Jan 29, 2023



This week I read:

Roleplaying Games

I somehow managed to get both games to a mini-climax this weekend, which means I’ll be running two one-shots next weekend: four systems in nine days, oof.

Cartographic Curiosities

I did some hard thinking about the campaign this week, trying to get to the root of why the wilderness exploration didn’t feel as satisfying as it could.

Well, that’s simple: the players run away from things a lot. They explore a hex, decide everything looks too dangerous to interact with, file it away for later, and move onto the next hex. This is because they’re squishy and have had some rough defeats. But why are the player characters still so squishy?

I realised I’ve been too stingy with magic items. They need more. Given they have a party of 5 PCs and 5 retainers with class levels, they should have somewhere in the region of 2 to 5 magic items: but so far they only have one, and it’s only magically efficacious against fairies.

Alright, where do they get magic items? That’s easy: dungeons and the hoards of big monsters. Which they’re avoiding… because they’re so squishy… argh.

So I’ve decided to add more “mid-boss” enemies. Monsters which give them a run for their money, but which they can defeat after a tough fight, and which just so happen to have a useful magic item in their lair or on their person.

I also went ahead and pre-rolled a bunch of random encounters, because I’ve noticed that if I roll a random encounter at the table I’ll often just improvise it rather than roll on all the little tables, which leads to them being kind of samey and not as cool as they could be. So the next time they encounter a wyrm, it won’t just be a horible monster which can kill them with a look, it’ll be Ximmerian, a wyrm which loves riddles and will give away minor magic items if you can answer it correctly. I even have a list of easy riddles prepared! There’s no way I’d have been able to improvise a riddle contest off the top of my head. And when they first venture into the evil haunted part of the woods, they’ll find a corrupted man-eating centaur ripping apart some poor knight: the centaur will be a tough opponent, and oh look! In its cave there just so happens to be a cool +1 mace which is especially effective against the undead!

I think there’s also an element of the players being overly cautious. So hopefully having a few magic items under their belt will help boost that confidence.

“Is everyone in this forest evil?”

The session itself went fine. I’d prepared a few rumours for them to overhear about a local water dragon, totally forgetting that at the end of last session they said “ok, next time we want to research that water dragon we heard about”—so it was kind of the water dragon episode where everything they did somehow tied into it. But that’s fine.

Their research gave them incomplete information, which led to them concluding the water dragon and a different water monster are the same entity, just known by two names. I didn’t see that coming, but it worked out really well actually!

Towards the end of the session, the players handed over an almost comically villanous guy—I should have given him a moustache to twirl—who was trying to bring back an evil fairy lord, to a cabal of spooky druids who wanted this guy captured. But as they did, they overheard one of the druids—who the players thought merely spooky at this point—mutter “we must awaken the water dragon soon, before it is too late”.

Cue one player exclaiming “is everyone in this forest evil?”


I wanted to run an ALIEN one-shot at some point, and two of the players are unavailable for the next few weeks, so I decided to pause this campaign after that mini-climax (learning that the spooky druids want to awaken the water dragon) for a few weeks to run Chariot of the Gods, the scenario from the quickstart kit.

The scenario says it takes 4 to 5 hours. People on the internet say it can easily take 20 or more hours. So I’m not sure how long this will last. I guess we’ll see: session 1 will be next Saturday.

Sylea Rising

This week we finished the first arc of the campaign. The players met and were harassed by an old enemy (now a fairly important man: the commander of a battleship) and got some heavy foreshadowing that he’s going to screw them over in the near future. Then they made their way to the Ancients site they knew of, met some 300,000-year-old robots, destroyed those 300,000-year-old robots (to prevent them from activating a self-destruct sequence for the whole site), explored a structure which baffled them, and then they baffled me!

Not one, not one, of the players recognised my description of a stargate.

Ok, I didn’t call it a “stargate”, but I did describe a large metal circle, twice the height of a man, which was held up and could freely rotate, with symbols representing constellations around the rim, next to a weird control panel covered in buttons with those same symbols which, when pressed, made the circle rumble and rotate and the relevant symbol light up.

I even drew a representative picture!

The metal circle with constellation symbols

Am I so bad at describing things? Have they just never seen Stargate?

Well then, at least they’ll be surprised when they manage to switch it on.

They concluded their investigation of the site by taking pictures of everything and deciding to go fetch a better-equipped archaeological team. They got home without incident, and were then caught up in the founding of the Third Imperium.

The next arc will begin with their old enemy betraying them. Who could have seen that coming?

Next: Delta Green

So, with this arc done, we’re playing Delta Green instead next weekend. We’ve decided on Last Things Last, the scenario from the quickstart kit. Unlike ALIEN, this actually is a short scenario, so I’m only expecting this to last a single session, and then it’s back to Traveller!

I’m going to be doing so much prep this week…

Roleplaying games