Year Zero Engine: Guardians of Magic

I was not able to do it last year, but I thought I would run a tabletop RPG for my Theatre Arts students this year. Last Saturday, I invited them all to Discord and I gave them a briefing on how to play the game. For this online session I chose Free League’s Year Zero Engine as my system of choice. This is because I can scale it down enough for them to practice their role-playing.

Here is a video recording of the session. It took almost 1.5 hours of actual play time, but I edited out the long pauses, duplicate instructions and action declarations, as well as all my ummmms and uhhhhhs. I edited it down to just under 40 minutes of video.

Episode 1


Dramatis Personae

  • Willy Wesley from London
  • Zane from Asgardia
  • Constantine from Moscow
  • Sebastian from Austria
  • Alice from Dubai

A Cold Evening in Scotland

The investigator mages of the Guardian of Magic, Wesley, Zane, Constantine and Sebastian arrived in the village of New Scone in Scotland. It was dark and chilly. The leaves on the trees were red. They were tasked with investigating the death of a villager who was burnt to death by magic in a nearby alley.

The team were under orders not to reveal themselves as mages.

They reached the alley easily, evading the police constable on night patrol thanks to Sebastian’s scouting skills. Getting past the police tape, they reached the site. There was indeed the charred remains of a person. Sebastian noticed a charred hand. On the hand was a gleaming ring which he pocketed as evidence.

Suddenly they were trapped by four huge dogs, two at each end of the alley. The beasts growled ominously. Wesley brandished a wooden plank as a weapon. Zane – the only battle mage of the team – reached for his freeze wand in his jacket.

Sebastian guided them to a back door of a supermarket and the dogs charged at them. Strangely, they began to rush at them on two legs! Zane covered their retreat by casting a freeze spell at the lead dog. The bolt missed, however the dog’s attack did not. Its claws tore Zane’s shirt front, drawing blood, lots of blood.

He retreated into the supermarket and closed the door. Immediately the dog-things began to batter the door.

The Retail Price of Safety

Once the team regrouped at the front of the supermarket, they saw Zane’s wound. There was a pair of sliding glass doors that led to the front street, but they were locked. They decided to hide and if possible take out the dog-things one at a time. The back door broke.

Sebastian found a side storage room with raw meat and vegetables which cloaked their scents. He called Zane and Wesley into the room to hide. Meanwhile, Constantine disappeared into the far of the store.

The dog-things strode into view. From their hiding spot, they saw the creatures totally miss the Zane’s blood trail. Suddenly they transformed into humans and began complaining about how good these investigators were. A moment later, they disappeared out the back of the building.

Wesley, upset at Zane’s injury, gathered material from the pharmacy to help heal him. Meanwhile, they found Constantine in the toys section having a smoke break.

Reinforcements in the Street

Suddenly, there was another magical portal that opened in the street outside the supermarket. Alice, their team mate, also a skilled engineer, appeared out of nowhere. She used her lock pick to let them out.

Suddenly the policeman they evaded earlier appeared and asked them questions. Thanks to Wesley’s fast talking, supported by Sebastian, he let the investigators off with a warning.

They decided to grab something to eat. Sebastian tracked down an open Chinese restaurant. They spent 45 minutes having a meal and briefed Alice on what happened that night.

After Sebastian paid for the meal, there was a banging on the window beside their table. A black-clad man with red eyes stared at them, then growled inhumanly, “Give me back my ring!”

To be continued, maybe.


  • The setting was created by the students, especially the lead player of Wesley. Yes, it’s a Harry Potter pastiche. The investigator mages are modelled after Aurors.
  • In hindsight, maybe it’s supposed to be “Weasley”?
  • Also in hindsight, I don’t think I could run a game for last year’s class because I had 50 students then. This class is more manageable for a tabletop RPG session.
  • I might have messed up my dice rolling instructions, but I just rolled with it.
  • These are ESL students, thus non-native English speakers, so please comment kindly.
Posted in Role Playing Games, RPG Actual Play, RPG One Shots, RPG Teaching Plays and tagged , , , , , , , .

Khairul Hisham J. is a tabletop RPG artist, writer, proofreader, translator, teacher, grad student and learner-in-general.


  1. I laughed out loud at the “believe it or not, it’s hard to find an open restaurant after 6” — my friend and I had that problem when we visited Wales, and since it was summer and the UK is so far north, the sun was up till something like 10PM

    Also, I translated supermarket to Tesco in my mind, and behold: there is a Tesco in New Scone

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