OLD SCHOOL ESSENTIALS CAMPAIGN: SESSION 4 (MY DAUGHTER'S CAMPAIGN)

A message board idea I got from the
DungeonCraft YouTube channel. He says the
idea originally came from Hackmaster's 
"Little Keep on the Borderlands." 
Most of these board posts are copied directly
from the board shown on DungeonCraft. 
Last month, we played the third session in the campaign I'm running for my daughter and her friends. We're using the Old School Essentials ruleset, a really fun and well-made restatement of the old 1981 Moldvay/Cook B/X game I started playing back in 1981 or so. Our next session is coming up this weekend, so I just took some time last night to write a session recap for my players. 

Here's a quick recap of the previous three sessions, and also below I talk about a really fun rules innovation I used for a chase scene. As a reminder, I'm using a lot of ideas from "Professor Dungeon Master" from the DungeonCraft YouTube channel, in particular the playlist for the "Caves of Carnage" campaign (which is a grimdark revision of the Caves of Chaos for adventure module B2: Keep on the Borderlands). I had to tone down some of the grimdark stuff, but much of the Professor's approach to the game is exactly what I wanted for my campaign. I will point out that a lot of the names I use, especially for personalities inside the Keep, come directly from Professor Dungeon Master's campaign - it was just easier to use his names that come up with my own, and this also helped me keep everything straight. 

  • Session 1: The adventurers started out in the small village of Grimmigstadt, part of the Barony of Five Towns, during the Festival of Autumnyule, where they participated in an archery contest, a cart-lifting contest, dancing, and visiting a traveling fortune teller from whom they learned some rumors. Later that night, the adventurers snuck outside of town with some local youths to look at some ancient ruins. While there, they stumbled across a mysterious ritual with beast-men and led by a cloaked figure, who sensed the adventurers' presence and in a evil-sounding voice asked them "Where is the keystone?" The adventurers fled back to town, followed by the beast-men and cult leader, who burned the town and killed the villagers. One of the beast-men was discovered to be a man with an animal-head mask, with his lips sewed shut. The adventurers fled to the east toward the village of Ostenschweig. 
    • Innovative Game Mechanics: Read the full recap to learn about how I used the contests and fortune teller at the Festival to get the characters used to rolling dice, making ability checks, and looking for the information they need on their character sheets. 
  • Session 2: The adventurers braved the decrepit and rundown Bone Road, the only way in or out of town. Although warned of its dangers, the adventurers felt that they had no choice. Along the way, they were attacked by a large group of goblins, who knocked the adventurers unconscious and carried them back to their lair, placing them in prison cells. The adventurers trick one of the guards and manage to escape from the cells. 
    • Random Encounter Table: In the same recap as above, I talk about a random table of 100 potential encounters I made for the Bone Road as a way to make the travel between towns more interesting. I let the players roll to determine what the encounter is, giving them something to do and keeping them engaged. If you want a copy of the Encounter Table I made, drop a comment below with your email address and I can send it to you. I've also posted it a few times on my Twitter account. 
  • Session 3: The adventurers make their way through the goblin caves, searching for their stolen equipment and also seeking to discover the exit. They eventually find their equipment and meet a human scholar, disguised as a plague doctor, who agrees to lead them to the exit after the adventurers decline his offer to stay and live among the goblins. However, he betrays them, leading them instead to a huge goblin temple where dozens of blood-thirsty goblins await to attack them. 
    • Innovative Exploration Mechanic: Inspired by the DungeonCraft YouTube channel, but with my own spin, I used a deck of playing cards to simulate the adventurers being lost in the oppressively dark goblin caves (I don't have darkvision in my game; the closest is "infravision" which is based on heat sources, but everything down in the caves is cold and wet). I took turns having the players draw cards to determine which particular goblin cave area they stumbled into by fumbling through the dark .We then replaced the card back into the deck to represent the idea that the passage were so confusing and dark that it was entirely possible for them to accidently return to a cave they'd already visited as they attempted to find the exit. Read more about it in the full recap
That catches us up to this last session, during which the adventurers had to escape from the goblin temple and run toward the exit (which they'd seen on a map in the scholar's "office"). A highly entertaining chase scene ensued, and for this I used a fun new mechanic I read about in the very excellent Neverland campaign setting. Although the setting is designed for 5th Edition, I'm using a lot of it for my B/X game, and this particular chase mechanic is very system-neutral. I highly recommend it for its great ideas, fantastic layout and presentation, and colorful subject matter. It'd be great for a game with younger players; the Neverland environment is presented as basically another plane that PCs can visit while taking a break from their main campaign setting. 

INNOVATIVE CHASE MECHANIC: In this case, rather than put minis on a board and move them a few squares each round, I used a Rock-Paper-Scissors mechanic. I took turns doing this with each player, so everybody got to participate. Each round, I would match against one player. "Rock" means "Attack," "Paper" means "Evade," and "Scissors" means "Sprint." 

Just like a regular game, Rock (Attack) beats Scissors (Sprint). Spring beast Evade, and Evade beats Attack. Upon starting the chase sequence, I said that the players would need to get four wins before they got four losses. Failure would mean the other side won and they would probably be captured again. 

A Rock (Attack) means you get to make one ranged attack or cast a 0-level spell (B/X doesn't have 0-level, so I let them use 1st level spells) against the opponents but whether you hit or miss, it has no effect on whether you Won or Lost that round of Rock-Paper-Scissors. In a tie, both sides get an attack but neither side gets a win or loss. An Attack vs Sprint means the Attacking side gets a "Win" and also gets to attack with Advantage. While "Advantage" is a 5E mechanic, I did use this for my B/X game and it worked fine. At Attack vs an Evade means the Evade side gets a "Win" but the Attacking side still gets to make a range attack or cast a low-level spell, but they attack with Disadvantage. 

Evade versus Sprint, Sprint versus Sprint, and Evade versus Evade all involved making ability checks based on the environment (e.g, DEX checks for agility to keep balance, or CON checks to keep running without having to stop, etc. I also used INT and WIS checks to represent finding short-cuts and such). These particular scenarios also involve things like being able to remove a failure on a win, or taking a risk on an ability check to gain a half-step "Win" but at the risk of taking a half-step "Loss" if the check is failed. 

In all, it was a really fun, exciting, and creative way to keep the players engaged and simulate a chase scene in a much more interactive way than just moving minis on a map. I had created eight different "Zones" for the chase scene (stuff like thick giant spider-webs, a hallucinogenic mushroom forest, an ancient dwarven mine, a talking rat guide offering help/short-cuts, etc.) and in each zone, I would play Rock-Paper-Scissors with a different player. Sometimes I approached it slowly and methodically, giving them time to think about their strategy. Other times, I gave them no time at all and just shouted, "One! Two! Three! GO!" with no time for them to think, as a way to represent that they were running chaotically for their lives to try to get to the exit. 

In the end, the adventurers actually lost on the last round of Rock-Paper-Scissors, but they were close to the exit. The adventurers had just run across a rickety bridge made of bones that spanned a yawning chasm, and one of the adventurers asked if he could use his mace to smash the bridge to prevent the goblins from crossing. It seemed reasonable so I made him roll for it to see if he could to it in time, which he did, so many of the goblins fell off the bridge and the others were prevented from crossing and instead had to content themselves with shooting arrows and throwing spears at the adventurers as they made their escape. 

With that, below is the detailed recap for those that enjoy reading these types of things. As always, I really appreciate your comments and thoughts on my game, your own experiences with B2: Keep on the Borderlands, or B/X in general, your ideas on running chase scenes, or whatever else you want to share. Drop a comment below! 


THE AGE OF TWILIGHT: SESSION 4

Short Recap: Having been betrayed by the scholar, Johann Brunner, the adventurers found themselves back at the goblin temple and surrounded by screaming goblins. With a quick bit of thinking, the adventurers gained time to flee from the goblins toward the exit. An action-packed chase ensued, but the adventurers eventually made their way outside and into the daylight, where they met a traveling merchant, Ulrich Von Munchberger, who hires them to escort him to the "Keep on the Borderlands." Once at the Keep, the adventurers visit the Greased Goat Tavern where they meet some colorful folks and also read some notifications on a message board that give them some leads on places to go next.

Detailed Recap:

The 19th of Redleaf: Goblin Caverns

Scholar Johann Brunner, after offering to help lead the adventurers out of the goblin caves, instead double-crossed them by leading them through the dark, damp tunnels to the goblin temple, where the adventurers had previously witnessed a goblin religious ceremony in progress. Brunner explained that he can't have them returning to the surface and revealing the location of the goblin caverns to other surface-dwellers, as the presence of invaders would upset the delicate nature of goblin society. He also mentions that, unlike him, the goblins don't like to eat prickly caves pears and instead prefer food with "a little more meat on it."

Nearly three dozen the goblins shouted, screamed, and drew closer, nearly crawling over themselves to attack the stalwart adventurers. In a flurry of activity, the adventurers quickly recovered from the betrayal and sprang into action. A few followed the example of Johann Brunner on their first meeting, and brandished glass vials liberated from the laboratory of the goblin alchemist, threatening to throw them at the masses of goblins. The goblins paused and cowered back, giving Bartolo time to knock off the wide-brimmed hat and bird-beak mask of Brunner's plague-doctor outfit, revealing him to be a simple human and not a monster as the goblins had thought. Brunner quickly hid his form with his cloak and his startled scream echoed down a tunnel as he ran toward his sanctuary, pursued by a group of ravenous goblins intent on gaining revenge. Meanwhile, Holly the elf, remembering Brunner's description of the goblin's religion, quickly grabbed the huge white maggot that the goblins referred to as "The Great Grub" and held it aloft, causing the goblins to fall to their knees in prayer and supplication. The actions by the quick-thinking adventurers were enough to gain them a few moments to being making their escape before the goblins followed them.

Having quickly studied the map of the caverns hanging on Brunner's wall in his study, the adventurers had a good sense of how to make their way toward the exit. Goblin spears and arrows, made of crude sticks and sharpened, jagged bones, whizzed past their heads as they ran, half-stumbling, through the dark of the caverns toward the exit. 

During their escape, in addition to being attacked by the chasing goblins, the adventurers had to contend with thick giant spider webs blocking their path, an underground forest made of once-living trees but covered in lava that cooled over millennia, the remains of an ancient dwarven mine full of glowing rocks, an area of giant mushrooms that caused hallucinations, a talking rat guide, a short-cut through a narrow tunnel, and a rickety bridge built of bones spanning an endless chasm. The darkness of the caverns was extremely immense, causing time and distance to be exaggerated and all details to be imprecise and unclear. Eventually the adventurers gained ground on their pursuers and found a huge stairway made of skulls and bones (some animal, some humanoid) and crawled out to the surface, finding themselves exiting from the caverns from an ancient tree stump. Although the daylight hurt their eyes after so much time in complete darkness, the adventurers had the forethought to block the exit with fallen logs and boulders they found nearby. 

The 19th of Redleaf: The Forest Outside the Goblin Caves

The adventurers looked for food and clean water, which took effort to find, but after resting and eating a bit, they regained some energy and began searching for a trail back to the closest civilized area. After following some barely recognizable trails and gaining in elevation, the adventurers found their way back toward the Bone Road and chose to continue east, which was their previous destination.

 A short while later, the adventurers heard sounds of a battle and came across a coach stuck in the mud, surrounded by attacking bandits. Although some of the adventurers pleaded for caution, others sprang into action and after only a few quick attacks, scared the bandits and drove them off. The owner of the coach, Ulrich Von Munchberger, thanked them for their assistance, and offered them some gold in exchange for helping extricate his coach from the mud. Seeing the adventurers had some experience and were handy at protecting him from the bandits, Munchberger offers them employ to accompany (and guard) him on the way to the Keep... known simply as the Keep on the Borderlands, which passes for civilization in these parts.

 The adventurers agreed, and made their way toward the keep. Along the way, they witnessed a large iron cage hanging from a tree with a dead body, a woman, inside. Munchberger explained that the woman was probably a witch, and that witches were generally not tolerated in this area, and that most have been hunted to extiction. Closer to the Keep, hanging bodies with clothing that matched the bandits who attacked Munchberger earlier were seen, with signs above them reading, "This is what happens to bandits around here." 

The 19th of Redleaf: At the Keep on the Borderlands

Upon approaching the gates, the adventurers passed by two guards, and were stopped by the Bailiff and the Scribe. The Bailiff recognized Ulrich von Munchberger, and informed everyone of the rules of the keep, including keeping weapons sheathed and bows unstrung, and checking in their shields with the guard at the gate. The Scribe then noted the name and occupation of each adventurers, and the Bailiff announced the tax of 1 gold piece for each adventurer to enter the Keep, which Munchberger paid, after noting that the next time, the adventurers would need to pay the tax themselves. Munchberger then left to attend to business, but asked the adventurers to meet him tomorrow at the Guildhouse, where he had a business proposition for them. He also seemed quite interested in procuring any mushrooms the adventurers had liberated from the goblin caverns.

Upon passing the inner gates and entering the Keep, the adventurers were amazed by the bustle of activity and the number of people inside, far more than they were used to from their smaller villages to the west. After getting their bearings, they made their way to a tavern, the Greased Goat, where they procured food and drink, and handsomely tipped the establishment's proprietor, the gregarious Gustav Gobblegut, making him an instant friend. Gustav shared information about the folks in the tavern, including an entertainer and bear trainer from a far-off empire to the east, and also directed them to the message board, where locals post notes asking for employment or requesting help finding things or people, and where updated rules regarding activities of the Keep can be found. After reading through the notes, the adventurers were particularly interested in the following:

  • Doktor Schüttelt, the local barber-surgeon, who heals wounds for either gold or whiskey, and will also give a haircut and shave
  • The Witch, a mysterious figure located in the aptly named "Witch's Tower," who will identify magic items and strange curios for a fee
  • The Traveller's Inn, offering rooms of varying quality to visitors to the Keep
  • Raddax, a man seeking work, offering to carry "almost anything" and indicating that he is "good with sord"

 Having been wounded during their encounters with the goblins, the adventurers decide to first visit Doktor Schüttelt, who charges them 5 gold pieces each to heal their wounds. After downing a stiff swig of whiskey of dubious origin, the good doctor patches up the adventurers, although he requires several attempts and leaves more than a few scars.

With the wounds bound, the adventurers procure rooms at the Traveller's Inn and decide they could use a good night's sleep before continuing to explore the Keep in the morning. A few of the adventurers plan to buy new supplies, while others are interested in visiting the Witch's Tower and Holly showed interest in hiring some porters and other workers for any future explorations. 


Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking: Tap water
Listening: "So What (Live)" by Bill Evans, from the album "Evans in England (Live)"

Comments

  1. Hi Martin,
    Wow! That Rock-Paper-Scissors Chase Mechanic sounds super fun. How creative! And it sounds like it was a hit at the table as well. In addition to the creativity, I really like how the mechanic physically (i.e., the physical act of rock-paper-scissors) engages the players by pulling them together in a way that almost demands participation. I would imagine that it is difficult to sit back unengaged and simply wait to roll a die. Nice work!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so much! I really appreciate the comment, and it was super engaging. We've all been very careful and at the time of our game, all of the adults were fully vaccinated and we were able to set up a seating arrangement outdoors where only families sat together (two sisters, a dad and daughter, my daughter & me, and one individual player). So, I masked up and walked around to do the rock-paper-scissors in a round robin type of situation, and it was a great way to keep the players engaged.

      That said, I can't really take credit because I read the idea in the Neverland RPG campaign setting. Even though that was designed for 5th Edition, this rock-paper-scissors chase mechanic worked perfectly in my B/X game.

      Thanks for reading & commenting!

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