GM Confidence: 5/5. In spite of a couple of curve-balls, everything proceeded more-or-less as expected.
A few points worth noting:
- I made the currently-unknown (to the characters) facts surrounding the familial ties between Rayna, Kenrick and Maykew an official Secret. But while Kenrick and Maykew both have a roll, it’s the father’s Secret they’re checking against, for potential uncovering. For this session, Maykew rolled a success; hence the “Oldtown” revelation.
- After the near-panic last session surrounding the party’s slower-than-expected progress, and my compensatory timeline adjustments, they pulled another surprise on me. We had already decided during the week to use one of their Preparation Points to bring in a pack animal (which Maykew’s player decided to go with the Ally instead), which would improve the situation. But at game-time, Dustan’s player decided to cast Quick March on everyone, doubling their travel speed—which basically had them moving ~50 miles in an extended day’s travel, which put them back on the original timing and would force me to set the calendar back again. As a result, some of the road content I had planned for that “extra” day got skipped—I didn’t want to shove all of it into the shorter period, lest it drag things out. I’ll just save those for later, maybe.
- The party arrived at Nobleham after nightfall and were quartered in a castle guest room, but a couple of the PCs decided to wander around and talk to whomever was stirring. I didn’t actually prep for that—not the talking, but the wandering the castle at night part—but it wasn’t a big deal; I just ran with it. However, as it turns out, a side-effect of the Quick March spell is, at the end of the “day,” the Subject(s) immediately take -10 FP and must sleep—they really all should have collapsed as soon as the opportunity presented.
- I really wanted the duel to be quick—I didn’t want to leave the other players thumb-twiddling for too long—and it worked out pretty well. Rayna got some good spotlight time.
- In spite of specific attention-drawing in my notes, I still keep forgetting to mention the damned weather (pre-rolled per day from Dungeon Fantasy 16). Plus I always intend to use the lighting function in Fantasy Grounds but keep forgetting, as usual.
- I found myself at a bit of a disadvantage having to describe the “goblin” visuals in the dark and fog. I really should have had an image to show there. I have one for next time now—problem solved, if a bit late.
- When I started sorting out the calendar and figuring out the moon phases, I used the real-life current lunar situation on the starting date, and it just so happened to have the raid occur on the new moon—it wasn’t something I specifically planned to make things more difficult, though it certainly accomplishes that.
So, since there isn’t a lot to say about the way the session itself went, here’s a bit of worldbuilding…
The Court of Northelderland
See the wiki.
I had intended from the start to give the players a taste of the political, and route them through a “medieval court” on their way to the mission—I had set aside this court etiquette article years ago for this purpose and hadn’t managed the opportunity to use it yet. Originally it was an optional thing, but I really wanted them to see it, so I withheld some mission details at the start and required them to go to the Arl to get the rest. I had decided a long time ago—before the campaign shifted from the Core Group to Olympus—what sort of fellow the Arl would be, overall. The name, Gudrik: “Gud” is just an alternative spelling of “good” and the “-ric” suffix is Old English for “ruler”—with that clue, you can guess at some of the others’ meanings. The “casting” choice of William Hurt was very deliberate, primarily for his portrayal of Duke Leto in the Dune SyFy series, but I was lucky to find images of his part in The Countess. I had decided the Bredwelle family would be an older line that was becoming endangered.
Nobleham Castle is “played” by Inveraray Castle in Scotland. It was an image I found very early on, and I just kinda liked it, plus it’s fittingly small.
I started with tarot cards to generate the details for each step down a list of the Arl’s relationships: parents, self, siblings, spouse, children. This, as it turns out, has its advantages and disadvantages. A disadvantage was, for example, that I didn’t quite have a method for interpreting the number of children from the card draw, so I had to fudge that a bit. On the advantageous side, some of the results were especially interesting. For example, the “spouse” draw was Star (reversed)—could be interpreted as a hopeless situation, like an illness that won’t pass—leading me to her comatose state, which, due to the magical world, I made a magical illness that couldn’t be easily cured by a random cleric’s hand-wave. This makes his only son more important to him, and gives him a sympathetic motivation beyond his father’s incompetence. I had predetermined he would be having problems that would cause him to go to the Heroes’ Guild for help, but the cards gave me the “why,” and I was pretty happy with the results.
His privy council and vassals, along with some other conditions, were generated through picking an appropriate character from a run of Crusader Kings 2 (which is how later courts would be generated more-or-less in their entirety), with a bit of tweaking to work in the elements I had already generated—like his wife. Some weird contradictions provided some “colorful” characters, and I’m looking forward to further opportunity to show them off later. I’ve gotten into the habit of not “casting” NPCs that aren’t really important, and in this case, only the Arl was cast.
After those, it came down to dealing with the PCs’ eventual interactions with the court. I did a bit of research on the typical daily routine for such a ruler, and worked out a timetable, to determine what he would be in the middle of when they arrived—some times would be more suitable than others to interrupt. Then I took stock of the NPCs present and tried to find places to “show, not tell” their character, with an eye toward humor—some of the characters’ potential conflicts were pretty obvious, which was helpful. I expected the PCs to end up talking to people here and there and picking up some of the lore, and in the session, they did a little—I kinda hoped they would pry a little more, but I expect other opportunities, especially if the players decide to keep him on as a recurring Patron or something like that, which is entirely possible at this point.