Solo Skald |||

Today’s game is Her Odyssey:

Her Odyssey is a solo journaling RPG about a wanderer trying to return home - or find a new home.

As with my recent TYOV sessions, trying to do this within the Trophy setting in the Kalduhr Forest. Principally, I’ll use Trophy Loom but some elements from Trophy Dark and Trophy Gold (especially for character creation) will also come into play.

Character Creation

A character has three mechanical attributes, each between 1 and 5. We set the starting values but they will fluctuate from there based on events in the game. I want to start with a sense of who the character is first, though, because that will inform how I set them up in the beginning. I’ll expand a bit on the prompts from Her Odyssey to think this through.

  • What are your wanderer’s name and pronouns: Lief (he/him) (Loom p. 41).
    • Appearance: Hobbling, bearing an empty bowl, pleading eyes
    • Manner: Rambling prophecies
  • What does your wanderer seek? To arm the resistance against Lord Haffir’s tyranny (Dark p. 9, Drive”). I’ll figure out who Lord Haffir is, and why Lief resists him, as I play.
  • What has your wanderer left behind? Opportunistic Graverobber (Dark p. 8, Background”). I decide to interpret this question poetically, and decide that Lief has left behind his sense of reverence for human remains.
  • Was your wanderer well-prepared to set off on the road? Lief is returning from a treasure hunt that went poorly, so no, he has little left in the way of supplies.
  • There is someone or something that your wanderer loves and has lost. What is it? Lief once belonged to the Null Catechism (Loom p. 125) and cultivated deatchment, freeing himself from the fetters of family, community, and attachment… a small fraction of Nullites believe that their mission is to evangelize nothingness, severing others from their worldly ties so that they might be enlightened–forcibly if need be.” He might have left this blasphemous cult behind, so he would no longer even has that to hold onto. In the meantime, he has no other attachments.
  • There is a shadow that follows your wanderer and haunts their steps. What is it? The Droppler (Loom p. 154), a forest monster with a prehensile tail and a circular maw with two sets of teeth that tries to decapitate its victims by biting off their head at once. Lief must take care to deceive or evade it.

Black and white illustration of a man with anguished eyes, limping away from a group of robed figures gathered around a fire. The backdrop features a thick, enveloping mist. Image generated by DALL-E 3.

With this sense of who Lief is in mind, I can distribute eleven points between his attributes. I decide on:

  • Vitality: 3 (roughly maps to Strength and Charisma)
  • Quickness: 2 (roughly maps to Dexterity and Intelligence)
  • Fortitude: 5 (roughly maps to Constitution and Wisdom)

I also want to incorporate one of the optional rules, The Hour of Doom. That will come into play later.

Odyssey Notes

Before Lief starts off, I want to envision his location. He’s deep in the Kalduhr Forest at an ancient waystation from the old Kalduhri empire. From Loom p. 141: All waystations were built around a public house, a ranger fort, food stores, and a tower.” But this one is [2] perfectly preserved from the time of the god-kings, and he saw [2] an army of mercenaries breaking camp. They’ve already left, but that will set the tone for now.

Day 1

For the hazard, I draw the Queen of Spades, so the Omen Score is 12. (This will undoubtedly be an inauspicious day, as Lief cannot possibly meet this score right now.) The hazard will relate to Ruins”; clearly this indicates the waystation itself.

This particular waystation is built next to the dragonroads, which have rails that the old empire used to transport goods and soldiers, including down underground. The source of the name is disputed; some way it is from the sound the rail carriages made, but others believe it comes from the serpents who gravitate towards the roads when the carriages venture underground.

In this case, I decide that the hazard is something to do with the dragonroad’s entrance to the underground: he camped just inside the entrance, and now a rumbling sound from somewhere beneath indicates that the entrance around him could crumble at any moment. Maybe the mercenary army that camped here had damaged the walls.

Lief rolls Quickness to try to gather his things and get out of here while he still can. This means rolling 2d4 and keeping the highest: [2], a partial failure and he doesn’t get what he wants. He’ll escape with his life, but not much more, and so he’s lost most of his meager supplies.

He’ll try to forage here around the waystation. Maybe the mercenaries left something behind. He rolls Fortitude to do this: [4], an absolute success. He finds plenty of food, water, and camping equipment.

  • Total: 6/12 (Inauspicious)
    • Vitality increases to 4
    • Quickness remains at 2
    • Fortitude remains at 5
  • Auspicious Days: 0
  • Inauspicious Days: 1

Day 2

The Nine of Spades indicates an Omen Score of 9 and the same broad class of hazards. This time I roll and get An Oath”. Lief’s beliefs in the Null Catechism are still strong and he struggles with whether this offends his piety.

He’ll roll Fortitude to deal with this minor faith crisis: [4], an absolute success. These supplies were freely given by the forest, asking nothing in return, and perhaps even reflect the mercenaries’ lack of care for their possessions. He can continue as-is.

  • Total: 4/9 (Inauspicious)
    • Vitality increases to 5
    • Quickness increases to 3
    • Fortitude remains at 5
  • Auspicious Days: 0
  • Inauspicious Days: 2

Day 3

The Seven of Diamonds indicates that the day may be slightly easier, but on his journey he will encounter a hazard of a different sort: Rumors and lies.” I’ll reincorporate the mercenary army from before; another traveller indicates that the army itself is on its way to besiege Lord Haffir’s keep.

Since this is actually just a rumor and lie, he’ll roll Quickness to see through it with intelligence: [4], an absolute success. He knows that Lord Haffir’s keep is far to the south, and the army is heading north. He can continue on his way.

But this traveller clearly understands the importance of defeating Lord Haffir; can Lief convince them to join the resistance? First I flesh out the traveller a bit: Sindu (they/them), a haggard, shuffling person in a rain-soaked cloak but amorous and sing-songy. Lief rolls Fortitude to convince them with wisdom: [4], an absolute success. Sindu is convinced and will join the resistance. (Their amorous nature may prove challenging in the future!)

  • Total: 8/7 (Auspicious)
    • Vitality remains at 5
    • Quickness decreases to 2
    • Fortitude decreases to 4
  • Auspicious Days: 1
  • Inauspicious Days: 2

Day 4

The Four of Hearts presages an easier day, but the Hazard will involve a combination of Delayed Consequences” and Farmland, meadows, moors”.

At this point, I have decided that rolling for a specific hazard is not working as well as I’d hoped. Going back to the original design in the game might help: I’ll still pick from the list associated with the card suit, but I can do so according to whatever criteria I want. Generally, that choice will depend on what resonates from the state of the fiction, the source material, and what interests me in that moment.

So instead of Delayed Consequences” or a terrain type that doesn’t fit the story I’m exploring, I’ll choose An army” from the list because that’s already a significant factor (albeit also generated randomly). Previously, Lief determined that the army is headed in the opposite direction, so this must be either some detachment trying to catch up or, more troublingly, forces from Lord Haffir himself.

Lief decides to hide with Sindu as the army passes by. He rolls Quickness to do so: [3], a partial success. You get what you want, but things get complicated.” The army is indeed from Lord Haffir, which indicates that a conflict is brewing if indeed it hasn’t already started.

The pair of travellers will find the next village ahead and try to find out the status of things. Lief will roll Vitality (which includes the force of one’s presence”): [4], an absolute success. The villagers not only tell Lief and Sindu that indeed Lord Haffir is fighting an insurrection, they themselves are sympathizers with the resistance. They will provide the pair with supplies and lodging for the night.

  • Total: 8/4 (Auspicious)
    • Vitality decreases to 4
    • Quickness decreases to 1
    • Fortitude remains at 4
  • Auspicious Days: 2
  • Inauspicious Days: 2

Day 5

The Five of Spades, with its low Omen Score, might herald an auspicious day again. The hazard will be A confrontation with the wanderer’s shadow”, the Droppler. Lief will roll Quickness to try to evade it: [4], an absolute success. The horrifying creature does in fact attempt to ambush the pair of travellers, but Lief notices it in time and wounds it grievously. The abomination slinks away, and Lief hopes that’s the last he sees of it. Perhaps it went to crawl in a hole and die.

Sindu misunderstands what happens (another Spades-related hazard) and attempts to initiate romance with Lief, whose cultish beliefs require him to reject all attachments. He’ll roll Fortitude to resist: [2], a partial failure, you don’t get what you want”. This isn’t an absolute failure, so Lief attempts to reject their advances. He’s weak, however, and they are persistent, so perhaps he’s feeling that attachment start to form.

  • Total: 6/5 (Auspicious)
    • Vitality remains at 5
    • Quickness remains at 1
    • Fortitude decreases to 3
  • Auspicious Days: 3
  • Inauspicious Days: 2

Day 6

I’m implementing a small house rule I saw in a YouTube actual play of the game: each day will go until I get an failure, run out of stats, or the success seems narratively appropriate to conclude the day.

The Jack of Diamonds is a fairly high Omen Score and this will be difficult to meet. Today’s Hazard will be themed around illness” and revelation”. Specifically, the pair find some moths that have a single diminutive mushroom growing on their thorax that, when ingested, will show you the path forward”. Most people do not believe the stories about these bushes, but as long as Lief and Sindu are among the blackberry bushes where these moths reside, they can give it a try.

Lief will roll Quickness to try to get the mushrooms from the moths: [1], an absolute failure and things get worse. The moths do not take kindly to the harvesting attempt and the resulting swarm makes both Lief and Sindu ill. They will have to rest here for the day. And things get worse: since those mushrooms allegedly show the way forward, Lief may have some confusion about where to go next.

  • Total: 1/11 (Inauspicious)
    • Vitality remains at 5
    • Quickness remains at 1
    • Fortitude increases to 4
  • Auspicious Days: 3
  • Inauspicious Days: 3

Day 7

The Seven of Spades sets a hopefully-achievable Omen Score but the travellers are sick. Lief is confronted with doubts and despair” and will roll Fortitude to try to keep his focus: [4], absolute success. Despite not feeling well physically, they will continue to try to find a place to organize a core of resistance.

But they need to rest and recover physically and so Lief rolls Vitality: [3], partial success. Things get complicated: does this mean that there’s some leftover health problem? Does something come up during their rest time, or perhaps their location is not secure? Given the themes in Spades, I think there’s a misunderstanding about something. Maybe Sindu believes that Lief intends to replace Lord Harrif, but Lief specifically rejects that whole system and wants the power vacuum to be permanent due to his religious beliefs. That’s going to be a rift that remains.

  • Total: 7/7 (Auspicious)
    • Vitality decreases to 4
    • Quickness remains at 1
    • Fortitude decreases to 3
  • Auspicious Days: 4
  • Inauspicious Days: 3

At the end of the week, then, there three open threads:

  • Sindu’s amorous nature and possible ensuing conflict with Lief’s religious beliefs
  • Military conflict between Lord Harrif and mercenaries
  • Droppler’s apparent death (but do monsters ever truly die?)

Day 8

Today’s card is the Four of Spades. We should very likely hit this. I want to focus on the forests” theme again for the Hazard, as that’s so thematically central to Trophy as a setting. So I roll on the Signs That the Eye of the Old One Is Upon You” and get:

A Sweet Gift: Though the air is still, a single apple detaches itself from a branch above you and drops softly to the forest floor. It looks sweet and plump, full of juice and life.

Does Lief recognize the significance of this apple? That implies some about of wisdom, so he’ll roll Fortitude and get [4]: absolute success. He does, in fact, understand that the personification of the Kalduhr itself is watching them now, and he will take this as a sign to seek the Tree of Life, where the Old One is said to dwell or perhaps is a form of the Old One themselves. It connects the physical, spiritual, and faerie worlds.

  • Total: 4/4 (Auspicious)
    • Vitality remains at 4
    • Quickness remains at 1
    • Fortitude decreases to 2
  • Auspicious Days: 5
  • Inauspicious Days: 3

Day 9

Lief is seeking the Tree of Life, while today’s Hazard card is the Jack of Spades. This continues the forest” theme, but I’m going to incorporate the ambush” theme as well, as the Droppler makes itself known once more. Or is this another monster of the same type?

In any case, Lief will need to roll Quickness as the ambush comes upon the travellers: [4], absolute success. They dodge the monster and get something more, which I’ll treat as having some way to recognize and even to anticipate the ambushes in the future.

Still, the fact that the Droppler is still out there, trying to snap off their heads, doesn’t bode well more generally for the future.

  • Total: 4/10 (Inauspicious)
    • Vitality increases to 5
    • Quickness remains at 1
    • Fortitude increases to 3
  • Auspicious Days: 5
  • Inauspicious Days: 4

Day 10

I draw the Six of Hearts for this day, and it’s time for the Delayed Consequences” of this will-they-won’t-they situation to come to a head. Sindu is expecting Lief to reciprocate their feelings to some extent at least, and that causes conflict in Lief’s own heart. He’ll roll Fortitude again: [4], absolute success. The two sit for a time deep in this dark, foreboding forest, and Sindu comes to the understanding that Lief will never truly attach himself to anyone. They will remain companions, but with no romantic entanglements.

The forest presses upon them as they continue to seek the Tree of Life, and that could bring up all sorts of future dangers. Lief will need to depend on his fellow traveller to succeed in his drive to foment the resistance.

  • Total: 4/6 (Inauspicious)
    • Vitality remains at 5
    • Quickness increases to 2
    • Fortitude remains at 3
  • Auspicious Days: 5
  • Inauspicious Days: 5

Day 11

Today we have the Five of Hearts, and I decide I want to use the prompts A trap” and maybe Curiosity”. This won’t be anything as simple as a net trap (such as in Return of the Jedi) but something dark and magical. The Tome of Adventure Design comes back out for this.

The pair encounter a strange curtain of mist that will activate the trap when agitated, performing some kind of enchantment. First, Lief rolls Fortitude to see if he recognizes this magical hazard: [3], partial success. The complication is that he does recognize it, but there’s no easy way around it.

The game attribute Quickness specifically is defined as a principle of air”, which feels like the right way to deal with this. Can they find a way around? Lief rolls [4], absolute success. They find a way around the mist, and the enchantment is not triggered.

  • Total: 7/5 (Auspicious)
    • Vitality remains at 5
    • Quickness decreases to 1
    • Fortitude decreases to 2
  • Auspicious Days: 6
  • Inauspicious Days: 5

Wrapping it up

I enjoyed this game, although I don’t think I’m going to play this one through the end here. A few thoughts:

  1. The prompts are extremely ambiguous and not particularly coherent. This is partly intentional and I respect that, but for the way I played, it didn’t work well.
  2. Having an existing setting helped a lot! The prompts would have been even more frustrating otherwise.
  3. If I played again, I’d probably take the advice to do one or two a day. Draw a card in the morning, let it occupy my mind throughout the day, and journal the actions later that evening.
  4. In that vein, I’d probably also make the character even more of a self-insert, as I did with Wanderhome.

I think my next game will be a little less of a journaling experience, come to think of it.

Up next Thousand Year Old Vampire - Session 2 Ultraviolet Grasslands - Exploration Test
Latest posts Ker Nethalas - Exploring the Starting Domain Thoughts on Ker Nethalas Sacretta Carnifexa - Part 3 Sacretta Carnifexa - Part 2 Sacretta Carnifexa - Part 1 Undead Without Number - Session 3 Undead Without Number - Session 2 Undead Without Number - Session 1 The Cryptorum - Session 5 The Cryptorum - Session 4 The Cryptorum - Session 3 The Cryptorum - Session 2 The Cryptorum - Session 1 Cinderheim - Session 4 Cinderheim - Session 3 Cinderheim - Session 2 5 Parsecs From Home - Campaign Turn 20 5 Parsecs From Home - Campaign Turn 19 5 Parsecs From Home - Campaign Turn 18 5 Parsecs From Home - Campaign Turn 17 5 Parsecs from Home - Campaign Turn 16 Cinderheim - Session 1 RPGs vs Wargames 5 Parsecs From Home - Campaign Turn 15 5 Parsecs From Home - Campaign Turn 14 5 Parsecs From Home - Campaign Turn 13 Scarlet Hero in the Undercity - Part 3 Scarlet Hero in the Undercity - Part 2 Scarlet Hero in the Undercity - Part 1 5 Parsecs From Home - Campaign Turn 12 5 Parsecs From Home - Campaign Turn 11