First off, Happy New Year to the “staff” and readers of RolemasterBlog.com! I’ve been working on a few different blog topics and I have to keep re-adjusting whenever a new post or comment is put up.
I had a few thoughts on the starting adventures, caravan guards and Peter’s prison he just blogged about. I’m generally driven by up-ending common tropes to surprise my players and keep things fresh for people that have been gaming for decades. So a few random streams of consciousness:
Starting Level. I’ve always liked the early levels of RM; the players have to face real challenges both in terms of resources and abilities, and the grittiness of the system lends itself to low fantasy style gaming. However, we have been having a blast with our high level adventure series–my players get to use high level spells and we can ignore most of the low level book-keeping around food, money or equipment. It feels more like a Super Hero adventure within Shadow World. At this point we’ve walked away from a long term SW campaign and the group has fully embraced the a la carte adventure experience I’m providing: test Priest King adventures, play a high level tourney series, do a quick all cleric adventure etc. While we lose a fulfilling plot continuity and investment into a PC, the players get to enjoy a wider range of setting material, a more diverse experience with character types and offer better feedback once disassociated from any emotional investment in their PC.
Caravans. The whole starting adventure to Priest-King (page 79-81) was predicated on the players being caravan guards. As a plot intro to a regional setting the caravan device worked quite well. First, I’m not a fan of the Gygaxian/adventurer as a profession world. Players need an occupation and the Forgotten Realms concept of chartered adventure groups is a little to “on the nose” for me. (however, I need utilize the concept of salvage/adventure charters later in Priest-King). Having the players become guards is a plausible use of low level characters to expose them to challenges and pay their way in the world. Second, a caravan gives the group a bubble of security–the GM can use NPC’s to aid, direct and protect the PC’s while they are learning their way. Thirdly, the traverse itself provides an opportunity for world-building through NPC exposition and the geographical travelogue. In PK, the first adventure requires the players to travel over 800 miles with numerous encounters and intra party politics. It takes about one month orhan (50 days) and was a great primer for the group. I think it took 9 game sessions and by the time they reached the city of Shade they had leveled up, learned quite a bit about the area cultures and were also quite unprepared for what the saw at the end of the journey!
Prison. The second to last adventure in our 50 in 50 is the Lair of Ozymandius. I blogged about it a year or two ago and now it will be published on RPGNow as part of the RMBlog series. It’s quite a bit more involved than the 1 page adventure seeds we’ve been putting out over the last year. I also like the idea of starting low level players in unfamiliar or uncontrollable environments: prisons, on the run, slaves etc. In Lair of Ozy, not only do they start as prisoners, but they also have no memory of who they are or what their skills are!
In summary, while I tend to avoid overt fantasy tropes, there is an opportunity to put a unique spin on these set-ups. If you are not intending to run a campaign from the outset, these might be the best adventure frames for starting adventures and as an introduction to RMU or the RM ruleset as a whole. Especially with pre-gen characters designed to meet the specific challenges of the adventure.
Plan for a campaign, but design like a tourney module!