Everyone who is part of the story touches Destiny in some way. Even if they are not the heroes. Even if they are not even named in the pages. I am a master bladesmith, the keeper of the Sacred Forge. My blades are renowned for their strength, sharpness, and harmony.
A holy sword does not come from nowhere. It does not materialize from starlight and a wish. It is built through effort, honed through attention, and consecrated by a powerful heart. They will not name me in the story. But my blade will never be forgotten.
I’m not a holy figure, or particularly mysterious or otherworldly. In truth I’m considered somewhat homey; I’m a simple village smith, who spends most of his days fixing tools. However, I am still the smith of the Sacred Forge, called to build blades that surpass all others when needed. My forge is outside the village proper, near a river, where I can work away from other people and listen to the murmur of the water and the life of the woods.
A wall between my country and a wasteland populated by demons is failing. If it falls completely, this land will be rendered as desolate as the territory beyond, the woods burned away and my river turned to blood. I’m not the one to fight this threat, but I am the one to arm those who do. Someone who can hear the cry of the woods comes to my forge one day. Puleng tells me she has heard the trees of this land warn of the coming desolation, and has decided to take on the burden of their defense. She has a passion and a strength that shines through as she talks with me.
She only needs a blade.
Wood 0, Fire 0, Earth 0, Metal 0, Water 0
Bones of the Blade
A holy blade cannot be forged from simple iron, however. The materials must match the challenge that the blade will face, and so I send Puleng out to find some for me. There is a rare mineral I saw in a dream but have never worked with before, an ore tainted by the demons beyond the wall but then cleansed by the blood of the righteous. She barely survives the effort, but barely is enough, and I begin my work upon her return.
Rolled 5 Dice: 6 (Energy)
Wood 0, Fire 0, Earth 0, Metal 1, Water 0
Destiny 20 – 5 + 1 = 16
Heat and Hammer
Now it is just me, the fire, and the cursed-blessed ore. There are subtle shifts in the metal’s color as I work that must be eyed carefully as I hammer the ore into the right shape. My experience guides me, however, despite my lack of familiarity with the material. I think of the simple polearm that Puleng was wielding when she first came to me, now lost to the hide of a demon near the wall, and forge the head of a magnificent glaive.
Rolled 5 Dice: 6 (Energy)
Wood 0, Fire 1, Earth 0, Metal 1, Water 0
Destiny: 16 – 5 + 1 = 12
Bathe the Blade
Now that the blade is shaped and hot, I have to quench it. It must be durable enough to stand up to what Puleng will face; it will not do for it to be shattered against a demon’s hide like her old weapon. I pour an aromatic oil used in holy ceremonies down the length of the blade that fills the room with scented smoke. It smells of burnt wood, and new growth, an omen perhaps of the fires of battle and the period of recovery this land may yet have to pass through.
Rolled 4 Dice: 1 (Wood) x2
Wood 2, Fire 1, Earth 0, Metal 1, Water 0
Destiny: 12 – 4 = 8
Stone and Edge
Now the blade must be sharpened, an effort requiring time and patience. Puleng peeks in now and again to watch me work, but does not have the endurance for this kind of effort. I, however, am a master of this trade, and have the tools to match. I sharpen the glaive head on a stone, seamed through with crystal particles that hum musically, making the blade resonate with it.
Rolled 4 Dice: 6 (Energy) x3
Wood 2, Fire 1, Earth 1, Metal 1, Water 0
Destiny: 8 – 4 + 3 = 7
The Power of a Name
The blade is finished. Now I must attach it to a shaft, in this case one that is more branch than polished wood, but more importantly my work needs a name. It must also be imbued with the magic it will need to help Puleng prevail, otherwise it will be little more than a simple – if well made – glaive. I sit with the completed glaive in my lap for three days and three nights. I cannot blame her, but Puleng grows confused and impatient, remarking that it doesn’t seem to be a ritual at all. Her questions stop when an otherworldly creature, a spirit of my river, appears to touch the blade with their blessing.
Rolled 7 Dice: 6 (Energy)
Wood 2, Fire 1, Earth 1, Metal 1, Water 2
The Petrichor Blade is a consecrated glaive, unbalanced when considering all five elements but having a small amount of harmony between Wood and Water. It is, perhaps, not a truly ‘heroic’ blade, but it is a good and radiant one of unparalleled beauty and light that sings joyously through the air.
In her quest to save the woods, hopefully it will serve Puleng well…
Sacred Forge by Cat McDonald from Peach Garden Games is a game (loosely) based on the Five Powers system created by Ralf Mayenberger, and was submitted to the second game jam for said system. It sees the player taking on the role of not the wielder of the sword of heroes, but of its creator.
The first step of playing the game is defining the world that the story of the sword’s creation is taking place in. This is pretty bare bones, covering what kind of person the smith is, where the forge is, what sort of threat the weapon is being created to deal with, and what kind of hero is appearing to wield it. You can make up anything you want for these, although there is a 1d6 table for each. The smith could be a holy figure or a mysterious alchemist, the forge a sacred grove or outside the world, the threat an ancient forest spirit or the ghosts of the conquered, and the hero a simple farmer or someone who is part spirit, for a few examples.
The next five steps of play each cover a part of the weapon’s forging as materials are gathered and the blade is shaped, quenched, sharpened, and ritually named. For each step you choose how many six-sided-dice you want to roll and subtract that number from your total Destiny. Then you roll your dice and pick a number that you rolled between 1 and 6. Each number is associated with an element: 1 for Wood, 2 for Fire, 3 for Earth, 4 for Metal, 5 for Water, and 6 for Energy. Which number you choose will determine what your smith is doing to forge their weapon for that step – 6 (Energy) for Bathe the Blade means using the tears of a dragon or other magical creature, 5 (Water) in Heat and Hammer sees the sword forged as a long blade with elegant curvature, and 4 (Metal) in The Power of a Name imbues the weapon with its power and moniker through a ritualized battle.
Aside from the narrative impact, your chosen number will also increase the sword’s strength in an element. Usually, the chosen element will increase by 1 for each die that shares the chosen number – if three dice have a 2, you’ll be adding 3 to Fire. There are exceptions to this, however. Each step has an element that it aligns with, and one that it struggles with. For example, if you choose 4 (Metal) for Bones of the Blade you add 1 to Metal and then add 1 to Metal for every 4 you rolled, but if you choose 1 (Wood) you subtract 1 from your total. Then, there is 6 (Energy). You don’t count how many dice came up 6 for the purpose of increasing element strength, only adding a flat number determined by the step, but you do get to add that number to any element of your choosing. More importantly, however, you add 1 Destiny for each 6 you rolled, giving you more dice to roll on subsequent steps.
The final and seventh step has you consult which element has the highest value, and what the value of your lowest element is. The former determines the blade’s appearance and behavior; a Fire blade glows with energy, a Water blade moves faster than the eye can see. The latter determines the blade’s power and blessedness – it will need its weakest element to be at least a 2 in order to be truly Holy and worthy. Then, at last, you have the product of your Sacred Forge.
Sacred Forge is a fun little choose-your-stakes game, light enough on the amount of writing that it wants you to do that those usually shy about journaling games will find it an easy entry – I was a little more wordy than the example of play was for the purposes of an actual play. From one perspective you could be trying to get the ‘best’ blade you can, hoping to get the lowest valued element to be as high as possible, but you can also just go with what you like. I could have boosted this glaive to Wood 5 in the last step if I wanted, even if the blade would have lacked harmony, but the name of The Petrichor Blade came to me and I decided to boost Water instead.
As with Bucket of Bolts, Sacred Forge is also a great content generator for other games. Need a sacred blade for your player character to track down? Sacred Forge will give you the seed for one – I’d have to puzzle out mechanics on my own depending on the game, but The Petrichor Blade sounds darn cool. The game could also serve as a quest generator – who and where is the smith the party needs to find in order to get the weapon they require? What materials will they need to retrieve for the blade’s metal and the liquid that will cool it? What sort of ritual will they have to participate in?
Sacred Forge is available on itch.io for the definitely-worth-it price of $3; Community Copies are generated by ratings and reviews!
Ah, hello there young hero, welcome to my atelier. Yes, I’ve heard of the ogre that’s been taking hostages. Yes, I will forge you a blade, but first you must bring me a gem that shines in every color of the rainbow…
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