One of the players in my regular group, my good friend Thomas, has offered to write up a campaign log of the campaign he is hosting (in which I am a player). His campaign has an interesting premise: the players need to set up an adventuring guild...
We used Thomas’s campaign to playtest the new Character point rules, the new Defense skill rules, the new Encumbrance rules, the new stacking Bonuses rules, the new parrying rules, and the new non-lethal damage rules. So here it is, in its full, unabridged glory: Thomas’s campaign log!
During our Snow-capped Mountain Retreat of January 2016 we thought it wise to every now and again give our Game Master Quentin some respite. It was decided that I, Thomas, would run a side campaign using the Stage Core Rulebook and Supernatural Rulebook. As I am a beginning GM, we think it will provide the developer of the Stage with some variety in play testing. It also provides our group with the opportunity to force Quentin to endure his own creation and to exact Glorious Revenge on him for the many player characters' deaths he made us suffer through recently, notably in the Verden Campaign.
We hope you will enjoy reading about the exploits and (mis)adventures of the Silver Street Adventure Guild!
Prequel and setting
The adventure takes place in Penhaven, a semi-autonomous border province of the 'Holy Empire' that is home to Humans and Elves whose cultures and populations have merged to a large extent. Capital of the province of Penhaven is the city of Penhaven, where most players were based prior to the adventure.
Before the first session the players received a letter from Guild Maester Saevel, master of the Copper Street Exploration and Mercenary Guild in Penhaven. Saevel addresses his letter to his friend Nathanael Silvercreek, the Lord-Mayor of the northern town of Aberford. You can read the letter here if you like.
It appears Guild Maester Saevel has sent the players on their way to establish an independent Adventurers Guild in the city of Aberford. Based on this information, the players came up with some awesome background stories! Their party features five Human characters:
Rolland, a young aspiring hero who is fueled by the glorious war stories of his brave father and grandfather; and
Tirin Elvendagger, a merchant's apprentice with aspirations of swashbuckling glory who ran away from an abusive parent; and
Cesper, an ascetic young mage raised within the confines of a monastery of the Temple of the Ascending Light, the monotheistic religion of the Empire; and
David Wincher, a middle aged archery instructor who is as proficient in binge drinking as he is in marksmanship; and
Guy, a mountain of a woodsman who makes up for his lack of social grace by keeping the company of a bear affectionately called Mavis.
Niels, the guy who plays Guy, made an expert drawing of our party and has gracefully allowed me to post it below! If you like his work, head on over to his webcomic, Could be Worse; you will not regret it, I promise.
The players started off as very low level characters. We used this campaign to test the new character point system and I gave the players 360 points each to build their starting characters and capped their Skills at Skill level 3 and their Powers at Tier 2.
I like starting off campaigns with a team of underdogs. It provides for a really nice blank canvas to accomplish character development. It is the reason I loved the Humble Prisoner beginning of Bethesda's The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, and it’s also the reason I hated the Prisoner-who-immediately-meets-the-Monarch beginning of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.
To make sure the players immediately 'stood out from the crowd' they were also provided with a low level perk or item that fits their own background story. Cesper has an alchemy book that provides him with a Bonus to the Science (alchemy) skill and the Perception skill when looking for alchemy ingredients. Rolland has a family heirloom (his grandfather's iron shield) that helps him restore Will points whenever he is down in the dumps. Tirin has his former master's Elven dagger that provides him with a Bonus to Guile skill checks. David has his trusty Masterwork longbow that provides a Bonus to Ranged combat skill checks. And Guy--well, Guy has Mavis the Bear, of course. I have a feeling that the players will soon start to like their characters and I wish them a long and prosperous campaign… even Cesper.
The story begins in medias res: the party is traveling on the riverboat “the Handsome Myrtle” to Aberford. The ship runs onto an iron chain that is being winched up from the river floor. After “the Handsome Myrtle” runs onto the iron chains, it immediately starts to veer to the starboard side and towards the river bank. Perceptive characters see 3 bandits appear on a high ledge above the river and a rowboat with 4 marauders steering towards their own vessel. Battle is joined (see Battle details below).
The bandits are after the goods aboard the ship and offer to spare the players if they hand over the wares. The players refuse the offer, the captain flees below deck (as does the crew), and the players engage the bandits. During the ensuing battle the players’ choice to have a versatile party is immediately rewarded. Some highlights: Cesper the mage makes successful use of his Ghost spell (See Supernatural Rulebook, pages 88-89) to tip over a pot of burning tar that the ridge bandits wanted to use to set aflame their arrows. David shoots a bandit on high ground in the eye without flinching. Tirin makes a swashbuckling jump headlong into the enemy rowing boat to stab the bandits to death, while Guy attempts the same and crashes into the water next to the boat and Rolland, determined to live to the ripe old age of his heroic grandfather, carefully lowers himself into the rowing boat.
In the end, the players achieve a result that I had not anticipated: total victory over the enemies and capture of the survivors. The seven enemies started off with 400 character points each and outnumbered the players. I had foreseen victory scenarios where the players would manage to overcome either the four enemies in the rowing boat or the three on the high ground, forcing the other enemy party to retreat. But great teamwork and initiative of the players made victory sweeter than that, so kudos to them.
At one point, we had a discussion about Action Points. The Stage is a turn based system: players spend Action Points to perform actions. At the start of each round, I turned the boat slightly and moved it closer to shore to simulate the effect of it running along the iron chains. One player perhaps rightly pointed out that this was happening in real time, so as long he was not engaged in other activities it should be possible for him to walk along the bough of the boat to keep facing the rowboat full of attackers that slowly approached the ship. He wanted to do this so that he could jump into the rowboat as soon as it came within range to engage the bandits.
Although we could have had a long discussion about the use of AP, this is not the type of campaign I like to see. I feel a focus on game mechanics interrupts the story, so I am a lazy Game Master: rather than look up every detail of the mechanics in the rulebooks, I make a quick (and often inconsistent) ruling and everybody can get on with their imaginary lives.
After the threat to “the Handsome Myrtle” has been dealt with, the ship's captain Benjamin Longbridges rewards the party with a handsome, single gold piece. Two weeks later the group arrives safely in Aberford-upon-Silvercreek.
In Aberford, the players are shown their new base of operations (an empty inn, soon to be converted into a real Guild Hall) by Frederick, the soft spoken but intelligent private secretary to the Lord-Mayor. Frederick explains that the party is welcome to stay for 15 days, after which the Aldermen's Meeting of the good people of Aberford will decide whether or not to grant the new Guild a license to operate in their town. Frederick advises the players to start making some friends around town, especially with the 6 notables that make up the Aldermen's Meeting.
The Silver Street Guild Hall
I thought it would be fun if, rather than me imposing a Guild Hall on the players, I would have the players show it to me. They were handed some prepared cards with different Guild improvements on them (a smithy, a minstrel, a library, an underground vault, and so on). All of these provide different benefits but also cost Hallpoints or cash, both of which are in short supply.
In the end, the players decided they would like to have their new guild feature separate bedrooms for all players, a trophy room (which provides a morale bonus once decorated with at least one trophy), an improved kitchen (which reduces upkeep and provides a 'well fed' bonus), and refurbishments (some nice curtains to increase guild reputation). The players also chose to put up a guild sign with the crest of their newly established guild: the Silver Street Guild. It seems they feel the need to outdo their old Guild Maester's prowess when it comes to running a company, methinks.
In the future, the players will be able to acquire even more powerful Guild Hall upgrades and contracts from famous visitors, but for that they will need to earn more Guild Reputation, which can be bought, but mostly has to be earned.
The players decide to take a good night's rest in their new base of operations and start befriending the locals the next day. However, before they do that, they decide to pay a visit to the nearest inn... To see how that went, stay tuned for the next log.
Before I get into details, hats off to Thomas. Hosting a campaign in a turbulent and evolving ruleset is not easy (I know all about that), and I think everyone had a lot of fun. Also, massive thanks to him for writing this campaign log. Finally, I was very impressed by the Guild Hall system. It’s an interesting game mechanic; I hope Thomas will one day write up a module featuring it, as it’s perfect for a laid-back campaign that can be played on and off. It also managed to bring out the interior decorator in all of us as we spent about an hour arguing over which rooms we wanted where (and where bear Mavis was going to sleep if not as a carpet in the trophy room).
So, onto the details! I played Cesper. For me, the ascetic, soft-spoken, insecure, and socially awkward monk is something completely different as my characters usually default to either Conan the Barbarian or androgynous Elven mass-murderers. I thought it would be fun to try something else and I needed a character to test the supernatural rules for myself. Cesper matched these requirements; I hope I can keep up the role-play.
I found that playing a mage was fun. I think the Supernatural Rulebook is coming along nicely and the concepts in it are fun. The Spells do need a bit of balancing, though, and characters need more ways to be able to defend against Mind and Soul damage (see the party kill in Verden’s session 5). Also, the Focus mechanics may not be ideal in the current iteration, as it takes a lot of Character points before you can get there and there is a large, rather boring gap between having a Focus and not having a Focus. Other improvements are: more Spells and doing away with the touch and thrown range mechanics of Spells (which basically require Spellcasters to be at least moderately skilled warriors before they can be effective, as one player rightly pointed out.)
The new Character point system that we tested was fun, but I was surprised to see that not everyone was dissatisfied with the previous mechanic (it was about 50/50 with the half in favor of the new system being more vocal). I’ll need to give this some more thought before I throw things around. I do think the new system is simpler and more intuitive and for that reason alone I need to consider implementing it. The old system might be offered in the rulebooks as an alternative.
All in all, I had a blast, and I hope we will play more of this campaign! If you have any questions or comments, for me or Thomas, let me know, here!
Read about session 2 here!