Clash Atop Ikara

This week we played Clash at Ikara by Randy Lubin as a team of heroes in a land of honor and noble houses, determined to protect the mountain-top village of Ikara from raids by bandits with jump-jets that allow aerial assaults. Our group consists of the Sage, a retired elder long-sought out for his wisdom; the Charmer, a court diplomat here to secure the interests of his noble house; the Virtuoso, a taciturn gigantic warrior in a theater mask who clubs his way through life; the Veteran, a war-weary general who’s seen too many die on the field; the Untested Youth, the awe-struck child of a local farmer who we can’t dissuade from joining us; and the Returned, a dissolute ne’er-do-well native run out of Ikara hoping to earn the right to return by helping defend it from the bandits.

Knowing the bandits attacks are certain, we must prepare the village to fight them off. The Sage has said that if Ikara can withstand this assault, despite the bandit’s superior technology, it will show that order can overcome chaos. Knowing that the mists that roll across the mountain face make visibility poor, the Sage instructs the villagers in constructing decoy defenses to draw the bandits fire. He also discovers in the village records, a history of a unique missile weapon once used to clear the mountain of a particularly dangerous beast and where to find the long-lost store of these weapons, so the village can use them in the battle. The Veteran tries to fortify their perimeter and drill the locals in basic fighting techniques, and when a village elder starts to lose his nerve, he scares him straight with tales of the horrors he’s witnessed. He also encounters bandit scouts alongside the Youth, who is knocked to the ground and killed before the Veteran strikes down his foe. Never having encountered battle before, the Youth is frightened but hides his fear when the Veteran asks what he has learned.

The Charmer is here more to protect his family’s interest in the ancient meteorite embedded at the top of the cliff face. When someone suggests that it be prepared to create a landslide to use against the bandits, he convinces the villagers that it must be a last resort, though he cannot stop them from prepping it for use. He does convince them to prepare traps to negate or take advantage of the bandit’s flight abilities: covered pits that will collapse when they try to land and covered alleyways that they cannot fly out of. Meanwhile, the Returned returns to his old haunts, the gambling dens and bars, to drink away his fear, but in one of them he finds an old compatriot. This former rake has gone legit, married and settled down. He tells the Returned that he too could be more than he was before, could make something of himself, make himself a life here. The Virtuoso prepares for the battle, as all life is a battle to him, readying fires to light when the bandits arrive that will deprive them of sight and precious oxygen for their lungs and their jump-jets. For he has learned the most important information of all—how the bandits refuel their jump-jets between flights, and how to prevent them from refueling in the midst of battle.

At last, the day of the battle arrives and alarms sound throughout the village. We’re ready as the bandits come out of the sky. The Virtuoso lights his fires and crashes through swaths of bandits, taking out three at a time with each swing of his club. The Charmer uses his pit traps and blind alleys to ambush and take out many bandits. The Veteran general sees the moment when the releases the meteorite will create the greatest advantage for the village, and doesn’t hesitate to start the landslide. The Sage is the first of us to fall, cut down while freeing a group of young taken prisoner by the bandits, willing to sacrifice his few remaining years for their many. The Youth chases a group of bandits into the village temple to find them preparing to destroy it with the fuel cells for their jump-jets. Without thinking, he engages with them, striking one or two down before the others run out. Seeing the bomb they’ve left behind, he grabs it and follows them, but dies when the bomb explodes in his hands after escaping the temple. Finally, the Returned enters the fray when he sees his friend endangered, but he’s cut down while saving him. He dies thanking his friend for this chance to be good for once and to do something noble.

Through our combined efforts, the village of Ikara is saved, and the bandits decimated, their power and organization dispersed. The Veteran must mourn once more for those who’ve died while he lived, in particular the idealistic Sage and naive Youth. He spends the remainder of his years putting the honor he’s accumulated on the battlefield to promote the Sage’s ideas about resilience and peace. The Charmer must return to his court and explain why the meteorite of Ikara is no more. He tells the story of the battle as a signal of his family’s strength, when even the smallest of their villages can repel such powerful invaders. This lets him keep his life and to remain at court, but he loses prestige and the esteem of his family. The Virtuoso disappears back to wherever he came from, oft-remembered by the people of Ikara but spoken of only in hushed tones.

Clash in the Sky at Ikara

We played another session of Clash at Ikara by Randy Lubin on his storysynth engine, this time as a group protecting a floating monastery in the sky filled with a holy library of magical tomes. The monks are scholars not fighters and have been protected for centuries by the clouds. Human raiders have begun to master flying mounts and devices and raiding Ikara. To protect their magical trove, the monks have asked us to defend the monastery and drive the raiders away.

Our Strategist has joined to safeguard the knowledge that he wants to study to improve his strategic thinking. The Tinkerer has always loved books, especially those with practical applications. A military Veteran has also joined seeking peace, knowing the terrible costs of war. A well-known Sage is friends with one of the Ikaran monks, so joins our band. The martial Virtuoso joins simply because he hates bullies and cannot bear to see the defenseless overrun. Another joins our group, this Tagalong seeks the whereabouts of her brother lost long ago, who may be at Ikara.

To prepare for the raid we know is coming, we each show the monks how to act rather than wait passively. The Veteran learns that the raid will be delayed because the raiders must prepare the potion bombs they use when flying and are having supply issues. The Sage uses the additional time to drill the monks and teach them rudimentary tactics—how a group can work together and use sandbags and other fortifications as cover. The Strategist collects shards of glass and reflective metals and shows the monks how to use them to blind attacking flyers, and studies how to use the clouds to confuse the raiders. The Tagalong notices that the tunnel through the floating island under the monastery creates a natural whirlwind that could be used against the attackers. The Tinkerer notices the broken masonry from previous attacks and builds a pair of catapults to fling this rubble at the raiders. Finally, our Virtuoso advises the abbot that to secure victory, they must sacrifice the great yew tree in the monastery’s garden to the sky goddess Altara because the monks have lost the god’s favor. When the Strategist disagrees, the abbot decides to wait for their protectors to speak with one voice before acting.

Large yew tree rises up to a white sky between the walls of a monastery.
Photo of yew tree at Muckross Abbey Cloister by Johanning courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Once the raiders attack and the battle begins, we each must act as we see best. The Strategist has lain traps throughout the grounds for the raiders, such as hidden openings through which they fall. When given the chance to sacrifice himself to free captive monks, the Strategist instead moves to make the prisoners a burden for the bandits. The Veteran attacks recklessly with her Infinity Sword and disables and captures an entire cadre of raiders. The Tinkerer sees a bomb dropped into the courtyard and covers it with a metal helm and his body, sacrificing himself to save others. But the Sage uses their medical knowledge to save the Tinkerer from certain death. The Tagalong sees a group of monks—is that her brother—trapped in the fire from an incendiary potion and succumbs to the smoke while rescuing them from the flames. The Virtuoso sets the yew tree ablaze, releasing the poisonous smoke into the air before launching into the sky aboard a sphinx, destroying many raiders. The Strategist sees the monastery’s beloved mascot, a young acolyte, in danger but cleverly rescues them. The Tinkerer, injured but mobile again, leads the monks in using the catapults to take out the bandit leader, a terrible brute with a large beard and brandishing a large axe, bringing the raid to an end. We have won.

With their leader gone and forces decimated, it’s years before the earthdwellers are organized and developed enough to consider another raid. The Strategist stays at the monastery and writes new books on strategy to be added to its shelves. The Tinkerer helps to rebuild and introduces many innovative solutions. The Veteran, still seeking peace, becomes a monk and stays. The Sage plays chess with their old friend and stays to study medicine. The Tagalong recovers and learns what happened to her brother all those years before deciding to return to earth and move on. The Virtuoso tells the Abbot that now that they have earned Altara’s favor, they must build her a shrine where the yew tree once stood, then he leaves to find others who need his leadership and protection.

Clash at the Ikara Archive

Tonight we played Clash at Ikara by Randy Lubin, a new game on his Story Synth engine with a crew of eight heroes committed to protecting the encoded alien archive discovered on the planet Ikara research site. The scientists and researchers have reached out for help from us after having been threatened and attacked by stellar raiders. We are Stanislas the Sage, who wants to protect the knowledge stored at Ikara; Marcia the Untested warrior, who wants hopes to prove herself worthy in battle; Xander the Tinkerer, who wants to help the weak; Terg the Strategist, who wants to test his stratagems; Mitsumi the Tagalong, who wants to find a new place for herself after her husband’s recent passing; Geo the Charmer, who is following his patients and wants to keep everyone safe and happy; X4 the Veteran, a robot built as part of the archive by the ancient race that created it; and Lyric the Virtuoso, who wants to test his skill in a real life situation.

The Ikara archives is buried deep underground with only a single tunnel to access the alien archives, so we decide to turn that tunnel into a costly gauntlet the alien raiders must drive through. Their previous attacks have burned the countryside surrounding the archive complex. In preparation for the coming battle, Xander modifies the lab equipment into weapons and teaches the researchers how to use them. Terg has a skirmish with a bandit scout and learns their origins based on symbols upon their clothing. Unfortunately, recent volcanic activity could threaten the safety of the archives on Ikara, so we prepare precise evacuation protocols in case an eruption occurs. X4 activates the complex’s internal scanning and tracking systems and a flotilla of drone defenses to protect the archive core, but as Geo discovers, activating the defense systems accidentally erases some of the archives untranslated files. Finally, Lyric asks Terg to plan a complex of booby traps that Xander arms with high-powered lasers. Then Lyric tests the trap for effectiveness using his acrobatic fighting techniques.

Clash at Ikara in bold text.

As the battle begins, Mitsumi, wearing her husbands old armor and carrying his sword, fails to save the group of scientists first targeted by the robotic centaurs that comprise the first wave of the attack. Geo sees an incoming asteroid launched by the raiders but can do nothing but watch it crash into the planet, causing widespread devastation. X4 sees the scientists who revived them, in particular one scientist who taught them to communicate with the human researchers, endangered by raiders armed with automatic weaponry and intercedes to save her life, overriding their primary programming to protect the archive itself at all costs. However, Lyric leaps into the fray to retrieve X4’s memory core, which Xander is able to upload into the archive’s main computer systems, so that X4 becomes the archive base. Xander then rigs up a device to allow us to intercept the raider’s communications and predict their next moves. Terg wades into battle using his traps to undercut the raiders before finishing them off with his plasma katana. Then the raider leader arrives, a massive minotaur-like creature wielding twin plasma battle axes, as he begins to sweep through the tunnel into the archives, Stanislas steps forward to slow his assault, barely able to deflect his blows, constantly falling back as the raiders continue to move deeper into the complex, until at the appointed moment, Stanislas stumbles and Lyric flips in to pull him free just as Terg’s laser traps activate to fell the leader of the raiders, stopping their progress, and allowing us to turn them back.

After the battle, X4 now lives as the primary intelligence within the archive complex and spends his time assisting his beloved scientist in her research. Terg walks away after a job well done, returning to space. Xander stays on to heal from their wounds and to help rebuild and fortify the archive for the future. Lyric meets with X4 and asks them to initiate a daily training algorithm to help him hone his gymnastic craft. Geo decides to stay and open a rehab center for those who’ve suffered from trauma, including the veterans and scientists who survived the battle. Mitsumi stays on to serve as den mother, having realized that she is no warrior like her husband and bestows her armor on Marcia, who proved herself worthy during the fighting. And Stanislas stays on briefly to study what wisdom the archive has to offer before leaving to wander the stars once more.