Whitecliff – Underwater Basket Weaving (Session 6)

Session 6 was last night! Okay, it was actually a week-and-a-half ago, but I wrote most of this the next day. It feels like so many more and yet at the same time like 6 is an awfully big number to have reached. Funny how that works.

It was a good playtest showing that the core of seasonal play is quite solid and mostly just needs balancing and more content. There are some portions that require a little more reshaping, of course.

We played through autumn of Whitecliff’s first year. The season started with a trio of new arrivals – Yetunde, Mala, and Likhapa.

  • Yetunde’s a 10 year-old boy, the son of a rope-maker. Eager and enthusiastic, but lacking in strength and experience. At this point he’s more a burden than a help.
  • Mala’s a twenty-eight year old master cobbler. She frequently voices her opinions loudly on a wide range of topics, with or without being asked. Her skills with leather are highly valued though her demeanour is not. Her most common topic of rant is regarding the lack of alcohol.
  • Likhapa’s a middle-aged woman, uncertain exactly of her birth year. A pious follower of Banjahdo, she values family and hard-work above all. She grieves for the many children she left behind in her previous life as a matron and scullery maid. Some of the children were of her blood, but her heart saw them all as hers. Though warm and kind when engaged, her grief drives her to solitude and distance. She’s often found paused mid-action, her eyes focused on the distant past.

The players discussed the goals for autumn and I recapped their current inventory – which included a very bare cupboard. They decided to focus on building up their food production and stores, but to also organise a small expedition upriver to the marsh to investigate the possible buildings.

Ashmaran led a hunting party consisting of Wayne and Mala to the forest for a few weeks to hunt deer. Wayne and Mala had a lot to learn and both did so, with Mala proving the more capable student. Sabenne also accompanied them, remaining at their makeshift camp to butcher the deer. Antimenes and Yetunde spent this time designing and constructing a suitable raft for the planned expedition. Aeris, Eshnud, and Likhapa spent their time gathering food. Nisid dug for clay.

National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka РFish trap РUpolu Island in Samoa РCollected in 1975 (source: Wikimedia licence:CC BY-SA)

Once the hunting party returned, focuses shifted with Ashmaran spending a lot of time gathering seed and teaching Yetunde the basics of surviving in the wilderness. Antimenes worked with Likhapa to craft fish traps from reeds. Aeris started planting a small crop, Mala crafted clothes and shoes from the deer leather, Sabenne took charge of the food stores, and Wayne spent time mining surface tin and copper deposits. Eshnud tested a number of local plants for medicinal properties but made no progress. Nisid continued to diggy diggy hole.
As we headed into the last weeks of autumn, the expedition set off upriver. Consisting of Wayne, Eshnud, and Mala we’ll have to wait until next session to learn what they found. Back at Whitecliff, the group realised they still lacked food, so Ashmaran, Aeris, and Yetunde set to gathering some more. Likhapa continued weaving fish traps, whilst Sabenne continued her work getting the most out of what they had. With a sore back from all the digging, Nisid baked bricks. Antimenes left Whitecliff to spend time observing and communing with the earth elemental hoping to gain insight to earth magic as a result.

For this session, I added the idea of hands-off actions. So, in addition to the three actions per season, each character could take one hands-off action at any point. This would represent things such as baking bricks, smoking fish, or checking traps. Things that require a little bit of time but that are largely waiting. It worked, but not very well and didn’t quite feel right, so we’ll try a different version of that for next session. But for this session, Eshnud and Yetunde took care of the fish traps, Mala crudely tanned skins, Sabenne preserved a bit of venison, Antimenes took astronomical observations, and Ashmaran spent extra time reviewing what he’d taught those who accompanied him on his wilderness travels.

Once all was tallied, the settlers had 32 food and 5 seeds that could be eaten but would be much better saved. With 10 mouths to feed, 30 food would see everyone hungry but not malnourished. It’d take 40 to satisfy their bellies, so they elected to remain hungry and save a little for winter.
The group is optimistic for winter, despite the low food stores. The fish traps have greatly improved their intake, whilst the six months everyone’s spent here has seen improvements in the wilderness skill – hauls from gathering have greatly improved, though Ashmaran remains the only highly productive gatherer. And even with their increased focus on food this season, they spent less than half their total time on food-related activities. Still, here’s hoping that winter isn’t overly harsh – certainly the weather has been fairly mild so far.

A few things will change in the rules for next session. My primary focus will be on adding more content and maybe crafting a tool to do some of the bookkeeping for us, but there are a couple of rules changes coming. Here’s a brief list of things that might get done:

  • I’m getting rid of hands-off actions. They felt clunky at best. Instead all the characters will generate some Labour for free each season. Checking traps and baking bricks and the like will simply provide a given yield per Labour spent on them.
  • I’m reviewing the number of attributes, looking to consolidate them down now that dice rolls are less common.
  • We’ve just hand-waved character creation, so I’d like some more guidelines around that.
  • A player-ready list of seasonal actions
  • A player-ready list of blueprints
  • A new character sheet
  • A bookkeeping tool
  • A seasonal play cheat-sheet for players

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