I had no idea what kind of character I wanted to make for a solo Ironsworn game, so I left as much of it as I could up to the oracles. The result was Myrick of Lostwater, a guy who was both relaxed and hostile somehow.
Lostwater itself is in the Tempest Hills, and the oracle gave it three keywords: Road, Blighted, and Wild. So I figure it’s a decent-sized settlement near a well-traveled road that runs through a landscape of stunted trees and scrub brush. Lostwater’s residents have built many of their homes into the hills, hobbit-style, so it has something of an untamed look. It’s a bit of a rough place, but that seems to be par for the course in Ironsworn.
Looking through the assets, Pretender stuck out to me. I liked the idea of a character who’s been forced to assume a false identity—a relaxed but hostile criminal? He’s probably actually relaxed, but he puts on the hostile part to discourage anyone from getting too close to him, lest they discover who he really is. But given the grittiness of Ironsworn, only murder seems like a big enough crime to spur a fugitive lifestyle.
So he’s a murderer. Okay. But I still gotta like him, so there must be more to it than that. Looking through my truths, the prompts for both beasts (you saw a monster kill someone, but everyone thinks you did it) and horrors (there’s been a string of possibly supernatural killings) caught my eye. What if instead of witnessing a monster attack, I was attacked by and killed a monster that turned out to be something like a werewolf? When they reverted back to their human form, it was a resident of Lostwater. Nobody believed my story, and I managed to flee the settlement.
That felt like a fertile start. But the settlements aren’t very connected to one another, so wouldn’t settling down in one a few miles away be enough to evade vengeance-seekers in Lostwater? Ah, but there are also wardens, and free wardens—that’s who’s pursuing me, a warden, Javert-style. That’s a plausible motivation to chase me, but not a compelling one, so the warden is the sister of Valeri, the man I killed. It’s her duty to capture me, but it’s also personal. The oracles say her name is Kori. Sounds good.
That leaves a lot still undetermined about Myrick (which, I realized, is probably an assumed name, so I rolled for his real name and got Kaivan). Despite the murder, he didn’t strike me as a killer. He’s quick-witted and capable, but no warrior, and not very good with people. I give him wits 3, edge 2, iron 2, heart 1, and shadow 1. He has bonds with Kori, on account of he knows she’s after him, and Nia, his donkey. I figure that might come in handy sometime. Only two bonds! I just don’t feel like I can justify a third. I don’t want to be too connected to anyone.
As for assets, I take Pretender, because that’s what started me down this road. I like the idea of him being an itinerant trader, always on the go from village to village, plying his wares. But there’s no asset that feels right for that, so I made one called Trader. The system feels so dang hackable, it feels like the way to go. Then I made another one called Fugitive, because I had an idea for an infamy track and how that can be used. So those are his three assets.
The vows seem pretty obvious to me. One is “Prove Valeri was a monster,” and another is “Discover what happened to Valeri to make him a monster.” I know they’re kind of on parallel tracks, but one doesn’t require the other, and I have a vision of Kori catching up to me like Tommy Lee Jones confronting Harrison Ford in The Fugitive, and then we end up working together to find the real culprit behind this.
Good to go! The game begins.
Myrick sets out from some settlement or other bound for Springbrook, a peaceful circle situated beside a lake in the foothills of the Veiled Mountains. It’s an oasis of greenery in an otherwise pretty bleak landscape. It’s also uncomfortably close to Lostwater, and in fact is having a dispute with them over the price of water.
Lostwater’s overseer Kenrick has blockaded the main road—the one Myrick avoids—between it and Springbrook, preventing caravans from reaching the smaller village. The overseer there, a proud and driven woman named Nekun, doesn’t have the resources to fight them, and they’re looking for a solution. Myrick isn’t interested in providing one, because he doesn’t want to get mixed up with all that, but given the current circumstances it seems like a little visit there could be quite lucrative.
The way to Springbrook isn’t a difficult one. Myrick keeps to himself and avoids anyone on the road for fear of being recognized so close to the place that used to be his home. He reaches his destination without much trouble and stays for a couple days, haggling and bartering. When he leaves, he heads for Dragonshadow under cover of darkness, and makes a cold camp a half-mile away.
Notes. I was more interested in Springbrook than trouble on the road, so I asked the oracle and it agreed that the journey would only be a Troublesome one. I made two Undertake a Journey moves separated by a Make Camp, all of which turned out pretty well. An uneventful but auspicious start! When I left Springbrook, I attempted to reduce my infamy by lying low (Face Danger +shadow) and got a strong hit, so yeah, things were looking good.
I could not have guessed how quickly it would start looking very bad.
Myrick’s next destination was Dragonshadow, a mining town in the frigid Veiled Mountains. He actually has a friendly acquaintance there: Nan, a one-armed, grizzled old warrior who still clings to the codes of honor he swore as a young man. Myrick acquired something in Springbrook that he knew Nan would trade dearly for.
The way to Dragonshadow is rough, but Myrick knows a trail that most don’t that will take him to Whiterock River, which he can then follow all the way to his destination. The journey lasts a few days longer than expected, and he ends up using more of his supplies than he’d anticipated. By the time Dragonshadow and its big water-wheel come into view, the air is nearly as cold as the river.
Myrick can tell right away that something is amiss. People are running around in a panic. A mineshaft has collapsed, trapping several miners underground. He finds Nan and tells him he has an idea for clearing the mineshaft using the water-wheel and some of his own equipment. The old warrior nods and brings him to the town’s ruling council. Time is running out, and they agree to his plan.
The tangle of ropes, pulleys, and braces is looking good, and the water-wheel provides enough power to pull a boulder free—it’s working! But no sooner is the boulder removed than the rest of the mineshaft collapses. There’s a deafening crash, then the fading cries of the miners who weren’t killed immediately, then… nothing. The mineshaft has become their tomb.
Myrick is shocked and disheartened by this turn of events. That evening, he joins the townsfolk as they gather to mourn their dead, but to his chagrin they blame him for the disaster, declaring him an ill omen unwelcome in Dragonshadow. He arrived a friendly face; he leaves a hated outcast.
Notes.This was a truly unfortunate series of failed rolls! Failing the Face Danger roll to save the miners was one thing, but then scoring a miss to Forge a Bond with the town was a real heartbreaker. Between those two moves, he lost 2 spirit and 2 momentum, so things are not looking good.
Dispirited and directionless, Myrick ponders his next destination. Few settlements make it through the brutal winters of the Veiled Mountains. There’s no circle as lush and green as Springbrook—but there is Windhaven, a village in the lee of a cliffside that shields it from the biting wind. It’s been overseen for decades by the same man, old and wise, and the people are kind. It’s remote, too, so Myrick’s trade goods will be welcomed. Yes, Windhaven sounds good.
The journey is difficult, and the road takes him along mountain faces and past sheer drop-offs that would mean certain death. Some of Myrick’s goods actually rattle loose and fall over the side, forever lost. It’s a harrowing experience, and progress is slow.
When he reaches a plateau, Myrick stops to re-secure everything on his cart and see to Nia’s needs. That’s when something big charges out of the woods and slashes the donkey with its claws. Myrick throws himself to the ground. Towering above him is a silver bear, one of the Veiled Mountains’ most feared predators. And, apparently, one of its hungriest as well.
Myrick scrambles to his feet and positions himself behind the bear while it busies itself with the struggling pack animal. He draws his blade and stabs at the bear, but barely manages to penetrate its thick hide. However, it’s enough to draw the bear’s attention. It swipes at him and he hits the ground hard. Wracked with pain, he plays dead and hopes the bear will just leave with its meal, which it does. As his consciousness ebbs, Myrick sees Nia’s bloody corpse being dragged away through a debris field of his wares, then everything goes black.
An hour or so later, Myrick surprises himself by waking up instead of bleeding out. He sees to his injuries and thanks the old gods—he’s not nearly as wounded as he’d felt. Even still, his cart is in pieces, it’s cold, and he’s wiped out. Myrick limps around the area and recovers what goods he can, then makes a halfway decent camp and sleeps until dawn.
Bereft of both cart and donkey, Myrick is forced to proceed on foot, carrying the sum total of his material goods in a sack slung over one shoulder.
Yikes, this is where things really went off the rails. I rolled a miss to Undertake a Journey and suffered -2 supply, then rolled to Pay the Price and got “Something of value is lost or destroyed.” Pretty quickly I came to the conclusion that an animal had attacked me, knocking my stuff all over the place—and taking Nia the donkey, definitely something of value. I still thought I could take that bear for some reason, but, uh, no. After scoring only a few points of harm on the bear, I tried to End the Fight and succeeded, in a fashion, in that I rolled a miss and the bear reduced me to 0 health and took me out of the fight. I still wanted to make sure that the bear wasn’t going to kill Myrick right then and there, so I rolled a Face the Danger to play dead, and it worked. The only silver lining here was that I got a strong hit to Heal myself. Other than that, I was very much behind the 8-ball, and it was only going to get worse.
Myrick stumbles down the wooded road to Windhaven, too tired and hurt to be as vigilant as he should. That was no doubt a contributing factor when a band of highwaymen steps out from behind several trees and holds him at spear point. Myrick groans in despair. What else could go wrong?
Fortunately, for highwaymen, they’re awfully polite. Their apparent leader asks him where he’s bound and who he is. Beaten down by his recent experiences, Myrick is off his game when he introduces himself off as a humble trader bound for Windhaven—probably the easiest lie for him to tell at this point, given how long he’s been living that life.
It’s no good, though. In an almost implausible turn of events, one of the highwaymen is Hennion, formerly of Lostwater, and he recognizes Myrick as Kaivan! He tells their leader that “Myrick” is a fugitive wanted by the wardens for murder. She mulls this over as her followers bind his hands behind his back and lead him to their encampment. They bind him to a tree, and it’s the first time since he stopped to feed Nia that hasn’t been a struggle. He passes out.
Myrick’s not sure how long he’s been asleep when the leader wakes him and introduces herself as Caldus. She gives him a quick rundown of what’s going on.
Windhaven’s long-time chief finally gave up the ghost, and he’d been in charge so long—40 years!—the town wasn’t sure how to select a new leader. In the ensuing confusion, a middle-aged man named Bevan gained enough support that he just declared himself the new chief. There was grumbling, but no real opposition. But after a few months as chief, it was clear that Bevan’s top priority was Bevan. He enriched himself and his cronies, levied crippling taxes on everyone else, and hired mercenaries to be his enforcers.
Many Windhaveners (Windhavenites? Windhavians?) refused to accept Bevan’s leadership, but there was little they could do about it. Caldus, a healer and normally a pacifist, emerged as their spokesperson. When talking proved futile, she led them into the woods to harry Bevan’s mercenaries and plot his downfall.
So she has a deal for Myrick. Hennion’s told her she’s a murderer whose crimes have gone unpunished. Fortunately, she has need of a murderer right now, and offers him a choice. She can keep all his worldly goods and loose him to wander the mountains, or he can assassinate Bevan. Myrick takes the deal, and swears a vow upon iron to do it, but his voice shakes and his words lack conviction. Still, a vow is a vow. He gets a good night’s sleep, and heads for town in the morning.
Bevan’s mercenaries stop him just outside town and demand to know his business in Windhaven. He tells them he’s a wandering trader, and it’s an easy enough story for them to buy, but Myrick does a poor job selling it. They level their spears and advance on him. This is probably why they don’t notice the werewolf behind them. Myrick points at it, but his words catch in his throat and his mouth goes dry with fear. Then the monster is upon them.
At this point, Myrick turns tail and runs—back to his captors, having nowhere safer to go. She’s surprised to see him back so soon, and he breathlessly tries to explain the situation with her. In an effort to build trust, he tells her the truth about the murder of Valeri, and begs her to believe that another one of those creatures is here, now, in the woods. She believes that Myrick saw, or at least thought he saw, a monster when he killed Valeri, but he sounds too unhinged for her to believe he’s seen another one now. She orders him to be bound again, and leaves him to make other plans.
That night, Myrick is awakened by the blood-curdling cry of a sentry. The creature he saw earlier has found them and is making short work of the camp! He calls for help, with no expectation of getting any, and gnaws at his bonds to free himself. It’s a lot harder than he would’ve thought, and he already thought it’d be pretty hard.
The werewolf spies him struggling and helpless, and lopes toward him eagerly. Just as rakes him with its claws, Hennion charges in, impaling the monster on his spear. It’s a momentary distraction, but it’s enough for Myrick to finally slip out of his bonds and run. Behind him, Hennion breathes his last.
Bleeding from his new injury, Myrick drops into the darkness behind a fallen log, and tries to control his breathing. Unfortunately for him, the werewolf has an excellent sense of smell, and soon finds him. And eats him.
Notes. Man, what a disaster. I like that the oracles gave me people and situations and problems that, with a squint, weave together into something that made sense. Being recognized that far from home seemed pretty unlikely, but hey, the oracle said otherwise.
I know the appearance of the werewolf here is a pretty similar beat to the appearance of the bear in the last chapter, but it felt like it was time for one to show up to tie things back to how this all started. Plus, this was a good location for it—plenty of witnesses, but no one who could exonerate him.
The string of misses here was truly awe-inspiring. I got hits on plenty of Secure an Advantage rolls, but failed on just about everything else! In the end, I just couldn’t justify Myrick’s continued survival. He was at 0 health and 0 spirit, and failed his Face Danger to hide from a werewolf. What else was going to happen?
Anyway, I was really impressed with where all those dice rolls and rules guidance took me. It was cut short, but obviously now I have to play Kori and tell the story of her pursuit of Myrick. Eventually she’ll catch up with him and have to deal with the lycanthropes herself.