Monday, December 12, 2016

Monday Recap: Save the Village One-Shot

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Little town, full of little people
One of the goals for this blog is to post reviews of the games I play each weekend. I don't know if this will happen every weekend, especially with the holidays coming up, but this weekend I ran a one-shot game in the home-brewed country of Garlancia.

Save the Village of Anesta!


philipstraub.deviantart.com
There's at least ten old sailors with only one leg in every tavern
Cast of Characters:
Jon: Dungeon Master
Megan: Violet Rose, Human Bard, precocious
Cody: William (Will) Green, Human Wizard, comic relief
Sam: Emma Green, Human Monk, artist
Cait: Ryona Brianne, Human Rogue, town beauty
Matt: Roger Turner, Human Fighter, wanna-be adventurer

Cody, Cait, and Megan are the players in my game that runs weekly. Sam and Matt are a couple who are trying out D&D for the first time. Fortunately, Cody and Cait know Matt and Sam quite well, so I anticipate good group cohesion.

The game started with a call to action. The heroes needed to gather enough money to purchase the deeds to their homes, which were currently held by their families but would be going up for public auction the next day. Unscrupulous Duke Romero Calabra had forced the deeds to be put up for auction and was threatening to buy the deeds himself to turn the town into another branch of his profitable businesses.

dragonage.bioware.com/dao/characters/human_noble/
Romero Calabra: that guy
The characters were the children of families facing the loss of their homes. They were ages 16-19, and they met at the Lantern Lounge tavern to discuss Violet's plan to get the massive amount of money needed to repurchase the deeds.

Already, Cody and Sam were playing up their sibling pranks and teasing. Matt seemed to be taking to his character pretty literally, he kept quoting his traits exactly in his dialogue. Nothing wrong with that!

The characters met because Violet, the youngest of the group, found a treasure map from famed pirate Winky Fuzzbuster. The players got a kick out of that. According to Roger, the map was written by his great-granduncle, Robert Scaife! It said a passage out of this tavern leads to the treasure ship.

They had an unexpected visit from Roy Calabra, Romero's jerk son. He's interested in Ryona, and Ryona plays along for a bit but didn't seem too pleased when he crumpled up the map and calls their endeavors "kid's stuff." Will secretly had a crush on Ryona, so he had a hard time holding back his mage hand from slapping Roy.

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Obtain gold, punch bad guys
The characters decided to search for the passageway under the tavern. However, before they could do that, two of Romero's goons stood up from the bar and demanded the characters hand over the map! We rolled our first combat!

Matt and Sam were on fire, Matt rolled a critical on his first attack and Sam rolled 2 criticals in her first combat. There was some serious beginner's luck at the table on Saturday.

After "accidentally" killing the thugs, the characters apologized to Bartholomew the Bartender and began to search the basement. Violet quickly figured out which wall to search from the map, and Roger spotted a small alcove with a handle in it while seeing if he could carry a whole barrel of wine.

Violet pulled and pushed the handle without any results. Meanwhile, Ryona gave a speech to her companions, shoring up their resolve to fight. Violet was still getting nowhere. She punched the handle out of frustration and it turned slightly.

Will, with a grin, reached over and turned the handle instead of pushing or pulling it. The wall slid open and the secret tunnel was exposed!

Secret tunnel! Through the tavern!
They traveled down the tunnel, and Violet stopped them at a strange-looking rock on the floor. Apparently this was marked as a trap on the map. She pushed down on it, and a trio of metal spikes shot from the walls! Her friends were very relieved that they didn't die here.

They headed down further, stepping over tripwires and avoiding fake rocks, until they came to a more open area with a shaft of light shining down on an underground river. Sitting on the shore was a skeleton with a bunch of writing supplies. It looked like he died here a long time ago.

They heard voices from the shaft of light. Looking upwards, they could see the sky and a bucket hanging down. Roger realized that this was a well that uses the river. Ryona decided to hit the bucket with an arrow to see if she could make it drop.

The arrow hit the bucket, not the rope, but someone noticed the noise. They heard a voice calling out to Ryona. It's Roy Calabra! They all jeered at him while he started to lower the bucket down.

Will decided to use his mage hand to punch the bucket back up at Roy's face. Roy got angry! He ran off to tell his dad about the characters in the well! Emma started to worry that they were going to be caught. They had left bodies in the tavern and now Romero Calabra knew where they are!

The players had a really great reaction to Roy. I think the "bully" aspect came off well, and they were really into making jokes at his expense. Cait had the perfect blend of sarcasm and deception, playing along with Roy but making sure the other players knew that she was on their side.
Well, well, well
The characters wanted to continue forward, but this is where the map's trap pointers stopped. Ryona volunteered to go first, since she has the sharpest eyes. Sure enough, she found a few more traps along the way. When she reached down to set off another spike trap, Will jumped out and held her back, activating the trap with his mage hand. Very considerate.

After uneventfully fending off a swarm of bats, they took a short rest before reaching the final cavern marked on the map. Violet used her "new" writing supplies to mark the map with further traps they found. According to the map, the treasure was just ahead.

After another stirring speech from Ryona about saving their families (and doing it quickly, since Romero's goons now knew where they were), the players ventured into a large cave, with light shining through the ceiling. And finally, there in the middle of an underground lake, was the Red Lantern, flagship of the famed pirate Winky Fuzzbuster!

Mariela Choiniere
An ancient ship, for a more civilized age
The heroes climbed aboard the ship and roped themselves down into the hold. Roger and Will stayed up top to hold onto the rope, Roger didn't trust the mast to hold their weight.

Down below deck, Violet, Ryona, and Emma discovered an amazing sight: Piles and piles of Gold and Gems, littered with human skeletons! One of them still had a beard and a slightly tilted pirate's hat. It's old "Stinky Winky" himself! I didn't come up with that name, I think Cody started using it mid-game.

Up top, Will and Roger suddenly saw figures coming up the gangplank. It's Romero's goons! They immediately saw the characters' pockets stuffed with treasure, and they attacked to beat up the heroes.

The combat went well, even with the new players. I have found that the best way to get new players to figure out the game is to slowly introduce options to them. At first, just ask if they was to attack Bad Guy A or Bad Guy B. Then start asking if they want to do other things, like take Dodge or Ready Actions, use items, or disengage. Always frame it as a choice: "you can attack and take a risk since you are at low health, or you could back up defensively and get out of melee range safely." Players will slowly pick up on what they can and cannot do in a round of combat.

Another note... the beginner's luck just wasn't stopping. Matt rolled natural 20s on clutch rolls to stay alive, and Sam must have critted 5 or 6 times in this combat alone. They had just bought their dice from the local gaming store before the session, and I think they might have gotten some favorably weighted dice...

In the heat of battle, as he struck down a thug to defend Ryona, Will failed a Wisdom check and blurted out his true feelings so the entire group heard it. Ryona smileed back at him, Violet told them to "Get engaged already!"

Right as the last goon falls to his knees in defeat, he utters his final words. "It's too late! Romero already knows where we are, and more of us are coming for you!" The heroes realized they had to leave quickly if they wanted to keep their treasure, and they couldn't go back the way they came.

miggs69.deviantart.com
Things never turn out easy, do they
Roger realized the light coming through the walls meant they might be able to make an exit, and he ran off the ship to start trying to widen one of the holes. Everyone chipped in, and they managed to pull themselves out of the cavern. Unfortunately, the hole triggered a collapse that opened up the cave and sent rocks crashing into the already-decrepit ship.

Just as they caught their breath, they saw a group of townsfolk running towards them. At the front of the group was Romero! He had twelve thugs with him. The heroes were surrounded, but they managed to hide their treasure from prying eyes.

The character's families were also there. Roger's father gave him a stern lecture about stealing the family sword and shield. Violet's grandmother wasn't sure what's happening. Ryona's parents were there, along with Roy Calabra, and they were urging Ryona to be with Roy so Romero wouldn't get angry. Ryona gave a wink to Will before insincerely embracing Roy.

Will and Emma saw their father, Walsh Green, the town treasurer. They pulled him aside from Romero and the goons and showed him the money they found. Walsh noticed that the gold from Romero's goons is fake! Romero has been counterfeiting!

Walsh took the money and made a bold stand to Romero. He accused him of forging money, and reveals the treasure, enough to buy the deeds to the character's homes! Romero's Goons were distraught at the idea that their fake money is now useless, Roy was really upset at how un-cool his dad is, and Romero was driven out of town by the sheriff!

As the characters shared their gold and celebrate, they noticed the Red Lantern floating out of the open cave and onto the sea. The wind caught its ragged sails, and it headed off towards new adventures. They even saw old Captain Winky Fuzzbuster at the helm, tipping his hat to the heroes.

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So long, farewell...
Now, if you don't know what story this adventure is based on, that's alright. But if so you are missing out on watching one of the great adventure films of the 1980's.

I like the idea of taking movie plots and using them for one-shot campaigns. A movie feels about the right length for an adventure, especially if it doesn't involve too much travelling or extended combat. I would never be able to turn a Star Wars movie into a single-session campaign, all the travel distances and fight scenes would make it more worthy of a longer story.

But there are a lot of good movies (and songs, and books, and TV shows) that feel right to be transformed into an adventure. I kept a lot of thematic elements from the movie for this adventure, but a reskinning of ideas could help keep things fresh. Romero and his thugs could be Orcs holding hostages instead of crooks buying up property, and Winky's treasure could be a Goblin Gold horde guarded by a kindly orcish ghost who is freed after the gold is returned to its people.

I am definitely interested in creating more adventures this way, and with more reskinning. Matt pretty much knew right away where I got the story once I told them Winky's ship was sailing away.

Oh well. That just means I can improve for next time!

Never say die!
Thanks for reading!

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