The playtest of my adventure module took a slide out into left field last night, as we lost two players and gained three to the vagaries of the real world. I think, under the circumstances, I managed to get it back on track under the pretext that one of the players not in attendance owed money, favours or anything else besides to the three newcomers. One, a Priest of Norn, had a warrant on Paraxis the Humble, our resident charlatan, which came just after an arrest warrant delivered by a messenger from the city. The upshot, Paraxis had an attempt made on his life, then ended up in jail with a serious bolt wound to the chest.
Non-player character motivation came into focus during the playtest session I ran last Monday, short as that session was. In the two hours played, the characters not only had the opportunity to meet the village smith and the tavern keeper, but also Archer, the settlement owner and administrator.
I originally intended Archer as a simple landowner looking out for the well-being of his workers. A harsh, but fair, man, he had a history from time in the capital only briefly mentioned in the background. He would hire the characters to investigate problems because he didn’t want to risk his own assets, his miners. To him, losing a 100 silver pieces in fees seemed like small potatoes to losing a miner or three who would otherwise work out hundreds or thousands of silver pieces in valuable ore.
However, Archer’s trajectory took a bit of a turn…
The ‘No Expense Spared’ character sheet for the System I Made Up ruleset used for the playtest on Monday. Assign 3-2-1 to the top boxes, then choose four traits associated with those attributes.
Want to wrestle a giant crab? Then roll Body + Heave. How about working out what all that screaming might be about without getting too close? Maybe a Soul + Sense. Need to cast a quick sonic blast spell? Then get that Mind + Recall sorted sharpish.
Throw as many six-sided dice as your Attribute + Trait. Add more dice if you can justify an advantage, a useful piece of equipment or beneficial circumstance. Roll a 5 or 6, a success; but lose a success if you roll a 1 or 2. Compare against the successes of an opponent if doing something contested.
If the game session last night has anything to teach me it is that you can’t underestimate the value of a playtest with a diverse group of players. I had a group of four and we played the initial element of the Stench of the Sea adventure module I have been working on. I think we may have worked our way through about two or three pages of the module proper. Given that we played for two hours, that might say more about the focus of my group than the practical longevity of the game. However, the game did support that length of play with locations, people and a combat encounter, so the text of the adventure did add into the mix.
"Bert knows how many one is... And one is not enough."The Rule of Many
I have always believed in simplifying the role playing experience for myself whenever possible. The business of GMing a role playing game holds too many complexities and points of preparation to make it any harder. If I read an adventure, I will take notes. I will litter the text with highlighting, Post-It notes, sticky bookmarks or index slips. I will photocopy bits for personal reference, or transcribe important elements into a notebook. If I can photocopy three different bits and fit them on the same page, all the better. Actually, I have a thing I did for a Dragon Age adventure that ended up being a sort of booklet, containing snippets of rules, maps, characters and notes – all gathered into one spot. I wanted to fit it all in, so some of it didn’t even appear the right way up. I scanned one thing, then another – then cut them up and created a weird sort of GM support decoupage of something. All very crafty and chaotic – but, it helped a great deal in the end.
I believe that different game-masters and storytellers seek varied levels of detail from the supplements, adventures and modules that they buy. I think some will appreciate layers of atmosphere and flavour, while others prefer sparse, concise descriptions that get the point across without labouring it. I know that I prefer something with a solid sentence or three of flavour, followed with reasonable detail on features and pertinent encounters.
I spent most of the last weekend drawing pictures. Despite my plans to complete the first draft of my planned adventure module, I ended up concentrating on the visuals. In practice, I know I didn’t waste any time here. A picture, as we all know, paints a thousand words – so, I think I managed close to 10,000 words this weekend. Only kidding.
Just Crunch Games is a small UK-based role playing game outfit set up by Paul Baldowski. Having spent the last 30 years playing role playing games, the last 20 writing about them, and the last 10 writing for them – I have decided it might well be about time to occasionally write a new supplement or book on my own terms.