Stonetop AP Episode 3: The Eternal Grasslands

This is part 3 of our 10-part text AP of Stonetop. We posted part 2 last week. If you want to see what all the fuss is about, here’s the deep dive on Stonetop I posted a few weeks ago. Enjoy!

Our heroes finally, finally got to deal with their gwead-spirit problem and all it took was a visionquest, folk magic and murder.

All hail Helior! May his light cleanse the darkness!

We left off last week with Carwyn, the Fox, slipping off into the night to go and steal the weather-watching stone off some treasure hunters they’d run into on the Maker’s Road. The Fox had ended up with the stone in hand but lured out into the Flats by nosgalau, eerie floating lights whispering sweet nothings into his ears.

Back at camp, everyone wakes up and starts their morning, and it takes a bit before they realize their horse is gone and that that dirtbag Carwyn probably stole it. Hafiz, the Lightbearer, makes short work of interrogating Macsen the treasure-obsessed Seeker. He finds out Macsen talked Carwyn into retrieving the weather stone. Macsen is not making many friends. In fact he’s losing them fast, and that’s interesting. He’s gonna need to get right with the community because his singlemindedness is starting to endanger everyone.

Rescue Mission

Madoc, the would-be hero boy and his dog (named Dog), is unreasonably upset with his hero just running off. But then the horse comes clopping back down the road, alone, and now they’re all worried that the dirtbag might be in trouble. Hafiz talks Madoc into waiting long enough to join him in the search. They leave Macsen behind to watch their wagon and stew on being so selfish.

They follow the track pretty easily out to where Carwyn spied on the treasure hunters, but it’s pretty mysterious what actually happened. There are horse tracks all around a 20-or-so-foot circle but nothing leading into, or out of, that circle. And all the grass in the circle is sprouted bright green midsummer grass, while the rest of the Flats is yellow, barely green-tipped weeds emerging from the last of the snows.

Leading out of the stamped-down green circle is a trail of little handmade grass-and-twig circles. Everyone instantly identifies them as little love tokens that teens give each other back at Stonetop to let each other know they like-like you. And there are literally dozens of them, leading like breadcrumbs off the ridgeline to parts unknown. They follow the crumbs a while, going ever deeper into the Flats.

Meanwhile Carwyn is awake, naked, head ablaze with the migraines and colors being forced into his skull by his weirdo magic key. But he’s naked! Where’s the key?! Near enough to continue digging into his brain meats, apparently.

His hands are covered in grit and mud and dozens of tiny grass-blade cuts. And he’s freezing cold. And there’s a hillfolk spirit talker standing over him. The shaman has the weather stone in his hand.

“This is no good for you. It’s making you sick. I’ll keep it,” the spirit-talker says. “You’re on my path. Get off my path.”


Sure enough, naked and confused Carwyn has been deposited right in the middle of a dirt circle, many yards across, with seven trees precisely spaced around the outside of the circle. The Fox’s player laughed hysterically at the very bad (oc)cult vibes coming off the whole situation. Will he get eaten? Sacrificed? Who can say! He’s still at 3HP and two debilities. And now utterly unarmed and at this guy’s mercy.

He gets up and the shaman continues walking this “path.” The path is made up of this guy’s bare feet walking for what appears to be years on the ground. He can’t make sense of the symbol but it’s obviously not a simple circle, it’s some kind of glyph or inscription he’s tracing over and over.

Eventually Madoc and Hafiz find their way to the circle of trees. From their vantage point, Hafiz identifies the glyph: in fact it matches a glyph painted on their horse’s flank in white paint. It is the script of the Green Lords, known to be used as well by the fae. This glyph means “thanks given for the received offering.”


Okay so everyone gets together, cool. They get Carwyn covered up — still doesn’t know where his stuff is! — and chat with the spirit-talker, Sabi, a bit about their conundrum back at Stonetop.

This was who they were going to find through a trade with the hillfolks anyway so it turns out to be kind of a shortcut. It also screws Macsen, the Seeker, from trading for this old magical blanket he’s got a lead on. Oh well! Those darned fae!

While the grownups are talking, Madoc and Dog go out in the grass. Dog’s sniffer is going crazy for something out in the deeper, corn stalk-high weeds.

Out in a weird flat clearing in the middle of the grass, Carwyn’s clothes are stuffed with gwead. Like a scarecrow. This scarecrow-Carwyn is fully inverted, head down feet up. His weird gwead-head has little love-token circles in place for eyes and moth. And the tiny bag with his magic key is tugging upward, as if the sky were the earth.

As soon as Carwyn gets out to look, he tries to untie the little bag. The scarecrow instantly falls over and the bag stops tugging skyward. And his migraine instantly stops. Was he ever actually in pain? He can’t remember.

And as he looks at the little love-token, he remembers that this was the last thing his gave his teen girlfriend, Marwyn (I know I know), before he escaped her father’s wrath in Stonetop.

But he can’t remember what Marwyn looked like. Can’t remember her voice. Can’t remember anything about her other than that he loved her and still does. But doesn’t know why he loves her.

The fae have stolen his memory of her right out of his head.

The Visionquest

Pretty weird shit but that’s a tomorrow problem for Carwyn. Right now, they’ve negotiated with Sabi (a skin of whisky now, a couple barrels as soon as their wagon gets here) to help treat with the spirits of the Flats.

Sabi has explained that there are many gwead-spirits. To speak with them, you need to enter the Endless Grasses and find the particular spirit. Since they know this spirit has been…altered in some way, to break the peace with the stone in Stonetop, they’re just hoping to spot the weird one.

To enter the Endless Grasses is Sabi’s power. He can’t, or won’t, negotiate on their behalf but he’ll facilitate the trip. To do so involves a few things: they need to walk this path to exhaustion, and they need a drummer. Sabi teaches Madoc how to drum, and the drumming lulls him into a fugue state of walking and drumming and drumming and walking. It takes enormous concentration to beat the drum slightly faster, then slightly slower, than their rhythmic walking pace.

Soon the circle is surrounded by aurochs, a whole herd of them, made of gwead. The sun rises to the east. Is it the east? It’s hard to say. But the aurochs herd parts and the sun lights up a truly endless plane of golden grasses.

“Will Helior be there?” Hafiz asks the shaman. Sabi shrugs. “I’m interested to find out!”

Seek Insight

So they walk out into the Endless Grasses. And things get real surreal.

Hafiz is the only one equipped to deal with The Things Below, and they’re starting to suspect that that’s what has messed with their gwead spirit. So he takes lead. Sabi takes up the rear.

We basically have a series of Seek Insights to guide the way. Hafiz gets a good result and finds a trail of blood leading “toward” Stonetop within the Endless Grasses. He follows but quickly leaves everyone behind. Every step is a mile or more, and he recedes from view.

Macsen, the Seeker, tries to keep up. He Defies Danger and totally misses. He finds himself alone in the Endless Grasses, the drumming barely audible in the distance. Scared, he tries to consult his Mindgem artifact. All he hears from it is the hiss of the wind through leaves. Like static, if he knew what static was.

Back with Sabi, Carwyn is getting real suspicious about this whole arrangement and Seeks Insight on the shaman himself. A bullshitter can always spot a bullshitter and things aren’t adding up. He pieces together that Sabi intends to leave them all in the Endless Grasses, an offering powerful enough for the gwead-spirits that he’ll be freed from his lifetime of walking the path for the tribes.

The All-Consuming Child

We jump back to Hafiz, who has followed the blood trail back to the faintest outline of Stonetop. The blood leads right to the cistern, a black void cut directly into the Endless Grasses. The blood suddenly curdles and gathers around his feet, he jumps out of the way. A huge blood-soaked gwead-aurochs looms over him.

“You have the attention of Narust, The Motherless, The All-Consuming Child!” it shouts at Hafiz. The poor old lightbearer is struggling to pull a little tallow candle out to light for his magic. Helior is right there blazing away overhead. Watching. Judging. Awaiting the candle to be lit.

“I demand blood. Will it be yours? Will it be this entire town of yours? Do you come to offer it to me?”

Hafiz invokes Helior’ power into his tiny candle and holds it up toward the looming bloody monster. Besides knowing how to heal, Hafiz also knows how to drive dark things back to the shadows.

Rolls 2d8. Gets 16. And this spirit is banished. As it collapses on itself it growls “I will be back for the rest of your people…later.”

So obvs whatever this spirit was isn’t the end of it. It’s been infected by something else, this Narust.

No Escape

Meanwhile, Sabi and Carwyn are having quite the struggle. Sabi simply turns and walks out of the Endless Grasses, though. Just winks out of existence. Our lightbearer, fox and seeker are all separated by miles (?) on the Endless Grassland.

When Sabi reappears in the circle of trees he rushes over to grab the drum out of Madoc’s hand.

“Stop, you’re done, it’s finished,” he says.

Madoc looks around. None of the adults came back. He starts panicking. “Where…where is everyone else?”

Sabi sighs and shrugs. “They continue on their journey and I wish the best for them,” he says.

Madoc burns with righteous anger (it’s a move!) and grabs back the drum. Keeping away from Sabi he drums and drums, hoping to draw his friends back. The grass aurochs are already collapsing back into just plain grass. The sun is fully over the horizon now and the golden endless fields are just barely visible.

Getting Home

Everyone back in the spirit world Defies Danger to get back. I think one or two of them miss! The consequence is gonna be that they’re forever stuck in the Endless Grasslands, and oh well. But they also all have enough XP to Burn Bright. They do it and turn their 6es into 7s. The consequence is that they’re going to be too late in returning to be helpful. Only Carwyn, the Fox, makes it back in time.

Because while Madoc is drumming and drumming, the shaman continues to walk his path. He’s grabbed a spear. He’s gonna gut the kid.

Carwyn tries to use his fancypants Ambush move but can’t Defy the Danger of being spotted doing so. But he draws Sabi’s attention, who turns and charges Carwyn with the spear.

Carwyn dives for his bow, nocks an arrow, lets fly at the guy just a foot away from getting skewered himself. Kills the spirit-talker a moment before the spear went into his own gut.

Aaand finally the other heroes emerge from the Endless Grasses. It’s been a long walk for them and everyone is exhausted.

After looking at their supplies and being worried about how things have turned out back at home, they decide to hold off on going to deal with the hillfolk. And they realize they’ve just murdered the Grassfoot Band’s shaman, which is not a great negotiating position to be in!

When they get home a couple days later, the magic of the stone in Stonetop has reasserted itself. The out of control gwead has shriveled and withdrawn behind the Old Wall.

And that was our session.


Not a ton of big observations this time. The main one, purely mechanical, is that I rather like how getting rid of debilities is really just a matter of having some time and being able to explain how you’re getting rid of your debilities. My players are getting smarter about making the moves work for them, and that’s always nice: make camp and eat food for one condition, Recover by marking off a change of clothes so they can stop being wet (and therefore miserable), and so on.

It was also fun to see the lightbearer go all-out on the healing invocation once they got Carwyn out of trouble. Lots of HPs, a couple debilities after combining with make camp, all that.

Seems like a good game to have some system mastery in, mostly so I don’t have to hand-feed the moves to the players all the time. Sometimes I still do, mostly in terms of “do you Know Things about the hillfolk shamans?” and such. I know it’s rewarding to find nice little go-to combos, like Recovering while Making Camp.

We also continued establishing lots of little canonical bits throughout. That’s becoming more of an ongoing vibe rather than intentionally stopping and inventing, which I have to say is nice! Sometimes I’m not totally sure if I’m remembering the set stuff in Book 2 exactly right but that’s okay. Book 2 might be wrong! Or the PCs might have misheard something.

The big ones going forward are:

Intelligent artifacts lose their intelligence in the spirit world. Who knows why? But the mindgem had to “reboot” when it emerged from the Endless Grasslands and it spat out a bunch of incomprehensible high-tech-sounding messages before returning to its grumpy old self.

Stealing memories is how the Green Lords controlled their slaves, the fae. So now the fae crave memories, which is gonna be a problem in the future if they need to go trade!

I probably need to keep some canonical log somewhere for the smaller stuff. Or I just don’t, and if it was unimportant enough to forget we can just make it up again.

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