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A Red & Pleasant Land, Part 2: The Big Map

Happy 4th of July! Enjoy your hamburgers, hot dogs, fireworks, and campaign logs.

Prep Time

First big item of prep work was this:



Mentioned last time that the hexcrawl process felt a little slow. Especially describing terrain types of surrounding hexes each-and-every time the PCs moved. Thought it would be quicker to just have a big map that I could color in terrain on as they move. Every square is 3/4" -- large enough the fit a penny-based miniature in.

Pros: Faster. Looks nice. Fun artifact we can hang up in our office at the completion of the campaign.

Cons: No easy way to get lost now. Even using the spatial distortion rules, the party will always know what square they are in.

Fair trade-off to me.

Remainder of prep work was mostly keying in squares near the same path the party traveled before.

Players

  • Zeera Hargen - Magician, master of the stab-them-with-my-knife spell
  • Gor Orben - Amazon, "She is Gor"
  • Korgen Whitewheel - Cleric of Tittivilla, Horned Goddess of All Flesh
  • Taybull Legg - Alistair, keeper of the buzzy boy
  • Wolfram Veta - Cleric of Vorn, Grim Gaunt God of Iron, Rust and Rain
and the newly joined:
  • Jasmine the Other Seer - He who has never played a tabletop RPG before

Events

  • The party starts again in Castle Cachtice. Some discussion is had about how they should proceed. Make another try at the tower? Head south to one of the other landmarks on their map? Feed the Queen a poison cake?
  • I remind the players that the game has no restrictions on where they can go or what they can try, but there are obstacles to consider. How long will the Heart Queen remain patient waiting for reports about the eastern tower? If they want to poison her, where are they going to get poison? Cake ingredients? Access to a kitchen? Convince her to eat it? Many paths can be taken, but you have to interact with the world to move along them. There is no "roll d6 to say the Queen was poisoned".
  • The party decides to not risk the Heart Queen's wrath just yet and heads towards the eastern tower.
  • They spend a few days getting themselves down from the mountains. While foraging along the way, Jasmine is separated from the rest of the party and randomly encounters a creature. It looks like a small, fat child in lederhosen. A sticky mess of leftover candy goo dripping from its mouth and covering its front. Golden hair, teeth worn to sharp triangles, and a kitchen knife in its left hand. "i WAnT cAAAnndy"
  • Jasmine makes the unlikely decision for a first time TTRPG player and doesn't fight the creature. Throws out a ration that the creature greedily gobbles up. "mmmMMMmmMMMM." The creature wanders away.
  • The party comes down from the mountains, avoids the attention of an army marching to the west, and begins making faster progress through the gardens. They eventually come upon an expansive graveyard where they make camp for the night.
  • During his watch, Wolfram is attacked by a swarm of bats. He awakes his companions and uses a "leave no footprints behind" Arcanum to help cover their escape.
  • Continuing east through the graveyard, Jasmine notices a set of pig-like footprints heading south. The party decides to investigate.
  • The footprints lead out of southern gate of the graveyard, and up ahead (using a spyglass) Jasmine sees two green pigs (Mome Raths), seemingly not moving.
  • The party approaches quietly and decides to ambush the Mome Raths before they can react. Shots are fired from several muskets and flintlock pistols but nothing happens. Jasmine lobs a throwing axe as Korgen charges in. The throwing axe is frozen in mid-air, and soon Korgen is frozen in mid-stride. The remaining party members now realize that the Mome Raths are completely frozen as well. They know something is dangerous here and approach no further.
  • Using the "books can answer d10 questions" rule from Vornheim and a book on Gyorslan lore (that he acquired as part of the character conversion from Torchbearer to Into the Odd), Zeera learns that this is an anti-time bubble. Furthermore, the energies of the bubble lead back to an object, which is the bubble's source.
  • One of the party members grabs a handful of grass and throws it towards the group of frozen figures. The grass blades freeze in mid-air, but not before the tips of all of them rotate to point in the same direction.
  • The party keeps throwing grass blades and following the direction they point. They eventually arrive through a flowered arch into a circular garden. Four stone pedestals surround a sundial. A freshly baked pie can be seen on each pedestal.
  • Guessing that one of the pies might be the source of the anti-time bubble (cause everything else in Voivodja has been equally fucked-up so far) the party begins poking at the pies from a distance with spears.
  • The first pie releases a swarm of bats that quickly flee the daylight sun. The second pie contains a black pudding that makes quick work of the spear tip.
  • Wolfram decides to take a close look at the sundial. Bad move -- a Tove leaps from the ground, winds its way quickly up Wolfram's leg, and begins burrowing into his intestines. All HP and some STR lost, but Wolfram avoids Critical Damage, remains conscious and screaming.
  • The other PCs make a quick plan. Two of them grab opposite ends of a rope. One runs in and ties it to the end of the Tove, the other end is tied to one of the pedestals. A third PC kicks down the pedestal. All Saves succeeded and failed as needed, the rope goes taut, the Tove is pulled out of Wolfram. It quickly burrows into the ground and escapes.
  • After patching Wolfram up, they again take a look at the sundial. Despite the position of the sun in the sky, the shadow on the sundial is pointed directly at the south-eastern pedestal.
  • PCs poke at the pie on the south-eastern pedestal. Nothing happens. They take a bite. Lingonberry. They devour the entire pie.
  • A mile away, Korgen is suddenly able to move again. The very next thing he sees are several bullets and a throwing axe making contact with one of the Mome Raths, quickly bringing its recently restored movement to a conclusion.
  • The party regroups with Korgen, makes camp, prepares a dinner of the mome rath, then sets out again the next day.
  • A short time later, they see a sheep in a long rowboat paddling along one of the canals. "Baaah. Baah. Won't you step aboard my shop?. Baah."
  • Gor remembers the words of her thornchild-sensei: "Always trust the sheep." The party steps aboard the sheep's canoe.
  • Looking around the general store they now find themselves standing in, they start a conversation with the young woman in the sheepskin hood standing behind the counter. "Anything you'd care to buy or sell, travelers?"
This is where real life suddenly runs us out of time. The party makes a few purchases and sells a few things. The tower will have to continue waiting.

Questions before next session

What was the deal with the army that was marching to the west?

What worked well?

The big map was a big hit. "I like how travel and exploration works" -- Wolfram.

I had the players lay out their planned route with glass beads, which allowed me to quickly move them along the path, describing only big landmarks, quickly drawing in terrain, stopping only for rolled encounters. The players were free to interrupt at any point to change their route or investigate something.

The change to Into the Odd met with approval from the players who weren't there for the previous session. "New system is a hit!" -- Zeera texting me shortly after leaving.

And, holy crap, was it easy to get never-played-an-rpg-before Jasmine up to speed. Character creation and rules explanation in under 5 minutes? Still not feeling like it's lacking any core rules I need? Yes, please.

This was also the first time I used my newly built "dungeon in a cigar box". I'll write about that later...

What didn't?

Still need a good "What happened to you as you limped back home?" table for sessions that end away from home base. Maybe a "What happened to you as we fast-forwarded back to where you were" table as well??

I'm still a little vague on what constitutes a complete "expedition" for purposes of leveling up in Into the Odd. I'm certain that "scout the eastern tower and report back to the Queen" would qualify, but I'm not sure what else would at the moment.

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