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A Red & Pleasant Land, Part 1: Into the Odd

Running the next session on Thursday, so let's hurry up and get this campaign log up-to-date.

Big changes

This was basically a relaunch of our A Red & Pleasant Land campaign. Continued with the same characters and same prior events, but with the following changes:
  • Changed the system to Into the Odd
  • Running it as a full sandbox hexcrawl
Some rough conversion of characters from Torchbearer to Into the Odd and we were off.

Events

We last left our characters under the patronage of the Heart Queen, hoping to prove themselves better scouts than meals. To kick off the hexcrawl, I gave the players the following:

A blank map to start filling in. (This is what was explored this session.)


A rough map provided by the House of Hearts showing the extents of their territory. Marked is the eastern tower that the Queen wishes them to visit and report back on.

  • Gor, Jhovan, and Orv set out from Castle Cachtice. On the way out, Gor is given final words of advice from his thornchild-sensei: "Trust the sheep."
  • At this point, the players don't know exactly what square the tower is on their map. Only that it lies to the east. So they head east.
  • Later that day, they run into an old woman wandering lost in the mountains. It is The Duchess and she has lost her "sense of direction". It was apparently stolen by a large lizard.
  • The players agree to help recover The Duchess' sense of direction if she will use it to give them better directions to the tower.
  • The players track down the lair of the lizard. Turned out to be a Komodo dragon. The players make quick work of the lone lizard and investigate its stomach contents, Jaws-style.
  • They find a golden compass with no needle -- The Duchess' sense of direction. Successfully returned, she uses it to mark on the players' map exactly where the tower may be found.
  • The party makes camp for the night in an Interior room. They cook and eat the Komodo dragon, but it turns out those are toxic as hell -- d6 loss of DEX to each player.
  • During his watch, Jhovan feels a terrifying presence approaching one of the room's doors. No sound, nothing visible, just a palpable sense of unimaginable terror. Jhovan decides to investigate no further, and the entity eventually walks away.
  • Heading south-east down from the mountains, the party finds themselves wandering through a thick mist, scarecrow-like figures barely visible away from their path. They ignore the figures and press on.
  • Seeking Interior shelter from a rainstorm that night, they find a door leading inside from the garden. But three more of the scarecrow-like figures stand directly in their way -- members of the Order of Spades.
  • The party fights their way through. The Spades are quickly overwhelmed, turning to playing cards upon their defeat. The players conduct various science experiments on the cards to try to learn Voivodjan vampire vulnerabilities. They eventually toss the cards into a canal and they float away.
  • After another day's travel, the party again seeks an Interior room to camp in. They find a window leading down into an art gallery. Checking the safety of their surroundings before making camp, they overhear whispers through a nearby door: "The shoe theft was a wonderful distraction...the Hearts have no idea what we really stole...we must return quickly...but first, let us find that secret chapel."
  • Likely feeling bold off of their success against the Spades, the party kicks the door down. They encounter 2 Knights of an unknown house.
  • Having higher priorities at the moment, the Knights agree to let the party walk away undisturbed if they will likewise oblige. "But next time we meet, you will be our feast."
  • The party starts walking away, but Gor doesn't like the Knights' attitude and flips them off.
  • Referee: You actually want to do that? Gor: Yes. They're being dicks. I give them the finger. Referee: ...sigh... okay.
  • Insulted, the Knights quickly draw their swords (Komodo dragon -poisoned Gor fails her DEX save for initiative) and strike. Gor finds herself taking Critical Damage and lying in a pile of blood on the ground.
  • Jhovan and Orv make a quick plan of escape. Jhovan will run in, grab Gor's body, and pull her out of the room. Orv will close the door behind them and bar it with his shovel.
  • DEX save for Jhovan to sneak in and make off with Gor's body -- fails. Jhovan ends up grabbed by one of the Knight's before he can get to Gor's body.
  • Orv changes up the plan and throws a smoke bomb down for cover.
  • Knight's go again. One Knight strikes at Orv, but the smoke does its job well. The other Knight bites its fangs into (STR 4, 3 HP) Jhovan -- Critical Damage and another party member out of the fight.
  • Looking for ideas, I offer Orv a dilemma: Your party has two pets -- a dog and an eagle. If you sacrifice the pets, you can make it out of this. Two pets for two PCs.
  • Orv makes his choice. The animals begin harassing the Knights. Orv uses the distraction to grab both his friends, drag their bodies out of the room, and bar the door behind with his shovel.
  • The sounds of barks and squawks coming through the door are snuffed out. The sound of banging on the door. The barrier holds.
  • The session ends here. We assume the PCs limp their way back to Castle Cachtice to rest and recover before making their next try at the tower.

Questions before next session

  • Does word reach the Heart Queen of the players' attack on the Spades? Does she even care about such violence?
  • What's the deal with the secret chapel they heard whispers of?

What worked well?

Overall, the change to Into the Odd was wonderful. The rules are simple, and Chris McDowall (both in the book and his blog) gives great explanations of how a referee should think about applying them.

Worrying less about the system left me with more mental energy for managing the campaign. Everything that happened above was generated on the fly (including a dungeon map) using the drop and random tables from AR&PL. That is something I didn't get to do much while keeping track of Torchbearer's everything. Really brought the at-the-table utility of AR&PL to light.

(I had prepared contents for several map hexes, but the players somehow managed to avoid all of that. Because of course they did.)

I also liked the change to a sandbox hexcrawl. First time I've really run one of those, and it quickly felt more natural than I expected.

What needs improvement?

Moving one hex by one hex, explaining contents one hex by one hex, describing surrounding hex terrain and landmarks one hex by one hex by one hex by one hex, etc. in a clear enough way for them to make their own notes on the blank map I gave them was kinda slow and boring. I need something quicker. Next time, I will (and did) make a larger map that I can quickly color in terrain types for them to see, only describing interesting landmarks and encounters.

It seems that sessions will frequently be ending with the players days from home. Could use a random table of "What happened to you as you limped your way back home?"

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