggests a special move for the hobgoblin, which Osona can use before turning back into her human shape. But Osona doesn’t need that, cause she’s going to turn into a Macaw. We discuss how Osona feels when she shapeshifts– the experience is very unpleasant.
Jessa gives the Macaw a “screech” move that lets her distract and maybe deafen people. Darien wants to know if she can speak Common, and we determine that when she is in animal form, she cannot speak unless she picks a form that would be able to speak (like a parrot). Apparently, macaws don’t mimic like parrots do, so Osona can’t talk.
The new form is tiny and the fighter misses her.
Makino is looking around, assessing the situation. There’s a bear, and a couple of men, and the hobgoblin turned into a bird, and wow this is really spicy! Jessa warns me that I’m wobbly in the legs, but Makino wants to shrug that off for the moment and let adrenaline carry her forward. She doesn’t have much problem with these guys.
One of them is about to attack me, so I shrug and say “nah, he’s not. I’m totally going to impress him, here.” Osona has flown off to perch on top of Fez.
Makino turns to the man and holds her sword up in both hands and yells (with meat waffles drooling out of her mouth) “Good trick, sir! Impressive! Huzzah!” The audience is kind of surprised and doesn’t know what to do, and I’m kind of making a fool out of this guy. A bit of the meat waffle sprays into this man and he spits it out. My legs begin to dance!
I roll with it, because hey, this is an awesome trick! But while that’s going on, I’m going to try and figure out what’s going on (Discern realities is the move I want to make here, and I have to specify that to Jessa so she knows I’m trying to trigger this roll).
Fez heads for the stairs to leave the arena. The acrobat on the tighrope yells at the elephant, who is accustomed to following the bear when the show is over. Bessie the young elephant follows Fez.
Osona flies out of the way of one of the truncheon-wielding men, using Defy Danger, but fails. He clocks Osona on the head and she starts to see double (this is a consequence that’s caused by her failing forward, and it’s handled entirely in the fiction. Darien decides she can no longer fly, all wobbly as she is, so now she starts waddling after the bear and elephant.)
Makino is still dancing, starting a kind of chicken-dance, and I get back to wanting to do that Discern Realities move. I meta-game a little bit and say that I want to know what here is not what it seems to be. On the one hand, Makino should really be asking what happened or is about to happen, to figure out what is going on with making her legs dance. However, I, as a player, have a goal in this session, which is to bring Makino and Osona to meet and reach a point in the fiction where we share each others’ blood, and I want Makino to know that the macaw is a magical halfling. And being ridiculed for my chicken dance is a type of fame and kind of glorious. The audience is applauding.
The elephant eats some of the meat on her way out of the arena, but apparently the spicy meat waffle is totally like Taco Bell. Plus Bessie is malnourished and not treated well.
The sauce running down my chin is not what it appears to be. And it begins to turn bitter and my stomach starts to feel acidy and my esophagus begins to burn.
During the break, I mention what I was looking for, the macaw information, and why I was pushing for that to take the fiction in a specific direction.
Part III: Exit Stage Left… with Extreme Prejudice
Osona and the animals exit stage left, to much applause. The elephant is now kind of dancing, too, flapping her ears and blowing out her trunk. Osona keeps stumbling after, her double vision starting to come back together.
The jester is laughing his ass off, but the men on the ground are angry about the loss of the animals and my dancing. One of them reaches up to knock me out, and Makino attempts to make a fool of him. She laughs heartily and tries to trip him for his trouble. This is a fame-and-glory style move, so I get to use a d8 and a d6 instead of just a 2d6. I fail forward, so Jessa thinks up a consequence for that. In this case, Jessa is misreading the consequence for my move. She’s reading it as if I had rolled higher on the d6 than the d8, which didn’t happen. However, I rolled a 6-, which is what triggers a GM move. The consequence she wants, however, can be interpreted in the fiction as a move known as “take away or damage their stuff.”
The guard misses my neck and hits the dragon figuring on my shoulder. One of the wings breaks off. My reply is “I will kill him.” My dragon is damaged.
Makino looks down at the dragon wing in the dirt, and up at him, and she says “You have spelled your death.” I announce my intention to run him through. With extreme prejudice, Makino swings her sword, cleaving into his side, gutting him. I roll badly for damage, so he’s not taking enough damage to die, but Makino’s intent is to kill him. He drops his weapon and stumbles back, barely holding his guts in.
At this point, Jessa mentions that the macaw isn’t what it seemed to be, and reminds me of the hobgoblin transforming into it, and reminds me of the halfling, who I might not have noticed before since I was getting food then. She seems to be in some distress, but Makino still has fame and glory to be gained.
She picks up her dragon’s wing and starts heading towards the exit, blade out. She’s leaving the guard alive and he should be grateful I haven’t killed him. “I am leaving you alive. Be grateful and never raise your hand to the dragon again.”
Unfortunately, there are two other idiot guards in my path. I am flanked by them, who are going to try and stop me. The audience is starting to turn. The effects of the meat waffles are wearing off, but my stomach is quite, um, rumbly.
Osona has stumbled out of the arena at this point and is meeting up with the animals outside in the outside food tent, where they’re chowing down. These poor kids are hungry and underfed! Osona flies up and chews off Fez’s collar. She then screeches to clear out the tent of all the remaining people in the tent and get the animals out of danger.
Back at Makino, the idiot guards are flanking and attacking me, but they are carefully avoiding hitting my shoulder dragon. Makino is a follower of the World Dragon. This terrible heartburn that Makino is feeling makes her think she might be able to breathe acid the way dragons can breathe fire. Perhaps this is a liquid form of fire. Perhaps there are dragons that spit acid. And I’m feeling like that. Nothing spicy in my entire life has ever made me sick, and this is disconcerting. So I will look at these men and spray them with the dragon breath of acid. It’s a regurgitaion, though in Makino’s head, it’s more draconic than anything else. For her culture, this would be a total miracle.
She opens her mouth, eyes wide, and belches one of the men in the face with green-colored fumes, taking damage herself, while also blinding the guard. He stumbles back, blood in his eyes.
Makino yells to the third guard, intimidating him, with “Do Not Mess with a daughter of The Dragon!” Makino sticks her tongue out at him, with green slime and blood-looking sauce everywhere. He loses his shit and flees.
Makino sheathes her sword and raises her arms, announces her name, bows… and I knock my headset off doing my bow.
Part IV: Introductions
The audience goes wild, believing this is part of the circus show. They throw a few trinkets and treasures to Makino in appreciation. Makino scores a neat hat, a silver-tipped feather, and a child-sized red-hooded cape (with dried blood on it).
The jester, Festus, on the high wire adores me and makes kissy faces at her. She throws the hat up to him, up on the high wire, but Makino has no interest in men, as a general rule. His attention to Makino is like lettuce to a shark.
I leave the arena and find Osona and the animals a bit away, and Osona is heading off to the wilderness. Makino is worried that she might be turning into a dragon, so she’s going to follow the menagerie. They meetup just past a stream, where they get water and clean up. They’ve come to a quiet spot where they can catch their breath.
Bessie the elephant and Makino both gulp down some water to settle their stomachs and purge out the nasty acid from the meat waffles. Bessie gets playful with us and sprays us with water. We splash around a bit. Fez joins us, too and plays as well. They have a little romp in the water.
Makino introduces herself to Osona, who says “Hey, man. What’s up?”
Makino: “I am not a man. I am a woman.”
Osona riffs on the the circus and collars, and Fez gets a little upset at that word. We discuss the collar and Makino asks where Osona was during the circus. Osona explains that she was a bird and another thing– she “kinda turns into things.”
Makino says “Ah, I too am turning into something!” And she belches some more green fumes. “I hope I am not turning into an elephant!” Bessie comes by and says hi. Then Fez and Bessie go lie down to rest for a bit. We go head over there to join them. Makino’s impression of Osona is that “she’s a funny little thing.”
They come to an altar with an animal head and a certain feeling of peacefulness and holiness. Osona identifies it as a druid altar. I ask if Makino recognizes the skull (I ask to Spout Lore, and get a 9, which means a success with consequence. In this case, information that is interesting, but not necessarily useful… Jessa deems that I know that I have heard, handed down, that there are sacred places where rituals can be done to affect elements, to interact with animals, etc. I also have a sense of peace and love with everything in this altar space, and it’s all very clean, well cared-for. Jessa tells me to explain how I know this.)
Makino recalls growing up in her mother’s care. Although not blessed like her mother, a high priestess of the World Dragon Tribe, she has grown up in such places and knows something about them and recognizes them when she sees them.
Part V: Hot Chocolate Blood Ritual
We interact with the altar, and Osona decides she wants to try casting a blood ritual to grant protection to Fez and Bessie. Makino decides to participate because Osona is small and kind and non-confrontational. She will be insufficient aid to the bear and elephant, should they need someone of strength and combativeness.
Bessie the elephant is strong and might someday be a powerful warrior, and she seems to be on the mistaken idea that she owns me, I am hers now. We have a little tussle and we kind of head-butt each other around until she decides it’s time to be playful. We mutual head-butt and will assuredly have more to say about this in the future.
Osona needs to do something to protect the animals. We discuss casting a balancing blood ritual which will help protect them and give Fez and Bessie the knowledge of how to live in the land without humans. We decide to cast the ritual that will share our essences, and also give Fez and Bessie the ability to call upon us and summon us if they need us.
The animals are delighted by this and adore us. We participate in this ritual. Makino cuts Fez’s paw and Bessie’s ear, then her own hand and Osona’s. The altar welcomes us as we enter the space.
During the ritual, Jessa asks me to describe some moment of transcendance, and that’s when I describe how, one time, during a vision quest, I felt an absence of feeling and emotion, out in the desert. I was disturbed and shamed by this, by my vision of a shifting serpent in the sand dunes and a storm lashing me in which I felt nothing. But my grandmother spoke to me and told me it was the balance that only the World Dragon gives, and what I had perceived was the tail of the World Dragon beneath the sands. She is the beginning and the end, both war and peace, and the sum of that is zero, nothing– that sensation is neutral balance.
As we are transformed, each of us gains some part of the others’ nature. Osona now has a special spirit bear form. Makino now feels a kinship with both animals, especially Bessie. Bessie and Fez both gain human eyes for a short time.
Makino places the feather she got at the circus in Bessie’s pierced ear, and takes a sliver of ivory from Bessie’s tusk and pierces her own with it. She gives Osona the red cape, after cleaning it, and names her a Sister of the Dragon (rewriting bond from “Osona’s ways are strange” to “Osona is my sister in the Dragon Tribe.”).
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