Saturday, March 5, 2011

Some thoughts about a mini adventure

Every other Thursday, I run a sandboxy campaign that is built upon the excellent Castle of the Mad Archmage by Joe Bloch.

Characters were rolled up months ago.  They were named (some were anyway) and then the adventures began.

Little by little, the characters have developed.  I've added layers to the game, when they were needed or asked for, such as the gods and bits about the city.  The characters have a patron of sorts in the form of Uuthak the Obscure.  (I borrowed that name from Jeff Rients Miscellaneum -- he's a sage and a wizard and he has a regen-o-pod).

Some really cool things have happened along the way.  Two of my players, JW and LB have been collaborating to create a broad outline and maps of the main city, Ravenport.  In addition, JW is designing a game group silkscreened t-shirt to commemorate the game.  (Can't wait to share that with you!)  RF has been designing detailed backstories for his characters as has DB.  JS has played his ruthless magic user to a T.  It's been great!

I told you all that because I wanted to show you how invested these players are in the game.  They like their characters and they seem to be having a lot of fun.

Sometimes, bad things happen to good players and good characters...

My granddaughter Maddie had a school program this past Thursday.  I found out late and I figured I'd just cancel the game.  The players wanted to play anyway and so I told them we'd meet at 8 and play until 10.  We all have to work in the morning.  :)

I knew that I'd need to come up with a short scenario that would be peppy and fun to play.

I came up with this hook just to see if the PC's would bite.  Through some stage setting and a bit of roleplaying, the PC's discovered that Grot, the local tavern boy, had struck it rich.

"A jewel the size of his head!"

He had paid the debts he had to the innkeeper -- and then some -- and was gone!

How then did this boy find such wealth?  Let's check it out!

The adventure led to the sewers (I plan to write this up for the 1PD 2011 contest) where the PC's encountered a round metallic gate filled with blackness.  Runes around the edges of the gate said --

"Take a chance"  "Try your luck"  "There's a fortune to be won"

Would the PC's go inside?  They did.

Inside stood an enigmatic entity.  Six fingers on each hand and six slender tongues in its mouth.

"Would you like to draw a card?  You may choose from one to three, but the number you name you must draw or you will not leave this chamber."

Some drew and some didn't.  The cards fell wherever they may.

Some won fortunes and benefits and two were lost.  One to the Void and one to the Donjon.

Here's the point of my story.  

Everyone had a great time.  They embraced the two tragedies as "plot hooks".  

"We'll just have to go save Oryx and Hanuman, that's all there is to it."

I think this worked for a couple of reasons:
  1. We're a bit older and we're more pragmatic.  It's just a game.  More importantly,
There was no pressure to enter the door.  Do it or don't.  Your call.

There was no pressure to draw cards.  Do it or don't.  Your call.

I think that players can live with RANDOM OUTCOMES for good or ill, if they know that THEY made the choice and weren't forced into doing something.  

That's the moral of the story.  Random is good as long as players can control the choices their characters make.


Fenway5 said...

Excellent post! I think that's one the hallmarks of being a good referee is allowing your players to in a sense "choose their fate." Can't wait to see the shirt design!

Anonymous said...

Yep, all fun and games until your character is trapped, dangling 100' in the air above a cavernous black pool, his rotund henchman stuck in his own cage. Damn those cards...

Jim said...

@Anonymous -- you said you had fun. I can't help it if you pulled the Donjon card. At least you still have your soul... :)