Late Friday I managed to host the first foray into Hyborian mayhem on Google Plus. The muscled moody Pict, Bran Mak Morn (Jeremy D), the crafty Zingaran rogue Belvis (Michael M), the Northman Angnar (Jeffery O), and some Shemite pirate-chick "born under a Stygian catapult" (Steven G) all took the first run against the Mountain.
There was the mighty wrestling of beasts, there were gems stolen the size of a grown man's fist. There was eldritch evil and the rending of flesh. There were deaths both glorious and ignominious.
In short it worked. Mostly.
Crafting one-shots is a tough business. Especially ones that aim at: 1. being wrapped up completely in three hours; 2. building in at least a few meaningful, non-railroady choices; 3. providing a brisked pace, action-oriented romp with some diversity of adversity; and 4. concentrating on the literary flavor and themes of just one distinct (if powerful) element in the stew that went into our old favorite fantasy game. A tall order.
I agonized over the parameters. The number of rooms and encounters that can reasonably be explored in an hour. The ratio of empty rooms to stocked; the questions of whether or not you can really have something with real non-linear choice in something so clearly delineated. Finally even deigning to crowdsource.
(The peanut gallery opines from 4-10 rooms—including empties--can be explored in an hour, while my gut says you can present anywhere from 2-4 branching paths without breaking a scenario altogether).
I learned a lot from the writing, much more from the playing and the gracious feedback of the players. The aim is to play this scenario at least two or three more times—fine-tuning as I go—and then run two more linked (if only episodically in fine REH non-chronological, geography-denying order) scenarios the same number. By the end perhaps I will have finally gotten some window into this difficult art.
Switching gears back to organizing the current games, based on feedback I tried to frontload the exposition more. It cuts out a set-piece that had a non-linear array of choices behind it, but hey that just cuts your time down getting to the real meat and the bigger choices when you are staring up at that solitary peak.
The new full version of the prologue can now be found as a PDF file here (see “King of the Mountain” file). And if your mind—like mine--just naturally skips over the italicized purple prose of such creatures, the ADD version is neatly numbered and served to you in happy meal-sized bites below. Amphetamine salt optional.
The ADD version:
- You are motley crew of destitute fugitives from the Free Companions, a mercenary band destroyed a few weeks ago on the steppes.
- You found Ifar, an isolated, down-on-its-heels mountain town, facing a sinister evil in the shape of Mogg, a sorcerer-priest, taking the town’s wealth—and now taking its women as sacrifices.
- Roped in by the exhortations of the warrior-lass Larissa, you have set out to take Mogg down from his lair high up on Mount Ged.
- You have three avenues before you for the ascent (see illustration, forget about the jingling sound of keys).