Dreamation Epyllion LongCon Recap
The Magpie Games crew — Marissa Kelly, Mark Diaz Truman, Brendan Conway — finished an Epyllion LongCon at Dreamation last weekend! It was an epic tale of friendship, shenanigans, dark dragons, political intrigue, wars against the darkness, and heroism!
We had around 13 or 14 players for each of our three sessions, with some people there for the whole ride, and some people moving in and out. Our players included: Rich Flynn, Matt Weber, Graham W, Jenn Martin, Adrian Stein, Eric Mersmann, Zach Battleman, Lilith White, Jim Cummings, and many more!
In our first session, we:
– Introduced Dragonia
– Set our mandates
– Created our raw-scale drakes at each table
– Had each player add something to the map.
This led to a Dragonia filled with strange and interesting places, like a massive chasm filled with shadow, an island from which all dragons were forbidden from flying, and a draconic boneyard in the capital city.
We also had every player get together with other members of their draconic house, and then each house added something to a map. The drakes got to know their brethren from their own houses, and they added something to the setting that bound them together. Myndoth, for instance, added a massive library to the north of the island, while Kebros added a secret enclave of Kebros dragons who still had a connection to the darkness.
It was awesome! It fleshed out Dragonia and made it the players’ own. We need to consider how better to bring those elements in, so they crop up more during the actual play in future LongCons, but as a way of getting us into Dragonia and making it distinctive, it worked like a charm.
Then we got to playing! Each table was its own clutch to start, sent on a mission by an elder dragon. Barge (played by Mark) sent his clutch out to investigate the Moonbeam Festival and its problems. Thornsnout (played by Marissa) sent out her clutch into the wilds of the great forest, where animals had been gathering in enormous quantities for reasons unknown, causing problems for the forest and its denizens. And Tass the Gigantic (played by Brendan) sent out a clutch into the Capital City itself, to find a restricted book stolen from the library, all about something dark and dangerous.
Each clutch went after its problems in its own way. The clutch sent into the Moonbeam Festival discovered that location of the festival was actually once the site of a major battleground with a dark dragon, a champion of the shadow from the First War – Valketh. In a moment of foolishness, or perhaps bravery, the young dragons of that clutch actually brought Valketh back to life! She was not corrupted in her resurrected state, but that did not mean she was noble and innocent. She was still tinged by the sadness and pain that had driven her to the darkness in the first place, and the young dragons hid her away to keep her from being caught and persecuted by older dragons who might not trust her return – such as Barge, whom they were quickly discovering had a deeper history with Valketh.
Meanwhile, the clutch sent into the forest discovered (after contending with the enormous beasts of the forest) that the wildlife therein were being called to the forest due to the return of the Great Spirit! This was a great and momentous occasion, something heralding the rebirth of the forest into full life and vitality. The young dragons guided that rebirth by restoring the Heart of the forest to the great tree at its center, and in so doing, they helped to resolve the troubles it had been facing – or so they thought…
And finally, the clutch sent into the city found that the stolen book was actually a biography of Valketh herself, detailing the “apocryphal” story of how she had once been a noble champion of Dragonia before a tragedy drove her to the darkness. After sneaking into the library and finding a magical escape route from the restricted section, they were forced to confront the librarian who stole the book, claiming that it was for a greater purpose, that it was for the good of Dragonia…*that she and those working with her could wield the darkness to fix Dragonia.* They left her behind, to go and report on their findings to Tass, while wary of larger conspiracies at work…
This session opened up a bit differently. We had some new players, whom we helped quickly to create their dragons, and then got into a large LARP style scene, with all the young dragons come together in the dragon Council Hall, where Barge, Thornsnout, and Tass heard reports from them on their myriad missions. The dragons brought to the large meeting tales of their own doings, along with a fair amount of skepticism and concern over the goals, intentions, and desires of the larger dragons. During the meeting, it became clear that Barge had significant worries about the Darkness and its workings around Dragonia, and that Tass found such worries to be unfounded and overstating the problem, to the detriment of Dragonia. Thornsnout wanted to ensure that problems were dealt with appropriately, without Barge’s fear-mongering or Tass’s blindness. With the three elder dragons not in agreement, the young dragons were left to come to their own full conclusions about the next steps to take.
Regardless of which mission the drakes undertook, all felt the power and the fear of the Darkness when a lunar eclipse, unpredicted and surprising, came and cut off the connection to the moons throughout Dragonia. It was an ill omen that predicted the tragic occurrences of their expeditions.
One clutch of drakes set out to speak to Valketh where they had hidden her previously. Unfortunately, they found that she had escaped, and was now under threat of taking upon herself the same darkness that had made her such an opponent of Dragonia during the first war. The pain she felt came from a mission Barge had sent her clutch on. They had all perished doing Barge’s work, and the pain of the tragedy, coupled with the Darkness’s promise to reunite her with her clutch, drove her into shadow. Despite the efforts of the young dragons to talk her away from her dark path, she could not be swayed, and took the shadow back into herself as the moons were eclipsed. She gave them an opportunity to run before she could hurt them too much, her last act of goodness under the darkening moons. Even so, in the ensuing conflict, one of their number faced the Silver Serpent of Death, who warned the young drake that Tass the Gigantic was a traitor! In the struggle, they also stole the dark crown before Valketh could take it upon herself. Without it, she could not assume the full mantle of terrible power that would let her crush all those who opposed her. They left her as she was raising an ancient, fallen Tessith tower in the massive chasm of darkness, creating her new citadel.
Another clutch of drakes went back into the forest, from which rumors of darkness beneath the roots of the Great Sage Tree continued to flow, despite the rebirth of the Great Spirit. There, they found a plot by dark dragons to corrupt the Great Spirit into the Darkbeast through a ritual performed under the great tree. The Darkbeast, if unleashed, would rampage over all of Dragonia. What’s more, the lunar eclipse would be prolonged indefinitely so long as the Darkbeast existed. The young dragons acted decisively and bravely, though it cost them dearly – to stop the ritual, they were forced to kill the great tree at the center of the forest, ensuring that though it would survive, it would no longer be fully alive in the same way…at least, not for ages and ages to come. The Darkbeast’s rising was prevented, by the heroic sacrifice of a young Crafter, but a silence spread throughout the forest.
The third clutch went into the city to actually find the biography of Valketh stolen by the librarian. They found her hiding in the draconic boneyard, and they discovered where she had hidden the book. Upon reading it, they learned of Valketh’s tragic past and her history with Barge, in addition to finding out that pages had been torn from the book – the pages detailing Valketh’s good deeds, her nobility. They confronted the librarian about her misguided aims and goals, how she sought to control the Darkness when it would only control her, and discovered that she had been working with Tass, the council member, and that he had betrayed her! What’s more, they discovered a new way to fight the Darkness growing in Dragonia as the lunar eclipse spread above them. They could travel back in time and bring forward the young, brave, noble Valketh, a Valketh who might be able to stand against her terrible, older self. And so they did, using the magic of the Darkness to travel back to a day long ago and convince young Valketh to come back with them, to when Dragonia needed her.
At the end of the session, the dragons came together again, in the Council Hall, only to find that Barge had been censured and removed from the council, due to a vote instigated by Tass! Thornsnout was not happy with this turn of events, but Tass promised again and again that it was for the good of Dragonia, that Barge had simply grown too old and infirm, too paranoid, to serve on the Council. When the young drake who had fallen and seen the Silver Serpent stepped forward and accused Tass of being traitor, saying “I have been charged with bringing you down!”, it led to chaos. The young drake’s clutchmates defended him, even as Tass called for guards to have the young drake removed, and ultimately ended the proceedings before the drakes could further air their grievances.
The clutches met later, outside the council chamber, and revealed what they had learned and accomplished to each other. As a group, they decided they needed to speak to Barge, to find out what to do next.
Once more, we had a few new players, so we similarly had them quickly create drakes and jumped right in on the scene with Barge in his home, a massive tower. Also there were Thornsnout and Comet, the youngest Council member, from House Kebros. The three elders were at their wit’s end, knowing that Valketh had put out a call to all the creatures touched by the Darkness throughout Dragonia, summoning them to her as her army. Even some of the young dragons were pulled. What’s more, Tass was moving for a vote to name himself The First Dragon, a measure he claimed was necessary in this time of crisis.
At the insistence of the young dragons, Comet revealed the existence of the Kebros enclave, devoted to understanding and internalizing the Darkness, to living with it instead of against it. Barge in turn spoke about ancient defenses in the capital city that hadn’t been activated in an age, necessary now as Valketh approached with her army. And all the while, the young dragons contemplated Barge’s warning – that young Valketh could be sent into battle against the older, corrupted Valketh, and might even win the fight, but only at the cost of her own young life.
The clutches dispersed to attend to the greatest threats. One clutch went to reactive the city’s defenses. Another went to sway Council members, to ensure that Tass would not win his vote. A third went out to the dark enclave, to learn what they could in hopes that they might remove the Darkness from Valketh without a fight being necessary.
The clutch that went to activate the city’s defenses encountered a catacombs of circuits and tunnels, left in disrepair by a draconic population that did not think it would need these measures again. Monsters of darkness had taken up residence in a dark pool of water in those catacombs, and they battled with those creatures, while the brave Daredevil sacrificed himself by taking on the Shadow meant for others and going into his shadowself. In his shadowself, he rushed forward and accidentally connected the broken link between one of the moonstones at the city’s perimeter and the central structure, inadvertently repairing it. After encountering a caretaker dragon and convincing him to help them with their tasks, they found a Mystic dragon who told them to call upon the moons to reactivate the defenses. When they all called upon the moons together, a massive shield of moon magic grew from the glass umbrella over standing over the capital, and the entire city was encased in a dome of energy connecting the glass tower to the moon pillars surrounding the capital.
The clutch that went to sway the councilors found those councilors obstinate and sure in their ways, confident they knew exactly how to serve Dragonia best, and that it was at Tass’s side. But through guile, subterfuge, and gumption, the drakes swayed the councilors. First, they gifted a beautiful piece of art, a branch made of five different kinds of wood, but in a single solid smooth piece, to one of the Councilors. After imbuing it with moon magic so it would grow fruit, the Councilor was swayed by the beauty and meaning of their piece, and agreed not to vote for Tass. Then, they snuck into Myndoth’s archives in the city, stealing the secrets of that House, and found out secretly recorded conversations between the Councilor of Rothscar and Tass, in which Tass agreed to funnel funding to Rothscar so they could build new, great wonders, instead of funneling it to places where it was needed. Upon revealing that information to Rothscar’s own house workers, the young drakes led a march to Rothscar’s Councilor, and demanded she change her vote. Impressed by their resourcefulness, she agreed, and Tass was guaranteed not to have enough votes to become First Dragon.
And finally, the clutch that went to the enclave of the Kebros dragons discovered that yes, it did exist! The dragons there had learned to live with the Darkness, claiming that it was not to the good of Dragonia to destroy the Darkness. Instead, it was better to come to terms with the Darkness. This was an argument that had some sway with those among them who were closer to the Darkness already, but it did not deter them from their goal. They were able to get the dragons of the enclave to give them an orb. It could trap Valketh within, and maybe push the Darkness inside of her, such that she might be free from its strongest corruptive influence. It was the best plan they had…but first, they decided to hatch another scheme. They spoke to Tass, and convinced him that if he truly wanted to take control of Dragonia he would have to prove he was capable of doing so…by standing up to Valketh in single combat. The dragons of the enclave would fuel Darkness into Valketh, strengthening her in her fight against Tass so he would be sure to fall, and then once he was gone, they would capture Valketh in the orb. Tass took the bait, and rushed off to fight the dark champion.
When all was said and done, it came down to a final battle for the city. The army of Valketh attacked, and the young drakes faced the decision of whether or not to send young Valketh into battle. They did, knowing that she would likely perish, thinking that it would help, and that Valketh was eager to do her duty. The battle raged, with Tass falling to Valketh, and the city’s defenses spewing forth moon magic to keep the dark monsters at bay, while the drakes themselves participated. In the end, the city was devastated by the battle, left crushed and ruined. While there were not many casualties, Dragonia’s capital was no more. This left the whole of Dragonia questioning whether there even needed to be a Council anymore. Valketh was swept into the orb, along with her younger self, and after a seemingly interminable time, young Valketh was the only one to return. She would not speak of what happened, though she seemed…different. She then assumed the responsibility of helping Dragonia to rebuild.
We did epilogues for the remaining drakes, hearing about their endings, some bittersweet (like the Seer who stayed with the dark enclave to learn more about the Darkness), some hopeful (like the dragon who agreed to watch over the now returned Valketh, and eventually found himself falling in love with her), and some determined (like the noble warriors who took up the task of recreating the capital, better than ever). But the Second War against the Darkness had been averted…at least, for now.
All in all, it was a grand time! The newest rules for Epyllion worked fantastically, and although there were a few areas that needed to be tightened, the bottom line was that they formed a very, very strong base for the game, and wouldn’t need any more major tweaks! The changes to the playbooks led to fun, enjoyable characters, and the stories were involving and heroic!
Some key learnings:
– Even though the epic battles were awesome, Epyllion doesn’t actually need them, and in some ways works better without them. It’s not about charging into a massive battle against an enormous terrifying dragon (at least, not all the time); it’s about standing up for what is right, and talking to dragons, and solving problems through more than just fighting. We realized that keeping things a bit more restrained might’ve been the better move, even though we had a great time.
– The ending of the entire LongCon was a little rushed. This was partly just due to time constraints, but there was a bit more to do with thinking about how to span out the epic conclusion so that it felt a bit less like a montage, where you don’t’ actually get to sink your claws into the major events.
– The maturation of the dragons over the story led to an excellent overall arc, which was awesome! When new dragons kept coming in in later sessions, but the dragons from the first session were now older, it only led to some fantastic dynamics between them. The dragons really felt like they were growing up!
All in all, it was very much a success, and made us all the more excited to bring Epyllion out to everyone!