Reaping the Harvest
Harvest of Thorns was not intended to be a stand alone adventure. It was, instead, supposed to be an inspiration and set of loose guidelines for running a mini-cycle. This document is made not to make Harvest an out of the book adventure, but to add notes, ideas, and resources to help Weavers use the material in the book to run that mini-cycle. Included are suggestions for weaving the Seeds into a campaign, bringing out their back stories, getting the PCs involved in their lives, and notes for the possible consequences of either the characters success or their failure.
Harvest of Thorns is best played pre-burning (before Vimary Burns), as it assumes that Mortuary, Lai, and other Tribal lands are still free, and uses the pre-burning relation between Fallen and Tribals. Any time before the burning should be workable for the plot. The one major note of change would be that if the characters are working with Colette post Warrior Unbound then they may try to get Marcus to change his mind about Colette and Dimitri without a fight. If the Fallen can rejoin the Joanites, after all, then surly they cannot be as horrid as the Tribes had assumed? This line of reasoning, however, would probably not sway Marcus -- as he hated Colette well before her fall. He still thinks she is what is poisoning Dimitri, and the change of stance of his Fatima towards the Fallen in general would not be enough to convince him that he was wrong.
If a Weaver wished to set it post-burning they could, but would have to make allowances for the change in relations and locations such a decision would entail. The back stories of the Seeds would not need to be changed, as they could just have fallen before the burning. Colette will work best if her fall was as close to the burning as possible, as the longer she has been on Vimary the more improbable her sudden need to return to Dimitri becomes.
The living situation after the burning, however, would cause a great deal of change to the actions of the Seeds. Alexi would no longer need to go to Mortuary, because his clan may well be forced to move to Hom. Judah may be driven to a rage when Galen, unfallen, moves to Hom (this would also force the characters to deal with the tension on Hom that a fallen man trying to destroy a member of the Tribes in good standing would cause). Colette, who was already yearning for Dimitri, would probably be goaded to action even faster by knowing that he was on the same island as her -- and Marcus would become all the angrier, more violent, and more watchful because he would know it as well. In this kind of situation it is very possible that the characters would never have to leave Hom, but would have to deal with a sudden brushfire war caused by the hate and anger caused by the enforced closeness of the Fallen Seeds and those who cast them out. The Shadowcast could watch the Guides themselves, forcing the Guides to be even more circumspect in their dealings, and forcing them to rely on the characters all the more.
A post-burning Harvest story-line should thus focus on the tension between the Fallen and the Tribals on Hom, lingering resentment, and the desperate need to keep the two factions from going to war with each other over the anger of a small number of desperate men and women driven to the point of madness by schemes and plans. The characters would need to play a diplomatic role and would need to be quicker and quieter with their investigations. In turn they might also be able to figure out the problems and head the matter off before it could come to blood. With all the players in the play close to hand, the characters may well be able to figure out connections that could have been hidden by distance.
The Major Players
During the events of Harvest many of the major players on Hom were silent or distracted by other matters. Though they are important to the Eight Tribe and have great influence, they are not all present or seeing, and have the human frailty of not seeing important events until it is too late. As Deus would later say, they were distracted and did not look to their own. As a result most of the events of Harvest slip under their noses until it is too late to stop them.
That, however, does not mean that they were completely uninvolved, or that the PCs could not turn to them for aid or advice. Here is a list of what some of the larger names are doing, and what they might tell the characters involved in the Harvest plot.
Deus: Though he is something of an inspiration and a spiritual leader to the Fallen, Deus is also a wanderer who spends much of his time distant from practical matters while he explores his obsessions. During the time of the Harvest he was wandering with Keepers in the Rust Wastes, trying to learn of the World Before. He later lamented this distraction, as seen in his quote on the back cover of Harvest.
Hal Ninva: Hal could possibly care less about Anna, Alexi, and Colette -- but it would probably require him to be dead. As far as he is concerned they are rabble, and worthy of little attention. Judah, on the other hand, was of great interest to Hal, and also of occasional use. Not long after Hal's arrival on Hom he saw Judah's mad-dog law style, and knew that such blind anger could be used. From time to time he has dropped hints and trails of wrongdoing, real or invented, in front of Judah in order to get the man to harass and persecute those that Hal felt were dangerous to the 8th Tribe or to himself. As a result he has taken some steps to be sure that Judah was never put down, as he was too useful a tool. As a result, anyone asking Hal about Judah would probably be told that he was dangerous and best left alone.
Veruka: If still alive while Harvest is run, Veruka could be a powerful tipping force. Her deep insight into the supernatural and metaphysical would let her see the threads being woven about the Seeds more clearly than anyone other than the Guides. Veruka, however, was wary of treading on the Guides ground, and so would stay distant from the heart of the affair. Her involvement would mostly consist of counseling those who would listen (such as the Player Characters) towards trying to help the Seeds but at the same time being wary of their anger and desperation. She could see the possibility of the Seeds to help the Fallen, but would say that they needed to be guided, and not allowed to guide.
Kymber Reva: Always interested in helping sooth the mad and hurting of Hom, and as a former Evan, Kymber was much concerned for Anna. However, Anna was stubborn as always and refused Kymber's help quite definitively. Busy with many other things, Kymber did not have time to pursue the matter. She still worried about Anna, however, and did ask some of her many friends to keep an eye out on the poor woman. Of the other Seeds she was only really aware of Judah, whom she considered both tragic and dangerous -- she never made a move to stop him, however, because of Hal's council. If someone brought Colette or Alexi to her attention she would try to help them and soothe their pain, giving even where it was not wise to do so.
Troy Fenys: Troy's anger burns close to that of the Seeds, and Colette and Alexi both know her at least a little. If their quests and anger was brought to Troy's attention, her response would be to push them, and anyone else she could seduce, threaten, or influence, into hurrying on their destructive paths. In her view any aid given to Colette would be good, and killing Marcus would be best. There is even a possibility that she would go along with Alexi on his murderous quest of vengeance, as there is little she would like more than a chance to murder several Yagan elders at once.
Mek: Old Mek knows Judah well, but has neither time nor use for the man. He would caution characters to have as little to do with the man as possible. He doesn't know any of the others, but would have little time for them. Colette's dilemma would be dismissed as self-important nonsense, and Alexi and Anna would be dismissed as impractical. Because Mek does not have the kind of romance in his soul that most of the Seeds have, he does not understand and will not see the kind of damage it is capable of producing. With his eyes turned towards the Z'bri lands, he misses most of the events of Harvest.
Altara Ven: Unlike Mek, Altara is a romantic and knows the dangers of a heart that yearns not wisely but to well. Altara, though, has also been busy learning of the Z'bri (see the introduction to Horrors of the Z'bri) and has not been paying much attention to Hom. If the characters brought the matter of the Seeds to her attention she would likely council them that the Seeds needed to be turned, to have their passion turned away from a destructive course and towards a useful one.
Hooking the Characters In
Because Harvest is not a stand-alone adventure, running the scenarios in the book straight from the page is going to be very difficult. A good deal of the trouble, however, can be side-stepped by introducing the characters to the Seeds before the "The Time of Reaping" begins. The adventure seeds on page 52 - 53 make a good starting point. Weavers may use these points in other adventures before Harvest even starts. Marcus, for example, could easily show up with Ariel Dan’on in "Enemy of My Enemy," giving the characters a reason to hate him before they hear Colette's story. Similarly, characters might have met Anna or her daughters while trying to get seed to plant Haven during Children of Lilith. Judah could stand by the characters during Trial By Fire, and so on. Doing this will also help the characters discover the deep back stories of the Seeds.
With this set up the Weaver can use the role of debt and trade in Fallen culture to draw the characters in. In the world of the Fallen there is no easy cash currency, and barter makes a strange system of exchange. It is rare for a person to trade for each and every good and service they get. Rather, people set up a system of owing and favors based on honor and community. When someone with a good reputation needs food and a place to stay, someone else will often be willing to give it to them with the understanding that the debt will be repaid later. As a result most Fallen who are not utterly poor and wretched owe and are owed several debts that they are compelled to fulfill by both honor and social code. If someone does not pay her debts, then that character will quickly become and outcast and no one will trade anything with them -- leading to exile, starvation, and death.
Thus when running Harvest the characters can often be encouraged to participate if they owe a debt to one of the Seeds or someone close to them. This should not be used to railroad the characters, but rather to give them an inducement to become involved. After all, most people are willing to do what seems to be a minor service to get rid of a major debt. Of course this also means that if the characters are successful then the living Seeds and the Guides alike may well owe the characters major debts, and a debt from powerful players can often be of more worth than any amount of treasure.
Consequences and Outcomes
There are vast numbers of ways that "The Time of Reaping" could end. The book assumes that the Players are successful in stopping T'phal from rising from his heartstone, and that they return the heartstone to the Guides. Players, however, are not always going to do what is expected, and thus there are other possible outcomes. Below is a breakdown of what the various groups in the story do in some of the more common possible resolutions.
The Circle of the Sower
The three Priestesses making up the Circle of the Sower are patient, driven, and fairly powerful. Even if the worst (or best, depending on point of view) happens in the final confrontation it is likely that at least one of them will live. After their experience with the heartstone they may give up on trying to pry it away from the Guides - but they will not forget about the characters or their actions. It is unlikely that they will move against the characters either quickly or directly. Instead they will take time to lick their wounds and recover. Only after time has passed and they have regained a stable position will they move - and then with the patience and subtlety that is their hallmark. The characters will have loved ones turned against them, will be the focus of Tribal inquiry, will suffer strange illnesses, and so forth. Finding out that it is the Circle that is responsible, much less dealing with them, can be the subject of an epic quest.
If the Circle all dies, the characters may think they are safe. The truth, however, is that well connected Priestess are not just killed off without reprisals. Should the characters be responsible (or even if they could only loosely be construed as being responsible) for the Priestesses' deaths then there will be several lesser Tribal priestesses, angry members of clans, and Sheban Judges looking for the characters to even the score.
Left alive the Circle will also continue to scheme against the Guides. Since the Characters have learned things about the Guides that others do not know (such as the nature of heartstones) they may be drawn into more shadowy conflicts with more lives ruined in the struggle. Even if all three die, they will have left behind a legacy of hate and mistrust for the Guides that will poison the minds of their respective Sisterhoods against the Guides. Once again the PCs may get caught in the middle.
The fate of the Seeds is going to be completely up to the characters. How they deal with the Seeds and their problems will determine not just if the Seeds live or die - but whether or not they are able to heal and take up their place in the 8th Tribe. It is very possible that all the Seeds could end up dead, or alive and useless due to their inability to deal with their past. This will not harm the meta-plot in any way, and will not stop the birth of the 8th Tribe. What it will do, however, is make it harder. All of the Seeds have great potential and strength, and if saved and healed (even partially) they can be of great help the Fallen and the Player Characters in the future.
If the characters are successful in stopping T'phal from rising and return the stone to the Guides, then they will have earned powerful allies. Of course Den Hades and Halos may not seem all that grateful - they both are a bit taciturn and bitter. They would, however, be willing to take the characters under their wing, teaching them secrets of Synthesis, possibly even secret Aspects, and giving them advice, training in skills such as Dreaming and Lores, and so on. They will not, however, make the characters Guides. If the characters ask the Guides will tell them that they are fated to walk a different path, and that no one can make a wolf into a sheep.
If the characters stop T'phal but do not return the stone then Halos will seek the characters out. He will do his best to convince the Characters to turn the stone over, telling them that he knows its dangers and can keep it under control. He will point out (rightly) that the Characters lack the power and control to safely hold the stone - much less use it. If the Characters agree then they can still gain favors, but the Guides will be a bit less generous. If they refuse then Halos will let it lie for a time, but will watch the characters carefully - ready to take back the stone whenever possible.
If the characters fail utterly and T'phal goes free then the Guides will stay distant - watching and waiting. They know T'phal's nature, and know that he will eventually come after them. In the meantime they will prepare themselves, and will try to aid any surviving characters. Eventually they may try to bring the characters into a confrontation with T'phal, perhaps introducing the Characters to Hunters who could aid them in killing the Lord before he can fully recover his power. If the characters all died, then they could pick up the story as characters the Guides have sent to negotiate with the Hunters.
If T'phal is unable to return to life, he will still remain in his heartstone - partly aware and scheming for release. If the Guides are given the stone they can keep him down indefinitely, but away from their care he will eventually find a way to break out. At that point he would make the Player Characters his first targets, and would do everything in his considerable power (as a very powerful Lord) to corrupt and then destroy them. Even successful characters will be haunted by dreams of the demon coming after them, a sense of inevitability to his return that makes the characters feel helpless and horrified.
If T'phal does return to life he will try to escape the site of any battle after a short time, finding a place where he can rest and heal - such as the Skyrealms. There he would find strong bodies (Joanite watch, Dahlian spies, etc) and build a herd while watching the world about him to figure out the balances of power. It is quite possible that he would take control of the Skyrealms, organizing the Johan not strong enough to resist him (which would be most) into a court. From there he would work to slowly corrupt Bazaar at it's very heart, worming fear and pain into the very stones.
In the end, however, T'phal would concentrate on the Fallen. How he does this up to the Weaver, but it will play along the weaknesses of the Fallen. T'phal will use their prophecies, their need for freedom and acceptance, and their hope for the future against them. False dreams of Joshua, urgings of war against the Tribes, brutalizing squats, and so forth would all be common tactics.
Of course if the campaign is at the end of Warrior Unbound or Broken Pact, then it could be T'phal who leads the charge in Vimary Burns, or who is responsible for the great number of deaths in Revanche or Broken Pact. His insane and rabid influence will make the atrocities of those times all the worse. Also, where Vimary Burns assumes that Hom is left mostly untouched by the Z'bri, T'phal would never let the Fallen and the Guides live in peace. If he goes free now the Player Characters can expect to see him again - leading the charge of the Z'bri across the Fallen Bridge.