Just Say Yes? GM Improv in Campaign Play vs. One-Shot Play

IMG_0033Some background before this post: Coulee Con is coming up, and I recklessly took the plunge and submitted two games to GM at the end of August. The first submission is Beowulf using the Yggdrasill system. The second is a Conan game called “Blood in Their Wakes” using the brand new 2d20 Modiphius system for Robert E. Howard’s Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of.

I call these submissions “reckless” because the last time I submitted a game, “The Boon of Barrow-Isle” for the Yggdrasill system at Gamehole Con 2016, I belatedly realized that I was nowhere near prepared enough to run it. Therefore it was a mixture of disappointment and relief when absolutely no one signed up to play. Now, for Coulee Con, I feel prepared enough to run an Yggdrasill game, having run a campaign of it off and on now for almost a year. But Conan puts me in a situation similar to where I was last year with Yggdrasill. I am enamoured with the material and the system and really want to be an ambassador for it. Therefore I committed myself to it by submitting a game, and with my home group I’m fairly anxious to familiarize myself with the crunchy 2d20 system.

So I have to get to the “Beowulf” content in my Yggdrasill campaign to provide myself with plenty of time for the Conan rules set. And this haste and anxiety led to the thoughts that I have for this post. Last session I made good on my resolution to resort more to the runes as a game mechanic, but I did something else that, during post-game analysis, I regretted. If I could go back to our last session I would act differently in response to a player’s question. This falls under the topic of “Just say yes” during improv play.

Some time ago I listened to a recorded seminar from Paizo Con. One of the panelists was a noted GM and practitioner of improv theatre. He had two major pieces of advice for GMs: 1. Let the players shine and 2. Just say yes. Really, he was teaching the improv rule of “yes and.” An example of this:

GM: So the oaf has you down with your back on the table. His massive mitts are around your throat, slowly squeezing the life out of you. What do you do?

Player: I look around. Is there something nearby that I can grab and hit him with?

GM: Yes, in your periphery there appears to be a kettle. Made out of iron, maybe, and you sense heat emanating from it. Perhaps it is full of hot water?

I have presented the “Yes and” principle here at the microcosmic level, and this would be perfectly acceptable in one-shot convention play. Giving the player something to hit her antagonist with, and adding to the request the detail that it is full of hot — maybe even boiling — water isn’t going to drastically derail the track the GM has prepared for a satisfying arc that hopefully fits neatly into four hours of play (unless it’s going to, but that’s up to the judgment of the GM).

But the “Yes and” moment I encountered last session had greater implications. Instead of saying yes, I said no, and I know why I did at the time. After thinking about it, though, I wish I had said yes, and the answer is because of this: I said no because I was impatient to get to the microcosmic “one-shot” aspect of my campaign. But I should have recognized that I wasn’t playing a one-shot but a campaign. As such, I should have said yes.

I’m doing something potentially problematic with my regular group. I designed a Beowulf campaign for convention play, and I want to playtest it with my group in the midst of an ongoing campaign. As a result, some edges of Beowulf need to be rounded and trimmed and sharpened. There are many campaigns, I know, that operate this way. That’s why people buy published adventures, after all! But not everything is a full adventure path. The GM has to determine how to incorporate his “second-party” material into his wider campaign arc — and the campaign arc, I’m convinced, should be a collaborative experience between the GM and her players. This is why in general I have such difficulty with published adventure materials. Often I have to modify them to the point where it would be much more efficient for me to just build my own content from the ground up. Also, when running a game like Yggdrasill (in contradistinction to OSR games), my “sandbox” style of play is less a hexmap of “hidden encounters” that the PCs uncover or reveal as they explore… Okay, to follow the “sandbox” analogy further, it’s less of a series of sand castles that somehow are hidden from the players, but more of a wide expanse of unshaped sand that the players and I together will form into a story.

I am to be forgiven, and I know my players will forgive me, for being impatient to get to the actual “Beowulf” component of our Yggdrasill campaign so that I can test it and move on to the Conan game “Blood in Their Wakes”, but what I want to remind myself here is that my players are not first and foremost my playtesters but instead first and foremost my regular group of campaign players. This has been preamble enough to what exactly went down.

A few posts ago I introduced Yggdrasill to Matt Finch’s Tome of Adventure Design. I generated a table of possible adventure hooks for if the PCs decided to go snooping about the shoreline during their trip to Hleidra. For whatever reason, I entirely ignored that table last session. Instead, I drew runes and improvised on the spot, which also is entirely acceptable. But drawing the runes perhaps would have been more effective if I had coupled them with my table. Nonetheless, I had plenty going on: despite the warnings of the PC Lydia, who is a Volva, the Sjaellings had looted the Barrow-Isle of cursed gold. As such, they were becoming paranoid Smeagol-ish people, thinking everyone else was after their shares of the loot. This quickly became a problem when the Sjaellings began to mingle in the fishing village of Klepp which was crowded with three longships of trading Geats! After some antics ensued, Lydia asked me if there were any Volva nearby. I consulted a rune and determined no, there were not, being unable to connect the rune directly to Lydia’s request.

But lets look at the table I devised and chose, in the moment, not to consult at all:

Beneath a field of clover is a massive bee hive, tended by Volva who brew from it mead that augments skills of prophecy and poetry. The local jarl wants to export it, and there is increasing tension between the jarl and the Volva.

And:

It is said that a Volva harvests the webs from a thousand spiders that visit her garden each night. From them she spins garments of supple but strong fiber.

Really, the rune I consulted should have determined which of these Volva were nearby, not whether there were Volva at all. During gameplay I was happy to skip this information and a possible time-eating excursion, thereby forestalling yet again the playtest. But the detour would have been richer overall for the campaign. And it would have rewarded a player for excellent gameplay. And it also potentially could have better prepared the Volva for what is going to be no easy encounter with Grendel!

So really my point here is that there are two types of games: campaigns and one-shots. There are two types of players: campaigners and dabblers. There therefore are two types of ways to say “Yes and”: yes, there is this possibility of an adventure that we will build right now out of the amorphous sand and yes, there is that particular item for sale right now in this fletcher’s hut. In campaign play, a GM’s first responsibility is for his campaigners, and she never should lose sight of that larger narrative structure in deference for the smaller. The campaign is an epic, the one-shot is a tightly-driven short story.

Advertisements

Yggdrasill Meets Matt Finch’s Tome of Adventure Design

IMG_0027Elsewhere I have expressed my admiration for Matt Finch’s writing, especially for his work on Swords & Wizardry and his Tome of Adventure Design. I’m about to get back into the GM driver’s seat this coming Monday, and I decided it was time to generate some ideas — some adventure hooks and possibilities in case I needed something quick if the action were to grow stale. So I reached for my Tome of Adventure Design (rather, I opened up iBooks) and drew a handful of dice out of my dicebag.

What I’m running next Monday is Yggdrasill. Yes, the plan had been to playtest ONOSR for the Beowulf campaign, but no matter how much you modify Swords & Wizardry — as I did to create ONOSR — it really is a form of D&D. And my group is playing a very fine D&D game on alternating Mondays. I myself am “polygamerous”: I simply didn’t feel like running yet another D&D game. I also sensed that my players were missing Yggdrasill, so…

I originally designed the Beowulf campaign for Yggdrasill. The trouble occurred when I began to imagine possibilities for broadcasting my work beyond the confines of my blog and my home game. I’m guessing Yggdrasill is a fairly protected intellectual property, so I felt creatively challenged in the event that I were to invest considerable time and energy into it. Swords & Wizardry, alternatively, as I’m sure no one need be reminded, is within the wide umbrella of the Open Game License. I also found Swords & Wizardry attractive when I started to scale the power structures of, say, PCs versus Monsters like Grendel. Thus ONOSR was born.

Nonetheless, Yggdrasill is a very fine system. It was my first love when it comes to Norse-themed rpgs, and it remains my favorite, so I decided to, after all, try to run the Beowulf campaign as originally conceived. We’ll see how these Yggdrasill characters do against Grendel, his Mother, and, perhaps eventually a Dragon!

But, as I said at the beginning of this post, I needed some ideas for what might occur to the PCs on their way to Hleidra, wherein is the Golden Hall cursed with Grendel. So, as I said, I reached for the Tome of Adventure Design.

The Tome clearly is most particularly designed for traditional fantasy rpgs such as D&D, but my recent experience with it showed that it can, to a considerable degree, be “system agnostic.” The Scandian world of Yggdrasill departs from traditional frpgs through its particularly naturalistic tone. It is what can be termed a “low magic setting.” Yet some of the tables in the Tome suggest towers of high wizardry and entire nations of bizarre creatures living right next door to the humans. Nonetheless, what follows is a list of what I generated using Finch’s adventure idea tables and then how I interpreted my results in consideration of the Scandian setting.

Skeleton-Cairn
Location – Stage raid upon Docks
Individual – Guard/protect Messenger
Puzzle-Tomb
Living Asylum of the Gluttonous Horde
Below ground Fane of the Master Wasps
Contaminated Mill of the Carnal Father
Fossilized Pyramid of the Vampiric Demon
Spider-Garden
Storm-Harbor
Event – Escape from Duel (Addict-Music)
Location – Capture and hold Docks for Ambassador

I crossed out “Puzzle-Tomb” and “Capture and hold Docks” because of redundancy, preferring, for my purposes, “Skeleton-Cairn” and “Stage raid upon Docks.” This also brought my results to a neat ten, a simple ten-sided roll if I wanted a random result. Of course, there is no reason I couldn’t roll a d12, but I liked the sense of appropriateness, Yggdrasill being a game that uses almost exclusively d10s. Then came my favorite part of being a GM and writer — the “dreaming.” Yes, what I rolled are, in essence, “writing prompts,” but what is most exciting about these is that I might actually get to use them rather than scribbling about them in my garret of an indifferent world. Here’s what they became:
1
The PCs are told of a “Dvergr Haug.” It might contain dwarf weapons. (It does not, just the smallish bones of a man and a woman in garments of desiccated hides. Beside them are bone and horn weapons and utensils.)
2
In Klepp, someone approaches the PCs inviting them into a raid on some ships loaded with local timber. The aim is to steal the ships and drive off any pursuit. “It’s not right that all of that costly timber should be leaving the area to build a foolhardy hall on some bit of rock of an island!” Will pay in silver.
3
An individual wants to be protected from a family who does not want him to bring word to a new wife’s family that she is being mistreated. Husband doesn’t want to lose the dowry. Messenger has been followed into town.
4
In one of the towns, more and more people are being infected with gluttony. It is a curse that is spreading into the town because someone shot a stag out of the nearby Alfwood. Some human sacrifices need to be hanged in the wood for propitiation.
5
Beneath a field of clover is a massive bee hive, tended by Volva who brew from it mead that augments skills of prophecy and poetry. The local jarl wants to export it, and there is increasing tension between the jarl and the Volva.
6
A mill (and the grain it grinds) has been cursed, because the miller had relations with his own daughter. All the grain makes people sick with morbid hallucinations. An evil spirit needs to be driven out of the mill.
7
In the center of a forest is an ancient, petrified ash tree. In its hollow core lives a troll that is said to flap out at night and suck the blood from sleeping people.
8
It is said that a Volva harvests the webs from a thousand spiders that visit her garden each night. From them she spins garments of supple but strong fiber.
9
It is said that a hammer fell out of the sky one night and broke a hole in a longship returning from a raid. The ship was loaded with silver, but divers have not been able to find it (nor the hammer — or the meteorite — that punctured the hull of the ship).
0
A young man who absolutely loves poetry and music asks the PCs to help him sneak away from a duel. He offended, in his drunkenness, a massive Viking who believes his own verses are the best ever. In the young man’s drunkenness, he agreed to holmgang, but now he admits he is a coward and will pay anything to be helped away.

This experience caused me to ponder just how far the Tome can be stretched into radically different genres. So far I’m certain it can be, because the results of course are about what the entries might evoke rather than the literal interpretation of the readings. If I ever create my “Diver” campaign for the Traveller system, it will be fun to use the Tome’s location and Dungeon Design tables to generate abandoned spacecraft. I’m certain the entries will translate beautifully.

Postscript

Incidentally, restarting my Yggdrasill campaign brought me by the Cubicle 7 forums, wherein I learned that Cubicle 7 no longer will be supporting Yggdrasill nor any of the other games it has had in English translation from Le 7eme Cercle. There is a suggestion that the Cercle might find its own means to translate its games into English and thereby continue its lines. But in the meantime it appears likely that Yggdrasill and some fantastic others (Keltia and Qin, for example) might be going the way of the Dead Games Society . Get your copies while you can!

Star Stealers: My Fantasy Flight Edge of Empire Campaign

IMG_0021The game in my youth that brought me the most pleasure (next to, I suppose, MERP and Champions) was West End Games’s d6 Star Wars system. A quick reason why this was, I suppose, is that that system emulated quite well for me the feel of that first trilogy of movies. Moreover, the GM advice section brilliantly broke down a satisfying Star Wars adventure into a formula: every adventure should contain a Chase, a Blaster fight, a Starfight, and NPC interaction. This formula made Star Wars one of the most dynamic and entertaining games in my collection.

For this reason I was eager to try out the latest system by Fantasy Flight Games, particularly since I had been hearing intriguing things about it. Therefore, when a friend asked me to run a Fantasy Flight Star Wars game, I readily agreed. The rules set most in circulation among these friends is Edge of Empire, so I agreed to that one. At session 0 my players devised a number of ruffians — one freighter pilot, one Niktos brawler, one Mandalorian bounty hunter, and one self-modding droid. The players agreed that they wanted to steal a Star Destroyer and blow up the Hutt home planet of Nal Hutta. Why? Well, because one character in particular had a grudge against the Hutts, because of slavery. That was enough for me, and to the drawing board I went.

I structured the short campaign into three episodes and said that it would take about ten sessions to complete. I think my prediction has turned out to be surprisingly accurate. We got started sometime in January of 2017 and played, roughly, every two weeks. The campaign ended last night. Here’s how the episodes broke down.

Episode 1: The PCs arrive on the volcanic mining planet of Varok on the Outer Rim. They are here because the Niktos has received word from a former contact that something fishy is going on here, and he thinks the Niktos might be interested in it. The information is that a large amount of ore is being moved to a Hutt casino moon some systems away, and the moon can’t possibly be using all that ore. When the PCs cause trouble (which of course they do), they are surprised to encounter an Imperial presence. When the Mandalorian bounty hunter spies a bounty and captures her, she is surprised to learn that this bounty is the new apprentice of her former master whom she left for personal reasons. The bounty hunter still wants to learn the secret of forging Mandalorian armor, so, while evading Varokian security ships, the entire group ends up moving to the forge of the Mandalorian Vo Kess in the heart of a volcano.

After encountering Vo Kess, the bounty hunter learns that Kess now pursues an ideal of Good in the form of the Light Side of the Force. Kess says that he is willing to teach Kida how to finish her Mandalorian armor if she and her companions will provide him transport to the Hutt casino moon: he is convinced that the Empire is using that moon as a fence to occlude the trail of that much ore from the Rebel Alliance. He thinks all the ore is being used for some diabolical Imperial project.

TIE bombers start pounding the volcano, and the PCs decide to flee in their freighter with their new allies. There is a brief starfight before the PCs make the jump to hyperspace.

Episode 2: Arriving at the Hutt casino moon, the PCs bluff security over coms that they are bringing in supplies for a prominent wedding between two Hutt families that is about to take place. This bluff ends up causing problems later on. Disembarking, the PCs enter the casino, trying to gather information. The planet is a crazy jungle planet in the midst of a Pre-Cambrian explosion, except the giant animal life is insect-based. The main structure of the casino descends to the jungle floor, which itself serves as a kind of gladiator space for the Hutts and their gambling clients. Of course the PCs eventually find themselves in it, but not before making contact with an on-leave Imperial recruit who hates his job of sending refined ore that is left hidden in the rings of the moon’s planet on course for an anomaly in spacetime that swiftly transports the ore to that system’s Oort Cloud. While escaping the jungle floor, Vo Kess (who had been captured by the Hutts) sacrifices himself to create a distraction, and the PCs are off to the space time anomaly and Episode 3 of their story.

Episode 3: Rather than fly to the Oort Cloud and start the tedious business in all of that space of finding the location of the drifting ore, the PCs enter the space time anomaly directly. There is a chance of this causing spacial distortions and mutations to themselves or the ship, but this doesn’t happen. They come out into a region of space that has experienced some anomaly. There is some kind of residual energy here that appears conducive to what the PCs are beginning to suspect are Imperial experiments in creating a cloaking device that could operate on something as large as a Star Destroyer, particularly when they see the hulk of a dark-colored Star Destroyer and are drawn into it by tractor beam. Inside the Star Destroyer, they fight a number of droids and make their way to the bridge, where they encounter more droids and the PC droid’s creator, an Ugnaught named Gidget. Leading up to this time, the bounty hunter, who has been growing Force sensitive, has become aware of a chaotic, dark force in the center of the ship and a fierce personality that at one point reached out to her.

The PC droid, in attempting to destroy his creator, is knocked down by a missile from one of Gidget’s Assassin Droid bodyguards. In the ensuing battle with the rest of the party, Gidget collects his prodigal son and hides himself and his charge in an elevator descending to the center of the Destroyer. The PC droid comes to while Gidget is preparing a mind wipe. The droid skewers his creator.

Meanwhile, the other PCs have discovered that Gidget, before escaping, has moved operations of the Destroyer away from the bridge to elsewhere in the ship. They decide to hunt for the med bay to heal their wounds.

A skeletal-looking protocol droid comes to their temporary base in the med bay inviting them to dinner with his master Lord Quon-tik Theiz. The PCs accompany him on a floating skiff that descends through an open construction zone to a dark singularity in the center of the Destroyer. It is here where Theiz is using his Force mastery over subatomic particles and the proximity to tachyon emissions near a black hole to cause the ferrous material to phase with more accuracy, lending it a cloaking effect. The experiment is unstable, however.

The PCs befriend Theiz and, with the PC droid as Theiz’s new assistant, begin work on a sub-atomic bomb capable of disintegrating an entire planet. The implicit understanding, though, is that the droid is to remain with Theiz. Therefore, when the PCs rig the Destroyer to collapse into its dark heart and begin their escape on their freighter, Theiz phases into the freighter’s hold and battles the PCs until, grievously wounded, he phases off ship.

After this, the PCs make their way to Nal Hutta and, well, blow up the planet. The PCs fail to operate the bomb in a manner that leaves themselves unthreatened by the blast, however, so the ship is caught in a temporal rift and crash lands on an unknown planet.

I would finish the description of my campaign with more about Quon-tik Theiz. As a type of Forsaken Jedi, I think he’s pretty cool. He has an understanding of the Force that reaches beyond the organic cellular to the subatomic. As such, he is able to halve damage and teleport through spacetime. As flavor, his lightsaber glitches in and out of existence. During the Imperial pogroms against the Jedi, Theiz cowardly hid himself in the Void, losing much of his soul to nonbeing and destruction, until the Emperor drew him out.

Impressions of Game System

It was a fast moving game. I like the Light Side/Dark Side Force mechanic, and I almost exclusively used my points to add complications and structure to the plot rather than spend them on mechanical benefits for NPC actions. “Strain” as yet a second kind of damage was annoying to keep track of and it never came into play. As GM, after the first few sessions I felt empowered to direct formidable forces against my PCs, secure that they would feel challenged but get out of the situation more or less “okay.” My job as GM was fairly easy, but for the players I feel that the game has more crunch than I prefer. If I felt the urge to tell a Star Wars story again sometime soon, I probably wouldn’t use this system (without much cajoling) but try to talk everyone into using my beloved West End d6 system. Here is a great podcast on that one, and here is a great article.

May the Force of Others Be with You!

Stormspear Keep

FullSizeRender[5]The last I left my players, they had slain a Mist Drake that had been chewing at the taproot of a “World Tree.” They had dressed and armed themselves in the crafted remains of the dragon carcass and had set back out into the world.

Remember, Rahjin, the half-troll barbarian, is searching for the test tube in which he was concocted. A trapper that once served with the Blackravens, the very people who had destroyed all the vile half-trolls and had spared just this one (Rajhin, the “runt” of the litter, a meager Medium-sized humanoid), had told Rahjin that the frost-giant sorcerer had reinhabited the icy ruins at the Winterwall Glacier across the Hagreach border in Irrisen. So that’s where they were heading.

I promised Rahjin’s player that he would have trolls to beat up on, so that’s what I brought him. But first…

On watch while camping during the darkest, early hours of the first night since leaving Huldra Hill, Dromar’s (the Drow Magus) Dire Bat mount noticed something in the sky with him. Dromar immediately Feather Fell off the mount (he had been patrolling by air), shouting for the camp to awake. That’s when Drow Rangers, likewise mounted on Dire Bats, began firing arrows into the camp. The arrowheads were tipped with Drow poison, of course, and spelled with Darkness. Some PCs took some of these arrows, but they succeeded at their saving throws and didn’t succumb to unconsciousness, which is an effect of Drow poison. Continue reading

Huldra Hill

 Starting now, I’m going to stop numbering my adventures. Each one will have its own stately title instead. Also, if I happen to have any subscribers out there, please note that I’m composing most of these now in a phone app. I don’t see a mechanism for saving drafts, so any first “publication” will be devoid of images and some additions. If you care, please read final versions on the blog “proper.”

It feels like from here my campaign really takes off. The PCs’ crawl through the Vexgit compound mostly was a failure. Sure, they found Gripple Grout — dead, pierced within an iron maiden. I think they learned something about role playing: one PC dared to ask for a “reward” for bringing back to the surface world the dead body of Grazzle Grout’s daughter. I decided to play the gnome patriarch as so overcome with grief as to be rambling in his thoughts and interactions and often unresponsive. The PC chose to leave, without reward, the Grout family in its grief.

The other failure in the compound was the PC inability to prevent the mischievous Vexgit from pumping a fair amount of “Nidhig venom” into Hornhall’s water supply. In the next few days, a growing population of the denizens of Hornhall will fall prey to the effects of this poison. They will become undead (or just crazy–I’m still not sure if I’ve worked it out to my own satisfaction) and kill everyone in sight. In time, the town’s collective moral fiber experiencing such erosion, Hornhall itself will literally collapse, invaded in the night by hordes of Duergar rising out of its depths, looted by the encamped Tengu when the Duergar retreat during the day. Continue reading

Adventure Two: Hornhall (2 of 2)

IMG_0321
Here’s the Vexgit compound.
So here’s the second part of what I drafted for what I ultimately have titled Hornhall. It originally was called “The Fang of Chaos” — a lot cooler sounding, I believe, but ultimately not a thing that the characters had anything to do with. This is  because this is where the characters started drastically shaking my expectations. If you read my notes to the last adventure (but I’d be surprised if you did! :)), you will know that Bo will have had a religious experience with a Norn and have obtained a Thunder-Oak Wand. You also will know that Cyris will have had a mystical experience with Korg a Dwarf Monk of the Temple of the Stalwart Stone (something that never happened, for Cyris dropped out of the game). The coolest part of the journey is when the characters get into Ogrekin territory. When they camped, and when Rajhin was on watch, the half-troll noticed that the aurochs in the area instead of sleeping became restive. This is because, as Rahjin soon was find out, Ogrekin were using the smell of their own bodies to herd the aurochs into a position to trample the players when the Ogrekin chose to spring out and startle them. This happened. Gish used a Hero Point to spring into a tree. The other players were mostly trampled but not quite dead. The Ogrekin charged up behind the aurochs, intending to loot the dead bodies. I think Rajhin intimidated or smashed some charging aurochs enough to foul their charge. Someone used a potion or oil of Obscuring Mist. The Ogrekin came right up to the edge of the mist, and Rahjin used his scent to step out and kill them. This was a pretty fun encounter, and the players got creative in a bad situation.

Next the players were supposed to have an encounter with Ranchers and Dogs (Blue Heelers), for the Dogs did not like the smell of the half-troll. This situation was defused. The players were supposed to get enamored by gothic, undeady, bony wares in the Tengu Bazaar in the midst of the massive camp that had been set up around Hornhall, but by this time they were way too afraid of pickpockets and the generally cloying atmosphere of all those raven feathers, thick and miasmic in the air, so that they totally ignored Chiruk, who tried to join their party after stopping some Tengu children from pickpocketing them (aptly seen through as a confidence game), and the many dainties that the shopkeepers dangled in front of their faces. Gish was dead set on getting this message to Herm Hammerhand. So they got through the Tengu encampment, met Arva, leader of the Heeders of the Call (an Order of Cavaliers) at the foot of the road to the heights of Hornhall, then ignored everything possible to get to the top as soon as possible. At this point, as GM, I was very surprised to find them up here already. I had no more content prepared. I totally didn’t know what was going to happen in an encounter with Herm Hammerhand. I said that we must continue later. There was disappointment, particularly on the face of Rahjin’s player: we hadn’t fought anything this session! So I had a Gray Ooze pop out of a nearby stream. It was fun! We ended the session with a little more satisfaction. Continue reading

Adventure Two: Hornhall (1 of 2)

Initial brainstorm for Hornhall.
Initial brainstorm for Hornhall.
As I get caught up on the campaign journal, I’ll go ahead and post whatever gaming materials I’ve composed so far. For the last adventure, “Hammers Under Cold Hearth,” I gave notes about what my players actually did. I’m forgoing that device here, for I intend to give a full account in whatever mode I ultimately decide on for the proper journal. But maybe the notes here might be of some use to GMs.

Gish has created a phial of Chillbane.

Type disease, inhaled, injury; Save Fort DC 17; Onset 1 day; Frequency 1/day; Effect 1d4 Con damage and target is sickened and fatigued; Cure 2 consecutive saves

Knack with Poison: +2 Fort vs. poison; +2 Craft (alchemy) to make poison. Replaces illusion resistance and obsessive.

Bo is visited by the Norn Urd in a vision. He awakes wherever he sleeps, and she is using a drop spindle to spin thread in the corner of his room. She sees him watching her, smiles, and says, “Erastil looks kindly on you. He thinks you deserve a reward.” If Bo seems overanxious or asks about Erastil’s Shot, Urd just smiles and says, “Watch for the thunder-cleft oak.” Then she lifts a large pair of shears and cuts the thread. At the sound of “snick,” Bo awakens.

Should take about two days, on foot, to make it to Hornhall. Kolbern summons the PCs to his private chambers (with Vigg and Hild) to ask them to travel there and continue the investigation. Hornhall is nearest, and Kolbern additionally wants them to deliver a scroll – affixed with his seal, black wax with the impression of an arrowhead flanged with raven claws – to Herm Hammerhand. Kolbern hopes to count on Herm for reinforcements if – more like when – Irrisen again attacks en masse. The way is seldom used. There was once a dirt road, but it most certainly is grown over by plains grasses now and is probably only distinguishable by milestones. There are reports of a family of Ogrekin who have moved into the area, so Kolbern expects they will need some reinforcements.

Introduce Rahjin. Vigg opens a door, and Rahjin enters from an adjoining chamber. Some of the PCs now may remember heaps of food that routinely left the main hall. Rahjin has been kept secret in the depths of the Stone. Questions? Rahjin will have to take care when encountering NPCs and may have to keep to the fringes of civilization. Continue reading