... in which the players derive the action and the GM improvises like a sonofabitch ...
Player Created Rumors
When the Aldsburg Chronicles campaign first started I introduced the idea of players giving rumors of potential adventure plots. It took a bit of getting used to (both in style and form) but in the end everyone got there and it added TONS of style and flavor to the campaign.
The last few session of the Aldsburg Chronicles were the players tracking down and battling a daemon they let loose to get parts to cure a curse so they could be more effective in hunting for a giant ruby rumored to be under Juniper tower but to get there they had to find a secret gate and OHMYGODIMEXHAUSTED. Something happened and whatever rumor turned into a crazy campaign that was NOT episodic. It was fun, but not quite what I was hoping for.
So enter Aldsburg Chronicles Reboot. After a discussion of how the campaign had changed and the players could keep their characters (or make new ones if they wanted, which 1 player did) I started the Rumors again. Let's see how round 2 of the player-driven campaign works out.
As always, the players lay out "what their character heard" and I'll adjust a bit to make sure things flow. What we ended up with:
- The Cult of the Black Goat has been causing nightmares all around Aldsburg - it is affecting all manner of folks and causing endless woe.
- Children have been going missing not only in the Warrens but also in Bridgingate - a strange green residue is the only clue.
- A mysterious figure known as the Gambler has been seen around town, followed but a small heard of ever-changing goats. It is said you can bet family members against your weight in silver ducats.
- At night a Ghost Tower can be see to rise in the great ruined piles on the far side of the sky girder. Screams and cries are said to be heard echoing across the ruins. Some say the tower is the result of a wizard's curse and the only way in is with a feather from the wizard's griffon familiar who is still alive and leads the pack of griffon that infest the region.
- A massive sinkhole has opened in the ruins - some say it is an inverted tower! Old Crelly said he wandered down and saw the Prison of Glass. Obrin thinks that the legendary Doktir Flemming, a Lord of Scions, created the tower and it is coming back to mirror the Ghost Tower.
While we did make sure everyone had a protege (with the exception of the player who made a new character that has the potential to be super awesome - see below) and re-established the campaign setting, I wanted to make sure we got some gaming in.
So i picked a rumor, wrote down 3 notes, and started my favorite thing in the world - GM IMPROV! From the rumors it sounds like the group wants a mystery adventure. As any seasoned GM knows these are fucking tough to run, but what the hell, right? No guts, no glory. No risk, no reward.
As Alois returns from another session of "Soup not Swords" (a join mission with Our Holy Mother to feed the poor in the Warrens) a swarm of urchins follows him into the Murder of Crowns tavern. They ask "Uncle Alois and Uncle Boreas" to tell them the story of the "End of the 8th Age". This was a not-too-subtle move to let the player tell the story of end of the Worldgod Campaign to the players who weren't part of it ... but in these characters ... it we pretty cool.
As the sotry finishes and the group begind discussing the rumors about town and what kind of adventure they should get up to, a dark and oily misasma floods into the tavern. The front door bursts open and a hulking pile of shaggy grey tatters storms in. As dust and filth spray from the thing it let's loose an animalistic bellow and charges into the bar, striking anyone and everything in it's path.
In fairly short order this THING kicks the fuck out of the surprised party. Everyone is unconscious or dead (with massive 4d6p+6 point wounds!) and somehow - SOMEHOW - Alois, Favored Cleric of the Unfettered Raven, is going toe-toe with this thing. At this point I'm loving this combat. The players are all in shock at the violent character deaths, I'm acting sort of surprised and ho-hum about it (you wanted a harder game, right?) and the player with Alois won't back down and contrary to his normal behavior, is arguing rules with me. He wants to win! As the death blow from this goat-deamon (who suddenly manifested spell abilities) strikes down Alois he and the rest of the party wake up from this terrible shared nightmare.
GM NOTE: I actually managed to pull of the "it was all a dream" bit. Second time in my GM career. This was even better than the first time because I had 5 players along for the ride. W00t. Enough patting myself on the back.
As the party gets together they find out that everyone in the Secret Lair (they need to come up with a cool name for their secret headquarters) was affected. Everyone is ok ... wait ... oh no! Micha is dead. Woe and weal! After some investigation they find some sort of patchwork thing under his bed that had to have been placed there. Alois sends his contact Jezebel out to find information for him.
Now that the nightmares of the Black Goat are a real threat, the adventure has been set. Jezebel returns with some info and the party decides that they should follow that exclusively. Into Callistown - endless urban sprawl and shanty mining town craziness.
I had to end the session there because
- It was 6pm
- I didn't have much more fleshed out
- A LOT of beer had been drunk by all
- I wanted more tacos