The third session of the three-shot ended this Tuesday, and it had one of the most epic and gut wrenching endings I have experienced in my 9 years of role-playing. At one point I started to sweat a little, and not because of the room temperature…
The second session ended with a not-quite-so invisible fighter, Falafael, and a Druid that couldn’t see because he was currently a bat with terrible eyesight. They had just escaped a room in the dungeon, where they’d been trapped for about 24 hours because of a cave-in.
Prior to the third session, I spoke with Eric, the player of Falafael, because I had regrets about not giving him access to a spell book. His first advanced move was Multiclass Dabbler and he chose the Wizards spellcasting moves. I felt bad for letting him play for an entire session without getting to use those moves because of my mistakes, so we decided to retcon a little. We agreed that he had found a spell book in the caved-in room, where they had beheaded a cultist and taken three others as prisoners.
Behind the scenes
The other cultists knew they were captured in the caved in room, because they hadn’t returned to Threebridges. They could verify this because of their spies in the town. So, now that the meddlesome heroes were out of the way, they kidnapped some townsfolk to sacrifice in an evil ritual to open the prison of their wicked god.
Sinathel flew into the next chamber in the caverns, silently using the bat’s echolocation ability to get a rough estimate of how many people were in there. There was a lot of activity in there, and he flew back to Falafael to report. He reverted to elven form, only to discover that Falafael was not invisible, which Falafael was unaware of.
Falafael decided to cast the invisibility spell again and went into the room to spy on the cultists. They were in the midst of a ritual of sorts, chanting around an alter on which a human was bound and gagged and stripped of all clothes, except for a loin cloth. There were three similar victims lying dangerously near to some owlbear cages.
There was a large stone seal, held firmly in place by two statues resembling armored warriors. On the seal was an etching of a large birds skull. One of the cultists was obviously leading the ritual and was now brandishing a large curved blade, about to cut the throat of guy on the alter.
Falafael sneaks back to Sinathel and explains what he has learned, and they immediately run in to stop the foul ritual. Sinathel readies his sling while Falafael sneaks into the room, carrying his axe. One of the cultists is hit in the back of the head by Sinathels pellet, sending him sprawling to the ground. Falafael drops his invisibility and casts a Magic Missile at the cult leader, severely damaging him.
Surprised, the tree other cultists draw their weapons and heads off to kill Sinathel, while their leader heads off to release the owlbears.
Sinathel asks a favor of an earth spirit to crush his enemies, but it demands that he must pay it in kind by returning to it a precious gem, which he will know when he finds it. It then proceed to shape the cavern wall into a giant stony fist, which knocks two cultists into the opposite wall, killing one of them. It then grabs a third and crushes him to death in a symphony of shattering bones.
Falafael tries to stop the leader, but the cultist hit by the sling gets to his feet an tackles him, knocking away his weapon. The leader lets an owlbear loose, which the charges in to maim Falafael. The cultist picks up the axe, to which Falafael responds; “That axe carries the spirit of my father. It cannot hurt me!”. He then turns around to face off with the owlbear.
Amazingly, Falafael was right, the cultist did not succeed at hurting Falafael, even though he hit him twice in the back. In the end, Falafael wrestled the weapon from him and killed him, and in the mean time Sinathel tricked the other remaining cultist into the stone hand, but in the struggle, the cultist snagged Sinathels sling, which was then destroyed alongside the cultist.
Sinathel asked a flame spirit to burn the owlbear and the cultist leader, who in the had gone back to kill the terrified man on the altar. The fire spirit complied but in its desire for destruction, it consumed the body of the victim on the alter. Now burning, the owlbear went into a panicked rage, while the cult leader threw himself back, rolling wildly and ripped off his clothes to escape the fire.
As the man on the alter died, a bluish vapor escaped his mouth and nostrils, which was then pulled into one of the statues. It then let go of the seal on the cavern wall, drew its weapon and then stood dormant to the side of the seal.
Sinathel went to Falafael aid, but was hit square in the back of his head by the owlbear, resulting in a light skull fracture and a concussion. He was flung onto the alter in the process, barely conscious.
The cultist leader got to his feet and leaped at Sinathel with his blade drawn, intent on making Sinathel the final sacrifice. Valorously, Falafael leaped onto the alter, defending his friend from such a vile end. He fought them off, and after awhile Sinathel regained consciousness, and transformed into a mudgoose, and flew out the dungeon.
The owlbear was finally killed by the flames, and Falafael cornered the cultist leader, while standing in between him and the alter. He tried to persuade the cult leader into surrendering, but he tried to flee, unwilling to surrender. Unfortunately, Falafael made an unlucky trip with his axe, which resulted in the cult leader falling onto his own blade, right atop the alter.
He died with a smile on his face, an omen that something had gone terribly wrong. As before, blue vapors escaped the cult leaders mouth and nostrils, and it was pulled into the second statue. The statue let go of the seal, which toppled over, opening up a passageway.
An infernal laughter echoed through the caverns, and tremors were felt throughout the dungeon. Falafael decided to act quickly, freeing the three remaining townsfolk and fled the dungeon. Inside the ruined tower above, Sinathel sat and rested. Falafael tended to his wounds, and told the townsfolk to run back to town.
Clicks and clacking was heard, and both of them stepped out of the ruins, only to see that the tower was reassembling, pulling the stones strewn around the ground into a coherent form, brandishing seven huge stone teeth around the top. As it finished reassembling, a large portal opened at the top, looking like a crack in the air, ripping reality apart.
Falafael fell to his knees, pulling forth his axe and asked for guidance. The spirit of his father stepped out of the weapon, telling him that he must not falter. If the portal was not sealed, doom would befall this world. As the spirit disappeared, demonic entities shaped like humanoid vultures sprung out of the gate.
Sinathel recognized that the portal must have drawn power from the teeth, as he knew of a forbidden druidic ritual, where you drew power from the teeth of slaughtered predators. Falafael cast a spell, forming a telepathic bond between them, and they ran into the now 50 meter high tower, intent on closing the portal at all cost.
The new floor above the armory was merely a huge spiral staircase, running along the walls of the tower. As they climbed the stars, three vulture demons ran down towards them, screaming in an tongue unfit for mortal ears. Sinathel grabbed a large warhammer from the armory and transformed into a crow, intending to destroying the stone teeth at the top, while Falafael would buy him some time by facing off with the demons. He smacked them all out over the staircase in one heavy sweep, and ran to Sinathels side.
A fourth demon was awaiting them and the top, and the three others flew up to help it defend the portal. Sinathel bobbed and weaved to avoid the blows from the demons while trying to smash asunder the stone teeth. Falafael tried to defend him at the same time, but after receiving serious injuries, they switched roles.
One tooth was left standing when a demon tackled Sinathel, throwing them both out over the tower, while Falafael was impaled and killed by the last demon, just as he ripped it in half with his axe, turning it into fire and ash as it died.
As the world darkened, Falafael caught a glimpse of the Black Gates of Death, seeing a giant birdlike demon, also resembling a vulture, encased in a giant crystal. It screamed furiously, calling at its minions to free it. The spirit of Falafaels father appeared beside him, telling him that he was not yet worthy of entering the halls of the great heroes of old. He forced Falafaels spirit back into his pierced body, robbing Death of what was rightfully his.
While plummeting to the ground, Sinathel transformed into a Warrior Eagle, the largest predator bird of the Great Forest, fighting the last demon. The demon hacked and him, striking him with a powerful kick that made Sinathel lose the grasp on the bird spirit. He fell to the ground and broke his left ankle.
The demon came at him once more, and Sinathel went into a deadly melee with it, and murdered it while sustaining a brutal blow. Battered and weak, he climbed the 50 meter tall tower on one foot, leaning to his shillelagh. He saw Falafael lying on the ground, just faintly breathing. He picked up his axe and destroyed the last tooth.
The portal closed, and a foul scream of the purest hatred resounded from the caverns below. The tower started to shake, and Sinathel transformed into the shape of a Warrior Eagle once more. As he did, the tower collapsed underneath him, sending Falafael to his death, but in a fast swoop, Sinathel grabs him by the legs, barely before hitting the ground.
He carried Falafael back to Threebridges, were the returned townsfolk had been alerted the town about the cultists, which had then been captured and thrown in jail. After three days, Falafael awoke from his coma, and the villagers praised them as heroes, throwing a celebration in their honor.
The session ended yesterday with a bang, and since the story was concluded, I’ll post my fronts here as promised, along with a nifty monster I made that the players luckily avoided.
Adventure Front: The Rise of Ri’leth
A mysterious cult is attempting to free their long forgotten god from his eternal prison.
- Dunstan, the mayor of Threebridges
- Madwich, the cult leader
- Ri’leth, the vulture demon prince
- Can Ri’leth be permanently banished?
- What did Olive, the mayors daughter, find out that got her killed?
Danger: The Cult of Ri’leth
Impulse: To free their god
- Madwich creates more abominations
- The cult prepares the ritual
- Human sacrifices are made
Impending Doom: The prison is opened.
Danger: Ri’leth, the vulture demon prince
Impulse: To escape his prison
- An otherworldly portal opens
- Demons spill through
- The seal is broken>/li>
Impending Doom: Ri’leth is let loose upon the world once more.
Comments on the front
The trouble with publishing fronts is that they are filled with innuendo. My players would probably understand almost everything I’ve written above, but an “outsider” would probably not understand the meaning of a lot of it.
“The seal is broken” made sense in the fiction (and I’m pretty sure that my players are aware that it happened), but it doesn’t make much sense out of context. I’ll make a session report later. Hopefully it will make the intend behind most of it clear.
Ri’leth, the Demon Prince
This is the stats on Ri’leth. I made them in case he’d escape, which luckily didn’t happen. His moves are evil, one of them horribly detrimental, and he just has a lot of those nasty tags.
Instead of fumbling around with HTML code, I’ll just post a link to the Dungeon World Codex entry: Ri’leth, the Demon Prince of Chaos!
I revised my fronts made for the three-shot (it keeps escalating, I know…). It seemed that I had a minor misunderstanding of how it worked.
I thought that the grim portents were tied to all the dangers, not that the dangers had their own grim portents. I don’t know how I got that mixed up, but it certainly explains why the book suggests making so few.
I hope we get done today (No Eric and Bastien, I’m not trying to get rid of you), if only because I’ve learned a lot about GMing for Bastien and Eric, and I really want to run more one-shots over hangouts, where I use this newly acquired wisdom. Actual one-shots, not these drawn-out pseudo-campaigns.
I plan to make a post containing all the things I’ve learned from this “campaign”, as soon as it is done. If they don’t stop the cult tonight, I’m very tempted to make a “rock falls” on them. Seriously, I’ve been a big softie so far. Time to show them some real steel.
OK, I’ve been thinking about this for some days now. I am terrible at hosting one-shots as it rarely keeps being a one-shot. I never conclude my stories, and it really bothers me.
It’s not that I don’t like to play with the same people, I just want to know how it ends! I’ve been asking the various G+ communities I frequent about this problem, and it seems that everyone agrees that I’m going at it with a “difficult” mindset.
I say difficult, because I really love improvising and GM’ing without a plan. It makes me feel better about the game, because I have to take all the input the players give me and use it. I feel it makes the game better in some way.
I really abhor railroading, as you may know if you read some of my earliest posts. I truly hate sitting at a table, having no influence over the game. It feels like watching a horrible TV show, but it’s rude to say anything because the manuscript writer is sitting next to you.
How is this a problem for me? It seems I’m on the right track, right? Well, maybe not entirely. Improvising everything works great for campaigns, it really centers the story around the characters, and it almost ensures that the players are invested in the story. The downside is that it makes the game longer, since it makes players “goof around” a lot more. You can’t blame them, they just pick up on the things that interest them.
So, how is this relevant? Well, if you want to conclude the story, then it is important to have a story to conclude! In the games I GM, this story emerges during the game, but there’s no time for that if you are playing a one-shot. In really comes to letting the players know the X-Y-Z scheme before play begins; Villain X will do Y unless the players do Z.
It might sound square, but as Dan Roth said on the Game Master Tips G+ community:
I’ve found that experienced players come to one-shots with a different mindset than they do a campaign.
This sentence is very true, at least I wholeheartedly agree. You don’t expect great personal revelations about your character’s inner-most desires in a one-shot action-heavy fantasy game. You just don’t have the time! You have time to stop the bad guy. That’s it, and it’s what you sit down at the table to do.
So this X-Y-Z scheme seems useful, if only for setting an initial direction for the game. So far, so good. What now? Random Dungeons!
This week (or last, whatever) the One Page Dungeon 2013 contest ended. The entries can be viewed here. Even though it says “dungeon”, the contests was about submitting system-neutral adventures that fit on a single page. I found something in an entry by Dyson Logos that can be found on his blog Dyson’s Dodecaheron. The link shows a one-page dungeon, where some of the encounters are rolled for randomly on a table, as the party makes their way through a jungle. While random encounters in itself isn’t terribly original, and who cares anyway, then it gave me an idea.
In Dyson’s entry, it’s possible to roll the same encounter more than once. I propose a different strategy where instead of fighting random monsters, you explore random rooms. Basically, the idea is this; you buy some clear, white coasters from your local hobby shop. On every coaster, draw a dungeon room on one side, keeping the other clear. Choose a “beginning room” and a “last room”, and place them aside. Shuffle the remaining rooms, put the last room on the bottom and the beginning room on the top. When the party enters the dungeon, draw the top room and place it in front of you.
Every time the players leave a room by an unused exit, roll a die and dig that deep into the room pile, pull forth that room and place it somewhere in front of you, or draw the last room if your die roll was larger than the size of the stack. Put the other rooms back on top in the same order. Now you connect the new room with the one they left with a line, exit to exit. It helps having a whiteboard or large piece of paper. The players can for the rest of the game move freely between these rooms, using the connected exits.
The amount of rooms can be larger than the size of the die, and the size of the pile will then represent how “deep into the dungeon” the final room is. Alternatively, you can sort the pile beforehand, but the rooms will still be somewhat random. The rooms in the top are very likely to be drawn, but the lower down, the less likely they are to be explored.
You could number some or all of the rooms on their front, and prepare something in advance for them, or you could improvise. The point is; you have a pseudo random dungeon to explore, and you can make it as difficult as you want, just add more rooms! When the enemy has been vanquished, you can exit the dungeon, or explore the rest of it if your players feel like that. At the end, you can sit back and marvel at the creation in front of you.
I bought 20 coasters, and I’m thinking about which awesome 20 rooms to draw on them. The theme is “Dwarven Hold”. If you have any ideas, I’ll gladly hear them out. To give you some an idea about what kind of adventure I’m going for, I wrote an introduction for this pseudo-random style adventure:
The Dragon Menace
You left the city with the horrors you witnessed still firmly imprinted on your mind. The dragon came out of nowhere, setting large parts of the city aflame, trapping women and children inside the burning buildings.
The thought of their dying screams still send shivers down your spine. You could have fled, but you knew that you were their only salvation. The dragon will come again, unless you kill it. That much was clear, when the kobold delegation came to demand tribute for their lord.
It flew back to the mountains, so you headed there. It didn’t take long until you found some of its kobold servants, keeping watch outside a cave. You slew them quickly, their screams cut short by your blade, a blade sharpened by vengeance and tempered with hatred. You did not pity them.
You stand there, watching the cave entrance before you, the dwarven ruins still echoing with the lamentations of the dead. Who knows what will be waiting for you inside?
In the depths you can hear the kobolds, singing songs of worship to their lord. A furious roar greets them. What do you do?
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