Now comes the perilous time – after the “starter adventure” is finished, and before the “wider campaign world” is established. It is very hard for players to go from “do these things!” to “what do you want to do?”. It helps (I’ve found) to give a little direction but to take care of “the paradox of choice“. I put together a set of rumours, each somewhat based around one of the characters, and posted them to our discord server and let the players pick. Each of the four rumours would lead to a scenario based on material I already had, and a location in the Dolmenwood setting. This let the players discuss their own desires for the game among themselves and (hopefully) give them a self-directed goal to aim for.
The “winning” rumour was a note scribbled in the Book of Rituals that Solvang had taken from the Robed Stranger. Talking about a possible resting place of the “Undying Tyrant” near a town called Drigbolton. It seemed to win for a number of reasons – a hidden secret that a Necromancer wanted, a long journey to plan, a chance to explore.
After my (overly) generous rewards from the Winter’s Daughter, all the characters had made it to level 2, which isn’t such a big thing in OSE, but the players took a look at a “simplified” map of Dolmenwood (main roads, rivers and settlements) got their sheets ready, and when game day came around we jumped right in! (Estmund’s player was moving house that weekend and couldn’t make it, so the character became a “follower” for the session)
In Game (Session 3)
PCs present: Alette (Hunter), Prudence (Magic-User), Solvang (Magic-User).
NPCs: Estmund (Dolmenwood Knight)
The four youngsters have spend the last month “living large”. The silver mirror, holy relic, and ice-crystals were “donated” to the lord of Mistmill (Alette’s father) and the group were allowed to live as guests of House Brynmor. Oversleeping, overeating, overdrinking. But by the end of the month of Chysting even the servants of House Brynmor were beginning to give the four short shrift. Luckily they had made some “friends” during their stay. Alette came to know the Librarian Candleswyck and Hunter James, Estmund made the acquaintance of Minstrel Melysse. Solvang helped old Digger the undertaker. While Prue earned favors from Brother Wolder the gardener and Captain Rosine, a salesman of dubious reputation.
To start their journey to Drigbolton, Prue called in a favor with Rosine. They travelled upriver in his longboat and crew of Woodgrues. The spent the night heading upriver to the town of Dreg. Asking about the trip to Brankenwold Castle, Rosine offered to ferry them across to the Woodcutter’s settlement where the post-coach would be able to take them for a price, after breakfast. The took breakfast of fish-gruel and sausages while avoiding the morning drunks. Rosine pointed out Shantywood Isle – a splendid den of Scum and Villany! – across the water for future visits.
The post-carriage driver grudgingly took them to Brakenwald for 10 crowns each. The cost was a significant blow to their dwindling supplies, but they were safely (and swiftly) taken to the castle by the early evening. Once in town they were seduced by the bustle of the city. They wandered around looking at the expensive accommodation and crowded markets. Prue asked about exotic animals, and was finally led to a dark ally crowded with cages, and shown a “fairy cat”. She happily parted with half her remaining crowns for the poor cat which acted like it understood her.
Eventually the quartet settled on staying at “The Chateau” with private rooms and dining. In the morning Prue and Alette were surprised by a small cat-person – “Sir Fluff-tail” – who thanked Prue for saving her from the evil enchanter in town. She pledged her sword to Prue to assist in the perilous quest for the Undying Tyrant. They spent the day investigating more of the settlement. Alette, jealous of Prue’s new companion, found the messenger-crows outside the church seminary. With her ability to talk to crows, she inspired one to seek the new life of freedom. She “liberated” this crow.
Solvang spent his time trying to do some research about the road ahead. The Church Seminary had a grand library which drew his attention and talking with the scribes led him to learn about the Refuge of St Keye about a day’s travel into the forest. Sadly his inquires into more occult matters were frowned upon, but he was advised to meet with Laird Spinnewyth in Drigbolton, who had commissioned several book copies of some rather old histories..
At the table
This was almost a “travel montage” session.
I have always felt that levelling up and getting experience is something that requires in-game time and resources. I do XP for treasure spent, and the minimal XP for overcoming monsters (where overcoming means making them not a threat to you anymore). Rather than get into carousing or investing etc, I just said “everyone has been living large and made some “friends” you can ask for help in future.. pick some, and gain 2d6x10 coin that you’ve managed to save from the haul you brought in.. And everyone is now level 2.
Most of this session was “travelling” or “setting exploration”. The seedy low-lifes of Dreg and Stantywood isle with their questionable food and services. The overpriced gaudiness of Castle Brakenwold. The strangeness of the forest.
One thing I noticed, was that the players were getting more “into character”. Alette is the more practical of the party concerned with travel planning and contingencies. Prue is a wild child looking for ways to misbehave. While Solvang is constantly digging into secrets.
I really missed having something like a “visual dictionary” of Dolmenwood. I like to be able to show my players images – vistas, portraits, and the like. Although there was a running joke this session about being roaming foodies – trying samples of all the local dishes and me describing (or trying to) all the various dishes they were consuming (and paying lots of coins for)
Next time – Goat-kin, brewery-sampling and a right proper piss-up!