Amar – Actual Play
So, our fantasy campaign is in full swing now. I thought I would post the ongoing journal of what’s happened but also add in some notes about the game mechanics side or any other bits of play advice I learned from the experience.
On the world of Amar there are four great races, each drawing their power from one of the four elements. The Basites embody the element of earth; they are dwarves with bodies made of raw stone, known for their love of mining and solitary, stubborn disposition. The Kasheeta are scaly grey-green lizardmen who embody the element of fire; they are deeply religious and consider volcanos to be the most sacred places in the world. The Ohmryn are great blue seafaring ogres who embody the element of water; they are honourable traders famous for their laid back attitudes, but can be stormy if wronged. The Phae-Touched are small and insect-like faeries who embody the element of air; they all share a direct connection to the Hive Prime and live in an alliance with the Wildren beastmen.
The current Age of Twilight has lasted for thousands of years. The whole world is dark and gloomy and full daylight is considered a faerie tale of the olden days. Relations between the four races are fractious at best; disputes are handled in the Great Council chambers in the neutral ground of Sanctuary Island. The most common source of trouble are the unseelie, who raid the free peoples of Amar every winter solstice and cause untold amounts of pain and suffering.
Goldrock of the Basites is a Runesmith Guilder with all the elemental powers of a Stormforger Runesmith. His key abilities include Beacon to the Unseelie, Build the Ultimate WMD, Call Lightning, Feared, Granite Skin, Nightsteel Armour, Reduced Senses, Rune Lore, See Through Illusions, and Tremor Sense.
Zhel’darax of the Kasheetans is Captain of their noble order of Fire Guardians. He was raised on sacred Mount Hilipha is an Acolyte of Cyratha (a dreamseer). His key abilities include Apprenticed by the Oracle, Burn Infidel, Cold Blooded, Filter Smoke, Impart Wisdom, Lonely Widower, Read Object, and Step Between Moments.
Sharl of the Ohmryn is a hunter with a spiritual connection to a berserker shark spirit named Ghar. His key abilities include Avoid Unnecessary Violence, Blackouts and Memory Loss, Dislikes Dishonesty, Treated with Suspicion, Uneasy When Away From the Sea, and Wielder of the Relic Spear Haon-Sri-Hu.
Fleet of the Phae-Touched is a Way Warden of En Jaides who was promoted to the status of Greysmith Mediator. His key abilities include Connected to the Web of Life, Fascinated by Mortals, Hero of Mherun Vale, Insectoid Wings, Saddened by Violence, Treestep, Vulnerable to Night Steel, andWindshard Staff of Office.
The four heroes were summoned to the Partitioned City on Sanctuary Island. 
Fleet was the first to arrive. He had spent the last few years travelling the world, mediating in disputes with both the Wildren and the Basites. He flew in from the Wychlight Forest on a giant dragonfly, landing by the great termite mounds in one of the Phae-Touched quarter’s many parks.
Sharl came next. He had recently been helping to block Kasheetan hunting expeditions in the contested waters of the Alamin Channel when an argument escalated into violence and he killed several Kasheetans. This had led to increased tensions between the two races and Sharl knew that things could easily tip over into all-out war if he was not careful. He arrived at the bustling docks of Sanctuary Island’s Ohmryn quarter by boat, heading inland through the canals and passing its famously colourful stilted wooden houses on the way.
Zhel’darax had been busy meditating at home near Mount Hilipha in preparation for being entered into the Order of Siratha next year. He had also been helping train his daughter Lyzara train so she can attempt the gruelling initiation rites of the illustrious Fire Guardians, an order he is himself a Captain of. He arrived at the island by boat and immediately sought out one of the round stone temples in the Kasheetan quarter so he could filter holy smoke and clear his mind.
Goldrock came last. He had been very busy in his homeland chopping down woodlands and strip mining (‘landscaping’) the lands near the border with the Phae-Touched, in order to provide enough fuel for the creation of some new war machines. No fan of boats, Goldrock had arrived by simply walking along the sea bed. He emerged in the polluted workshops and narrow gothic streets of the Basite quarter looking sodden and exhausted.
All four characters then made their way to the Sanctuary Temple itself to meet with their respective race’s ambassadors and discuss recent events. The temple was essentially a large dome built over the sacred circle of standing stones that provides much of the island’s natural arcane power. Powerful runes of warding protect this holy site from potential attack. Soon enough the heroes and their advisors were summoned to a council meeting in the adjoining chamber.
The seer of Sanctuary Island, a venerable Phae-Touched called Swiftstream, laid out the reason for the summons. With the winter solstice fast approaching all four races had begun to suffer from raids by the Unseelie on outlying villages. But this year was different. This year was the year of prophecy, the year of the Grand Convergence when the moon aligns perfectly with the sun. As had been foretold over a thousand years ago, this was the time when the Unseelie would launch their biggest attacks yet, when they would make their great play for the control – or destruction – of the world. Would the current Age of Twilight be replaced by a glorious new Age of the Sun – or a terrible new Age of Darkness?
Our four heroes were the chosen ones, a fact signified by the birthmarks they bore carrying the rune of their people’s sacred element. What could they do to help save their peoples? Swiftstream read out the Scroll of the Prophet:
When the sky turns red with blood
And the darkness surrounds us all
Four heroes will emerge
Bearing the hearts of their people
And the keys of their fathers
And step forward to claim their destinies
Last night the sky had indeed turned red as blood, so there could be no doubt that this was the signified time. Scholars had debated endlessly over the full meaning of the ancient scroll, but the ‘keys of their fathers’ line was a clear reference to each race’s sacred elemental key – the Firestone Amulet of the Kasheetans, the Gate Key of the Phae Touched, the Unbreakable Pickaxe of the Basites, and the Echo Shell of the Ohmyrn. These keys would have to be collected from their appointed guarding places and given to the heroes for use in the battles to come. The line about the ‘hearts of their people’ had been taken to mean that if any of the chosen ones fell, or if any of the sacred keys were captured by the enemy, the race in question would face a rapid and terrible decline (not to say destruction) regardless of the outcome of the larger war.
The full council meeting began. As per tradition, only the individual bearing the speaking stone, a heavy piece of basalt carried by a frail and diminutive looking Phae-Touched clerk, would be allowed to speak . The clerk fluttered around the room, passing the stone round to those that signalled for it. But many other issues were raised before this most important of crises could be addressed. Ambassador Snowfall for the Phae Touched rose to complain about Basite pollution and tree felling, calling on the council to sanction them for their actions. The Basite ambassador in turn rose to defend the merits of Basite industry and tried to portray the Phae Touched as enemies of progress. The Kasheetan ambassador rose to condemn Ohmryn acts of aggression in the contested waters of the Strait of Muldrasa, while the Ohmryn condemned the Kasheetan’s repeated hunting parties into the same waters (which they call the Alamin Channel) and threatened a repeat of such blockades in the future. Discussion turned into debate and debate turned into all-out argument.
In the end Goldrock had had enough. He rose to his feet and slammed his mighty hammer down onto the table. ‘Order, order!’ he cried. ‘We must discuss the seer’s prophecies while there is still time to do something about them!’. 
Swiftstream asked the council for permission to use the sacred stone of seeing, to understand more about the threat they faced. There was also the question of how long they should look into the stone – the more time they spent, the bigger the risk that some kind of magical backlash would take place. After a vote the assembled council agreed to use the stone on full power, regardless of the risk, and so all parties reconvened in the great stone circle itself.
Swiftstream looked into the stone. ‘I see a vision of an island emerging from the depths of the ocean’, he said. ‘It is shielded, somehow. It lies to the north west, beyond the mists. It is a place of great magical energy. It beckons us, we must go to it and find out what is there’. Pushing harder, he said ‘I can see some sort of structure on it, made of black stone. There is a terrible stench of death there.’
‘The worldbound unseelie stir in the darkness. Four dark princes watch from beyond the realm. A black-armoured figure riding a two-headed pterodactyl. A towering figure of orange rock with six spider-like legs. A black-sailed ship covered in severed heads on spikes. A flaming man on a great chariot, pulled by giant steel bulls. A great needle-like tower stands over a dark and twisted city.’
‘I see Kasheetan soldiers marshalling for war, clad in strange armour and bearing strange and powerful weapons. I see a squid-faced unseelie striding through the Phae-Touched capital, leaving puddles of dark water in his wake. I see a great fleet of Ohmryn setting sail, their prospects uncertain. I see the Basite capital fall totally silent, the emissions from its chimneys guttering and dying. I see this city, this island, our most sacred of places, on fire.’
‘There will be much slaughter and torment. A great flood, a terrible fire. A city will fall. A great battle where one of you will die. One race in civil war, another race swearing a terrible oath. The seas will run red with blood, the sky will turn black with smoke. It will be a time of great darkness, but also of great hope. There will be heroes, and victories. But one of you is not what he seems.’
‘Do not awaken the sleeping goddess! She slumbers beneath the earth. If she were to awake, all would be lost. Let her be!’
And with that final exclamation Swiftstream collapsed to the ground, the spell broken. Arcane energies crackled through the air, as though something on the other side was trying to break out. It could be a chaos moth, an elemental backlash, or something much, much, worse. The four heroes stepped forward, working together to wrestle the magical energies back under control. With grim determination they were successful and the room was silent once more .
 This whole section came about because the characters and world were pretty weird. So to help set the tone I asked every player to describe what their character had been doing when they got the summons, how they got to the island, and what their race’s quarter of the partitioned city was like.
 I actually did this. The person whose house we were playing at had some kind of rock/mineral thing that we literally passed round during the scene.
 Using his prologue ability of Slams Down His Hammer and Calls for Order. There was a lot of exposition to get through in this session, so most of the other prologue abilities didn’t really get used until session two.
 This was a big mistake on my part. Having the chaos moth come through the barrier would have been a great way of ending the session and would have let the players show off how their new characters behave in a fight. Instead I framed some bullshit conflict about controlling the ritual with success stakes that ultimately boiled down to ‘nothing happens’. That’s a lesson I’ve tried to bear in mind since – ‘roll to prevent cool shit from happening’ is usually just bad play.