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Friday, 21 August 2020

To live forever (scenario)

Having recently described an encounter my Immortal Spartans characters had with She, I dug out the adventure where they first met her. This is not written to be a complete ready-to-run scenario. Some assembly is required. If you plan on running it you’ll need to decide how it's going to work as part of a meta-campaign. Probably it will be the pilot episode, so you're laying the hints of a much bigger mythos here, and as you'll be developing that mythos over adventures spanning centuries you need to give it some thought. Certainly you'll want to change the adventure considerably from the version written for my campaign, especially in the final part, and it’s worth reading H Rider Haggard’s novel before you start. Just don’t expect great literature.

I ran the game as one of our Sunday specials, starting at midday and playing through till the evening. So you could fit it into about eight hours, either in one epic session or two or three regular ones. The characters don't have to start as immortals, but if they play their cards right they could end up that way, thus kicking off a meta-campaign that could run right through from 800 AD onwards. The setting is historical SF. There are some psionics, often regarded by the player-characters as witches, but in fact this is not fantasy and there is no actual magic.

OK, so it was 80 years before the Constantinople campaign, and the characters were living in Baghdad in the reign of Harun al-Rashid. In an ill-starred foray to the ruins of Uruk, three of the Spartans had lost their regenerative ability. Now mortal and aging, they were willing to clutch at any straw when their agents brought them stories of an undying ruler in Africa. Hoping that she had the secret of immortality and (an even longer shot) that she’d be willing to share it, they set out…


At Sohar , which at this time (800 AD) is a small port, they are warned of bad weather in the southern seas for the next month or so. But time is of the essence. Having established the rumoured location of the kingdom of Kôr (roughly in modern Zambia) they decided the logical beachhead for their expedition would be the islands of Zanzibar, where they should at least find some people who speak Arabic as the local jumbees, or chiefs, occasionally sell slaves to Arab traders. They set sail.

The jumbe (chief) is Uwal. He greets them in a wicker domed hut (tunnel-like entrances low so you have to bow, smoky interior) and recognizes any characters who frequently sail these waters. He asks if the jumbe Haroun of Baghdad got his gifts – “When will he come? I will kill twenty goats and twenty pigs for him, and open forty jars of wine.”

Uwal knows about the Amahagger (“the people of the caves”) who live in the interior of the mainland but has no dealings with them, except for once long ago when his people bought a mummy from the Amahagger for medicinal purposes. “But it was never ground up for medicine. One of our ancestors fell in love with it, so now the mummy has her own hut and speaks to the wise woman Kitar.”

The mummy (known as Hiwah) is perfectly preserved. Around its neck is a crystal pendant in the shape of an eye.

Other townsfolk if names are needed: Bonash, Gurt, Kolo, Febil.

Three days out from Zanzibar, they catch sight of two vessels that the lookout thinks are suspicious. These are indeed pirate ships, crewed by Africans and escaped Arabian slaves. In my game there were about a score of them, but you'll tailor them to your own player-characters.

The pirates will try to board. However, in the midst of the battle huge black storm clouds sweep down from the north. The characters will need all their sailing skills to avoid a wreck: three ship-handling rolls at -3. Unless any are critical successes, the ship will still limp damaged to the mouth of a wide river where they see the following breathtaking feature.

A massive cliff carved with the face of a man or sphinx. The river leads to an islet that they may (Architecture or Engineer roll) recognize as man-made, albeit very ancient. Beyond stretches a marsh.

They can follow the river for a few miles until it is impossible to get the ship further. They can take a small boat upriver from here, every so often encountering shallow areas where they need to drag it over. The river here leaks out into miles of marshland.

As the temperature and humidity rise, to say nothing of the difficulty of the terrain, overheating becomes a problem:

  • 2-pt armour => Fatigue Points at 70% of normal
  • 3-pt armour => Fatigue at 60%
  • 4-pt amour => Fatigue at 50%
  • 5-pt armour => Fatigue at 40%
  • 6-pt armour => Fatigue at 30%
This is in addition to the encumbrance penalty of equipment, which is doubled.

The crocodiles and hippos are the biggest threats on the lower reaches of the river. If characters are out hunting, they have a 1 in 6 chance of being ambushed by a croc (Stealth 19) and there is really nothing to do but run.

Mosquitoes become an increasing problem as the river peters out into a network of reed-choked canals that eventually merge with the swamp. Characters have a 1 in 3 chance of contracting fever each day.

The swamps are impassable unless you either know the route or have the eye-shaped crystal pendant from Zanzibar, which will reveal a trail where Hiya has sent her far-visioning effect. The latter doesn’t tell you where firm ground is, of course, but at least it gives a bearing for the direction of Kôr. Also, if somebody is looking through the pendant when Hiya is actually watching them remotely it will give the user a glimpse of her.

A party of Amahagger come upon them, led by Bilali, a white-bearded elder. Speaking in Ancient Arabic, he says that “the Goddess” has sent him to escort them to her.

The Amahagger are tall, saffron-brown skinned people with handsome but sullen faces. The womenfolk seem to have considerable freedom and even authority compared to life in Muslim lands.

At the home of this “household” of Amahagger, who live in tombs left by the ancients (there are ten households in all), they encounter a woman called Ustane. (See She for how you might use her in the game.)

Bilali says he must travel to see the Goddess, Hiya, to ask her instructions with regard to the strangers. He will be back in five days.

The other Amahagger are far less friendly to them than Bilali. Their expressions suggest a sort of aloof contempt. Possibly somebody will suggest going hunting to prove themselves.

There are also rhinos, but no sense in even giving stats for those.

If they offend the household, there will be a hot-potting ritual. A firepit is prepared, and jars of corn liquor handed around. Each man has his spear beside him.

One guy: "Where is the flesh that we shall eat?"

All stretch out their right arms towards the fire and reply: "The flesh will come."

First guy: "Is it a goat?"

All: "It is a goat without horns, and more than a goat, and we shall slay it."
Turning half round they one and all grasp the handles of their spears with the right hand, and then simultaneously let them go.

First guy: "Is it an ox?"

All: "It is an ox without horns, and more than an ox, and we shall slay it.”
Again the spears are grasped, and again let go. Then they will start to caress and speak endearments to the one they mean to sacrifice.

First guy: "Is the meat ready to be cooked?"

All: "It is ready; it is ready."

First guy: "Is the pot hot to cook it?"

All: "It is hot; it is hot."

First they entangle the victim in a net (GURPS page 441). Then, taking iron pincers, they remove a heated pot from the fire and clamp it over the victim’s head. There are a couple of dozen Amahagger warriors here:

Hopefully Bilali will return before anybody is actually killed.

Bilali says he will take them to Hiya, but they must leave all their belongings and weapons here.

If they refuse, he says he will not take them. If they threaten him, he warns them that Hiya can see all and will slay them before they have gone half the distance. “And she would kill me, her servant, if I were to capitulate to thy demands. Thus I advise thee to accept the invitation of the Goddess and do as she commands, for thus far thou hast earned only her curiosity and not her wrath.”

They are made to strip and are reclothed in yellow linen robes, and given wooden staves, then put into litters and carried towards a region of miasmic swamp.

Crossing the swamp, a snake bites one of the bearers of Bilali’s litter and he goes into the water. If not rescued, he is sucked down into the mud and drowned.

Built inside a high-sided crater, which the characters might assume is volcanic. The walls of the crater were excavated long ago, making a tunnel right through the side.

Inside, the Amahagger of the main “house” live in the tombs left by the ancient civilization of Kôr.

Far off in the centre of the crater (about three miles away) lie the ruins of Kôr. This is where Hiya lives with her deaf-&-dumb servants, guarded by the Fanewatch (her elite Amahagger bodyguard, numbering about fifty).

The walls of Kôr itself are toppled now, but once must have been mightier than any city built since. At the gates (a collapsed arch) stands the Vaal.

Hiya will use her projection device to appear floating in the air surrounded by a white tesla-coil type aura.


Hiya (= “She”) is ruler of the lost civilization of Kôr in the heart of Africa. She was born Aisha bint Harb, 900 years ago in Arabia, a child prodigy who was raised with the best education possible, and on her parents’ death outfitted her own expedition to Kôr where she came across a crashed alien starship, was bathed in the radiation of its autodoc, and became immortal. Around the crater she found other artefacts of ancient alien technology and has been busy learning about them ever since. (Of course, her understanding of these artefacts is not that they are of extraterrestrial origin, but simply that they are left over from a very ancient civilization.)

Her goal is to sweep away religions and kingdoms to create a new world order in which women have equal status to men. This is not so much for moral reasons, though she certainly remembers and resents how neighbours in Arabia treated her as a young girl with an education. Her aim, having seen what technology is capable of achieving, is to build a society in which learning is paramount so that those ancient marvels can be replicated and surpassed.

She has a Chamber of the Far-Travelling Carpet with a pattern of tiles on the floor that create a dimensional “carpet” which allows her to travel across great distances. The effect is like teleportation, and the portal remains hanging in the air until she returns to it. Using this, she has been disrupting the Silk Road trade from a hidden mountain fortress above Samarkand.

Her own primary skills are Stealth, Acrobatics and Aikido-style martial arts. She only loses -2 per successive Dodge.

Her main ability is Altered Time Rate, allowing her to act two times faster than normal. Usually she’ll all-out defend (+2), use extra effort (+2), and retreat (+3) while looking to get away – which she can do fast.

If forced to attack, she’ll use a baton in each hand (ambidextrous, trained in off-hand use) allowing her four strikes per round (extra -2 to hit location when aiming to use Pressure Points).

Hiya's bodyguard
As well as the Fanewatch, Hiya has three automata* she has salvaged from the alien ship:

Hiya's special items**
Her ancient devices (weapons of a people she calls the Strangers) are:

  • A belt of shield
  • A ring of force
  • A blaster gun
  • A teleportation ring (to a preset location within 5 km)
Each has twenty charges and can be recharged in the “Eternal Flame”, ie the alien ship’s power source.

Blaster Gun
A heavy item that must be held along one arm. The beam will blast open any door, push down walls of  mortar or stone, or smash a 3m tunnel through solid rock. It is aimed, striking a single target at a range of up to 15m. Damage is 20d up to 3m, then 2d less per extra metre.
To activate this “on the fly” requires a critical IQ roll to “remember” its operation, otherwise practice with it and reroll every week.

This creates an invisible barrier at a distance of 1 metre from the user that reduces the momentum of any rapidly incoming (not outgoing) object or attack. Projectiles are automatically stopped, but slow-moving attacks such as lava or poison gas are not impeded. Enemies must spend six rounds pushing through this force field before they can attack the user. Lasts ten minutes per charge.

Ring of Force
It flings the target away (the intensity is optional, from a strong wind to a Ben Grimm sized clobber) but doesn’t necessarily damage them.

She also has:

  • Far-vision screen    Can send out an invisible “camera” – but has to be sent laboriously to a location at a maximum speed of 100 mph because the calibration doesn’t work.
  • “Magic carpet”    A device that creates a circular pattern of whirling coloured lights that she can step to anywhere in the world, but always must return to the device here in Kôr.***

This is a chamber that runs central to the warren of burial chambers and embalming rooms (now used by the Amahagger as apartments). It may once have been a kind of temple, as there is a dais at the far end where Hiya has her throne. She will only come here in person if people are to be tried for crimes.

On the dais is an inscription in a pictographic language that they may recognize as that of “the ancients”. Hiya will translate:

"In the year four thousand two hundred and fifty-nine from the founding of the City of imperial Kôr was this cave (or burial place) completed by Tisno, King of Kôr, the people thereof and their slaves having laboured thereat for three generations, to be a tomb for their citizens of rank who shall come after. May the blessings of the heaven above the heaven rest upon their work, and make the sleep of Tisno, the mighty monarch, the likeness of whose features is graven above, a sound and happy sleep till the day of awakening, and also the sleep of his servants, and of those of his race who, rising up after him, shall yet lay their heads as low."

And if the characters are interested in that, she crosses to the left-hand side of the cave (looking towards the entrance) and signs to the mutes to hold up the lamps. On the wall is something painted with a red pigment in similar characters to those hewn beneath the sculpture of Tisno, King of Kôr. She translates it thus:

"I, Junis, a priest of the Great Temple of Kôr, write this upon the rock of the burying-place in the year four thousand eight hundred and three from the founding of Kôr. Kôr is fallen! No more shall the mighty feast in her halls, no more shall she rule the world, and her navies go out to commerce with the world. Kôr is fallen! and her mighty works and all the cities of Kôr, and all the harbours that she built and the canals that she made, are for the wolf and the owl and the wild swan, and the barbarian who comes after. Twenty and five moons ago did a cloud settle upon Kôr, and the hundred cities of Kôr, and out of the cloud came a pestilence that slew her people, old and young, one with another, and spared not. One with another they turned black and died--the young and the old, the rich and the poor, the man and the woman, the prince and the slave. The pestilence slew and slew, and ceased not by day or by night, and those who escaped from the pestilence were slain of the famine. No longer could the bodies of the children of Kôr be preserved according to the ancient rites, because of the number of the dead, therefore were they hurled into the great pit beneath the cave, through the hole in the floor of the cave. Then, at last, a remnant of this the great people, the light of the whole world, went down to the coast and took ship and sailed northwards; and now am I, the Priest Junis, who write this, the last man left alive of this great city of men, but whether there be any yet left in the other cities I know not. This do I write in misery of heart before I die, because Kôr the Imperial is no more, and because there are none to worship in her temple, and all her palaces are empty, and her princes and her captains and her traders and her fair women have passed off the face of the earth."

This is performed one evening by the Amahagger in the space outside the caves. The characters are led to chairs, facing out into the twilight. They watch groups of dancers waiting far off as the sky grows dark.

Then there are eruptions of sparks. Men dance nearer, waving their spears, and as they come they set fire to corpses that were staked out for the purpose (the embalmed bodies burning easily). Behind them, the fires mark out the stars of the constellation Mulgirtab (as it was known to the Babylonians) or Scorpio or al-‘Aqrab as they know it today. (This is the direction of the galactic core.)

Coming near to a dais where women pour water and pick fruit, the warriors are seen to be covered with scale-like symbols painted in white. They circle the dais and leave three of their number, apparently to guard the women. Then another group (painted in whorls and wave-symbols) rush in from all directions to attack the first, and the fighting is carried off into the darkness. The three left guarding the dais stare off into the dark, spears raised defensively at each cry in the distance, and sparks fly up but no fire catches.

Then they hear others approaching – but it is their enemies. They fight them off, but are mortally wounded. One of the women comes to tend to the last of the scale warriors, who presents her with his torch.

However the characters interpret the dance, they can find out from Hiya about the starship (she calls it “the metal egg”) lodged in caverns in the far wall of the crater. This is where she acquired immortality.

The starship was the cause of the crater. Millennia ago it impacted the ground inside its collapsing energy shield, which liquified the rock but left the ship itself relatively unharmed. It then skidded into the wall of congealing lava at the crater rim and, as the shields finally went down, the ship’s reactor core vented through the lava forming a dendritic network of tunnels – which was how the intrepid Aisha (as she was then) was able to reach it.

The immortality treatment that she received inadvertently was inspired, not to say stolen, from Larry Niven’s novel A World Out Of Time. The journey through the caverns I swiped wholesale from HRider Haggard, adding only a protean creature called the Nammu for the sake of giving them a thrilling battle before they could enter the ship. Tekumel players will recognize that the Nammu is based on the nshe. The rationale for it being here is that it was an artificial sentinel created to protect the ship, dormant at the time of the crash, and something Hiya did on her previous visit here reactivated it.

The Nammu
Tentacles   ATTACK 16    damage: 3d+3  [and acid slime]
Armour 5 (maximum of 1 HP from any missile)

It will extrude 1-4 tentacles each round, generally using these to strike at different targets (but see below). 

Acidic coating
  • Each tentacle is coated in an acidic jelly and will continue to burn through a character's armour after he is touched.  The jelly does 2d in the first round, then 1d. If it has not burned its way through the armour by then, the character will take no damage. Each time armour is burnt through, it permanently loses 1 Armour Point. 
  • Nammu can apply this power in any round in which it extrudes three or more tentacles. The chance it will choose to do so is 45%. The chance of the target evading the tentacles is as a -5 Dodge for three tentacles, -10 for four tentacles. Nammu does not need to make any roll to hit. 
  • The target is lifted aloft if he has not dodged, and Nammu attempts to sunder him limb from limb. Each round, the seized character can attempt to resist by making a -5 HT check. If he fails he takes 4d damage, but if he succeeds he only takes 2d. Armour doesn't count, of course. 
  • While disjecting a character, Nammu cannot extrude further appendages to strike at his companions. Nammu will not normally drop a character it is disjecting until it has reduced the character to zero HP.  However, a single hit for more than 10 HP will cause it to do so; also, the character can try to break free by making a -10 ST check each round.
  • Rather than attacking with its tentacles, Nammu may choose to apply its power to Engulf a character.  This is checked for at the start of each round (unless it is already in the process of disjecting someone); the chance is 30%.
  • Engulfment affects a 3m area (roughly 1-6 people). A target who fails to dodge is caught in a cohesive blob of water in which he may drown.  He makes a HT check each round: first with no modifier, then at -3, then -6, etc.  A failed roll means 2d damage (no armour) and the victim is also drowning (see below).
  • Drowning: roll Swimming every 5 seconds or inhale water, losing 1 FP. When FP = 0 you black out and will soon drown.
  • To break free of Engulfment, critical Swimming. You can also fight back to injure Nammu from within, but this counts as Close Combat and half damage.
* Tekumel players may recognize the assassin android as the Alluring Maiden of Nga, but in fact Prof Barker was inspired by the Silver Maid in Alexander Korda's 1940 movie The Thief of Bagdad. The Vaal was originally inspired by ru'un.
** Most of these will be familiar to Tekumel players as equivalent to some of the "Eyes".
*** My conceit here was to have a device that could be described as a magic carpet, as a nod to the Arabian Nights, without actually having it be a piece of flying cloth.


  1. So, after all the culture clash, mystery and diplomacy, you basically just have a tough fight with an alien robot? Honestly this doesn't feel like an adventure. It feel like Act I of an adventure. Figure the really cool stuff will be inside the Ship. I'd be primed for the GURPS version of Expedition to the Barrier Peaks (an old AD&D module in which the party of fantasy adventurers explores a high-technology crashed alien starship).

    1. Oh sure, there was a lot more to the climax in the caverns and then the alien ship, but that was all so specific to our meta-campaign that there's no point including it here. Though I did leave in the Dance of Time, which filled in a little of the millennia-old galactic war that was the backdrop to all this.

      Just a few months earlier in our campaign, the PCs had found a star map below the ruins of Uruk and inadvertently sent a message to a beacon in the direction of the galaxy's core. Luckily there were to be no repercussions from that for thousands of years, and none of the PCs knew anything about space travel or other planets anyway. Everything strange to them was understood as magic or divine intervention. Hiya had a slightly better grasp of what was going on -- she recognized the crashed ship as a vehicle, for instance. But that's all stuff that each referee will have to fill in for themselves.

      I do recommend reading the novel, as that will provide some good ideas for the final act. I lifted the journey through the caverns wholesale, which is why it isn't described here. As for the nature of "the Eternal Flame", and whether that crashed ship is from outer space, another time, another dimension, or something else entirely -- again, that's for each referee to decide for themselves. I agree it's not as complete as a published module, but that's potentially an advantage; it's easier to fit your own players' preferences around it. And hey, it's free!

    2. One thing that's also missing is an answer to "Why is Hiya helping them, AKA giving them the key to her own power?" Maybe part of it was unique to your campaign (the Spartans were already Immortals and by helping them restore their comrades She gets them to owe Her some big favors), but you'd think there'd something else like "The great "magic crystal"(power source) that energizes my stuff is going dark. Go in there and bring me out another one and I'll share my immortality with you."

    3. That was her thinking in our campaign. There were nine Spartans, of whom only three had lost their immortality, so she figured she may as well help them and have powerful allies rather than making enemies of the remaining ones. Eighty years later, when they failed to support her plan for a new world order, she started to regret her decision.

    4. They failed to support her plan but did they actively oppose her? Especially to the point of violent conflict? Plus, figure that with their friends dying (of old age and such) there's every possibility that they'd have attacked to seize by force that which they'd initially simply requested.

    5. Knowing those characters, I really expected them to fight Hiya rather than make a deal with her. They outnumbered her; seven Spartans went on the expedition, and even if three of them currently lacked regenerative powers they were still 820-pt GURPS characters. That's Steve Rogers territory. Admittedly, Hiya had flashier toys, as well as her elite bodyguard to call on.

      When the choice came up in 878 AD, they went to Britain rather than help her plan. That led to additional complications as they found themselves confronting time travellers from the 1900s who told them that in their own era the Empire of Gaia (Hiya's Wakanda-like core state) had been fighting alien invaders for 500 years. Despite that, the Spartans still failed to support Hiya's plan, which would have accelerated technology even further so as to be ready for the invasion in 1391 AD. You can see why I needed a continuity sheet for all this...

    6. Well, maybe it would have accelerated technology. However, the time travelers just told them that Hiya's Gaia Empire was still around in, what, 1900 or so? Who's to say that if She kicks off Her plan with the Spartans things might go sideways. Maybe the Spartans might decide that they'd be better off ruling Her empire. Cue nasty civil war setting up an easy alien conquest.

    7. That sounds like an all-too-likely scenario. The Spartans are born reactionaries, always ready to oppose a bold plan. And after all, what had they achieved in the 1300 years before they encountered Hiya? They'd set up an international bank and made themselves rich. In her 900 years she'd founded a kingdom and begun to pull the strings of history. Admittedly she hadn't begun educating her people much, and seems to have assumed that all scientific progress could only come from the Arab world, but I was a little constrained there by Haggard's book. Maybe I should have departed further from that and had the Spartans find Kor already well on its way to becoming something more like Wakanda.

    8. Well, figure one issue is that your immortal PCs are Spartans instead of being Athenians. Still, figure one potential alliance might come around the 1200s as figure both Spartans and She would want to oppose the Mongol attempt to conquer and "decivilize" damn near everything.

    9. We haven't got to the Mongols yet, in the official campaign at any rate. (We've had some non-canonical specials.) I could imagine by that stage Hiya -- well, Gaia as she's calling herself by then -- would just fortify Africa and leave the rest of them to it.

      Most of the Spartans were that in name only by this time. A couple had always based their idea of Sparta on Frank Miller, so were just psycho. A couple more were only interested in epicureanism. One (who had always had the nickname "the Attican") devoted himself to academic matters. Another took to living as a hermit. Others had become merchants. I think Oceanos (aka Omega; my character) was the only one who actually still upheld Spartan ideals, and even I had adopted some elements of Buddhism after a couple of lifetimes spent in India.

    10. Did the time-travelers share any other tidbits of the future with the Spartans? Specifically did they mention the Molgols in the 1200s along with the Black Death in the mid-1300s - which would lead to a depopulated Europe just in time for the aliens to hit in 1391.

    11. The PCs blew their best opportunities to get information off the time travellers. Well, it was a war zone, so there were no campfire moments. I was being purposely vague anyway in case they decided to get behind Hiya's scheme after all, in which case the Mongols would never become a serious threat and they could have met the Black Death with hygiene and antibiotics. Something tells me that they'll always be too hidebound to change history that much.

    12. At this point I'm kind of rooting for She to just have the Spartans whacked so as to get them out of the way of the preparations that kind of desperately need to be made.

    13. Same here, John -- though the referee has to guard against having favourite NPCs, she's definitely actually trying to build a better world while the PCs just run about playing at being heroes.

    14. On the other hand when it comes to "building a better world" you kind of have to ask "better for who and in what way?" I mean when it comes right down to it even Adolph Hitler was trying to build a better world. I don't think the rest of us would have enjoyed living in his better world. Those of us who were even allowed to live, anyway.

    15. That's true. One of my favourite lines is Octavius's in Anthony & Cleopatra when he says, "The time of universal peace is near." Hard to hear that without both a thrill and a shudder. Although, as it turned out, Octavius didn't do too badly. Let's hope She will be more of an Augustus-type absolute ruler and not so much of a Hitler/Stalin.

  2. You make an interesting point there Dave about published modules vs rough notes. Writing up “The one that got away” for others to GM has shown me how much I just wing it... write up is about 5000 words and it’s only a really simple, low level and very linear adventure with just two real encounters... hmmm Where do u draw the line in the write up?

    1. Good question, Nigel. I was thinking recently about Tim Harford's Christmas specials for Legend. I write these up every year for the blog, but Tim's notes are usually just a page or two, so what I add is a lot more detail *if* the adventure turns out the same way it did for us. Over-preparing tends to force the adventure to follow an expected pattern, so I think Tim's approach is the right one. Keep winging it!

  3. Agreed, but for the purposes of writing adventures for others how do you get the level of detail right? Any tips?

    1. Hmm, now you've really got me thinking. Can you wait a week, Nigel? I think it could be useful enough to put in a post rather than hidden away in the comments.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. What I meant to say was “waiting with baited breath” but to go on and say it would be helpful in the context of “published” adventures (you having written quite a few) if you could touch on subjects like how much descriptive text you think appropriate, including GM tips and hints, guidance on combat tactics for key villains and battles, how to help PCs uncover and extract information without it feel like you’re spoon feeding the PCs or them interrogating every peasant. Alternative paths and endings. Giving real choice or the illusion of choice and the pragmatic reality of what the GM has prepared vs not. Recognising of course that at the end of the day it’s all made up and it just has to be consistently made up and as long as everyone has fun it’s probably all good...and how to avoid it feeling like everyone’s there to write the GM’s novel or play out his or her theatre of the mind loosely scripted play...

    1. I tend to treat everything I plan in advance as a safety net that I can use if inspiration fails me on the day. But the perfect outcome would be if the PCs went off in a totally unexpected direction, the ideas flowed like the Hippocrene spring, and I never needed any of the scenario I prepared.

      It's rarely one extreme or the other, of course, but I do find it helpful to think of all the scenario notes as simply a fallback. Otherwise there's too much temptation to regard it as a script you've got to work from.

  6. Again Dave I agree, but lots of people want meticulously thought out and detailed scenarios, albeit sometimes more for the background than the adventure per se.

    1. I know the temptation, Nigel. I do it myself with scenarios on the blog. A perfectly usable scenario would be brief and as dull as a tax accountant's spreadsheet, but when I'm writing it up for the blog I want to turn it into a good read. Often that makes for a better blog post, but it does mean the prospective referee has to do more work before they run the scenario. They have to read it as a story, extract the key points, and mentally repack those in the order they actually need them.

      A simple example is that investigative scenarios are usually written as a mystery. You only get told the important stuff at the end. But a really workable investigative scenario might begin: "Pierre Brodeur, the notary in Yonville, is a werewolf who has been killing people in the outlying farms and trying to frame the butcher." The published scenario would be full of clues and red herrings and might only reveal the werewolf's identity at the end.

      To be fair, though, the job of a published scenario is not only to give the referee the details they will need to run the game. It's also to get them stoked to run it. Making it a good, dramatic read helps to show them how they might build excitement and uncertainty in their players.

      I just looked at the upcoming Legend scenario for December. I've got it up to about 5000 words and Tim's notes for running it came to a tenth of that. In expanding it I'm giving a taste of what happened in our game. My worry is that might steer another referee away from doing something different but just as good.

      There's no easy answer!

  7. Will wait until next week! :-)

  8. Your thoughts on how to write and run a good investigative scenario would be good too... I must confess I’m not a big fan of that type of adventure because I think it’s very difficult both as a GM and as a player to separate logic and meta problem solving skills from what the PCs, particularly in a quasi medieval superstitious world would know and how they would think. Most PCs and players aren’t Brother Cadfael! But that’s just my bias...

    1. Same here. If I ran an investigative scenario in Legend, it wouldn't be to transplant Holmesian rationalists into a medieval setting. Those people believe in signs, omens, curses and divine justice. The notion of analyzing the clues and drawing a logical conclusion shouldn't even occur to them.

      Even in more modern settings like our Victorian campaign, whenever I've run investigative scenarios the characters usually get the wrong end of the stick. I don't know if it matters too much. Maybe years later they'll get some fresh evidence and say, "Oh dear, I think we sent an innocent man to the gallows."