OK, so it was a long time since my last post. I had some trouble finding a group, but it seems this problem diminished somewhat, thanks to the wonders of Roll20.net and Google Hangouts. Will definitely host further one-shots using these tools in the future.
I played a one-shot session last Thursday with two complete strangers, the French guy Eric and the Belgian Bastien. I have actually never GM’ed for a group, where everyone was a stranger to me, so that was a bit daunting.
It went extremely well, even though I came to the “table” with absolutely no prep at all. All I came with was an idea that I’d like to run something about airships, because that just sounded awesome in my head. It didn’t happen though, but I’ll never admit to being sorry about it.
The session was a complete success in my book. In fact, it might just be the best session I ever GM’ed.
We started as any game should; make and present characters. This is where my plans for airship battles flew out the window, pun intended. I never even got to mention airships, before the players were knee deep in back-story about how their characters met.
I could have forced it a bit and asked; “So, how did you guys come to possess an airship?” I decided not to, because I really wanted to see where they’d go with this short description of their time together. So instead I asked; “So, you’ve been travelling together for some months, it seems. Where are you now?” Play to find out what happens…
The elvish druid started adventuring because something that “smelled wrong” in his homeland and was thus compelled to seek it out. The fighter, who was also an elf, had a more mundane reason to travel, merely exploring human lands for the thrill of it.
I made moves whenever the players looked to me to see what happens. This started when we had established, where they were, or rather when the players had. They were currently in the village of Threebridges, a town with a population mainly consisting of halflings and a few humans.
As they woke up, and had breakfast (well, the fighter had, the druid lives on universe juice), they were hearing people gathering outside, shouting. A halfling girl had been murdered! This was my first move. They start investigating, rolling a miss on a Discern Realities roll. I decided that putting them in danger was kind of inappropriate, so I used my move to show signs of an approaching threath by telling them that her body was torn in half.
They spoke with some guards, and found out it was the Dunstan the mayors daughter, as by queue from an out-of-character remark that she was probably the daughter of someone important. I went with that, it worked for me. They talked to her sobbing father, and pledged to help this village. The fighter went to the girl’s room in the mayors house to investigate, while the druid decided to hang around town to look for clues.
Both rolled a miss on Discern Realities. I asked both of them what that meant. One of them got the idea that there was a conspiracy, people making a special beak-like hand-gestures to each other, while clearly faking sympathy in conversations about Dunstan and his daughter Olive. Eric, who played the fighter took this up a notch by finding a a blackmail letter. It said something about the lines of “Meet us at town square by midnight, or we’ll murder your family.” This was actually a great way of escalating the situation. Powerful monsters and a conspiracy? Heck yeah!
The druid went to speak with some bats that lived under the inn. They told him of three to four great beasts, three times the size of a bear, who entered the village at night and killed the girl. The fighter went to investigate, there must have been traces of such beasts. A partial success on a Discern Realities gave him the chance to ask “What should I be on the lookout for?”. I was a bit torn between answering either werewolves or owlbears. I chose the latter. They’re so fluffy!
So, in about an hour of investigation an entire plot had been revealed, and nothing was prepared in advance. In fact, I find it hard to take credit for much of it, since most of it was invented by the players, but I’m perfectly fine with that, I’d have it no other way.
The plot thickened; we had a fight with some cultists. They captured one and questioned him. They learned that about 10 cultists had been infiltrating the village, while the rest of the cult remained under the ruined tower where they had the fight. Also, they worshiped a demon-god, whose symbol was a bird’s skull, and the cult leader was experimenting on animals to shape their form into the image of his god.
I’d like to pause an reflect on how everything fitted together. The druid looking for the “wrong smell”, which turned out to be abominable experiments on animals. The beak-like hand-gestures fitted perfectly with a cult worshiping a demon-god with a bird’s skull as his symbol. Owlbears, a monster with the head of an owl and the body of a bear. Everything just ended up fitting so damn well!
The party decided an entire cult might be too much to deal with, so they returned to town and informed Dunstan. Their plan was to look for some extra hands to clean out the rest of the cult. In game-terms; they wanted to recruit some hirelings.
This was where the session ended. It was incredibly fun, and we decided to plan for an additional session, so we could finish the adventure. We also decided that this was a great point for introducing new players, if we could find willing souls.
This was the first session of the “The Rise of Ri’leth” adventure. The write up for the second session can be found here.