The Black Brow Tribe

Into the Valley

Green-Leaf remained behind in the Willow Forest, asks them to return for her.

Little-Mountain is now the lead Shaman of the band.

They traveled along the shore of the lake toward the land of the Valley Folk.

The first night, Soft-Touch (on watch) heard grey wolves attacking a Lava Folk war party in the distance, while Dark-Meat shirked his watch to dally with Little-Mountain. They snuck to that spot, but the Lava Folk had withdrawn. They found some discarded equipment, including another Lava Spirit amulet (also some dried goat meat, a spear and a spearhead).

In the morning, Thunder-Gut confronted Dark-Meat about failing in his watch. Dark-Meat stood up to him, so Thunder-Gut struck him with his club – knocking him unconscious. Little-Mountain healed him so he could travel again, which he did, sullenly.

The second day took them to a cold mountain stream, flowing into the lake from the west. Gar-Gun said this stream would lead them to the Valley Folk village.

On the third day, they encountered three Valley Folk hunters, fishing in the stream. At first mistaken for Lava People, they broke the ice by showing that they had rescued Gar-Gun. The Valley Folk hunters agreed to lead them to their village.

Thunder-Gut won the episode’s experience point, adding it to his Impressive Voice.

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Plague of Frogs

Gar-Gun urged players to follow the shore of the lake, to avoid Lava People patrols.

That night, it rained – and a large number of anachronistic amphibians swarmed their camp, chasing insects:

Beezlebufo (aka Devil Frog)
Core Stones: 2
Toughness: 1 (armored head)
Tongue: Melee 1, Reach, Tangle
Move: Run/Leap 1/2 (Swim 1/2)

The players reacted badly, stopping several of the frogs from hopping harmlessly away by attacking them. Chaos ensued, and blind Gar-Gun was badly injured. The few frogs who got away hopped toward the edge of the water, where they were attacked by:

Eryops
Core Stones: 5
Bite: 1
Move: Swim 1 (Run 1/2)

A photo is posted here: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=385524644806892

Soft-Touch won the episode’s experience point.

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Into The Forest

The PC party emerged from the crevasse. They planned to travel to the land of the Valley Folk, guided by blind Gar-Gun’s instructions. Their path would take them through the willow forest, back across the plains of tall grass. Their group consisted of 10 characters, most with 7 stones but a few (Soft-Touch and most of thew NPCs) only have 6.

As they traveled, Thick-Brow the hunter noticed furtive movements in the tall grass. They were being encircled by a pack of 11 Dire Wolves! (5 Core stones, 1 Bite).

The PCs withdrew into a defensive formation, and waited for the wolves to come. Few of the PCs had missile weapons they could afford to throw (just a few rocks, for the most part), so they were not able to do much damage to the wolves as they advanced.

Thunder-Gut drove back three of the dire wolves with his mighty roar. Then the wolves charged!

Some of the PCs tried to emulate Thunder-Gut‘s trick, but they couldn’t quite pull it off. Far-See faced one wolf alone, suffering a bite to his shoulder and a claw across his face, half-blinding him with his own blood.

Thick-Brow defeated the pack leader, throwing the pack into some disarray.

Green-Leaf managed to disable two wolves by throwing emetic herbs wrapped in bear meat.

Spring-Thorn took on two wolves, assisting Big-Hand and his two companions, Dark-Meat and Rock-Head. Big-Hand kept one of the wolves busy himself, and was slowly whittled down almost to defeat before Spring-Thorn drove it off and killed it with a final thrown rock.

Soft-Touch threw untainted bear meat between two wolves to distract and satiate them. Her proto-dog, Dig-Dig, fought alongside her mate Thunder-Gut. Together they defeated two of the wolves, suffering numerous small wounds.

In the end the remaining dire wolves were driven back, but at a great cost. Far-See and Dark-Meat lay dead in the tall grass! Both had been wounded to -1 stone. The healers (Little-Mountain and Green-Leaf) checked to see whether anything could be done for them, but they were beyond the normal healing arts.

So Green-Leaf called upon the Willow Spirit, asking it to keep Far-See‘s soul from departing. By fire, she sacrificed her willow staff and the willow strand they’d found on the marked mammoth. The magic seemed to work – but still Far-See did not breathe. Perhaps his body needed to be prepared to accept his spirit back in? Little-Mountain busied herself ‘healing’ the dead bodies, while swift warrior Spring-Thorn was sent to the willow forest (perhaps 2 miles away) to collect more fallen willow twigs and vines for a sacrifice to save Dark-Meat. Thick-Brow followed her in case she needed help.

At the edge of the forest, Spring-Thorn heard Far-See‘s voice! The Willow Spirit had ’caught’ him, and was holding his soul there. Spring-Thorn and Thick-Brow returned with the sacrificial materials and with news of Far-See‘s presence in the forest. Green-Leaf quickly repeated her ceremony for the departed Dark-Meat, and then the group marched on to the forest – whereupon, as they entered, Far-See and Dark-Meat’s souls returned to their bodies, and awoke!

Green-Leaf won the session’s experience point, adding it to her Willow Spirit Lore.

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The Volcano Spirit

Green-Leaf consulted with the Willow Spirit about the safety of traveling up the lava tube toward the volcano. The spirit hinted at an ancient enmity between the willows and the volcano, but also said there had been no trouble recently. So, the party traveled uphill through the lava tube, toward the volcano, with the wind at their backs.

The crack in the ceiling eventually ended, and they entered a long tunnel of darkness. They made torches to light their way, and had to extend the torches’ life by dousing them in fat from the bear they’d recently defeated.

They came to the bear’s lair. It lay beneath another cave-in, and was full of the rotting remains of the bear’s meals. In the refuse they found human remains, and an amulet of volcanic stone.

Little-Mountain claimed the amulet, but was reminded that Green-Leaf is the head shaman. So Green-Leaf got the amulet, and determined that there was no willow spirit in it.

Trees were visible above the caved-in ceiling above the bear’s lair. They built a stone ramp, and sent Far-See up to check out the forest. He heard vague animal noises in the distance, and so everybody else came up to join him for protection. Then Far-See climbed a tree to look around.

He saw that they were only a few miles from the lip of the volcano. He also saw the Lava Folk’s village on the volcano’s rim. The village is made of permanent mud huts, and there is a strange tall narrow teepee, without a smoke vent at the top, at the village’s center. Far-See also discovered that the nearby animals were goats. He almost fell while descending the tree, but he was rescued by Thunder-Gut who held the safety rope.

They re-entered the crevasse, and camped for the night upwind of the bear’s lair in the lava tube.

The next morning they continued uphill through the tunnel, entering into another long stretch of darkness. After hours of travel they detected a reddish glow and strange unearthly noises ahead!

A voice called out, telling them to go away away, and then claiming to be the the lava spirit. Green-Leaf loaned Thunder-Gut the volcanic rock amulet, and he also put on bear skins to be more impressive. The voice turned out to belong to a hideously burned, blind, and mutilated Rogok of the Valley Folk named Gar-Gun. Once it was determined that neither side was comprised of the hated Lava People, they cautiously made friends. Gar-Gun’s people, the Valley Folk, have mastodon shamans who marked the mastodon. Gar-Gun himself wants revenge on the Lava People, who sacrificed him to their volcano, but he survived – and has apparently been staying alive by devouring the remains of later sacrificial victims.

Gar-Gun agreed to accompany the PCs to the home of the Valley Folk. So they led him all the way back to the place where they originally entered the crevasse. He could not get out himself, before, because of the bear.

At one point Gar-Gun talked smack about how his people are stronger than the Yorwah – the PC’s breed. Thunder-Gut responded by wrestling to prove him wrong, and won.

Before dawn the next morning, as they crossed the grasslands back toward the willow forest, they attracted a pack of hungry dire wolves!

Sprint-Thorn won the session’s experience point, adding it to her Core stones. It SHOULD have gone to Soft-Touch, but her player wasn’t present for this episode.

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Death From Above

The hunting party had trouble finding crevasse, but eventually Far-See located a familiar-looking furrow in the ground. They followed it uphill, and eventually located the crevasse.

Rock-Head asked Thunder-Gut to allow a long rest so that Green-Leaf and Little-Mountain could heal him some more. Thunder-Gut agreed, and they camped for the rest of the day.

Far-See threw rocks and sticks into the crevasse, determining that it’s somewhat deep and dry inside. Dark-Meat moved farther down, to where sunlight shone in, and discovered that the crevasse is really just a narrow crack leading down into a wider, rounded tunnel.

Thunder-Gut and Green-Leaf discussed Little-Mountain, and decided that maybe giving her some responsibilities would curb her divisive tendencies. So Thunder-Gut told her she is to be the party’s main healer. Little-Mountain rebuked him, saying that such things are for the shamans to decide, not the hunting party leader. And then, in keeping with her past behavior, she complained about Thunder-Gut to Green-Leaf in an effort to foment dissent against him.

The PCs finally decide to explore the crevasse. Green-Leaf had a woven willow-vine rope, and tying it to the piece of rope from the marked mammoth they came up with just enough rope to lower Far-See to the floor.

He found himself in a lava tube, about 4 man-heights in diameter, running from the volcano down toward the swamp. At the places where the ceiling was caved in, fallen rubble formed a pile about 5’ high. Far-See called out, testing the tunnel’s echo, only to attract the attention of a giant bear (the “short-faced” or “bulldog” bear, Arctodus Simus). Thunder-Gut, Thick-Brow, and Dark-Meat quickly approached the edge of the crevasse to lower a rope, only to have the edge give way – pitching Thick-Brow and Dark-Meat into the tunnel! They’d have been injured, but Thunder-Gut held fast to the rope, burning his hands in the process.

The PCs in the tunnel ran back toward a place where the rope could be safely lowered to extract them, but the charging bear didn’t give them time. Far-See bravely stepped forward to meet it, catching a deep claw swipe across his chest. A desperate battle ensued! Thick-Brow drew blood with his spear, drawing the bear’s attention (and a wound) upon himself. Then the rest of the party piled on. Green-Leaf leaped down upon the bear from the lip of the crevasse, calling upon the Willow Spirit to empower her willow-wood spear! She missed, but the bear broke her fall – and her courageous act gave several of her companions the same idea. After lowering Big-Hand and Rock-Head by rope, Thunder-Gut threw his own tremendous bulk down upon the bleeding bear, knocking it to the floor. Soft-Touch then stunned it with a rock thrown from above, and the rest of the party fell upon the thing to make sure it was dead.

They have decided to stay the night in the tunnel, to skin the bear and heal their wounds. They plan to follow the tunnel toward the volcano, hoping it will allow them to sneak close to the Lava People Tribe village without being detected.

The evening’s experience point was won by Far-See, for his great bravery in voluntarily attracting the bear’s attention. He spent it on a new ‘throwing things’ advantage.

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The Lava People

That night: It’s quite chilly, what with the winter coming on. They build a fire, which wards off the local wolf pack. Thick-Brow approaches Little-Mountain for mating; she accepts and they go off into the darkness. Afterward, she tries to motivate him to take over the hunting band, and is miffed when he declines. Meanwhile Rock-Head takes a saber-tooth from Thick-Brow’s pack, but he gets reported and chewed out.

Back around the fire, Little-Mountain tells the myth of the Sky Mammoths; how the Bird Spirit granted wings to the Mastodons when man dared to use sleeping-drug against them, making the odds uneven.

The PCs arrive at the willow trees. Green-Leaf communes with the Willow Spirit, learning that people have indeed been in this forest, and she gets vague directions… but there’s something about a fire that has the trees spooked.

Searching for tracks on the way to where the people were, they find a very faint trail which may have been left by the marked mammoth. Entering the forest, they find signs of a fire – with burnt human remains.

A hunting party of Lava People appear (attracted by the PCs’ fire last night). They tell the PCs this is their land: get lost! “You are not Valley Folk, who are you?”

There is a tense standoff, while the Lava People shaman orders the PCs to leave and the PCs try to get some information. They learn that the Lava People come from the nearby volcano, and that they don’t want the PCs to go in any westward direction. Finally the Lava People lose their patience, and attack.

The Lava People shaman falls back and attempts to summon a lava barrier for protection, but Far-See attacks him before he can complete it. The PCs do well; Green-Leaf slays one Lava Man (after he’d been nearly killed by Spring-Thorn), and all of the rest of the Lava People are badly bruised when they finally admit defeat, at Thick-Brow’s command. Of the PCs, Big-Hand and Thick-Brow are both wounded and Rock-Head is near death. Thick-Brow decides to give Rock-Head a sabre-tooth, as a reward for his bravery. The PCs retrace their steps to the edge of the forest and camp for the night, while the shamans Green-Leaf and Little-Mountain tend to the injured. The next morning, they decide to make their way back to the crevasse.

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Stampede!

Our heroes departed on their quest to discover the origin and meaning of the symbol carved into the tusk of a mastodon they recently slew. Unable to pick out the trail of the marked mastodon from among the trails of the several hundred other mastodons of its herd, they followed the only clue they had: the cord found about the creature’s neck was made of woven willow strands. To the west stood a distant smoking volcano. To the east, a huge salt lake. To the north, a swamp and freshwater lake. Green-Leaf, their shaman with a rapport with the Willow spirit, said she knew of a small willow forest at the edge of that swamp.

They traveled north – the opposite direction from the way their people have traveled at this time of year, every year, since before the oldest living memory. Looking back south, and seeing their tribe dwindle to a distant speck on the horizon, they experienced a feeling not unlike that felt by the first astronauts to leave Earth’s orbit – as they saw their entire world dwindling in the distance behind them.

Near the end of their first day crossing the vast central plain, the party found themselves in the path of a stampeding herd of antelope. Mostly staying together, they followed Thunder-Gut‘s command to veer up the slope to the east. This saved them from the direct brunt of the stampede, but the herd was vast! Each of them still had to evade one of the antelopes, and most were successful. Thunder-Gut roared mightily to make the herd turn aside, but he was knocked down nevertheless – as were the NPCs Dark-Meat and Rock-Head. Calling upon the Willow-spirit’s aid, Green-Leaf disguised herself as a tree – which the antelope went around.

As the band re-grouped after the passing of the stampede, they discovered its cause: two ferocious scimitar-cats appeared from out of the tall grass! Thunder-Gut strode into battle with the first, and most of the other members of the band pelted the second one with thrown rocks. The first cat dealt blow after blow to Thunder-Gut, who bravely stood his ground as other members of the party came up to fight it. First to arrive was the speedy Spring-Thorn, followed by Soft-Touch who had been drawn by her helpmate Thunder-Gut’s roars of pain. Eventually both cats were subdued, and healing was administered by Green-Leaf and Little-Mountain.

Thick-Brow the hunter collected useful skins and teeth from the cats, and the band moved some distance away as the sun went down, lighting a fire to deter scavengers. That night, Little-Mountain attempted to ingratiate herself with Thunder-Gut at Soft-Touch‘s expense – but was rebuffed. She then attempted to enlist Green-Leaf’s aid against Soft-Touch, but was rebuffed again – and reminded that the tribe’s shaman, Sleep-Weed, had declared Green-Leaf to be her superior. Little-Mountain haughtily replied that she had more experience – despite her lack of a spirit-totem – and went off to sulk.

The next day, the hunting band resumed their trek toward the distant stand of willow trees, but Far-See spotted a crevasse that blocked their way. The crevasse carried rushing water down from the slope of the volcano, and toward the swamp. Goats were heard within the ravine. Vowing to remember this place for when their supplies ran low, they followed the ravine until it disappeared – the stream within entering the mouth of a cave. They resumed their trek toward the willow trees, stopping to camp again so as not to arrive there at night. Big-Hand asked for, and received, one of the four scimitar teeth for a personal weapon – his bowl having been of limited use in combat. And Green-Leaf spoke privately with Thunder-Gut, expressing her concerns about Little-Mountain’s machinations.

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The Gathering

That night, after the celebration, the PCs are gathered around their band’s fire at the Black-Brow camp. New PCs include Thunder Gut (an immensely strong leader type), Soft-Touch (a caregiver), and Green-Leaf (a shaman, with a rapport for the Willow tree spirit). Thunder-Gut and Soft-Touch are bonded helpmates.

Thick-Brow determines that the symbol on the tusk cannot be more than a few weeks old. Nobody recognizes the symbol, not even Green-Leaf, who knows about such things.

Little-Mountain, widow (?) of the missing hunter Long-Run and a shaman/healer, brings news that chief Deep-Drum has called for a Gathering at sunrise to discuss the symbol found on the mastodon tusk. Then she throws herself at Big-Hand, in an effort to manipulate him into using his influence to get Thunder Gut to take her as his help-mate. Strong-Bone wants her, but she doesn’t want him – so she has set her sights on Thunder-Gut.

Long-Run disappeared some weeks ago. He led the band from which NPCs Dark-Meat and Rock-Head came. Because their leader is missing and presumed dead, and their band is dwindling, they ask the PCs if they may join them. The PCs accepted. Dark-Meat reveals that he found a cord around the Mastodon’s neck, as well.

Next morning, at the gathering, Strong-Bone asks that his war-party be allowed to seek out the Mastodon symbol-makers. Because Strong-Bone’s hunting party took down an adult mammoth, and the PCs assisted him, Strong-Bone also asks Chief Deep-Drum to place him in command of the PCs. This seemed to be working, until Thunder Gut intimidated him into submission. Instead, the PCs’ band will seek the symbol-makers – leaving Strong-Bone and his band behind. The chief tells Thunder-Gut that the tribe will not wait, but must continue south following the herds. So don’t get lost!

Green-Leaf and Thick-Brow return to the carcass and collect the cord. It is taken to shaman Sleep-Weed, who makes reassuring noises. They speculate as to its significance and purpose, without reaching any definite conclusion.

The band decides to bring more women along, in case they do get lost and need to start a tribe of their own. Big-Hand gets Thunder Gut‘s permission for Little-Mountain to join the band, but doesn’t broach the subject of bonding. Little-Mountain considers this a failure to live up to his promise, and is angry with him. Big-Hand also makes an open invitation to a bunch of female caregivers, but they decline. The band prepares for departure…

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First Hunt

This was the first full-scale playtest episode of Cavemaster. Sean, Diesel, Talzhemir and Denis created members of the Black Brow clan, a group of semi-migratory Cro-magnons who hunt Mastodons. The characters were Far-See (a jack-of-all trades with keen vision), Thick-Brow (a spear-armed hunter), Spring-Thorn (a swift spear-armed warrior), and Big-Hand (a stunningly charismatic cave-man with a bowl).

The PCs joined in a Mastodon hunt, accompanied by 2 NPC tribesmen (Dark-Meat and Rock-Head), who Big-Hand talked into it. Led by Thick-Brow the hunt went well, although their prey was almost stolen by NPC Strong-Bone’s hunting party; Spring-Thorn was sent ahead to engage the beast first, claiming it before Strong-Bone could get there. It was easily slain, though it was a rather small specimen.

Meanwhile, Strong-Bone’s group surrounded a larger Mastodon, and were starting to have trouble with it when the players came to their rescue. There followed a celebration at the Black Brow camp… when it was discovered that one of the slain Mastodons had had a strange symbol carved into its living tusk. What could this mean?

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