Thursday, October 17, 2013

Play Report: Be Prepared

I harp on this a lot. I know it's the thing that I tend to talk about most. But I keep seeing signs of it in play, and I refuse to let a good opportunity for proselytizing go by unused. That is: the game with the most deadly challenges should be the one in which preparedness is the secret to success. Whether that preparedness is a good escape plan or a good attack plan or just a wealth of information so you can formulate the best ideas, the necessity of acquiring information is key. My players are becoming better and better at doing this.

The Hounds had decided to make an exploratory mission into the dangerous Troll Crags to the west of Tyrma along the Tyrman Peninsula. The Crags have swallowed innumerable ships in the history of Silversong and yet another recently went down there: the Iron Arrow, owned by the Free Captain Tuigalen, which was carrying some kind of ancient staff that he was very interested in. This particular Free Captain was willing to let the rest of his ship's cargo go to any party who recovered the staff and pay on top of that a five hundred sun premium for the return of said staff.

Additionally, Keir son of Erlend had spoken in detail with the exiled Master Smith Galdri Harnmr son of Egil, who had promised to fashion him magical weapons in the style of the ancient dwarvish art. He tasked Keir with retrieving certain specific items to allow him to craft these weapons. The first, drake's blood, was gained in great volume when the Hounds wiped out the pesky sea-drakes encamped near the lands of another Free Captain. The next was a fragment of troll bone. Seeing a chance to do two jobs at once, Keir convinced the company to take their clay pots of air-ignited drake's blood to go into the Crags and look for the staff.

The party did the wise thing: they hired a shitload of help. In addition to buying two wagonloads of tar and mules to carry it, they hired six drovers, a wizard's apprentice, a troll-hunting ranger, and a gnomish thief. Upon entering the Crags after wading through salt marshes and reedy hill-lands along the coast, the ranger Loronia went to work. This is where the information gathering began: because they had no natural scout of their own, they used Loronia to gain knowledge about what was ahead. Additionally, she acted as a sort of minor sage: having fought trolls before in the Low Marsh she could impart a number of insights about their behavior, the general size of troll nests, and how they regenerate (sea trolls requiring the moisture of the ocean, for example).

Her scouting turned up a pair of idiotic trolls waiting to ambush the party and she warned them in time. Instead, the party waited them out until they (the trolls) could wait no longer and rushed them, gibbering. They were easy work: a fireball from Naur ate through most of their hp before they clashed with the front line and were dispatched before they could do much damage. Loronia commanded them to burn the trolls at once (they were "still wet" and beginning to regenerate).

As they advanced into the Crags towards the sea, Loronia warned them of the spoor of a nest ahead. They paused: she reported that between five and ten trolls would be laired there. Myndil the Merry, the Heimiran monk, used the time to chat with his bird-friend Havuca (a goshawk enchanted by Animal Friendship with the use of a Speak with Animals) and sent him off to survey the situation. They learned of a "sea-house" which they figured was the Iron Arrow, mired in the shallows and filled with large eels capable of devouring a man. They also learned of "one, one, one" cave entrance and the various sizes and dispositions of these three "one" caverns.

This is where the game stopped, but I think anyone can look at this situation and realize that the party (average level 3 with some outliers—a few level 2s and 1s, a level 5, etc.) would have been easily torn apart if they had blindly wandered into the Crags and just stumbled into whatever groups of trolls there were around there. Instead, by playing carefully and making use of their resources to gather information, they have already had one successful engagement. They may now decide that the troll nest is too tough for them (a legitimate call) or they can use their still-unexpended tar and whatever other tricks they can muster, to defeat the trolls, recover the staff, and take whatever goods are on the Iron Arrow.

All of this was made possible by the combination of two clever plays that seem to be at a decline (or utterly missing) from non-OSR play. Namely: the acquisition of hirelings to supplement the party's base skills and the acquisition of information with which to make intelligent decisions. Flying by the seat of your pants can only get you so far, especially when you're likely to encounter such horrors as trolls.


  1. It reminds me Demon's / Dark Souls series, which is a good thing.

    1. Though I've never played it, everyone tells me my games "feel" somewhat like Dark Souls.